Ever feel winded in the middle of a boxing or kickboxing workout and wonder why your fellow exercisers seemed to have no trouble? It’s all in the breathing!
While it may seem like just breathing in and out during a vigorous workout is all you can keep up with, practicing good technique can make a world of difference, leaving you energized instead of winded and feeling invigorated instead of exhausted by the end.
The first trick, experts say, is to breathe deeply and low. What does that mean? Simply, your stomach should move when you breathe–it shouldn’t all be concentrated in your chest. Inhales should go all the way to your diaphragm (below the rib cage) and exhales should deflate your upper stomach all the way. This is easy to practice at home, either by breathing deeply and low in front of a mirror, or trying it with a hand on your upper stomach. If your tummy doesn’t go up and down as you breathe, you’re only inhaling and exhaling in a shallow way. That’s going to deprive your muscles of oxygen when you work out and leave you feeling tired.
It’s often helpful to exhale sharply when striking during a boxing match or similar workout. It helps keep you breathing on a rhythm and ensures you’re not holding your breath, which is a very common trap. It’s easy to concentrate so hard on punches, jabs, and kicks that you literally forget to breathe. Inhaling between strikes and quickly blowing breath out on offensive moves both keeps you breathing evenly and helps put a little more power behind those strikes. Also, try inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth, which will help with that rhythm and ensure deeper breathing, giving your body more oxygen (translate: energy).
Next time you feel winded during a workout or a bout, spend a minute or two really thinking about the way you’re breathing. A simple correction there may be all you need to get back in your best form and make the most of your workout.
I play another sport competitively. Why should I spend some of my training time with a boxing or kickboxing workout?
It’s a question trainers hear all the time. Thankfully, there are some very good answers, the most basic of which is that boxing or kickboxing will make you stronger, faster, able to play your other sport for longer stretches of time, and improve your reflexes.
Unlike running, soccer, or aerobic training, boxing provides a full-body workout that combines strength training with cardio. So your muscles get stronger at the same time your heart pumps to help you shed weight (or keep it off). Hitting a live opponent or a heavy bag rather than just punching or kicking at air help you develop harder swings and solid landings, which, in turn, also build muscle. Those muscles will help you jump higher and farther, which is a benefit in all kinds of sports. And at the same time, blocking defensively and following that defense with immediate offense in the ring (or in class) help improve your reflexes, developing better hand-eye coordination and making the most of peripheral vision, which is helpful in almost any sport.
That jab and weave you develop in boxing? That helps with balance and coordination, training your body to shift weight and change directions quickly. And finally, boxing and kickboxing help you develop better concentration skills, leaving you able to focus on the game for longer than before.
So the answer is, you should spend training time at the boxing gym because it will help almost every other aspect of your athletic life. Which is pretty awesome no matter what other sports you play.
How Much Hydration?
You’ve heard it a million times: Drink eight glasses of water per day to stay healthy. But the truth is, glasses vary in size, exercise and weather play a bit part in how much fluid you actually need, and not everyone has the same hydration needs. So what’s a reasonably active person to do?
First of all, the eight glasses a day rule is a great guideline to start with. Even though it’s based more on being easy to remember than actual science, eight eight-ounce glasses (or eight cups) of water is probably enough for most people.
If you’re working out, though, your fluid intake should go up, and sometimes dramatically. That’s because your body loses hydration through both sweat and breathing when you ramp up your activity–that dry feeling in your mouth means you need more fluid in your body. The Mayo Clinic says an extra two cups of water (that’s another 16 ounces) should carry you through short exercise, but that high-intensity workouts or those lasting an hour or more require more. They recommend drinking some extra water about a half-hour before you work out, and sipping more every 15 minutes or so during your sweat session. You’ll need even more when it’s hot and humid outside, or when exercising in rooms that have dry-air heat in the winter. Both of those situations make you lose more flius than other times and places.
What about sports drinks? The problem with those is that they’re really high in sodium, and most people don’t secrete enough salt to require replacing it with a drink (your regular diet will take care of it). While they are recommended for super-high-intensity exercise (think long-distance running or an extra-long boxing workout), water is the perfect source of hydration for most casual athletes.
