Health and Fitness Tips and Inspiration

  1. HIIT Workout at Home Help to Achieve Your Goals in Limited Time

    If you’re short on time and need an efficient, effective workout, HIIT workout at home is where it’s at. High Intensity Interval Training is getting a lot of attention. Research demonstrates the effectiveness in increasing levels of human growth hormone, blasting fat, and even reversing the aging process! In addition to burning a high number of calories in a short period of time, HIIT exercise programs will keep your body burning a higher number of calories for the next two days while your body recovers from the demands of your workouts. You can do HIIT circuits using bodyweight or HIIT exercises on your favorite home fitness equipment. While these workouts are intense, they are also scalable for every level of exerciser. Here’s how to get started doing HIIT workouts at home.

    Intensity: HIIT exercise programs alternate period of complete exertion with complete recovery in preparation for your next round of work. There’s no way around it. HIIT is not a comfortable form of exercise. To complete HIIT intervals, your heart rate should reach anaerobic levels. This might happen at 85% of your max if you’re new to HIIT exercise. For more seasoned athletes, your work period should exceed 90% of your max heart rate. Because they are intense, work periods are short. In a true HIIT program, you will not be able to maintain your effort for more than 2 minutes. Your recovery periods will be complete rest, providing enough time to repeat your efforts. This can vary from 30 seconds to as much as twice your work period depending on your training goals. A nice rule of thumb is to provide equal rest and recovery in a HIIT workout of 30 minutes or less.

    Approach: HIIT exercise programs can be completed using a variety of approaches. Bodyweight or lightweight equipment is an efficient way to complete cardiovascular conditioning and strength training. While it’s efficient, you need to have sufficient core strength and joint stability to complete this type of training at a HIIT level. If you have concerns about your knees or low back, low impact HIIT training is probably your best option. Treadmill HIIT workout at home provides a lower impact version. You can even focus on improving your running form during the short work periods. If you’re not a runner, an elliptical trainer HIIT workout at home or exercise bike is an effective option.

    Variation: Starting with a low impact, cardiovascular form of HIIT exercise is a good way to build your stamina and improve your body composition. If you want to continue to get good results from your HIIT training, introduce variations over time. By getting your heart rate up with your treadmill or elliptical, you can include rounds bodyweight HIIT circuits that will build muscular strength. You can also alternate between short, intense runs and HIIT circuits on your elliptical or indoor cycle. Since your work periods are short, you can get good results from a few rounds of higher impact exercise while improving your joint and muscular function. Higher intensity HIIT options that tend to be doable include: running sprints, squats, assisted pull-ups, mountain climbers, and stepping or jumping lunges. Combine these higher impact options with rounds of work on your lower impact exercise equipment for a workout approach that lets you build intensity over time. Try these fat blasting exercises for ideas to include in your HIIT circuits!

    Duration/Timing: One of the best things about HIIT exercise is that if you’re doing it right, you won’t be doing it for long. You can get an effective HIIT workout in just 20 minutes. Your upper limit for a HIIT workout is going to be 30-50 minutes, depending on the duration of your recovery intervals. This makes it a time efficient workout for busy days. You can take the guesswork out of your HIIT training by following a pre-programmed workout, such as Sprint 8 provided on many pieces of Vision, Horizon, and Matrix home exercise equipment. You can also get creative with your own HIIT circuits at home.

    Create your own HIIT workouts: Understanding the intensity of HIIT training and the need for compelete rest periods between work sets, create your own HIIT workouts using cardiovascular equipment and bodyweight or lightweight training. This article can give you ideas on types of exercises that work well for HIIT training. When working HIIT into your training plan, stick with 2-3 workouts per week. You’ll get the greatest benefit while minimizing risks of overtraining and injury. Feel free to stick to one piece of cardio equipment or to mix it up, as demonstrated in the workout provided here!

    The Ultimate 30 Minute HIIT Workout at Home

    This low impact, High Intensity circuit will train your entire body while boosting levels of Human Growth Hormone and fat burning for the next 48 hours.

