Exercise

  1. The Benefits of Ellipticals



    Whether you have trained on ellipticals for years or are just starting to fit an elliptical into your fitness routine, elliptical cross training has a variety of benefits that can help a person get into shape and stay healthy. The following list describes some of the benefits elliptical cross training brings!

    1. Elliptical cross training is a low-impact workout that is great for cardiovascular health! Before elliptical cross trainers were made widely available to the public, people who wanted intense cardio activity were limited to high-impact exercise.
    2. Ellipticals can be used by all ages of people and they are easy to figure out. Most allow you to hop on and go.
    3. It is a workout that is easy on the joints. With an elliptical, you can get in a vigorous, heart-pounding workout that doesn’t pound on your joints!
    4. Elliptical cross trainers provide excellent weight-bearing exercise which helps strengthen the bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. There are also muscle-toning benefits because of this!
    5. You will work your upper and lower body at the same time. With some workouts your focus is either on just the legs, or only the arms. With an elliptical you can work both! Ellipticals also have built in programs that allow you to change up your program and provides some workout variety
    6. Ellipticals do provide for some multi-tasking. If you need to read the latest magazine or catch up on emails, you usually have the capability to get these done while continuing to get your cardio on.
    7. And last, but not least, you can pedal in reverse. There are claims that pedaling in reverse works the calves and hamstrings more than pedaling in forward motion. It's fun to try, so give it a go.
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  2. When is it time for NEW running shoes?



    Old, worn-out running shoes are one of the most common reasons for running injuries. Running shoes lose shock absorption, cushioning and stability over time. Continuing to run in worn-out running shoes increases the stress and impact on your legs and joints, which can lead to overuse injuries.

    After about 300 to 400 miles of use, running shoes should be replaced, depending on running style, body weight, and the surface on which you run. Smaller runners can get new running shoes at the upper end of the recommendation, while heavier runners should consider replacement shoes closer to the 300 mile mark. If you run on rough roads, you'll need to replace your running shoes sooner than if you primarily run on a treadmill.

    Try to mark your calendar when you buy a new pair of shoes so you know when to replace them. If you use a training log, record new shoe purchases on that. Or try writing the purchase date on the inside of each shoe's tongue.

    If you want to make your pair of running shoes last longer, buy a second pair of running shoes about halfway through the life of your original pair. Your shoes will last longer when you allow them to decompress and dry out between workouts. Also, having a fresh pair of shoes as a reference will help you notice when your old ones are ready to be replaced.
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  3. Burn More Calories With This HIIT Workout

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  4. Are You Foam Rolling the Right Way?



    It seems like every week, we can find a new mobility tool on the market…one that's guaranteed to cure our aches, improve our performance, and leave us feeling years younger. While you can spend a small fortune staying up on the latest gadgets, the foam roller is one of the most reliable tools out there for increasing mobility, range of motion, and muscle recovery. Widely available and inexpensive, this is one addition you should include in your home gym. Once you've got it, getting the most from it requires using it, frequently and correctly.

    Self-Myofascial Release Technique: Myofascial tissue (fascia for short) is a connective tissue that covers your muscles and runs throughout your body. Over time, fascia responds to injuries or muscular tension by developing adhesions or scars. These adhesions create tension within the fascia that prevents it from fully expanding and contracting, limiting the mobility of the muscle that is contained within this connective tissue. In addition to reducing the mobility of the muscle directly contained within that fascia, mobility and nerve patterns of other muscles can be impacted because of the interconnectedness of fascia tissue throughout the body. Healthy fascia provides better circulation to muscular tissues and reduces neuromuscular imbalances. While it's tempting to simply roll across your aching muscles as a form of self-massage, foam rolling should target trigger points, areas of greater tension within the fascia. So how do you target myofascial tissue in your foam rolling?

    Slow Down: Targeting adhesions within your myofascial tissue requires using your foam rolling sessions to focus on trigger points, areas of increased sensitivity. The technique is simple. Start by rolling slowly along the targeted muscle, avoiding joint areas. When you find a sensitive or painful area, stay in that place, applying as much pressure as you can tolerate with the foam roller. Continue to apply pressure there for at least 20 or 30 seconds (remember to breathe). Ideally you should feel the tension in that area begin to release. Continue rolling and finding other areas of tension and focusing on those areas.