Not a big fan of guzzling H2O? You can get lots of hydration through your diet. Fruits and vegetables in particular can be up to 90 percent water. Loading up on those during meals or snacks help keep your body hydrated. Milk and juices also have lots of water, but can be calorie-dense. Remember that if you feel thirsty, you’re already on the way to not having enough fluid to be healthy. So drink up!
Preparing your body for beach season
As I sat in the sun last weekend, it hit me: a Frisbee that some kids were throwing around in the park. After tossing it back though, I had a thought: “I have to be shirtless on a beach somewhere in a matter of weeks!” For those of us who have been in a steady state mode for the winter/early spring, getting to a point where you’re comfortable in beach scenarios can be a daunting task. Here are some tips and positive encouragement to get from “A” to “B”each.
1) Set goals early. If you just want to slim down and look more tone, make sure to plot out a course that will get you to that end point – when you hit the gym, try a high intensity workout that will get your heart rate pumping. As any good workout regimen will likely include some sort of weight training (whether it be dumbbells, machines, or bodyweight exercises you might not be accustomed to), you will want to follow the old “high rep, low weight” guidelines. In fact, some of the best exercises you can do involve just the weight of your own body, so try different varieties of squats and pushups as they alone can do wonders for body tone. If you want to look strong and beautiful, mix up your high intensity/cardio workouts with a couple of days of heavy weight lifting at lower reps. If strength is your goal, you shouldn’t be ashamed with keeping up a regimen that isn’t specifically set to make you look more lean. As they say in the Navy, “plan the dive and dive the plan”.
2) Track your progress. The purpose of tracking your progress is twofold: 1) you can progressively step up the intensity of your workout while also 2) keeping yourself motivated to continue when your mind wants to take you to happy hour instead. Some may choose to take a notebook to the gym to track the individual components of each workout, others may keep an eye on the time in which it takes them to complete a circuit or how many reps they can do in a specific amount of time, while still others may download fancy apps for their phones that can track the pace of a workout. However you do it, the important part is keeping track of how fast and far you are moving forward. Additionally, it may not be a bad idea to keep a photo journal along the way; taking a picture of your progress every couple of weeks will also do well to maintain your forward momentum.
3) Don’t forget about nutrition. In past posts, we’ve talked about nutrition and how to keep it as an integral part of your daily routine. As you may have anticipated, the advice here is that this shouldn’t change for beach season; instead, you’ll need to keep an eye on not overdoing it. Too many believe a couple weeks of a starvation diet will get them to their end goal the most quickly, and this is simply not the case. A crash diet will just cause your body to eat up the important parts of itself that you’ve been working so hard to maintain while leaving fat behind. While it may be hard to avoid the temptation of taking the quick route two weeks before your scheduled vacation, do your best to keep steady at your nutrition as you step up the intensity of your workouts. As your workouts get more difficult, you will likely be hungrier and have to keep a closer eye on your caloric intake.
4) Just remember: don’t rush, you’ll get there! Similar to returning to a regular exercise regimen after injury, try not to freak out if you have a finite amount of time to get back into bikini or speedo-ready shape (or in my case, a pair of board shorts and an oversized Panama Jack hat). If you hit the gym or pavement at a higher intensity than you’re used to right off the bat, you run the risk of injuring yourself and losing any chance you may have had at enjoying chasing a football up and down the beach, going on that long bike ride down the boardwalk, or playing a round of beach volleyball. There’s certainly nothing wrong with going from exercising twice a week to six times a week, but you have to listen to your body each day; a day of stretching and 20 minutes on the elliptical or bike is a perfect way to maintain a high activity level without running the risk of injuring yourself. After all, stretching should be a part of every warm up and is a perfect way to maintain healthy, lean, injury-proof muscle!
As important as it is to keep your body in shape, it’s equally as important to maintain mental health. Keep in mind that word vacation actually means “being free from duty”, so allow yourself respite from the daily grind. Take your exercise as far as you can in the time you have and then enjoy yourself! It will be especially rewarding to enjoy a Corona at the end of a long beach day if you know you’ve been doing everything within your power to get there. That said you might be better off to reward yourself with a long walk down the beach instead.
