The Fitness Guide

Rosie Gomez's Guide to Getting Fit!


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Should You Join a Gym?

working outAs each New Year comes upon us, people are flooded with inspiration in the form of resolutions. It’s not surprising that many of the resolutions are health or fitness related, as we all want to feel better, look better, and become healthier.

Joining a gym might seem like one of the best ways to set yourself on the right path to these goals, but is it always the right or best way to accomplish them? The smiling receptionist at the desk of your local fitness center is likely to tell you that is, as their job is ultimately to increase revenue, but how can you be sure?

We’ll look at some of the reasons why a gym membership might be right for you and some of the reasons why it might be the wrong choice.

The Pros

People join gyms or fitness centers for a variety of reasons, but one of the biggest is variety. Perhaps you’ve become bored or complacent with your self-directed fitness routine, or perhaps you’d like to try new routines, such as yoga and would prefer to work with a professional. A gym membership offers you a wider range of activity choices in a controlled atmosphere and, for some, this is exciting and motivating.

The structured environment found within a gym is also very beneficial for those who have difficulty with self-motivation. The simple fact that friends or your trainer are expecting you to be present for a certain class or an coaching session can make the reluctant fitness buff feel more inclined to participate.

Taking time out of your day to visit the gym can be a great way to relieve stress. By removing oneself from home and work environments you can focus on your personal goals and have some time to yourself at the same time. This can be especially attractive for very busy people with high-stress jobs, or those who stay at home to care for young children or aging parents.

training with a partnerThe Cons

While the benefits of joining a gym are certainly obvious, that scenario is not right for everyone, for a number of different reasons. One of the main concerns for many people is the expense. Many gyms require some sort of contract that can be up to 12 months in duration, and people often question whether they will get their money’s worth, especially if they don’t show up often enough.

While it’s true that many gyms offer extended hours, and some are even open 24 hours per day, the fact remains that even these liberal schedules might not align with your own. Acquiring child care can also be a problem for some people, as is transportation to and from the fitness center. If these issues apply to your life then a gym membership might not be the right choice.

So if you don’t join a gym how can you meet your fitness goals on your own? The option to buy your own fitness equipment is available, which gives the opportunity and the ease of working out at home. Additionally, videos and other tools are abundantly available, both free and for purchase, that can help you stay on the right path.

Whether you choose a gym membership or a home workout plan, the point is to stick with it so that you can be better prepared to meet your fitness goals.


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Saddle Up: Why Horseback Riding Is Great Exercise

riding a horseAlmost everyone has ridden a horse at some point in their lives, whether it was a trail ride during a mountain vacation, hopping on a friend’s horse during a visit, or a riding lesson at a local barn. Almost everyone is familiar with the day after that horse ride, as well: the aching thighs, the sore abdominal muscles, and the stiff back and shoulders.

Many people might eschew horseback riding as a serious workout. Those same people might think that the horse does all the work while the rider is just, well, along for the ride. This could not be further from the truth. Horseback riding requires serious muscle control, balance, and coordination in order to stay on the horse’s back and maintain control.

If you’re a horse lover and would like a new and unique way to work out, learn more about the incredible physical benefits of a day in the saddle.

Strength

Staying atop a 1,200 pound animal and making it go where you want it to go is no easy feat. It requires incredible balance and muscle control at all times, the likes of which some athletes didn’t even know they had.

To maintain the proper position in the saddle the rider must engage the entire lower body. Abs, hips, glutes, thighs, and calves must all work together to ensure that the rider stays in place even if the horse has other ideas.

Add activities like jumping or barrel racing to the mix and the workout becomes even more intense.

horseback riding is funFlexibility

Moving with a horse instead of against it is one of the cardinal rules of riding, and it has the added benefit of increased flexibility for the rider. Stretching and flexing while riding comes naturally after a while, but for the beginner it can be as intense as some yoga workouts.

Stretching before you climb aboard is key to prevent muscle soreness, but stretching while in the saddle helps as well. Many trainers will ask that their students perform specific stretches while they are warming their horses up at the beginning of a lesson.

Cardio

One of the best health benefits of horse riding is the cardio workout that you’ll receive. Wear your heart rate monitor during your next lesson and you’ll be convinced. Holding your muscles in place while bending and stretching for an hour is an intense workout. Kick your feet out of the stirrups or ride bareback for an even bigger cardio blast.

