Essential At-Home Exercises to Lose Weight and Build Muscle

shutterstock_120401986

At one time or another, many of us think about joining a gym – whether we want to lose weight, take better overall care of ourselves, or simply enjoy a new hobby, various motivating factors can encourage us to sign up. But not all of us actually go through with it, for various reasons.

Gym memberships can be expensive, particularly those with a wealth of extras (spas, massages), and those of us with families to support may be unable to find the spare cash. Gyms can also be intimidating, regardless of your current physical condition: even the most slender, attractive people may feel as if all eyes are on them when they first walk in, head-to-toe in Lycra, surrounded by well-defined heavy-lifters. The fear of being judged, or making a fool of ourselves using equipment incorrectly, can put off even the most confident people.

The truth is, you don’t need a gym to get in shape: many people work out at home, either with a personal weight bench or using simple callisthenics. The beauty of working out at home is that it’s free (bar the cost of any equipment you want to use, of course), and you can do it whenever you have the time: get up half an hour earlier and get a few exercises done before work; give yourself a 20-minute workout while you wait for your dinner to cook; or even come home and work up a sweat on your lunch break if you live close enough to work.

Another bonus of working out at home is the privacy: no one is there to watch, and this may help you feel more confident as you work out. You can also take a nice hot shower afterwards without any awkwardness, too! Just make sure you don’t over do it on the exercise. You don’t want to hurt yourself, if you do it might be worthwhile to look at physiotherapy, you could use a company like CK Physiotherapy if you do accidentally injure yourself. So be careful, but remember to have fun and enjoy your exercise. To help you get started, here are a few ideas for home-based exercise you can enjoy:

Jumping Jacks

 You may remember these from gym class at school, and the reason so many teachers get kids doing jumping jacks is their effectiveness as a cardio exercise. If you live in an apartment with little soundproofing, you may want to wait until your neighbours are out, or perform these outside if possible. Try to do as many as you can, and ensure proper form – start off slowly to make sure you have the rhythm right. Don’t push yourself at first: aim to do at least one more with each successive workout.

Training With a Friend: Yes or No?

shutterstock_194509067

It’s one of the eternal conundrums of the fitness world – should you enlist a friend as a training partner, or would you be better off going the isolationist route? This is a decision that is critical to your training success or failure – and possibly your friendship. With all of that at stake, you owe it to yourself to do some due diligence on the issue. So, let’s get to it.

Partner Plusses

Motivation: Sustaining the motivation required to power through your workouts day in and day out isn’t easy. In fact, running out of steam is the major reason most people never achieve their fitness goals. A great way to inject a little motivation into the workout equation is to team up with a partner. The knowledge that there’s someone waiting on you to show up and do the work is a great boost to overcoming ‘mind over mattress’ syndrome.

Safety: Hitting the gym on your own can be risky business. Whether you’re bench pressing, squatting or doing lunges, the presence of a partner could be the difference between an extra couple of forced reps and six months of chiropractic treatment.

Competition: Nothing propels humans to excel more than a sense of competition. In the gym, healthy competition can be the difference between a by-the-numbers session and a fat-scorching, body-shaping frenzy. To really get the most out of your workouts, find a partner who’s a little fitter than you – you’ll be constantly pushing yourself to keep up with them.

Training Tempo: Many guys misjudge how much rest they need between sets; they either don’t allow enough time for the cells to recuperate, or they wait too long and then the cumulative training effect has been wasted. When you train with a partner, however, it’s simple: as soon as they have finished their set, it’s your turn. This back-and-forth tempo provides you with just the right amount of rest to sustain intensity through your workout.

Walking is Not Exercise – But It May Still the Best Form of Exercise We Know

shutterstock_219757786

It is odd to the point of surreal to think of walking as a form of exercise –but these are the times we live in. When humans developed the ability to transport ourselves rapidly and for long distances on two legs, it was a momentous turning point in our evolutionary history. We eventually formed partnerships with horses to improve our speed and carrying power, but even then we were still primarily an ambulatory species.

