How to do a Perfect Lunge – Guaranteed!

Perfect Form Lunges – “The Paper Plate Technique”

Lunges. We hate them. We love them. We do them wrong the vast majority of the time.

To really nail that lunge, there are three things you’ll have to check-off the “lunge perfection” list. If you can do all three actions when in the down phase of the lunge (not while you’re standing with legs straight- that’s cheating!), I’d bet my bottom dollar that your form is simply fantastic.

  1. You can lift up your toes.
    1. All of your weight should be in the heel of your front foot, not your toes or back foot. You get the most out of the exercise because it really targets your hamstring (back of the leg) and glute (the booty) muscles. If you’re going to do the exercise, make sure you are truly working those muscles! So, if all the weight is in the front heel, you should be able to lift your front toes. Test it. If you can’t, push your hips towards the back of the room, causing more weight to be transferred into the heel. This takes some practice to really get a feel for it, but you WILL be able to do it.
  2. You can see the tip of your shoe.
    1. When doing a lunge, the knee should not extend beyond your front foot. Too much weight is being pushed forwards instead of transferred evenly and then targeted in the front heel. Ideally, if you have a mirror, look and make sure the knee is over the ankle. This protects your joint by alleviating pressure. Your knee shouldn’t be doing all of the work. That’s what causes injuries. Now, there is a lot of debate about whether you should be able to see your shoelaces or the tip of your shoe. I personally have found that if I can see my shoelaces, I’m leaning my torso forward too far, which puts pressure on my back. But, for those people who are very tall or have a long torso, looking for those shoelaces could be the way to go. My best advice is to do what feels comfortable for you and look at the side view of your lunge in the mirror to make sure the knee isn’t our over your toes.
  3. You can see both feet in the mirror.
    1. Don’t want one foot directly behind the other. You want a stable base so that you can lift your toes and see your shoelaces. Without a stable base, these can be compromised because you are putting too much weight into the front foot to try and balance/prevent from tipping. I tell people to pretend they are standing on railroad tracks with one foot on each side of the track.

Special secret tip: The Paper Plate Technique

Watch my video below where I explain each of the three key components of a perfect lunge and how to effectively use the paper plate technique!

A great way to practice perfect lunges is by using a paper plate. I know it sounds odd; but let me explain. Take a paper plate and put 2 pieces of duct tape, gorilla tape, or athletic tape right in the middle to make a “+” sign. With one leg, step onto the plate with the ball of your foot. The heel should be off the plate. From a standing position, push the plate back. It’s just as if you were stepping back into a lunge, except you’re sliding instead of stepping. Feet are still on railroad tracks. Keep pushing the plate back until you can see the tip of your forward shoe (or shoelaces if you’re tall), but making sure you’re not leaning over and throwing weight into your back. All of your weight is in the forward HEEL. Keep your core tight! If you’ve pushed the plate far enough back, can see the tip of your shoe, and feel that all of your weight is in your forward heel, lift up your toes. Can you lift them off the floor without losing balance? If you can, then you know your weight is distributed correctly and that your knee is over your ankle at a 90 degree angle. Using the plate technique is so great for practicing form, but it also optimizes your workout by targeting those key muscle groups, the glutes and hamstrings. These muscles really work hard because the plate forces them to!

Click on the video to watch me demonstrate and teach all three key components of a perfect lunge and how to do the paper plate technique TODAY, right in your family room! Get to workin’ it!

Yours in health & resiliency,

~Dana

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Nutrition is the King. Exercise is Just a Pawn.

  • Some people think exercising for three hours a day will get them the body they want. First of all, who has the time to do that? Second, if the person goes home and eats a large pepperoni pizza, that workout was sort of a waste of three hours.

  • If you want to lose weight, tone your body, and create definition, nutrition is key. 80% of your physique is dependent upon your nutrition, and only 20% is dependent on exercise. So, no matter how many hours of exercise you pack into one day, it’s still not going to dismantle the harmful effects of a poor diet.

 Think about it this way:

  • Your physique will look like and your body will feel like the food you consume. So, if you want to look like an egg roll, greasy pizza, or one of those KFC fried chicken sandwiches, go right ahead. But, keep in mind the ramifications poor nutrition has on your body, your confidence, self-esteem, and overall wellness. If, in a day, you make a healthy choice 8/10 times, you are on the right track. I think that is a reasonable goal, don’t you?

5 Most Effective Ways to Transform into a “Morning Workout Person”

How many times have you heard (or asked) the question:

“When is the best time to workout?”