    Recommended Equipment: Exercise Bike or Elliptical, Moderate Weight Kettlebell, Moderate weight dumbbells, running/walking area, stopwatch

    Warm-up (7 min)
    Min 1 min light to moderate load at moderate pace (about 80 RPM)
    Min 2, increase load to moderately heavy, allow pace to decrease (about 70 RPM)
    Min 3, maintain load, increase pace (about 100 RPM), include 4 jumps (optional) if using exercise bike
    30 seconds, increase load to heavy. Decrease pace (about 65 RPM). Include 2 jumps (optional) if using exercise bike
    Repeat above
    Recover 60 seconds while transitioning to work set 1

    HIIT Workout at Home Set 1: 90 second triple sets (minutes 8-17)
    Goblet squats 30 seconds
    Push-ups 30 seconds
    Goblet Squats 30 seconds
    Recover 60 seconds

    Run: using outdoor space or treadmill; hard run for 90 seconds (option to substitute a farmer’s carry using kettlebell on one side)
    Recover 60 seconds

    Repeat above including recovery (farmers carry on opposite side)

    Bike/Elliptical Round 2 (minutes 18-22)
    Use a moderately heavy load at 70 RPM; increase speed to 100 RPM, maintain 45 seconds; rest 60 seconds, repeat 2 more times

    HIIT Workout at Home Set 2: Supersets (minutes 23-27)
    45 seconds, Kettlebell Thrusters (holding kettlebell at collarbone height, complete a full squat then thrust Kettlebell overhead while returning to standing position, repeat)
    45 seconds stepping lunges with bicep curl on each side
    Rest 90 seconds;
    45 seconds mountain climbers
    45 seconds plank hold

    Cool Down
    3 minutes of cycling, lower intensity each minute

    About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Joli.

    Read more »
  2. Outdoor BBQ Games for Family Fitness

    Need an excuse to head outside? Whether you’re hanging with kids, the whole family, or just adults, outdoor games will do the trick. With options for every budget, fitness level, and age, outdoor games are a great way to socialize and stay active at your next gathering. Here are some outdoor family fitness games to get you started!

    Traditional Outdoor Family Fitness Games

    From corn hole to bocce ball, it’s easy to find these favorites at yard and craft sales. They tend to appeal to a wide audience and you can usually participate with a cold beverage in hand. Set up teams to increase the interaction and to level the playing field between young and old.

    Craft your Own Outdoor Family Games

    Ready to get creative? Or maybe you’re just feeling thrifty. You can make your own outdoor games with a minimal investment of time and money or create a masterpiece that you can enjoy for years to come. I love the Outdoor Twister (paint your circles right onto the grass!) and the Giant Ring Toss using pool noodles. If you’re feeling extra crafty, you can make a giant yard Jenga from 2 x 4’s. Throw in an afternoon session of painting pieces for the kids and you’ve got a double round of fun!

    Leveled Up Outdoor Games

    Got an old step ladder around? Some plastic for a slip and slide? Level up your outdoor recreation with a combination game requiring multiple steps. Combine favorites like a ladder bean bag toss (see that link above) with a run through a sprinkler or down a slip and slide. This is a great combination for kids and adults. Get creative and incorporate some of the features of your backyard, including swing sets, trampolines, rolls down a gentle hill, even animal exercises!

    Creative Outdoor Family Games

    Not all games require a big investment in time, money, or supplies. Popular favorites include water balloon fights (or Dodgeball), egg carries and tosses, bottle battle (or beer frisbee), and capture the flag. You can also put together an outdoor photo booth, create a toilet paper fashion show, or battle with balloons and empty paper towel holders.

    With a little creativity, you can take your outdoor games to a new level this year. If you have something especially wet or messy planned, be sure to let your guests know ahead of time so they can dress for it, (and mentally prepare). Set up teams so that all levels of players feel comfortable joining in on the fun and leave room for spectators to enjoy from the side. Finally, stay flexible. It’s nice to have a variety of options so guests can join in throughout the day (or evening).

    About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Joli.
    Read more »
  3. 7 Tips for Healthy Knees

    Follow these 7 healthy knee stretches and tips for happy knees Knee pain is one of the most common ailments that people struggle with when exercising. As the largest joint in the body, your knees certainly take on their fair share of impact. Some people simply give in to accepting knee pain as being an inevitable side effect of exercise or aging. The good news is you CAN prevent, and even reverse it…simply follow these 7 tips to assure your knees stay happy and healthy!

    Tip 1

    Healthy Knees Require Warm-Up with Soft Tissue Work

    Before you perform your regular workouts, make it a point to include a well-planned warm-up routine. A proper warm-up is one of the simplest things you can do to prevent knee problems. A dynamic based warm-up (think things like skipping, shuffling, butt kicks, etc.) will get the synovial fluid going in your joints which means less friction during your workouts. Soft tissue work (foam rolling) is also a must for today’s exercisers. The pressure of your body into the roller allows you to hit the areas of the quads, calves, glutes, etc and work out “trigger points” that, when left alone, could eventually lead to pain or injury.

