Friday, February 28, 2014

10 Minute Cardio Workouts [Fit Mamas Series, part 6]

I left focusing on cardio until last in this series because most women put way too much time into cardio.  Because of the way our bodies are built (and the types of hormones in our bodies) women should be spending more time doing weight bearing exercises than cardio.  But unfortunately the reverse is more commonly true.  Most gyms I have been to have the cardio area filled with women on the treadmills, stationary bikes, and elliptical machines.  This shouldn't be the case.
'100218-F-3108S-071' photo (c) 2010, Expert Infantry - license:

However, some cardio is necessary and good in a workout routine.  And certainly, doing a bunch of cardio is still probably better than being sedentary, but of course if you want to make the best use of your time you will mix cardio with core/balance exercises and strength training.  Its important to know that there are different types of cardio exercise, and the type that I would most recommend is to do intervals or high intensity interval training (HIIT).

When most people think about cardio, they imagine going a moderate pace for a long amount of time.  However, recent studies have shown a lot of benefits to doing interval training, outweighing the benefits of long bouts of even-paced cardio.  For those unfamiliar with HIIT, interval training is a form of exercises where quick bursts of activity are alternated by short periods of rest.  This article has a list of the many benefits of HIIT, including that it takes less time for the same (or more) health benefits, burns more fat, and requires no equipment (meaning you can even do this at home while your children are napping!)

The following are a few examples of the cardio portion of my workouts.  As I have mentioned before, keep in mind that these are just examples of what I do in a workout, and may or may not be good for you, depending on a number of factors.  Talk to your health care professional before embarking on a new exercise routine.

10 minute cardio workout #1

20 second sprint (all-out sprint, as fast as you can go), 10 second rest.  Repeat 8 times.  (this is best done outside on the sidewalk or on an indoor track, but not on a treadmill.  An elliptical machine or stationary bike would also work.  You could also jump rope or do push ups in 20 second bursts of speed.  You have many options for this one!)

(if you do the math, this actually only takes 8 minutes.  But it is super intense and certainly counts for a 10 minute workout.  And if you are doing more exercises after this one, you will need the whole extra 2 minutes to rest, trust me!)

*A note for mamas: a 20 second sprint is a short enough distance that I feel comfortable doing these outside in front of my house while my kiddos are napping.  Just go back and forth each time and you stay close enough to your house that you know what is going on there.  You wont have travelled far, and you'll really feel like you ran a mile.  This is just a suggestion; you may or may not be comfortable with doing this.

10 minute cardio workout #2

50 seconds of each exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest.  Repeat this circuit twice.

* Jumping Jacks
* Jump squats
* Deadlifts
* Jump rope
* High knee

10 minute cardio workout #3

Each exercise is 40 seconds long

side plank with leg lifts (right), side plank with leg lifts (left), rest 40 seconds

jump rope, air squats, rest 40 seconds

kettlebell swings, upright rows, rest 40 seconds

stabilization jumps, goblin squats, rest 40 seconds

push ups, bridge, rest 40 seconds

What exercises do you like to include in your cardio workouts?

Monday, February 10, 2014

10 Minute Workouts for Moms: Strength [Fit Mamas Series, Part 5]

Last week I posted some sample core/balance workouts that I do.  Core work makes up about a third of each of my excercises (usually the first third, though sometimes I switch up the order).  The second third of my workout is usually strength training.  Strength focuses on making the body stronger, and since I do functional fitness workouts, I focus on getting stronger at movements I already perform on a daily basis.  Some strength exercises focus narrowly on a few muscles (for example, curls) but the best strength exercises use a combination of many muscles in the body, working together to make the movement (for example, squats).
'Kettlebell' photo (c) 2010, Andrew Malone - license:

Unlike the weights used for core workouts, you should use a weight during strength training that leaves your muscles spent at the end of each set, to the point where you could only do one or two more reps, if that.  Make sure you don't get in a groove and always grab the same weights, constantly try to challenge yourself to a heavier weight, even if it means doing fewer reps until you build up.

Rest for 15-30 seconds in between each set, but not much longer, especially if you really want to keep each of these workouts to 10 minutes.  Keeping the rest time short also helps keep your heart rate up, which is good for your heart and better for your body over all.

As I mentioned previously, these workouts are samples of what I do.  They may not necessarily be right for you, so I recommend consulting a health professional before beginning a new exercise routine.