Don’t end your day when your lesson is done; helping in the barn is a great cardio workout as well. Cleaning stalls, carrying hay and sacks of grain, cleaning saddles and bridles, and thoroughly grooming the horses will get your heart and lungs pumping, as well.

If you’re looking for a fun and different way to work out then you should definitely consider horseback riding, but don’t expect it to be easy. Learning to ride a horse requires hours of practice and hard work, and a great deal of physical effort. However, the reward not only lies in toned muscles. You’ll also get to connect with a magnificent animal and learn a fun and rewarding skill.


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Child’s Play: 5 Ways to Have More Active Kids

children exercisingIt’s no secret that obesity is an epidemic in the United States, but perhaps the most frightening aspect of that statement is how it applies to children and teens. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control now states that at least 1 in 3 children and teens in the U.S. is overweight or obese.

The causes of this epidemic are many, but the main culprits are a more sedentary lifestyle and diets consisting of more processed foods. There are many other contributing factors, however, and for each family struggling with obesity their issues are unique and personal. Unfortunately, the fact remains that the health and physical fitness of children in the United States is poor, and that needs to change.

If you want to make some changes in your family’s lifestyle and exercise habits, and give your kids the gift of health in the process, read on to learn more about great ways to encourage physical activity in your kids.

Get the Gadgets

If you’re going to restrict your child’s computer time in favor of exercise then you might want to sweeten the deal. Apps for smart phones can encourage your kids to keep track of their fitness level, and they can share their progress with their friends on social media.

You can also consider a video game system that comes with exercise and fitness games. These can encourage your kids to get moving and you can join the fun, too.

Take a Class

girl horseback riding

Fitness classes for kids and teens are popping up at gyms all across the country, so take advantage of these opportunities. Yoga, spinning, and parkour can all inspire your kids to get moving and have fun in the process.

Other classes and lessons that might interest your kids are horseback riding, snowboarding, or cross country skiing. Find out what your child is interested in and make it happen.

Do Chores Together

We all know that it’s almost impossible to get kids to do chores without a fair amount of complaining, but there are ways to make it more fun. Arrange a race to see who can bring all of the laundry downstairs in the least time. Practice squats with your kids when you’re unloading the dishwasher. There are a number of ways to encourage your kids to help with chores and move more in the process.

Ditch the Car

If you live in an urban or suburban area, why not ditch your car sometimes? Take your kids along for a walk to the grocery store, and burn some calories carrying your groceries home. If your child’s school is nearby and you have the time, then walk with them to school and walk to pick them up. Not only does walking together burn calories but it also gives you a chance to talk with each other with no distractions.

Explore the Science

While some younger children might not understand the science and the health risks of obesity, your tweens and teens very much can. Make an appointment with your doctor so that he or she can explain some of the serious complications that can arise from obesity.

Encourage your child to do independent research, as well. The more they know about their condition the more active they might become in changing it.

Obesity in children is a serious medical condition, but it’s one that can be changed. Work with your healthcare provider and your kids to become a healthier and happier family.


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America’s Best Cities for Urban Trail Running

trail running

Running is one of the best and most popular ways to stay fit. It’s free, it’s easy, and, assuming that you’ve been given the okay from your doctor, it’s one of the best methods of exercise available to improve your overall fitness level.

While running on a treadmill at home or in the gym is fine and will certainly help you achieve your fitness goal, it can become more than a little mundane and boring. Unfortunately, when you get bored with an exercise program it can become more difficult to feel motivated.

Luckily, there are many places around the United States where runners can enjoy the outdoors and a variety of beautiful scenery while utilizing well-maintained urban trails and the more rugged dirt paths that can accompany them. Not only do these trails serve as a way for you to ditch the gym when you want to run, but using them is great way to meet other like-minded runners in your area and embrace the health benefits that come with trail running.

Here are a few of the best places in the country to take advantage of amazing urban trails.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

The runners who call Minnesota’s largest city home have a lot to be excited about. The beautiful trail called Grand Rounds is more than 50 miles long and is also recognized as a National Scenic Byway. One of the most popular parts of this trail is known as Chain of Lakes. This portion of the trail is just a little over 13 miles in length and offers runners exceptional views of the lakes. It has the advantage of abundant, natural shade. Purchase one of the many heart rate watches available to keep track of your fitness while running on this beautiful trail. Visit the Minneapolis Parks website for more information.