Working Out Through Injury
First thing’s first- ice it and call a doctor if it’s bad! The best thing to do to speed your recovery is to get that swelling down, especially if you have a pulled muscle or a sprain. If you’re able to catch the injury soon enough (within 48 hours), ice will certainly help. I have the misfortune of being a simpleton (I.e., I couldn’t have just injured myself .15 miles into the run…maybe if I keep running it’ll get better?), but you’re much smarter than I. I’m sure you’ll heed the advice of many a certified professional and apply ice and take anti-inflammatories (Advil etc.) to help reduce swelling as well. Once you’ve taken care of the initial injury, here’s how to ease back into the wonderful world of exercise.
1) Don’t feel bad about taking a few days off COMPLETELY if you get injured. You may think an injury to your ankle would allow you to keep up with your Monday chest/back routine…but then you may also get the gym, accidentally fall off balance, stabilize yourself with the same leg you have yet to get adjusted to having injured, and you’re in a more long term situation than when you first started.
2) If you have a simple pulled muscle or other injury you’ve experienced in the past and have aggravated, try to focus on other muscle groups after your few days off. I recently pulled my upper Achilles and my first day back was a simple limp-ridden day of chest/triceps and abs while avoiding free weights at all costs. The important part of getting back to the gym was GETTING to the gym. Once I was there I knew I’d immediately be more active than had I opted for my couch.
3) Get back into exercising the pulled muscle or injured area SLOWLY. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to physical therapists for knee and shoulder injuries, but I can tell you how many times they’ve fully rehabilitated me little by little over the course of many weeks (every time, for those wondering). With this experience under my belt, I know I’ll have to take some time to get back to 75%, and quite a deal more to get to 100%. Heat is an important part of the equation as it, along with stretching, will help loosen tissue and muscles around the injured area; this can help chronic muscle pulls.
4) Another trick of the trade here is to cross-train to prevent “deconditioning”. To a professional athlete this may mean one thing, but to a regular Joe (or Sue) Schmoe, this means you’re finding other interesting exercises to keep yourself in shape that you may not have focused on prior to your injury. For example, if you had an issue with one of your knees and the impact from running is too intense, take a cycling class or go for a swim if your gym has a pool available. If you’re used to heavy lifting or boxing and hurt your shoulder, check out different exercises to strengthen your leg muscles. If you find something you can do to get your heart rate up without hurting yourself, chances are it will help you stay in shape.
5) Maintain healthy eating habits! Just like the traveler/busy-body who doesn’t have time to hit the gym, you must maintain a regimen that will keep the rest of your body happy even though one specific area of your body is very unhappy.
Hopefully you’ve found some useful advice in the bullets above, but remember this above all else when trying to stay healthy and work your way back from an injury: you’ve inured yourself before, and you’ll injure yourself again… try to stay positive, because you’ll be back in the saddle again in no time! The worst thing you can do is beat yourself up about not being able to run the marathon/half marathon/5k/up the stairs at this point in life; focus on getting better and the rest will fall in place.
You’ve heard the mantra: Go to the gym three times a week to make a difference. But to really make a big difference in the way you perform and the way your body looks, more than three one-hour workouts might be needed. And cross-training is a great way to improve fitness and boost your performance in boxing or kickboxing classes.
“Many people don’t know the definition of cross-training,” says fitness expert and ACE personal trainer Franklin Antoian, author of The Fit Executive and founder of iBodyFit.com. “Cross-Training is taking part in another sport that’s not your main sport, to improve your performance.”
Anything that’s not your primary workout fits the bill, he says. “Anybody can walk or run. Any activity that raises your heart rate can be considered cardio, and that’s cross-training. If your heart rate goes up when you walk, do that. If you have to sprint, do that. Maybe you like to hike or surf or ride your bike. Anything that gets your heart rate up helps.”
“Cross-training is going to increase your aerobic capacity–it’ll let you box longer without getting out of breath,” says Antoian. “Weight lifting is going to make you stronger, and anytime you’re stronger, you’re going to kick harder and hit harder.”
Besides that, he says, shaking up a workout routine simply does a body good–it’s basic biology.