10 Minute Strength Exercise #1

Shoulder press, 2/2 count (meaning two counts up, two counts down), 10 reps, 3 sets

Circuit, 4x though, 30 seconds each exercise:
Mountain Climbers, Squats with weights, Upright Row, Dips

10 Minute Strength Exercise #2

Circuit, 3x through:
Goblin Squat to Shoulder Raise (15 reps)
Deadlift to Upright Row (15 reps)
Pushups (Unless you are really strong, most women should do knee or wall pushups. 10 reps)
Kettlebell swings (20 reps)

10 Minute Strength Exercise #3

Lateral shoulder raises, 2/2 count, 10 reps, 3 sets
Front shoulder raises, 2/2 count, 10 reps, 3 sets
Pushups, 2/2 count, 10 reps, 3 sets
Deadlifts, 2/2 count, 15 reps, 3 sets
Squats with weights, 12 reps, 3 sets

Friday, February 7, 2014

Sleeping and Sowing

And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground.  He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how.  The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.  But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”  Mark 4:26-29 (emphasis mine)

This is an important passage for anyone doing any kind of ministry to understand.  This includes moms especially, whose whole day is filled with discipling little ones.  A few thoughts:

1.  Sleep.  It is noteworthy that in this short parable, out of all the things Jesus could mention in these three verses, he includes the fact that the sower sleeps.  The sower does his work, and then rests easily at night.  He is not up trying to scatter more seed, fertilize the soil or water the germinating seed.  He simply works hard during the day and sleeps at night, trusting that the seed will do its thing and sprout and grow properly.

So it is with our ministries.  We are to work hard during the day: feeding little bellies, teaching verses to memorize, explaining the gospel (over and over and over...) and disciplining our children.  And at night, we are to sleep well, trusting God to use our feeble efforts at sowing to produce a bountiful crop. Indeed, no amount of labor we can do will cause the seed to sprout.  Recognizing this is the first step towards successful sowing, and should lead us to prayerful dependance on God to sprout the seeds that we sow.  It should also lead to peaceful sleep at night, trusting Him to continue to work in ways that we can't.

2.  Our work is to sow.  Though "the earth produces by itself" the sower does not take this to mean that he should do no work.  On the contrary, the sower knows that his work is to sow, but knows he does not control what actually sprouts.  

So moms, know that though you can't control the ultimate results of your ministries, that your job is to be faithful in sowing, and especially to sow righteousness.

3.  The earth produces by itself.  This should be the most astounding and comforting words of this passage.  Yes, our job is to sow, the the earth produces by itself.  Another passage says, "I [Paul] planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth" (1 Corinthians 3:6).  In other words, our task is the scattering of seed, but the real work is done by God, who actually causes the plant to grow and to produce fruit.

This should be a most comforting realization, and lead to the peaceful sleep mentioned above.  It should encourage us in our work of sowing, knowing that God can and will produce food from it.  As I heard Kevin DeYoung once say, we should have the attitude of Dory the fish (from Finding Nemo), but instead of "just keep swimming" our refrain should be "just keep sowing, just keep sowing", because we know that something will sprout.  We can sow faithful and consistently because we have trust in God to produce the harvest that he will allow us one day to reap (v. 29).

What are you sowing?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

10 Minute Workouts for Moms: Core/Balance [Fit Mamas Series, Part 4]

Have I mentioned that I love to workout?  You might think I am crazy.  But I do.  I love to workout (though sometimes in the moment its tough!) but more than anything I love how I feel after I work out.  Such a feeling of confidence and power and accomplishment.
'25' photo (c) 2011, Brad Montgomery - license:

No matter where you are at in your fitness journey, make this week a week where you take it up a notch.  You will notice a difference in how you feel after your workout and even in the days between your workouts.

As I promised earlier, I am posting some suggested 10 minute workouts.  As a disclaimer, I can't say that these workouts are necessarily right for you, especially if you have some kind of injury or special condition.  But these are a sample of the kinds of workouts that I personally do, and might also work for you.  If nothing else, I hope that they are an inspiration to you to find a type of workout routine that is right for you.  As I mentioned previously, talk to your health care professional before starting a workout routine and consider consulting a personal trainer for exercises tailored to your specific needs.

Core exercises are something I have been studying a lot recently, in light of my pregnancy.  Having a strong core is important in order to push a baby out (to put it bluntly :) ) but it is important to do the right kinds of core exercises while pregnant because some things (like crunches) can exacerbate the natural splitting of the abdominal muscles (specifically the rectus abdominis for you anatomy geeks) that occurs during pregnancy.  Some women recover from this split after birth (called a diastasis recti or DR), but for some women its a problem that persists for a lifetime and goes undiagnosed, leading to issues like back pain, urinary incontinence, umbilical hernia and a "pouch" belly.  Fortunately, a DR can usually be resolved with the right kinds of exercises.  Another reason why working out helps you to be a better mama!

