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

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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A Report Card You Don’t Want to Bring Home

The very first U.S. Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth was recently released, and let’s just say the grades weren’t something you’d want to show your parents. Overall, the grade for “overall physical activity” was a D-, a barely passing grade. Four out of the ten categories were given “incompletes,” indicating there wasn’t even enough data to give a grade. The report card stated that only 24.8 percent of 12-15 year-olds get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day. A “D” was given for “sedentary behaviors.” To me, this wasn’t really a huge shock. But, the fact that kids between the ages of 6-19 spend 424 minutes EACH DAY sitting was utterly startling. After spending so many years as a school psychologist, it makes me wonder if there is a correlation between this and the number of students diagnosed with ADHD? Maybe they’re just not given enough time to MOVE! So what happens? They act out, can’t sit down, and can’t focus. With the constant barrage of information they are hit with day after day, that lack of movement makes it difficult to learn and retain information. But, that’s a whole other blog post (or a book 😉 ).

 

Children and youth spend over 7 hours per day engaged in sedentary activities, and children become more sedentary as they get older. No wonder the report card grade for “sedentary behaviors” was a D. The only plus I saw on the report card was that more elementary schools, since 2010, are requiring physical education classes. However, that is at the elementary level, not high school. PE is still not a requirement for all four years in the vast majority of high schools. Fewer kids are walking or biking to and from school. Most either ride the bus or are picked up and dropped off.

 

The report card gave an incomplete in the area of “active play”- the proportion of U.S. children and youth participating in daily unstructured, unorganized active play. I think there is an incomplete in this area because they know the data collected would be unbelievably terrifying. How many kids and teens do you see outside engaging in active play with peers? There are barely any. Why? Well, because they can play Xbox games with friends while sitting on the couch! There’s really no need to walk down the street to see a friend when there’s Face Time, texting, Facebook, Twitter, etc. and they can communicate with dozens of friends at once, right in the convenience of their own home.

 

I don’t know when playing stopped being fun. Isn’t that the meaning behind the word “play?” Adults, we are doing such a disservice to our kids. This needs to end NOW. We need to step it up and stop taking the easy way out. 17 year-old teens are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. One-third of children are now considered overweight or obese. If they are overweight or obese as children, what is going to happen to them as adults? Then, the pattern will continue with the next generation, and the next, and the next. Bottom line, we as adults are the ones that need to change the fate of our kids and teens. Now is the time.

 

 

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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The Biggest Loser~ The Secret Behind The Weekly Weigh-In

Each time I watched the Biggest Loser, I remember thinking to myself: How is it possible for someone to lose 15 pounds in one week? Well, I was recently given an article that answered my question: “They aren’t.”  Recently, one of the contestants, Andrew “Cosi” Costello came forward with some shocking truths about the secrets behind this astonishing weight-loss. He said the “weekly weigh-in” was never filmed after just one week. In reality, there was up to a 25 day gap between weigh-ins. There’s a big difference between 1 week and 3 1/2.  He said exactly what I was thinking: People get inspired to get off the couch, get moving, and eat healthy, But, in the real world, when people work all week and don’t lose that kind of weight, some people feel like they’ve failed and give up. That, right there, is the problem. This misconception isn’t just caused by The Biggest Loser, but by society as a whole. I want to change that.

The reason I’m sharing this has nothing to do with creating drama or whistle-blowing. I am sharing this because of the effect I think it has on people who are trying to lose weight and get into shape in real-life. I can sense the frustration of those watching this show, witnessing people lose 10-20 pounds, while they may have lost 1 after working out and eating healthy all week. If it was me, I’d be wondering what I was doing wrong, why I wasn’t losing weight that quickly. I’d become discouraged too. That’s when the frustration leads to setbacks and eventually, giving up. It makes me really upset because it gives the world a completely distorted perception of what is possible and not possible when trying to lose weight and become more healthy. Everyone is different and everyone will lose weight at a different pace. However, for people to think that they should be able to lose 10 pounds per week or they “aren’t doing enough” just isn’t right. So, I need you to understand the implications of this so that you aren’t so incredibly hard on yourself over something that isn’t even comparable. There’s a big difference between the progress someone is able to make in 7 days vs. 25 days. Plus, the people on the show workout for an unreasonable amount of hours per day and, as it said in the article, were also extremely dehydrated before the weigh-in.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think this show is great because it motivates and inspires others to live a healthy and happy lifestyle. It shows people that everyone can get out there, workout, and lose weight. Just keep it realistic when comparing it to your own life. You do you! Work hard, eat healthy, love life. That’s what you need to do to change your life. The inches will come off, so please, please don’t quit. You can do this…. keep it in perspective, and don’t be defined by the scale.

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