    Tip 2

    Ankle & Hip Mobility for Healthy Knees

    Knee pain is often a result of mobility issues in the joint below (ankle) or above (hip), so keeping those joints healthy and mobile will go a long way in keeping the knees pain free. Poor ankle mobility will limit your ability to perform certain exercises properly, which often means the knees pay the price by absorbing more force. Ankle mobility can be limited by tight calves or perhaps from previous ankle injuries. Poor hip mobility can have a similar impact on the knees. I generally use the body weight squat as a good indicator of hip mobility. The best way to squat is with your hips first. Those who lack good hip mobility will often bend at the knees first to initiate the squat and then end up with their weight too far forward. Again, the knees will then bear too much force because the hips aren’t moving the way they should.

    Tip 3

    Maintaining a Healthy Weight Helps to Keep Knees Healthy

    Being overweight really does have an impact on your joints, especially the knees. The heavier you are, the more stress you are going to deliver through the knees. Pretty simple on this one…maintain a healthy weight and you’ll greatly lower your chances of suffering from knee pain.

    Tip 4

    Keep Your Backside Strong to Lessen the Strain on your Knees

    When I say backside, I’m talking about your glutes and hamstrings. Your glutes are built to be strong and should be the powerhouse of your lower body. When working properly, they will take a brunt of the force away from the knees during many exercises. Likewise, your hamstrings shouldn’t be ignored! Many knee problems are caused by an imbalance in the legs. Many people tend to be quad dominant, which will put a lot of stress on the knees. Be sure to balance out your leg workouts by including an equal amount of quad, glute and hamstring exercises.

    Tip 5

    Be Aware of Your Knees' Aches and Pains

    This one almost seems too obvious, but if something hurts don’t do it! Far too many people try to work through the pain thinking they will eventually get through it. Instead, try to address the issue by figuring out what is causing the pain and then take the proper steps to correct it. Remember, when you’re injured you are not doing your body any good by continuing to do the same thing.

    Tip 6

    Focus on your Form to Keep Your Knee Movements Natural

    I’m often amazed at the amount of people who blame a certain exercises for their knee pain when, in fact, the problem is in how they’re performing the exercise. If you think your form may be off on certain exercises like squats, deadlifts and lunges, be sure to seek some help or do some research to assure you are doing them safely and correctly.

    Tip 7

    Build Good Posture and Core Strength will Help Minimize Knee Stress

    If you are one that suffers from bad posture, chances are you could be hurting your knees. Keeping your head centered over your shoulders and your shoulders over your abdomen and pelvis will keep your back, hips and knees happy. Make sure you’re including plenty of core exercises in your routine to strengthen the abs and low back. This will promote good posture and, ultimately, lessen the pressure on your knees. Knee pain can be a major road block for many lifters, athletes and every day fitness enthusiasts. But, by taking some of these tips and putting them into action, chances are very good that you’ll prevent, or even reverse, any future problems.  
    About the writer: Ken Grall is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and owns and operates an Edge Fitness in Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Ken.
    Read more »
  4. How-To Create Healthy Ice Cream Recipes

    Nothing beats ice cream on a hot day. Of course, the high fat and sugar content of most frozen desserts makes them hard to fit into a healthy diet. Sadly, lower calorie and higher protein alternatives are generally expensive and loaded with artificial ingredients. Creating your own healthy ice cream, ice cream alternatives, and other frozen treats is actually a lot easier than you’d think. Beyond banana ice cream and Nice Cream, here’s what you need to get started on this family friendly, easy summer treat.

    Tools to Make Healthy Ice Cream Alternatives:

    You don’t need a lot of equipment to create delicious ice cream alternatives. While a high-end ice cream maker is a powerful addition if you find yourself dedicated to crafting sorbets and gelatos, you probably have what you need in your kitchen right now.
    • Food processor or powerful blender: This is your single-most powerful tool in creating your own healthy ice cream recipes. With a few changes and a little extra time in the freezer, you can modify your favorite smoothies into a sweet summer indulgence. The trick is giving them plenty of time to process and, possibly, returning them to the freezer when you’re done.
    • A bread pan: Once you finish creating your healthy ice cream, throw it in a bread pan and keep it in the freezer for a few hours so that you can easily scoop and serve when it’s dessert time.
    • Freezer Pop Molds: If you’d like to add fruit bars and other transportable treats to your ice cream stash, keep these on hand. Using craft sticks rather than the included bases are nice, since it’s hard to get all those parts back to the kitchen when you’re done. You can also use decorative ice cube trays for fun (and messy) treats for the younger crowd.
    • Freezer Space: You’ll want a level space in your freezer to let your treats set, so take the time before you mix to set that up. It’s way easier than juggling a tray in your hand while shuffling bags of broccoli and prepped meals.

