Turn Your Weakness into Strength

Weaknesses. We all have them regardless if we are willing to admit it or not. They come in all shapes and sizes whether it is managing a budget, running behind all the time, hitting the gym regularly or donuts. Regardless of where in your life your weakness shows up, these words of wisdom will make you better tomorrow: “Turn your weakness into strength.” Before you stop reading, let me tell you one thing, “Yes. It. Is. Possible.”

Turn your weakness into strength

2012 Weakness: Not cooking

2013 Strength: Cooking everything!

Here is an interesting fact about myself—I never really learned how to cook until after I was married. Sure, I knew how to heat up frozen vegetables, boil pasta and where to find the rotisserie chicken at the grocery store, but preparing menus from scratch was a whole other ballgame. My husband and I both felt that something was off in our diets so we decided to do the Whole30 challenge early on in our marriage. This is a month long commitment that encourages you to cut out all processed foods and places an emphasis on cooking all of your meals from scratch. Even though it completely pushed me out of my comfort zone, I couldn’t be happier with the result…I became a cook! I learned how to cook fish, chicken and a variety of meats. My spice cabinet doubled in volume and I introduced a wide variety of new vegetables into our eating habits. Even though this challenge was almost 4 years ago, I continue to cook all of our meals from scratch. Doing this saves us $$$ from not going out to eat and increases our nutrient intake.

2012 Weakness: Ego

2016 Strength: Listening to my body

This month at the gym, I hit a 143 lb. power clean and can now proudly squat more than my body weight. These are weights I have been chasing after for over two years but being plagued by back and neck injuries, I was never able to push my lifts to the next level. One of the main reasons I was repeatedly injuring myself was that I was not listening to my body. I would try to give 110% with lifting when my body was only feeling 80% healthy. My coaches would always remind me to “leave my ego at the door” but that sucker had a permanent hang-out spot right on my shoulder. Like a lot of you, I also tend to be very impatient with healing/recovery time. If I was injured, I would often rush back into things too quickly.

Learning to back off when my body wasn’t feeling at its best was a very hard challenge for me and it certainly didn’t happen overnight. I slowly became more aware of what movements triggered pain and how to listen to my body more closely when performing certain exercises. I became more comfortable with modifying workouts (even if it was for a week or two straight) to make them more adaptive to my body’s needs. Instead of going for a max lift, I would work on form and use a lighter weight. Doing regular accessory work has also been a great value to my back health. Many people think physical therapy or even chiropractic care is something you do just to rehab an injury. Keeping up with your exercises, stretches and check-ups (long after your injuries have healed) is one of the reasons you won’t have to be referred back to PT! It has taken several years of injuries, tears, frustration and headaches, but I can finally say today that I am much smarter about the way I work out and being more in tuned with my body. Let me tell you that the patience and perseverance is certainly paying off!

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You see, I was able to turn two major weaknesses that impacted my health into strengths. Some changes were easier to make than others, but with determination and the right amount of dedication, it is possible! Regardless of how major you feel your weakness is, there is always opportunity and growth to turn that weakness into strength!

figge-gym-family

Amanda Figge

5 Ways to Cure Your Cabin Fever

It’s easy to say “It’s too cold out” and retreat to the couch on winter evenings and weekends. It’s true that the winter months can be difficult to maintain our physical activity routines. If you live in the Midwest or other areas prone to snow, the weather can be an unpredictable hassle. It gets darker outside earlier, and this tends to make us more tired earlier than normal. We also tend to eat more “comfort food” during the cold months of the year. Our bodies can lose muscle mass within weeks of not utilizing them and we can also see changes in metabolism.

With all things considered, physical activity during winter is just as important as during any other season. Here are 5 ways to cure your cabin fever!

With all things considered, physical activity during winter is just as important as during any other season. Here are 5 ways to cure your cabin fever!

  1. Outside is not off limits! Just remember to dress in layers to help insulate your body. Top layers of clothing should be wind and water-resistant, if possible. Outdoor activities include, but are not limited to, sledding, skiing, ice skating (which can also be indoors), snowball fights, shoveling snow, building a snowman or fort, and walking the dog. If none of these are appealing, bundle up and go for a nice walk around the neighborhood!
  1. Use indoor locations as a place to walk. Churches with recreation centers, malls, and other department stores are great options if you don’t want to make a trip to the gym.
  1. Make a “gym” or place to work out in the convenience of your own home! Weights can be purchased inexpensively. Boxes or a step stool can be used as tools for cardio workouts. Jumping jacks and jump ropes count, too!
  1. Whether in your home or at work, use the stairs. We should really use the stairs vs. elevator any time of year, but using the steps during the winter will help increase physical activity that may be hard to fit in otherwise.
  1. Dance! Put on your favorite playlist and have a 30 minute dance session! Dancing burns calories, reduces stress, and is just fun!