    Timing: The most effective time to foam roll is after your warm up and before your workout. After you have warmed up, the circulation throughout your body has increased, making your foam rolling sessions more effective. Additionally, by releasing areas of tension and dysfunction, your mobility will improve during your workout, reducing your risk of injury and increasing your efficiency. Don't worry, however. If you struggle to fit in a foam rolling session during the middle of your workout out, the second best time to foam roll is whenever you can do it. Try keeping a foam roller in your office or living room and take foam rolling breaks while you watch television, read, or work at your computer.

    Self-Myofascial Release Technique (SMRT) can be used on almost any muscle, taking care to avoid joint areas. If you wish to target areas of the low back or neck it is best to use a ball rather than a foam roller, in order to avoid the spinal vertebrae. Additionally, pregnant women should avoid foam rolling the inner calf, as that can be associated with premature labor. With these precautions in mind, foam rolling works well for nearly everyone. You can control the amount of bodyweight you place into the tool, allowing it to be adapted to your comfort level and pain tolerance. The slightly forgiving nature of the foam roller, make it better suited to SMRT than other, harder devices, which target deeper muscle tissues. Most importantly, remember to make a habit out of your foam rolling. While a session or two might improve your recovery, the biggest benefits will occur over time as circulation and muscle efficiency improve throughout your body.
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  5. 5 Ways to Speed-Up Your Weight Loss During the Workday



    If you’re a busy working professional you know it can be hard to fit in daily exercise, which also makes it even harder to achieve weight loss goals. With so many busy professionals strapped for time, we wanted to figure out how they can still lead a healthy lifestyle and, more importantly, lose a little weight while working. So, we turned to a few personal trainers, who are also 2nd Wind store personnel, for some tips on how to squeeze in a little extra calorie burning activities throughout the day. Here’s what they suggest:

    1. Take Time for Walk Breaks: Movement is crucial when trying to lose weight. Every time your body moves, calories are being burned. If you’re at a desk all day, be aware of the dangers that come along with sitting too much. In fact, check out this infographic we put together awhile back. It’s a quick insight into some of the issues that come along with sitting too much, as well as some of the benefits regular moving can bring. OK, let’s get to it. Here’s what we suggest you do every work day. Go for walks. Whether it’s down the hall, around the building, outside in nature… wherever you decide, grab a buddy and go! Set a schedule and hold yourself accountable for completing your walking goals each day. If you have a whiteboard in your office, write down your schedule so colleagues see it and ask about your progress. Set calendar alerts reminding you to head out for a quick stroll for 5, 10, 20, or 30 minutes, depending on what your schedule allows. Schedule at least two, 30 to 40 minute lunchtime walks per week.

    2. Move While You Work: Be cognizant of how much you can actually move while you’re completing daily work tasks. Do you talk on the phone a lot, read documents or watch webinars from time-to-time? Those are perfect opportunities to move while you’re being productive. Having a desk that gets you moving is one of the best investments you can make for your health. Treadmill desks (see the LifeSpan Treadmill Desk pictured below) or bike desks will allow you to move with your work right in front of you. Walk or bike at a pace that suits you and you’ll be surprised at how many calories, steps or mileage you can cover while getting caught up in workloads.



    3. Increase walking speed: If you have a treadmill desk, bike desk or take walks outside throughout the day; add a little HIIT or high intensity interval training to the walk. Just like any other workout effort, moments of increased speed equals an increase in calories burned. Try taking your speed from 2.0 to 4.0+ for one minute on your treadmill desk, then bring it back down. Continue that cycle as much as you can. Maybe your 30 minute lunch time stroll incorporates this HIIT effort; one minute up, two minutes back down, and repeat.

    4. Be sure to hydrate: Do you drink enough water throughout the day? Take a look at your daily water drinking habits. How much should you drink? That depends on size and weight, and also on your activity level. You should drink between 1/2 an ounce to 1 ounce water for each pound you weigh, every day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, that would be 75 to 150 ounces of water a day. What are some benefits to drinking more water? Water boosts metabolism, helps break down food, flushes out toxins, helps you feel fuller and acts as a natural energy booster (just to name a few). Keep it cold! An added bonus of drinking icy cold water? It burns calories! Drink one 16 oz. glass of cold water and burn up to 17.5 calories. As your body brings down the temperature of the water, it will burn calories.