    The Easiest Ingredients for Healthy Ice Cream Recipes:

    Traditional ice cream relies on a heavy amount of butterfat and sugar to create “mouthfeel”. That’s the creamy sensation that makes ice cream taste extra good and leaves you wanting more. A great healthy ice cream recipe replicates this through alternative ingredients that create a similar texture. Here are some of the best options.
    • Frozen Bananas: Bananas get their own recognition when it comes to healthy ice cream. Banana ice cream is easy to make using frozen bananas and your food processor. Better yet, doctor it up with some cocoa powder and peanut butter to create this Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl (I want all of these in my freezer this summer!) The high glycemic index of bananas makes them easily absorbable after a workout. Fuel your recovery and your cravings at the same time!
    • Coconut Milk: Whether you’re vegan, limiting your dairy intake, or just love coconut, you can’t go wrong with this delicious ice cream base. You can freeze your coconut milk before adding it to your mix, or just freeze the mixture afterwards in a bread pan. Pineapple and coconut are a natural pair. Throw in a little ginger to mix up this inspired sorbet.
    • Greek Yogurt: This tangy protein source combines well with fruit or protein powder. You can use it to add creaminess (and probiotics) to your final product. Choose from skim, low fat, or full fat options depending on how healthy you need your healthy ice cream to be.
    • Frozen fruits: This mainstay healthy ice cream base provides a desirable consistency, color, and sweetness. You can blend fruits with other bases or showcase them in sorbets and fruit pops. Try this raspberry mint ice pop for a perfect hot afternoon pick me up.
    • Canned Fruits: Don’t overlook canned fruits and pie fillings as you create your favorite recipes. The trick to using canned fruits is to freeze them first. Thaw them only as much as needed to dice into 1-2 inch cubes before adding to your base. Canned pumpkin or previously baked pumpkin or sweet potato can be frozen in smaller containers. Thaw slightly before slicing and adding to other bases for a creamy pumpkin pie ice cream. Mandarin oranges and sliced pears work well on their own. Put the whole can in the freezer, thaw under running water for a few minutes until you can easily remove from the can and slice into smaller pieces. Blend until you have a sorbet consistency. You can enjoy as is, or add a few drops of your favorite essence (vanilla or rum are nice).
    Get Creative. Your options are limitless. Add your favorite essence. Anything from mint to mocha is easily available at your local grocery. You can up the protein content and thicken your ice cream by throwing in a scoop of protein powder. For inspiration, check out protein packed frozen treats. Finally, don’t overlook healthy ice cream alternatives and frozen desserts at your next picnic or barbecue. From Frozen Pineapple Upside Down Cake to a cooler full of ice pops, you’re guaranteed a summer crowd pleaser!

    About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Joli.
    Read more »
  5. HIIT Vs. LISS: Which Cardio Workout is the Best?

    A woman running doing a hiit workout versus a man doing a liss workout No question about it. HIIT is hot. High Intensity Interval Training (including Matrix Fitness’ Sprint 8) is getting a lot of attention for all the right reasons. But does that mean that LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) is out? Not necessarily. Here are a few benefits of each form of training, and a plan for working them into your workouts.

    Five Benefits of HIIT

    • You’ll Burn Calories After Your Workout: During High Intensity Interval Training your body is forced to perform and recovery at its limits. This forced adaptation means your post workout recovery is also more intense. As your body recovers, your metabolism is higher, which means you burn more calories even at rest after HIIT workouts. This burn lasts for up to 48 hours, which means a few HIIT workouts each week can go a long way towards fat loss.
    • HIIT Workouts Are Time Efficient: Exercising at intense levels means you don’t have to work out for hours. A true HIIT workout can be had in just 20 minutes and shouldn’t take more than 40 minutes. This makes HIIT workouts a schedule friendly option for busy athletes (and the rest of us mortals).
    • HIIT Makes Your Workouts More Interesting: While it’s hard to call a HIIT workout fun, you’ll find the time goes by quickly. HIIT workouts provide constant variation by alternating short efforts with short recoveries. The training difficulty changes throughout your workout as well. This constant variety coupled with full effort means your brain will stay engaged in your workout.
    • HIIT Workouts Make you Fitter: Increasing your V02 Max (how your body responds to challenging exercise) can only happen through challenging exercise. That means training at lactate threshold or anaerobic levels. Fortunately, HIIT fits that bill. By challenging your heart’s maximum output and recovery, you will build endurance that will increase your sustained efforts. That means your HIIT workouts can do amazing things for your next 10K.
    • HIIT Workouts Reverse Aging. Sound too good to be true? A recent Mayo Clinic study demonstrated that HIIT workouts reverse evidence of aging on the body’s protein function. This happened at the cellular level. It resulted in increased muscle gain and improved fat loss. The study also found that HIIT was associated with improved insulin sensitivity and cardio respiratory health.