 

Typically, the answer is when you make time, whether that’s in the morning, after work, after dinner, or on your lunch break. In our hectic world, it is better to workout at some point in the day than not workout at all. But, working out in the morning has some serious benefits that will make building a sweat worth getting out of bed:

–  You are much more productive throughout the day.

–  You are much more likely to make healthy food choices.

–  You are less stressed knowing you already worked out and don’t have to worry about finding time later in the day.

–  You are better able to cope with unexpected tasks or decisions.

–  Early morning endorphins boost your mood for the rest of the day.

–  You will actually have MORE energy after a great workout, not less.

 

1.     Be Ready to Workout—the Night Before

Just thinking about rushing around trying to find workout clothes when you’re half asleep will make you want to curl back up in bed. So, why not get ready the night before? Put your workout clothes on your nightstand or next to your bed.

When you get up, grab them, change, and off you go! No rushing around like a crazy person! Bonus: You’ll cut about 15 minutes off your morning routine~ one less reason to pull the covers over your head.

 

2.    The Old Buddy System- “Virtual Style”

It’s all about accountability. Have a friend type a post on Facebook or Twitter that says something like “Can’t wait to see you tomorrow at 6:30 am!” ~ and then tag you or several people meeting at the gym to workout or for a class. Now everyone knows where you should be at 6:30 the next morning! You just got called out- to become healthier! Knowing that you are getting to see positive people that are caring and supportive will also help you get out of bed. Friends are looking out for you and cheering you on!

 

3.    Put Mints in Your Nightstand

Really? That’s what I thought too. I read this tip from Brett Hoebel, fitness trainer and founder of Hoebel Fitness. He suggested that the sugar in the mint will wake up your brain and trigger your taste buds into thinking that food is on its way. Plus, no morning breath! I tried this for a week (thinking there’s no way it’s is going to help) and it actually worked. I could get out of bed and get ready for my workout so much more easily than without the mint. Weird? Yes, Worth trying? Absolutely.

 

4.   Put Your Alarm Clock Across the Room

That alarm clock is blaring from the other side of the room, refusing to let you sleep. You can’t just turn over and hit the snooze button. To shut that annoying sound off, you have to physically get out of bed, walk across the room, and turn it off. Since you’re already up and out of bed, you’ve just made it through the hardest step! I know that bed might be calling your name, beckoning you to return and cuddle, but it will have to wait for later that night.

 

5. Use the IFTTT App

The what?? I learned about this at the SMART Success Academy; and it is just too cool. It stands for “If This, Then That.” You create “recipes” using your phone and/or all channels of social media. For a morning workout, you can make a recipe that basically states: “If the time is 6:00 am, then I need to get up and out of bed. That means I need a wake-up call on my phone, just like at a hotel.” The recipe can be whatever works for you. You can have the app call your phone and when you pick up, you hear an actual recording of your own voice saying something like “OK; you’re up! It’s a new day, time to do that workout! Think about how amazing you are going to feel after!” Go to www.IFTTT.com to learn the in’s and out’s and how to make your own recipe. It can be used in so many ways; you’ll love it!

 

Working out in the morning is no easy task. (I am nowhere near perfect at this, trust me) If it was, everyone would be exercising at 6:00 am! Time, patience, and practice is what it takes. You can learn a new habit in just 21 days. Commit to this new habit. You won’t regret it.

 

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Self-Myofascial Release: Get Rolling!

Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) is a self-massage technique that aids in the recovery of soft muscle tissue and has been shown to improve overall health and fitness. Think of it as though you’re giving your body a deep-tissue massage. Research has shown that SMR augments joint range of motion, enhances athletic performance, increases muscle resiliency, and prevents injury. SMR also corrects muscle imbalance, aids in muscle relaxation, and decreases muscle inflammation and soreness. I use foam rollers, but it can also be done with tennis balls (many with plantar fasciitis roll their feet over a tennis ball), hand-held devices, or medicine balls. Interestingly, the body reacts to foam rolling as if the muscles have been injured, immediately sending receptors to aid in repair. By confusing your own body, SMR can increase rapid muscle recovery. Foam rolling also improves vascular endothelial functioning, the organ system that regulates blood flow based on muscle movement. One study showed that subjects who used SMR with a foam roller before doing vertical jumps had significantly less fatigue than those who didn’t use a foam roller prior to the drill.

 foam rollers

If you’ve had a great back/neck massage, or given one, you may recall the “pop” when rolling over a muscle knot. It continues to pop if pressure is applied back and forth across the muscle. Pressing directly on the muscle helps release the knot; but it can be uncomfortable. As tight muscles turn over the foam roller, the same “pop” will occur. I’m not going to lie, it won’t feel great. But, you’ll become accustomed to the sensation. The key is to roll slowly and stop for about 30-60 seconds when you hit a tender spot. Allow your muscles to relax. Just give into it. Continue breathing while the muscles release. It’s important to maintain core stability by pulling the navel towards the spine (without rounding the back) while rolling. Using the proper technique will take practice. *It should be noted that those with congestive heart failure, kidney (or any organ) failure, or any organ failure, bleeding disorders, or contagious skin conditions should not participate in SMR without medical clearance.