If you are up for further reading about core exercises and pregnancy, here are some good resources:

Three exercises for a strong birth

A squatting option for moms late in their pregnancy (especially moms who haven't worked out much)

Post-partum belly binding for ab recovery

And on to the workouts!  Remember, if you are a super busy mama, a daily 10 minute workout really can have lasting benefits.  If you have a bit more time, you can string a 2-4 ten minute workouts together several times a week.  Find what works for you and make it happen!

If you are new to these exercises, make sure to do some research to make sure you are doing them correctly.  For the exercises below that involve weights (such as upright row and front shoulder raise), since these exercises are for the core and not for strength use a weight that is a bit challenging but doesn't leave you exhausted after the assigned number of reps.  You should be able to focus on having a strong, solid core while performing each of these exercises.

10 Minute Core Exercise #1

side plank left, side plank right, bridge and air squats, 30 seconds each (rest for 30 seconds)

side plank left, side plank right, bridge and air squats, 60 seconds each (rest for 30 seconds)

side plank left, side plank right, bridge and air squats, 90 seconds each (90 seconds will be challenging.  Take short breaks as needed, but remember to push yourself!)

10 Minute Core Exercise #2

Bridge with leg lifts (10 reps each leg)

Single leg squats (12 reps each leg)

Front shoulder raise 12 reps, three sets with 15 sec rest in between sets (if you have access to a Bosu ball, do this on the ball)

Circuit, 3 times through: squat to shoulder raise (30 seconds), jump rope (30 seconds), upright row (30 seconds)

10 Minute Core Exercise #3

Deadlifts (15 reps) Note: most women can lift a lot more weight for a deadlift than they expect.  Don't lift 5lb weights unless that is really all you can handle.  I currently use a single 40lb kettlebell for this exercise, but most women I know do 15-25lb (divide by two if you use two dumbells).

Circuit (4x through): Air squats, bridge, wall sits, wall ball (30 seconds each exercise)

What is your favorite core exercise?

Monday, February 3, 2014

January in our Home

January marked our first full month as Indiana residents.  Much of the month was spent continuing to adjust to and get to know our new home, new town and new church.  Though new things like this (especially new relationships) are never easy for an introvert, I can say that I am really enjoying our new life here, and haven't looked back longingly at California once.  But in the midst of discovering new things, I know that this move is still requiring us to work, especially to put in the work of building new friendships, which don't happen overnight.

I have certainly had the sense that this month was the start of some much needed rebuilding in our lives.  Spiritually, Alex and I are both doing well, markedly better than our last few years in California.  It has been a really refreshing break to not lead anything at church, and only do minimal hosting at our home. Though these are ministries we enjoy, this is the right time for us to take a pause from it.  God will lead us back into these things at the right time, but now is the time for Him to "restore, confirm, strengthen and establish" (1 Peter 5:10) us for future ministry.  It has also been encouraging and faith-building to see God answer many important prayer requests this month, from income (Alex now has two part time jobs) to health insurance as well as requests for spiritual strength and growth.

Not only am I thankful for God providing us with health insurance, but very excited that there is a local midwife who accepts the insurance (and recommended by several ladies at church).  Furthermore, her office is less than a mile from our house and the hospital only a minute farther down the road!  Looks like we won't be driving for an hour to the hospital as I labor, as happened with Esther.  After 2 1/2 months without prenatal care, I was very happy to be able to have my first appointment with my new midwife this week.  As I just hit the 10 week mark until baby boy is due, I am starting to think through what needs to happen in the couple months before he comes.

As my days these days are filled mostly with discipling Esther, a big part of this month has been figuring out our daily routine.  In addition to our next door rec center and amazing library, we just discovered another rec center that has a huge room filled with every toddler/preschool aged toy that you can imagine. This month was also our first couple times attending our church's mom group called BloomingMoms, which will be a fun playtime for Esther as well as a refreshing and insightful time for me.  Surprisingly, Esther has been more than ok with all the indoor time we have had (maybe because of how much she hates the cold!) and we have been filling our days at home with reading LOTS of books, coloring, puzzles and other toys.  I will be happy when it warms up and we can go outside again, but I am pleasantly surprised at how well all this indoor time is going.

What was January like in your home?