“Your body can get used to anything if you do it all the time,” he explains. “A gym membership is great for you–you’ll lose weight, get stronger, your coordination will increase, all that good stuff. But after awhile, your body gets used to it. You’re going through the same motions and that heart rate doesn’t go up so much. After awhile, you’re not going to improve. You’re going to maintain. That’s not bad, but if you want to get the full benefits of your training, after awhile, you have to mix it up.”
Antoian says if you’re visiting the gym two or three days a week, you should be cross-training another two to three days.
“The American College of Sports Medicine says you should be doing some kind of cardio 30 minutes a day, five days a week,” he says. “So whatever you’re doing at the gym, you want those 30 minutes of cardio, five days a week. And then you want to lift weights or strength train two days per week.”
That says, he cautions that everyone needs at least one day of rest per week to let their muscles and systems recover. And, he says, even beginners can cross-train to get the most out of all their workouts, and without investing in a lot of equipment or additional memberships.
“Anybody can walk or run,” he says. “You just need a pair of sneakers.”
If you have unlimited time to work out during the week at any point in the day you like, this post is not for you; also, please clear out of the gym before 5:30 so the “nine to fivers” don’t have to crawl over you to get to our machines.
That Guy Glaring at you from the Corner
However, if you’re constantly on the go – whether it be a full schedule of family activities, two hour commute, owning your own business, or the nomadic consultant lifestyle – you’ve come to the startling realization that we’re adults now; there just aren’t enough hours in the day to work, eat, and sleep, much less work out. What is an adult to do? Well, you have to get creative!
Here are five points that might help pull you out of the pit of despair that comes from a week (or for some of us – month) without exercise due to life’s many obligations.
1) My buddy in the Navy would always tell me to “plan the dive and dive the plan” – if you know you have to travel, find a way to front or backload your week with exercise.
This is sort of a no-brainer for those among us who travel frequently – if you know you’ll be on site with a customer from Tuesday through Friday, make sure your Saturday through Tuesday is full of activity. The rest of the points below will only be more rewarding if you go into the trip with the kind of sore muscles that come from packing in a bunch of cardio, High-intensity interval training (HIIT), or heavy weight exercises that hit all the major muscle groups in the days before you leave. And, as any professional athlete would tell you, two-a-days never hurt anyone (unless you’re reckless about it). If you like cardio, run before work and lift weights after. Maybe you want to hit the 6AM boxing class and cycle after work… whatever the case, there’s no reason not to give this concept a try.
2) No time to hit the gym? No gym in your hotel? Shave an hour off the workout process by doing body weight exercises in the comfort of your basement/hotel room/condo.
If you’re shaking your head saying “but I need the elliptical!”, or if you scoffed and said “how am I supposed to get swoll without heavy weights?”, then you’ve probably never heard of Insanity®, P90X®, or LA Boxing – all of which incorporate variations of squats, push-ups, and other resistance-based exercises into their programs. If you can Google the exact calories in your quad half caf venti three pump vanilla three pump hazelnut soy extra hot no foam with whip and cinnamon sprinkles latte, you can find some creative body weight exercises for the next time you can’t get to the gym.
3) If you’re out of the gym’s service area and are wrapped up in client activities or family stuff (i.e., holidays, kid’s sporting events, dog constantly needing walking) focus on nutrition.
A friend who is a fitness model in Miami always tells me that 70% of her chiseled abs come from nutrition, and from how I’ve seen her regulate her intake, I believe it 100%. This is the reason why I do my best to focus on nutrition when I’m unable to exercise. Of course you should always pay attention to what you eat – none of this “I can have four margaritas tonight because I ran this morning” or “deep-fry that please, I did bicep curls this afternoon” – but when you get into the mindset that you’ll redouble your efforts on nutrition when you can’t work out, life will feel a great deal healthier. Additionally, drink water. Seriously, DRINK WATER; I don’t care if it’s from the tap in the office bathroom. Water keeps you toned, and your body desperately needs it, so you have at least two good reasons to chug.
4) So now that you’re thinking more about nutrition, make sure that you don’t skip meals.