    5. Incorporate fat burning foods: Foods like green tea, whole grains, hot peppers, lean meats or lentils can actually boost your calorie burning engine, even while you’re not moving or exercising at all. Spicy foods like hot peppers contain a high thermogenic which increase the heat in your body causing it to burn more cals. Enjoy foods with whole grains? Great! You’ll burn a little extra there, too. In fact, your body burns twice as many calories breaking down whole grains so that’s a win-win!

    6. Eat smaller food portions more often: Shrink your tummy by consuming those foods above in smaller portions more often throughout the day (aside from breakfast, lunch and dinner). Consider having 5 to 6 small meals a day. Start with a breakfast that includes hearty whole grains, berries and nuts, then mid-morning, have a snack. For lunch, keep the portion small because early afternoon, you’ve got another snack waiting for you. Then, have a portion controlled dinner when you get home. Breaking down your meals into smaller portions throughout the day might take your stomach some time in getting used to, but once you do, you’ll notice your hunger is satisfied much earlier than it used to be. Smaller amounts will start to be plenty of food for you (pay attention to those changes).

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  6. The Best Stretching Exercises to Improve your Cardio Workouts (Part 2: Post-Workout)

    While stretching before your workout provides you with a greater range of motion and makes your workouts more comfortable, stretching following your workout is a great opportunity to improve flexibility and to reduce tension in the muscles while they are still warm and benefiting from the increased blood flow of your cardio workout. After your next workout, give these stretches a try to reduce your soreness and improve range of motion the next day. Stretches following your workout can address areas that you typically hold tension or feel unbalanced and can be held for a much longer period of time (up to five minutes!).

    Supine Hand to Foot Stretch (Hamstrings): Lying on your back, using a strap or exercise band, loop the band around your right foot. Gently lead the right leg towards your right shoulder, lengthening the hamstring. Hold for up to 2 minutes, bending the leg slightly if you feel a pull behind the knee or on the sit bone. After holding for up to 2 minutes, keeping both hips on the ground, lead the leg across the body and towards the left shoulder. You should feel a stretch on the outside of your right leg and hip. Hold again for up to two minutes. Finally, bring the leg as far out to the right side as you can comfortably hold, feeling the stretch on the inside of your right leg. This stretches all three segments of the hamstrings and can be helpful for low back pain.



    Half Bow (Quadriceps and hip flexors): Lying on your stomach, bring your hand or a yoga strap around your right foot. Keeping the right knee in line with the right hip, draw the right foot close to the body until you feel a stretch through the front of your thigh. You may also kick back into your arm or strap, elevating the knee. Hold for up to three minutes. Repeat on the left.



    Figure 4 (Hips): Lying on your back, bend your right leg, bringing the foot to the floor and the knee to the ceiling. Bring your left foot on top of your right thigh, flexing the foot and pressing the knee away from your body. For a greater stretch, pull the right leg closer using your hands or a yoga strap. Repeat on the left.



    Supported Bridge (Low Back/Psoas): Bringing both heels to the floor, lift up into bridge pose. Now place a yoga block or bolster under your low back supporting you in bridge pose. Lower your back onto the block. Over time, straighten both legs. Over time, come into a higher bridge and bring the block into a higher position.



    Seated Spinal Twist (Shoulders, hips, and back): Seated on the ground, cross your right leg over your left bringing your right ankle to the outside of your left knee. Place your right hand on the ground and bring your left arm over your right ankle as you rotate your shoulders and torso to the right. Hold for up to two minutes while focusing on opening the left shoulder and releasing the middle back. Repeat on the left side.



    Adding these flexibility exercises to your home fitness program will prepare your muscles for the demands of your cardio and strength training, allowing you to perform better and more effectively. They will also improve your range of motion and reduce muscle tension, allowing you to recover quicker and making your daily activities more enjoyable. For the best pre-workout stretches, read this blog post.

    About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin.
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  7. The Best Stretching Exercises to Improve your Cardio Workouts (Part 1: Pre-Workout)



    The best home fitness programs include three components, cardiovascular workouts, strength training, and flexibility. While it's easy to overlook the importance of flexibility training, spending a little time improving your mobility and range of motion can go a long way in preventing injury and improving your performance in your other workouts. Flexibility work is no longer limited to long periods of stretching (though those can be beneficial at times). It now includes dynamic movements and range of motion work directly targeted at improving your workouts and assisting in injury prevention. The best part about bringing stretching and flexibility work into your home workouts is the way it improves your functioning and reduces soreness from day to day, while requiring only a modest investment of time. Ready to get started?