Alana Scopel

Figge’s Summer Trends: Workouts

With a new season comes new trends! The past two weeks I introduced you to some fun gadgets and ideas to get you and your family off the couch and into the yard for some outdoor fun, as well as the latest in tips to improve your diet. This week I’m going over some of the latest approaches to amp up your workout!

Figge's Summer Trends- Outdoor Fun

Express Workouts. Why work out for 60 minutes when you can possibly get better results with just 20 minutes or less? Workouts that are 30 minutes or shorter are all the rage and who wouldn’t want a quick workout and more time to spend outdoors this summer? These programs can include HIIT, Crossfit and cardio-strength that can be easily viewed through medians such as On Demand. In fact, P90X reformatted their workouts to be 30 minutes long versus their previous 60 minute workouts. The concern with chronic HIIT is that it can be quite taxing on your body. Generally, you shouldn’t perform these high intensity workouts more than 3x per week and you should be allowing your body proper rest between workouts. I highly recommend performing HIIT under supervision whether it is your Crossfit coach or an established program.

Back to the Basics. The ACSM predicted that body weight training would be the leading fitness trend of 2015. Body weight exercises can include movements like lunges, squats, planks, push-ups and burpees. These are some of my favorite exercises because not only do they target multiple muscle groups, you don’t need equipment to perform them. Not only do these exercises provide good strength-training, they can also be programmed as part of a cardio workout too! Don’t believe me? Try performing 20 walking lunges followed by 10 burpees. Repeat that 3x and see how high your heart rate is!

Move, Shake and Squat Playlist

Move, Shake and Squat PLAYLIST

Crossfit, Zumba, Spin class, jogging. Whatever your calling is, remember the most important thing is for your body to move! So whether you shake it, squat it or run it up a hill, here is a motivating playlist with a “body movement” theme for your next workout. Feel free to use the whole playlist or just parts of it for your next workout!

Warm-up

  1. “Walking on Broken Glass” by The Eurythmics
  2. “Walk like an Egyptian” by The Bangles
  3. “Walk this Way” by Aerosmith

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4B_UYYPb-Gk&w=420&h=315]

 

Time to pick up the pace!

  1. “Shake It” by Metro Station
  2. “Where are We Running?” by Lenny Kravitz
  3. “Everybody Jump” by KMC feat. Jamtech
  4. “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins
  5. “Jump” by Van Halen
  6. “Just Dance” by Lady Gaga
  7. “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves
  8. “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift
  9. “Lips are Movin’” by Meghan Trainor
  10. “Runnin with the Devil” by Van Halen

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfWlot6h_JM&w=560&h=315]

 

That pick-me-up moment to finish your workout!

  1. “Run Away” by Real McCoy
  2. “Twist and Shout” by The Beatles
  3. “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” by C+C Music Factory
  4. “(Shake Shake Shake) Shake Your Booty” by KC and the Sunshine Band

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVlr4g5-r18&w=420&h=315]

 

Cool-down

  1. “Shake it Out” by Florence and the Machine
  2. “We Danced Anyway” by Deana Carter

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbN0nX61rIs&w=560&h=315]

Love Your Workout Playlist

girl working out and listening to musicIt seems as if hearts and love fill the air this time of year. After all, National Heart Month and Valentine’s Day both fall in the month of February, but that certainly does not mean that one must rush out and find a valentine. This year try focusing a little more “love” on yourself. It may sound silly, but say something positive about yourself while looking in the mirror. Give yourself a little post-it note of words of encouragement or congratulations. For example, did you make it the gym five times this week? Write down how good it made you feel.

So in honor of  February–the month full of heart/love, here is one of my love-themed playlists. Whether you’re head over heels or totally over the whole love scene, these songs will definitely get your heart pumping and put a little extra kick in your next workout.

Love Your Workout Playlist:

1. “What is Love” –Haddaway

2. “Love and Memories” –O.A.R.