It can be tempting to give up breakfast to rush your children off to school, or to skip lunch because you’re working with a needy client, but it’s absolutely critical to keep a steady intake of calories. Your body will thank you for eating 500 calories five times a day rather than 1,000 for lunch and 1,500 for dinner; that kind of uncertainty will only make your body rebel and store fat. If you don’t think you’ll be able to steal away from a day full of meetings to run out to your nearest Press or Chopt, buy something before work and find a place to store it. Most offices will have a refrigerator in which to store your fruit plate, but I’ve been known to find an insulated lunch bag in the event my client doesn’t have such a resource.
Travel and family can be stressful, so you may be tempted to cozy up with that crazy aunt, hit happy hour with your client, or maybe put the kids in front of the television and relax with a bottle of wine. If this is going to happen, don’t get crazy about it: health experts have no problem with moderate alcohol consumption. If done in moderation, there are relatively few adverse health effects. That said here are some ills of alcohol that you’ll want to keep an eye on:
a) Calories in the drink: clear liquors will typically have fewer calories than dark, and mixers can absolutely kill your weight loss goals. Tonic is as bad for you as Coke heavy, so give club soda a try. If you’re a bourbon drinker, try it over ice instead of in a soft drink. It looks classier anyway…
b) Irrational eating: resolve yourself to stay away from the Big Slice on the corner before you go out for drinking. Locate the only vegetable on the menu prior to order your first drink. A few habits will keep you away from the irrational behavior that comes from hearty intake at happy hour.
Did you catch the moderation part?: Remember that irrational eating will only get more irrational the more you drink, the “hangover hunger” will only get worse, and the energy you have to exercise the next day will only go down as your intake goes up.
Here Comes the Bride, There Go the Pounds
Is there something sparkly and new on your left ring finger? Congratulations! For many brides, the question that follows the wedding date and venue is how to best drop a few pounds and look their very best on the big day.
Eating clean and healthy is a great way to start, but it’s hard to do that all the time, and especially when sampling caterers’ food and bakers’ cakes (not to mention all the delicious offerings of engagement parties and showers) is on the agenda. Exercise, then, is vital. But what’s most effective for a bride-to-be who wants to look her best?
According to the Mayo Clinic there are a handful of exercises that burn a lot of calories. Their database says that running for an hour at 5 mph will burn 606 calories. Climbing on a stair machine for that same 60 minutes burns 657 calories, hiking burns 438, and playing singles tennis will burn 584 (all for a 160-pound person).
In that same hour, a high-energy, non-boring (Stairmaster? Really?) boxing or kickboxing workout will burn 800 to 1,000 calories. Winner! And at the same time, it tones your entire body–all major muscle groups get a workout, everything tightens up, and serious change happens in a minimum amount of time. All of this happens in a fun, energetic, supportive atmosphere that makes that hour fly by.
“Boxing and kickboxing involve exercising the core with almost every movement,” says LA Boxing trainer Tedd Shelton. “At the same time, you’re working out your arms and your legs–you tone everything with high-energy, fast-paced exercises. And it all promotes self-confidence and self-esteem as you see yourself getting fitter and better at it.”
The best part? MMA workouts are great for almost everyone. “No one should feel intimidated,” says Shelton. “Our members are at all levels. Some compete, some are older and trying to get in better shape, and some are just looking for something other than going to a gym and getting on a treadmill.”
Want to lose weight for your wedding? Boxing and kickboxing just can’t be beat.
Whether you’ve just started your journey to a healthier life, or you’re a fitness freak, there’s a good chance you’re making tough sacrifices and putting in some seriously hard work. You may have left the fried foods behind, you’re doing at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day, and heck, you may even drink kale smoothies on the regular (yuck, but good for you). There’s also a good chance, you’re neglecting the most important – and easiest—part of achieving your fitness goals; sleep.
Recent studies cited by the National Sleep Foundation show that a lack of sleep may sabotage a person’s ability to lose weight, even if they eat healthy and exercise regularly. One such study performed by the University of Chicago concluded that restricting sleep to 4 hours for just one week in healthy young adults created the same levels of glucose and insulin as seen in diabetics! Another recent study by the Department of Physical Education at the National HsinChu University in Taiwan (a world leader in physical fitness laboratories), that showed people who regularly get less than 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep showed lower levels of muscular endurance, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness.