    Before and after your cardio workout are the ideal times to include mobility work and stretching exercises, but you should treat these times very differently. Early in the workout, your muscles are not yet warmed up and will have a reduced range of motion. Stretching and mobility work at this time, should target areas that you are experiencing tightness, stiffness, or injury, as well as introduce the range of motion that you will need during your planned workout. For most athletes, this work should target your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, hips, and shoulders. Rather than holding one position, you'll want to repeat moving in and out of a position fluidly and slowly. Before the workout avoid deep held stretches, especially in the hamstrings and low back as these can reduce the elasticity of your muscles that you need to perform your cardiovascular activity. Keep reading for the best pre and post workout stretching routines! Pre Workout: Next time you work out, start with a light five minute warm up, and then add in these pre-workout stretches.

    Quad Stretch/Dancer Pose: Standing with your feet at hip distance, take hold of the top of your right foot in your right hand (you can also use a yoga strap to assist with this). Bring your knees together to evenly stretch the front of your thigh (position 1). Now kick back into your hand to bring your knee behind your hip and to level your hips toward the ground (position 2). Return to the starting position. Slowly repeat five times. Repeat on the left leg.



    Knee Ups: Standing on your right leg, bring your left knee up to your chest, clasp with both hands to hug it in closer. Now step forward onto the left leg and repeat on the right. Repeat five times on each side. This warms up the hamstrings and prepares the hip flexors for the work of running or cycling.



    Calf/Achilles stretch: Step your right leg directly back behind you at a distance that allows your heel to reach the ground and your toes to point straight ahead. Keeping the toes in the same position, slowly raise and lower your heel five times. Repeat on the other side. This prepares your calves for the work of running or the elliptical.



    Shoulder mobility: Holding a resistance band in each hand and applying little resistance to it, raise your hands from in front of your hips to overhead and then behind. You can also make a figure 8 pattern with the band. Repeat five times in each direction. This warms the shoulders to prepare for strength training and improves range of motion for daily activity.



    Cat/Cow: Kneeling on all fours, inhale and allow your stomach to drop towards the floor, extending the spine downwards (Cow pose) then exhale and press your stomach upwards, flexing the spine towards the ceiling (Cat pose). Repeat five times. This activates the core, reduces low back pain, and prepares the spine for exercise or daily activity. Read on for Part II on the Best Stretching Exercises to do After You Work Out!



    What about stretching after a workout? Stretching afterwards is also very important to help restore muscles so you can keep up with your routine. Click here to read another blog that includes the best post-workout stretches suggested by certified fitness trainer, Joli.

    About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin.
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  8. The Best Calorie Burning, Leg Sculpting Elliptical Workout



    If you’re using fitness equipment to help you reach weight loss or fitness goals, try adding some body weight exercises to the mix to really fire things up. Here’s a fun elliptical workout, created by our certified fitness coach, Joli that will rev-up your metabolism and sculpt those legs. In no time you’ll be done with this very effective workout! Let’s start with why you need this: An intense interval session on the elliptical is a great way to burn some serious calories and get your lower body circulation ready for training. By targeting the large muscle groups of the lower body, you'll keep your metabolism revved up for hours, supporting your weight loss.

    Now, let’s get started:

    Warm Up:
    Start with five minutes of easy movement on your elliptical, bringing your heart rate up to 75% of your max effort. Increase your intensity working at 85% of your max effort for 90 seconds, recover for 45 seconds, repeat.

    Circuit 1:
    Lunges: Step in and out of a lunge 20 times on your right leg. Repeat on your left leg. Follow by completing 16 stationary lunges on each leg. For more resistance, add plates or dumbbells into each hand and complete a bicep curl with each lunge.

    Circuit 2:
    Elliptical: Reverse your pedal movement for five minutes. Maintain an uncomfortable level of intensity (you should be able to speak in short sentences.

    Circuit 3:
    Bodyweight squats: Keeping your torso upright, sit your bottom down as low as you can. Stand up. Repeat for 3 minutes. Rest for 30 seconds. Follow with a Wall Sit for up to 90 seconds, with breaks as needed.