    Five Benefits of LISS

    • LISS Builds Endurance: Do your training goals include running a 10K (or more)? Want to complete a cycling century? Or maybe you just need to keep up with the kids this summer. If so, LISS will help you get there. LISS is especially important if you want to complete events that last for more than an hour. By completing LISS training, you teach your body to maintain a steady pace in your aerobic zone. This makes LISS a great match to aerobic training programs on your home fitness equipment. You can also combine LISS training with a heart rate monitor, maintaining a heart rate of less than 80% of your max throughout your workout.
    • You’ll Find your Zen Place: There’s a special mindset that comes from a long workout at a steady effort. These workouts are especially effective when you complete them outdoors (or in view of the outdoors). With the pounding of your feet or the tempo of your foot strokes, your brain gets calmer. You’ll find yourself working through, or just feeling better about, the challenges of life and work.
    • You’ll Burn Serious Calories: HIIT tends to get a lot of attention when it comes to fat loss, but LISS workouts pack their own punch. The duration of these workouts will increase your daily caloric output. This makes it easier to lose weight or maintain weight loss.
    • LISS Lets You Recover: You can’t do a HIIT workout every day. The most effective training programs will include HIIT two or three times per week. Completing more HIIT training than that may interfere with your recovery and not offer additional benefits. So, if you want to stay active on those recovery days, LISS workouts are an effective option.
    • LISS Workouts are Doable: For new exercisers, the idea of working to your maximum effort level can be intimidating. Knowing that you can alternate HIIT workouts with a more comfortable option might help you stick to your training program. Additionally, LISS workouts let you build muscular endurance and stability more gradually. This helps you to avoid over-training or unhealthy levels of impact. If you’re just getting started, try a HIIT workout 1-2 times per week and supplement with LISS while you get stronger.

    How to HIIT and LISS your Workout Plan Next Week

    With benefits to each style of workout, you’ll want to be sure you’re including both HIIT and LISS training in your week.

    Here’s how.

    HIIT It

    • Sprint 8: If you need an efficient workout that takes the guesswork out of your program, we’ve got your back. Sprint 8 is patented and requires just 20 minutes. It also adapts to your individual fitness. That means you don’t have to be a runner or serious athlete to succeed. Just set aside 20 minutes and experience the benefits of improved heart health, muscle growth, and fat loss.
    • One Minute Strength Intervals: Here’s another HIIT workout that doesn’t require speed. After a 3 minute warm up on your favorite elliptical, treadmill, or indoor cycle, alternate 60 second periods of work with 60 second periods of recovery. Your work periods will be at a high resistance level (incline on your treadmill) that puts you up to 85-95% of your maximum heart rate. During your recovery periods, reduce your resistance/incline completely, and just keep your legs moving. Repeat 12 rounds. Follow with a 3 minute cool down.

    LISSen Up

    • Sweet 75: Your goal on LISS days will be to teach your body to work (and recover) at a maintainable effort. Using a heart rate monitor, complete your favorite run, walk, or cycle maintaining a heart rate of 75% of your maximum. If your heart rate begins to go above 80% reduce your effort level until it comes down. If you decrease below 70% you need to up the pace. This workout goes well with a good playlist or Netflix series. Plan to spend 60-90 minutes completing the workout. By 30 minutes, you may find it harder to avoid climbing above 80%. This is where the true benefits of building endurance in LISS training begin.
    Knowing the benefits of HIIT and LISS workouts, makes it easier to fit them into your weekly rotation of workouts. HIIT workouts will help to get you fitter in shorter periods of time. Alternating these workouts with the slower paced LISS workouts will give you a well-rounded program. Over time, you will experience better fitness, endurance, and weight loss through including both workouts each week.
    Read more »