Now we’ve transcended all that. Cars have become our new appendages, our gateways to mobility and freedom. We don’t have to walk any significant distances anymore if we don’t want to, and if we have to walk, we tend to see that as an annoyance. Since the dawn of the machine age, our range of travel has been extended by trains, planes and automobiles, and our lifestyles have been irrevocably altered as a result.

So when we do embrace walking these days, we do so with a different attitude. It’s not simple transportation now, but rather exercise. A low-impact, low-intensity form of exercise, a pale imitation of real exercise like running, swimming, rowing or bicycling.

But paradoxically, in this age where more vigorous forms of aerobic and anaerobic exercise have become standard practice for many, the United States is in the midst of an obesity epidemic. About 35% of all American adults are classified as obese (more than 20% above their recommended BMI), and 69% are overweight by at least a few pounds.

As we all know, obesity has been implicated in an increased risk for life-shortening conditions such as high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol and Alzheimer’s. Poor diet is of course a primary culprit in all this, but regular strenuous exercise is supposed to be great for both fitness and appetite suppression. And we are a pro-exercise culture. So what’s going on here?

Could it be the method that’s the madness? Might it be that we simply aren’t walking enough anymore, and all the exercise plans and routines we hatch are not enough to overcome our neglect of this most basic and fundamental form of ‘exercise?’ The possibility is certainly worth considering.

5 Ways to Stay Motivated With Your Workouts

shutterstock_298416335
When it comes to living a healthier lifestyle, getting started is one of the hardest parts. Say you’ve cut back on sugar by completely avoiding your favorite candy and chocolates. You’ve done what would seem impossible to some people, so why shouldn’t you congratulate yourself? But you must remember that’s only the beginning. Some start out great with a plan for healthier living, but soon stray from what they planned and never get back on track.

It’s normal to be distracted or to have moments where giving up on a routine seems to be the perfect answer. Even the most dedicated runners sometimes stumble, but they get back up and finish the race – and you should too. We’ve listed 5 concrete ways for you to stay on track and keep up with your fitness goals. These are designed to help people get back on their feet and stay motivated in their workouts.

1. Plan Ahead

Planning is a crucial step when it comes to committing to a healthy lifestyle. Even if you’ve done the work of improving your diet, planning out what exercises to do today, tomorrow, or even the following week would be beneficial to how you see the act of exercising as a whole.  It’s not uncommon for people to go into a gym and randomly pick a machine that isn’t sweaty or being used by anyone.

While random workouts are better than no workout at all, not having anything in mind can lead to not doing any workout at all, and lead you to miss the goals you’ve set for yourself. If you want to lift heavier, you should think of exercises that can help you lift heavier. If you want to jump higher, plan a routine that can help you achieve this in the shortest amount of time. It’s all about how you plan on crossing the finish line. After all, failing to plan is planning to fail.

5 Top Fitness Benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training

shutterstock_247116022
High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, is an increasingly popular method of getting in shape. The spread of HIIT has greatly influenced conventional fitness programs, and it’s getting harder to find a list of fitness-center programs that doesn’t incorporate HIIT. Its advocates say that HIIT is highly effective for getting stronger and building stamina, and is an awesome way to burn fat.

The idea behind HIIT is that your body is trained by bouts of short but intense effort, followed by intervals of moderate to low effort. The HIIT approach is applicable across various forms of training, but it is most popular in sprinting/running and kettlebell training. This could be as simple as doing an exercise at an intense pace for one minute then slowly pacing yourself for the next two minutes, before going back full circle.

Not yet doing HIIT? Get yourself motivated by reading our list of the top five benefits of including HIIT in your fitness program, and you’ll realize how much you’re missing by not getting into the HIIT spirit!

1. Time-Efficient

HIIT is the definitive answer to those who always find excuses not to train, blaming it on the lack of time. HIIT is based on a continuous but fluctuating intensity of training, which has little to no rest periods involved. This makes efficient use of training time, meaning HIIT has the potential to be done virtually any time of day. This could range from doing a short kettlebell complex to  training with a jump-rope.

You can even just run up and down the stairs during your lunch break to get more out of your busy day. For those with serious time constraints, there’s a method called Tabata Training, which gets you a decent HIIT workout in under 4 minutes!