    Circuit 4:
    Bridge with toe taps: Lying on the floor with heels close to your bottom and knees towards the ceiling, lift up into bridge pose. Pressing into your left heel, lift your right heel, leaving right toe on the ground. Lightly tap right foot up and down. Complete 16 reps. Repeat on the Left. Complete two to three repetitions taking a break between as needed.

    You're finished with this elliptical workout! Nice work. Now, make sure to stretch and recover your muscles so they're ready to hit this again in the next few days.
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  9. 4 Stretches To Do After Your Cardio Workout



    After you've finished your cardio workout it's time to give those those muscles a good stretch so you can avoid soreness, fatigue, back pain or even injury. The muscles you've worked so hard during your exercise need time to recover so they're ready for your next workout. Here are 4 stretches you should do after your cardio workout:

    1. Side Lunge Stretch
    The side lunge stretches the hip adductors. Tight hips can lead to a variety of injuries in the knees, back and hamstrings. To do this stretch: Stand upright, with both feet facing forward, double shoulder-width apart. Place your hands on your hips or thighs, in order to keep your back straight. Slowly exhale, taking your bodyweight across to one side. Avoid leaning forward, or taking the knee of the bent leg over your toes.

    2. Crossover Stretch
    The crossover stretch will help to release your hips, iliotibial (IT) band and lower back. To do this stretch: Lie down with your legs straight and your arms extended out to the side. Bend one knee up towards your chest and place your opposite hand on your knee. Slowly pull your knee across your body towards the ground until you feel a slight stretch. Hold for approximately 15-30 seconds.

    3. Hamstrings Stretch

    Tight hamstrings can cause back pain, discomfort and difficulty lifting your legs. Stretching these muscles regularly can help to alleviate these effects. To do this stretch: Move your right foot toward your inner thigh, so that it touches the top part of your left leg, if possible. Lean forward, bending but not rounding your back and waist toward the left foot as if reaching for your toes. Repeat with the other leg.

    4. Quadriceps Stretch After exercise like running, quads can tighten which can bring on strains and knee injuries. To do this stretch: stand upright and pull your leg behind you with the corresponding hand. Try to keep your knee pointing downward as you do this stretch to protect your knee joint.

    Another tip we suggest here at 2nd Wind is to try mixing up your workouts for better results and to avoid muscle fatigue. If you're sore from your previous workout, try changing up the muscle movements next time. For instance, if you like to run, try a rowing exercise the next time around. This change offers less impact on the joints and changes your muscle movements.
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  10. Increase Productivity with These Midday Pick-Me-Ups


    If you’re feeling drained, tense or stressed at work, try resisting the afternoon coffee or energy drink jolt and consider these alternatives. Too much afternoon caffeine or sugar is just going to cause a crash and negatively affect sleep. Here are some natural ways to add a little energy to your day:

    Take a Midday Stroll

    Get your energy up with a lunchtime walk, or even a few short strolls throughout your day. Whether it’s a short walk outdoors or to a meeting, this effort can have a big impact when it comes to your overall health. It’s incredible how much this little addition to the day impacts productivity, creativity and motivation. In fact, this blog post was written while doing a little workday walking on a treadmill desk ! Being a writer, I’m noticing fewer word blocks which allows me be much more efficient with tasks like this.

    Unplug!

    Disconnecting from technology during breaks allows us to clear our head and regain focus. Practice mindfulness by meditating in a quiet space. Take a break from the computer or smartphone to rest your eyes. Walk outdoors and take in nature. Research shows that green spaces help restore the mind and improves mental health. More importantly, be in the moment and try to stop your mind from racing.

    Stretch it Out

    If you’re sitting or even standing in the same position for long periods of time you need a little stretching action. Stretching can provide a quick boost of energy because it helps the blood flow throughout the body and relieve toxins. Try a few of these to help give you a little boost. desk stretches

    Take a Sip

    Sip on green tea or ice cold water. Green tea has a lot of nutritional value and revs up your metabolism. Ice cold water awakens your insides and helps you stay alert – oh, and both green tea and water will help you stay hydrated which is always a good, healthy habit.

    Chomp on Gum

    A stick of sugar-free gum is always good to have in your desk drawer. The flavor change in your mouth will give you a little extra boost of energy. Make sure to stick with the sugar-free kind, and be on the lookout for the caffeinated versions.

    If you're interested in adding some movement into your workday, while you (or your employees) work, check out our workplace solutions .
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