San Diego, California

San Diego is located on one of the most crowded areas of the California coastline, but as a very active and health-conscious city, San Diego also offers some amazing places to run. The Silver Strand trail begins in Coronado and ends at Imperial Beach. As a 15-mile round-trip journey, this trail hugs the coastline the entire way and provides some incredible views. The abundant hotels, restaurants, and shops along the way make the Silver Strand trail perfect for those times when you want to take a break, cool off, and enjoy the scenery.

trail runnerPortland, Oregon

Known around the country for its outdoorsy lifestyle and its fair share of unique and eccentric citizens, Portland is a beautiful city perched on the banks of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers.

Active residents of Portland have a number of running trails to choose from, but the best and most scenic of these is the Wildwood Trail. Located to the west of downtown Portland, the Wildwood Trail is 28 miles long and features both paved and dirt paths. Open year-round, this trail is at its most beautiful during the fall when the local trees show off their beautiful colors.

Austin, Texas

Any city with a young and vibrant population is bound to have abundantly available outdoor activities and Austin is no exception. The city is rife with beautiful parks and scenic areas that just beg to be explored. The Barton Creek Greenbelt is one of the most popular areas in Austin and is hailed as an urban oasis. With only a little more than 7 miles of trails, Barton Creek Greenbelt makes up for its lack of distance with a number of activities along the way. In addition to running the trails people can swim in the creek and test out their climbing skills on the number of rock overhangs.

Whether you live in an urban area or a small town, there are always great ways to leave the gym behind and exercise in the great outdoors. Consider trail running if you’re looking for a fun and interesting way to burn calories and get fit.


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Are You Ready? How to Prepare for a 5K

5K startWhen many people make the decision to get off the couch and become healthier, they do so with a goal in mind. Typically that goal is weight loss and increased health, but many people also begin training with a more competitive goal in their sights.

5K runs are very popular in the United States, and upwards of 8,500 of these races are held each year. Some are fun races with costumes are not just encouraged but required, some races allow the participants’ dogs to join in, and almost all of them involve a worthy charity. While any race is ultimately a competition, entering a 5K is a fantastic way to assess your own personal best and to reap the rewards of all of your hard work. 

If you’ve been thinking about focusing on a 5K as your fitness goal, check out these great tips to help you get started.

See Your Doctor

You’ve likely heard this advice from everyone once you’ve decided to begin training, but it just might be the best advice you’ll ever get. Not only can your health care provider make sure that you’re healthy enough to start a fitness program, but he or she can also give you tips on diet and specific exercise strategies that can help you succeed.

Additionally, if you sustain an injury while training it can be very beneficial to your healing if your doctor is already well aware of your exercise regimen.

Choose Your Race

Even if you’ve just begun your fitness program, do some research into upcoming 5K races in your area. Choosing a race and registering for it gives you a goal to strive for and a w

ay to hold yourself accountable. Filling out the registration forms and marking the date on your calendar gives you a tangible reminder of the reasons you’ve decided to get fit in the first place.

Additionally, consider a charity race that asks you to solicit sponsors and donations. When your friends, family, and coworkers have donated money and are cheering you on, you’ll be more likely to fulfill your commitment.

Train Hard and Train Smart

Arguably the hardest part of training for a 5K is, well, the training. You’ll need to be focused on and dedicated to your goal to make it all happen. There are many online resources that outline training schedules that are specifically tailored to the first-time competitor, so browse several of them and choose the one that works for your schedule and your fitness level.

Purchase the gear you’ll need as soon as possible. While proper running shoes are the most important part of this equation, make sure that you buy adequate exercise clothing that fits well and provides support where you need it. The sight of your new running gear in the closet can serve as a powerful motivator.

Get a Training Partner

5K finish

Lastly, consider recruiting a friend. Training with a partner has proven to help beginners train more often and for longer durations than training alone. The constant motivation that you give to each other can go a long way when you’re both focusing on the same goal. Also, when you’re feeling tired and you lose your focus, having a partner can remind you why you began this fitness journey in the first place.

A fitness goal is one of the best things that you can give yourself when you begin a workout program. If that goal happens to be a 5K race then there are many ways to achieve it. Get a health assessment, choose a race, and implement a training program. Before you know it you’ll be crossing the first of what will hopefully be many finish lines.


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3 Ways You Cheat on Your Workout and Don’t Know It

Weight Lifting ClassFor those who are serious about their workouts the thought of cheating on those fitness routines is akin to sacrilege. After all, why would we put in the sweat and hard work just to sabotage our efforts? Unfortunately, many of us are cheating on our workouts without even realizing it, and it’s time to end those subconscious deceptions once and for all.