Although, during the action of SMR, rolling over knotted muscles may be a little painful, the benefits far outweigh any discomfort. The discomfort is not bad! You are giving your body an amazing gift. I have a love/hate relationship with my foam rollers; but I can definitely say it’s more love. Rollers come in many different styles and lengths. Pick the one that’s right for you! The roller in the picture has some added pressure points; but I also have a solid foam roller. I can feel a huge difference in my muscle strength and flexibility when I use the roller on a regular basis. Breathe and remember that your muscles will thank you later. Now, get to rolling!

References:

Penney, S., Foam Rolling- Applying the Technique of Self-Myofascial Release, National Association of Sports Medicine, August 2013.

Keller, J. The Benefits of Self-Myofascial Release, IDEA Fitness Journal; 2013: 96.

Life Lessons from the Playground: Never Forget How to be a Kid

Sometimes, the best part of being an adult is experiencing what it feels like to be a kid again. When you’re a kid, a day free of worries or cares is normal. As an adult, that feeling is like a gift in a hectic, busy,world filled with to-do lists and responsibilities. Today, my boyfriend Jim and I decided we’d become kids again. Without a second thought, we went to the store, got a basketball, and went to play some hoops at the playground. file9951296299810We were kids again, making sweet shots, hitting nothing but net, sharing so much happiness, and reminiscing about our childhoods.  As we were laughing, running, jumping, just so incredibly happy to live life in the moment, nothing else in the world existed. Problems became mere illusions and obligations came second to concentrating on a shot I needed to make to prevent getting the “E” in HORSE 🙂 (Unfortunately, I lost, I’ll admit it!) file0001062269908

It was just FUN to PLAY. A midst our crazy adult world, today made me remember that we ALL need to make time feel like kids again. Jim is so good at helping me release all of my “have-to’s” and “must-do’s” and remember what really matters in life. Living a happy and healthy life means giving yourself permission to be spontaneous, let go of stress for the moment, laugh, forget your worries, and find time to be a kid again. file000586584069As a child, I was always outside playing; and with all of that exercise, no wonder I was so happy and full of life and energy. So, this week, find time to play. Leave “real-life” to be a kid again. Escape. Feel your heart and soul soar. Once you experience it and remember that feeling, you won’t forget it again.

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Gain Muscle to Lose Fat~ Become a Leaner You!

You need to gain if you want to lose…. Talk about an oxymoron!  When someone asks me, “What is the most effective way to lose weight and get into shape?” My answer is not what you might be thinking. It’s not by doing three hours of intense cardio everyday, but by lifting weights and strength training. That lovely yellow mass in the picture above is fat. It’s 5 pounds of fat, to be exact, and is about the same size as 2 footballs! Think about this, if a person is 50 pounds overweight, multiply that fat mass by 10. 20 footballs! In the battle of muscle vs. fat, it’s the density, not the weight that matters. 5 pounds is 5 pounds. BUT, because muscle is so much more dense, about 18% more, than fat, it takes up less space in your body. The more muscle, the smaller/leaner the person! I’m not talking about lifting light weights, but weights that will challenge your muscles. That is how you BUILD muscle. So, despite hesitation and hype and rumors, if you can lift heavier weight, go for it! You’ll be stronger, less prone to injury, and have a leaner body by dropping inches!

A woman who weighs 160 pounds and has 35% body fat will be larger (in inches measured) than a person who weighs exactly the same, but only has 20% body fat. How crazy amazing is that? So, those two women may wear different sized clothing, yet weigh the same! This is why STRENGTH training is so incredibly important. I can’t say it enough. The more muscle, the leaner you become (with proper nutrition and exercise). This is exactly why lifting weights will NOT make you bulkier or bigger. In fact, it will not only cut inches, it will help your body burn more fat. Muscles use/need more energy and burn more calories, even when you’re not working out. Talk about boosting your metabolism! That is something a 3-digit number on the scale won’t tell you. Throw the scale away and go lift some weights. 😉

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