3. “Bad Romance” –Lady Gaga

4. “Power of Love” –Huey Lewis and the News

5. “Heartbreaker” –Mariah Carey ft. Jay-Z (definitely not ashamed this is still on my iPod)

6. “Your Love” –The Outfield

7. “Kickstart my Heart” –Motley Crue

8. “Teenage Dream” –Katy Perry

9. “Shot Through the Heart” –Bon Jovi

10. “Do You Love Me” –The Contours

11. “Why Can’t This Be Love” –Van Halen

12. “Good Vibrations” –Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch (because who doesn’t love Mark Wahlberg??)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eSN8Cwit_s

13. “DJ Got us Falling in Love Again” –Usher

14. “Love” –Roger Creager (give this one a chance and you’ll fall for it too!)

15. “Pride (In the Name of Love)” –Dierks Bentley with the Punch Brothers and Del McCoury

Pu-Pu-Push it Real Good!

If you had only 20 minutes to workout, what would be the best exercises to do to fill that time frame? Is it a crunch? How about the treadmill? Or does it possibly include that funny leg machine (a machine I particularly do not care for, but that can be explained in another blog post)? While the best workouts challenge all the major muscles of the body, there are a few exercises that rise triumphantly to the short-time-to-workout challenge. They include the Push-Up, the Plank and the Squat. Unfortunately, many of us developed an adverse relationship to these exercises from the days we took elementary PE. Learning the benefits, variations and different levels of application of these exercises will hopefully reignite your passion for these exercises.

Anatomy of a push-up

Proper Push-Up Techniques

Proper Push-Up Techniques

The push-up is a phenomenal exercise. It challenges the core, chest, triceps and even the front part of the shoulder. There are hundreds of variations and modifications to this exercise making it effective for exercisers of all fitness levels. Taking your knees to the ground shortens the lever length, which can make this exercise easier. To make it harder, try having your feet suspended in TRX bands. Don’t have the bands? No problem. You can simply elevate your feet using any raised platform or add additional movements with the exercise. Try a combination of push-up + jump knee tuck or push-up + jumping jack feet. Remember to breathe throughout the exercise; inhale on the way down, exhale as you push-up.

Modification Tip: If doing push-ups on your toes is too hard, but doing them on your knees is not hard enough, try this tip: begin in the up-plank phase on your toes. Lower your body into the push-up position. Then drop your knees to the floor to assist with the pushing up phase. Our muscles can take on a greater load during the eccentric movements of exercise (the going down part of the push-up) so this is a great way to effectively challenge your upper body muscles. Here is a great list of additional push-up exercises to try.

Drop it like a squat

Even as little tots, our bodies naturally follow proper form for a squat. As we get older, we tend to bend over to pick up things, versus squatting down. Remember to keep your chest elevated and your back flat when performing a squat. A simple technique to help you do this is by looking up rather than looking straight ahead. Maintain a straight back as you push your hips backwards and bend into the squat. Sometimes our anatomies get in the way of performing a good squat. Having your heels slightly elevated can help your body achieve the perfect squat. (Ladies, this is why squatting in heels is easier!)

baby-squat

Squat Tips

If you haven’t performed a squat in a long while, begin with your own body weight to help you establish good form. Our legs contain the largest muscles in our bodies. This is why it is important not to skip leg day because a large portion of our metabolically active tissue is found in our leg muscles. Leg muscles need to be challenged—and adding weight will not make your legs big. What you will notice is that they become more firm and sculpted. Here is a great leg workout created by Amy Dixon. I have personally taken many of her workout sessions at fitness conferences and love every single one of them!

Squats also come in myriad variations. You can narrow your stance (similar to chair pose in yoga) or turn your feet outward and sit straight down for a plié squat (dancer’s squat). Performing the squats with more weight or more quickly or adding a jump can all increase intensity. Here are some more squat ideas to try.

“Walk the plank!”

The plank is an exceptional exercise because it targets the core, as well as the upper and lower body. It doesn’t require a gym membership to perform, and the many variations of the plank will never leave you feeling bored with this exercise. The plank can be performed on your toes or knees. You can also move up and down with your upper body for another challenge (plank push-up).

To target the obliques, try a side plank variation. In the side plank position you can dip your hips down and up, curl your top arm down underneath you and back up or raise your top leg for added challenges. The question is, are you ready to challenge yourself?

This is why we plank.

This is why we plank.

Plank walkup to pushup

Plank walkup to pushup