Now studies like these where people are purposefully deprived of entire hours of sleep is admittedly “extreme”, but chances are you’ve found yourself – with late work, travel, early gym sessions, active social lives, and that two-hour season finale of “Teen Mom” you’re “so pumped for” – in situations not to different from these!
It’s scientific fact that, “Chronic sleep debt raises your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity,” according The Center for Sleep & Wake Disorders in Bethesda, MD, and that your immune system also becomes compromised, “so you’re more susceptible to catching every virus that comes along.”
It’s also scientific fact however, that you could probably be doing a better job at getting those crucial Zzz’s. Lay off the afternoon caffeine, minimize exercise right before bed time, keep your sleep space as dark as possible, even lay off the cell-phone right before bed (the artificial lights have been shown to disrupt sleep chemicals in the brain), and don’t worry, American Idol will be the same show tomorrow on your DVR.
You’re already doing all the hard stuff and kick’n butt at it, why not do the easy stuff? Go get some sleep.
For more information on sleep, facts vs. myths, tips on how proper sleep can maximize your weight loss, muscle gains, and athletic performance, head on over tohttp://www.sleepfoundation.org/.
Feeding the Workout
If you work out at 6 a.m., you likely skip eating first because it’s just too early for breakfast (and let’s face it, who wants to lose another 15 minutes of sleep at that hour of the day?). If you work out at 6 p.m., it’s probable you head to the gym before dinner.
Nobody likes exercising on a full stomach. The flip side is that working out without eating anything beforehand can leave you without energy and with a good case of the shakes. What’s a healthy person to do?
“In general, regardless of when you’re exercising, it’s important to have good hydration so you have fluids and electrolytes in your system, and carbohydrates with some protein, because they’re the fuel you’ll use,” says Washington D.C. nutritionist Tricia L. Psota, Ph.D., RD, LC. The secret, she says, lies in good snacking habits.
The Early Exerciser
“If you’re exercising first thing in the morning, you’ll want a small snack and something to hydrate your body, about 30 to 60 minutes before your workout,” she says. Some people like to chow down a sports gel or bar that early in the morning, but another good option is a simple banana and glass of water.
“A banana is a great source of potassium and it’s easily digested, and the water will give you electrolytes,” she says, adding that something like a Vitamin Water can also help.
It’s also important to nourish the body post-workout as well. “The first thing you should do is have a recovery meal when you get home,” says Psota. Here, you want to replace sodium and electrolytes that have been lost to sweat, and give your muscles some protein to help them repair damage and grow. An English muffin with some peanut butter and a piece of fruit, or scrambled eggs or egg whites with vegetables and a piece of whole wheat toast are great choices in the morning, along with a glass of milk or fruit juice (but watch for empty calories in the juice).
The Mid-Day Athlete
If your workout is happening later in the day–mid-morning to mid-afternoon–Psota recommends a regular breakfast followed by a healthy snack about 15 minutes before exercising.
Here again, a banana, cup of milk, or sports gel with a glass of water might be just the thing to fuel up. But Psota cautions that the easy-to-grab sports gels and bars aren’t necessarily perfect. “There could be a lot of sugar in there, and they’re not the ideal source of carbohydrates,” she says. “You can do water and pair it with a piece of fruit, or have some jam on a slice of bread.”
The Late-Night Workout Enthusiast
For those who like exercising later in the afternoon or evening, rules are similar to the early morning riser. “If you’re eating dinner at 5 and exercising later, you don’t want to have much fat or fiber in that meal,” says Psota. “You’ll have GI discomfort.” She recommends a meal heavy in carbohydrates with some protein: pasta with lean meat and vegetables, turkey or ham sandwiches with fruit on the side, a tuna melt, or rice and beans, all with water or a vitamin-fortified drink.
After that workout, have another snack: a smoothie with low-fat yogurt and frozen fruit, graham crackers with peanut butter, or Psota’s favorite–chocolate milk with a banana.
She cautions, however, against automatically reaching for the Gatorade every time you work out. “There are a lot of options for rehydrating that offer electrolytes without a lot of sugar and calories,” she says. “One is 989 OnDemand, which is water without sugar or calories, but with electrolytes. If you need sugar, fruit juice is a good option. You have to be cognizant of sugar, calories, and sodium with some sports drinks. Most of us get plenty of that elsewhere.”