If you’re serious about your workouts, and want to make sure that you get the most that you can out of each one, read on to learn just how you can avoid cheating, even if you’re absolutely and completely unaware that you’re doing it.

Hurry Up and Wait

Of course we all have our favorite machines at the gym. Maybe yours is the treadmill or the elliptical, and most gyms try hard to provide enough of the most popular machines for their clients. However, if you find that your favorite machine is occupied, what do you do? If you stand by and wait for the other person to finish then you’re doing it wrong.

The basic idea of any workout is maintain a consistent level of intensity and if you stop to wait then you’ve lost not only time but calorie-burning power. Have a backup plan for each workout so you can easily move on to a different machine or exercise if your first choice is unavailable.

What’s on Television?

Many gyms have upgraded their equipment to include personal televisions on treadmills and elliptical machines, and this is a great way to keep people engaged and entertained while they’re working out. Unfortunately, your favorite talk show or reality show can also be sabotaging your workout.

In some cases, watching television while working out can cause you to slow down. Maybe you want to hear the latest celeb rant more closely, or catch every frame of that scandalous video. Whatever the reason the fact of the matter is that if you’re paying close attention to the television you’re not paying close attention to your workout. Try turning off the TV which will help you focus more on your workout intensity.

Cross Training

Not Going the Distance

We’re all guilty of this one, but it’s also the cheat that does the most harm to our best laid workout plans. If you start late, stop early, or just simply give up when things get a little tough, then you may have just unwittingly destroyed your workout for the day.

If you attend an exercise class, show up early so you have time to stretch and gather any necessary equipment. Consequently, budget your time accordingly so that you can devote your full attention to the class and see it through until the end. If you’ve dedicated a set amount of time for walking or running, or using various machines at the gym then don’t stop until that time is over. If you can tack on an extra ten minutes at the beginning or the end, the end results will be that much better. The moral of this story is simple: you won’t get the maximum benefits of a workout if you don’t devote the maximum time to it.

We all want to be our most fit and most healthy selves, so it’s always going to be beneficial to make the most of our workouts. Be certain that you’re giving each workout your very best effort, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving your fitness goals.


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Take a Hike: High Tech Gear for Your Backcountry Adventures

ImageAs the weather grows nicer in most parts of the country there are many avid hikers and backpackers who are itching to get out of town and hit the trails. For some of these people, it may be as simple as a day hike in a local forest or wilderness area, and for others it could be days or weeks spent in rugged backcountry.

Regardless of your personal hiking style, you’re fully aware of the things that you just cannot do without when on the trail. Water, food, and portable shelter are the big ones, but there are many new products on the market that can serve to enhance your experience, safety, and comfort. Once your hike goes high tech you may never hike in any other way.

Take GPS to the Next Level

Personal GPS devices have evolved to the point that most people cannot fathom a hike without one. They can be instrumental in route planning and in emergency situations. However, what if you could combine your GPS system with other useful technology?

Heart rate watches are used by athletes in almost every sport, and hikers can now take advantage of that as well. GPS enabled heart rate watches are available and are perfect for those who love being in the great outdoors. Whether you’re monitoring your heart rate for training purposes or for another reason, a heart rate watch with GPS features could be your new hiking buddy.

ImageWater Filtration Systems and Hydration Packs

If you’re taking a short hike it’s usually no trouble to carry enough water for the trip. However, if you’re planning a hike that is a day or longer it’s wise to bring your own water filtration device and/or purifier.

Many people believe that if you’re high enough in elevation and far enough from grazing animals or human traffic that you can almost always safely drink from fast moving water. That may not always be true, and it’s better to bring your own equipment. Many products on the market today filter bacteria and particulates and kill viruses in one step, which is always going to be the best choice.

Hydration packs have long been used by hikers, but now they’ve evolved a few steps further. Many brands offer filtration devices that can be combined with the hydration pack for ease of filling, which also eliminates the need to carry extra drinking vessels.

Smartphone Apps

We rarely go anywhere without our smartphones, including the backcountry. Thankfully, app developers have realized that apps serving the hiking and backpacking communities are good sellers, and there have been some great ones released recently.

For instance, want to know the name of a particular peak in your line of sight? There’s an app for that. Need maps of all the national parks? There’s an app for that too. There’s even a United States Army survival guide app available that offers possible solutions for every type of emergency.

While you’re planning your backcountry adventures remember to pack the essentials. When you’re done with that, be sure to consider some of these items that just might make your hike a little bit better and a lot more fun.