Kickboxing: Learn to Hit Like a Girl

Destroy what destroys you. Kick it! (via Pinterest)

Over the past few years women’s interest in kickboxing has been steadily increasing and they are getting hooked on the one-two punch of the high intensity cross-fit cardio workout. The decision to debut women’s boxing in the 2012 Olympics this summer also reflects the growing interest in the sport, leading more and more gyms to host cardio kickboxing classes.

Cardio kickboxing classes are typically one-hour long and provide a dynamic exercise that includes both cardio and resistance training. If you’re a runner this workout is ideal to not only improve your stamina and endurance but to build long, sleek muscles that will help you feel stronger during your run and push your hardest come race day.

Kickboxing provides you with a complete, all-over body workout. Because it doesn’t just target specific areas, it allows you to strengthen, tone and reduce fat all over at the same time. It also helps to increase flexibility and especially reflexes.

Self-defense is another added benefit of taking a cardio kickboxing class. During an average kickboxing class, the instructor teaches you different kicks (round-house, side kick, back kick, etc.), punches (jabs, hooks, uppers, ribs, etc.) and how to learn to keep your guard up and to bob and weave. While not all cardio kickboxing classes use punching bags, the instructor will help you learn how to gauge the distance of your target and how to through a proper punch, all while remembering to keep your guard up and protect yourself.

Not only does kickboxing give you a serious workout (burning on average of 1,000 calories in a single one-hour session) it also is a good way to relieve stress. The instructor always reminds you to think of your target, whether that be a person or a thing that is causing stress in your life- letting out your aggression in a class is much better than actually letting it out on the person or thing. According to the American Fitness Professionals Association, “Stress, however, produces enzymes that reduce your supply of endorphines. If you don’t exercise to stimulate that supply of endorphines, you will consequently not feel as well as you could.”

More than anything, kickboxing also helps you to build confidence and self-esteem. For me, taking kickboxing classes is a stress reliever and it helps me to know that I can take care of myself and nothing is too hard to overcome. When I walked into my first kickboxing class I didn’t know if I was going to be able to make it out alive! But as I continued to take class (I now go three or four times a week) my endurance started to build and I realized that I was strong enough to make it through the class. And for some reason, the reaction I get from people when I tell them I do kickboxing is too good to ever give up, so keep your guard up and learn to hit like a girl!

Why you should start running

via Pinterest

As I’ve said before, I was never really a runner, but every day that passes while I continue my running routine I am started to love it more and more. I’ve started to look forward to running each day and miss it on my days off. Here are some of the top reasons you should start this amazing confidence-boosting, calorie-burning, envigorating exercise.

  • You can run anywhere and everywhere because there is no equipment necessary.
  • No gym necessary so you can save some cash.
  • The running community is open and inviting so it’s a great opportunity to meet new people.
  • You might live longer because runners have fewer disabilities, remain active longer than their less active counterparts.
  • Although I don’t think people should exercise with the sole focus of burning calories, they should exercise to become fit and healthy, running is one of the top calorie-burning exercises.
  • Running helps to boost your metabolism after you’ve finished.
  • You can change up the scenery of your fitness routine- indoors, outdoors, on a treadmill, on a trail, on the beach, wherever!
  • It’s a mood booster.
  • Running solo can help you to focus on your life and maybe even have a moment of self discovery.
  • It reduces stress, fights depression and anxiety, and can even boost your creativity.
  • Running can even invigorate your sex life!
  • Most importantly, running can give you goals to work towards.

There are so many other benefits of running but besides all of the natural health benefits I see running as your “you” time. It’s a time for you to clear your head and do something healthy for yourself. I find that running is a great time to do some thinking, brainstorming or reflection about my day and what’s going on in my life. Also, for me running started out as a goal and as I continue to reach the goals I set each week my goals keep getting bigger.

Morning workouts to boost your energy

Rise and get fit! (via Pinterest)

There’s a common misconception that to be a morning workout person you have to be a morning person. False. It helps if you like the morning but it’s not a requirement. I started doing early morning workouts in the fall when I took a job requiring me to start work at 6:00 a.m. I’ve always been an early riser but having enough energy to exercise before the sun is up wasn’t really in my schedule.

However, now that I’ve started working out in the morning I’ve found there are so many benefits that outweigh the temptation of hitting the snooze button. First off, if you work out in the morning you can be reassured to get in your sweat for the day.

“If you work out be­fore your day distracts you, your chances of exercising regularly go way up,” said Cedric Bryant, Ph.D., chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, in an article in Women’s Health Magazine. People who work out in the morning have a higher chance of making a habit of an exercise routine. Also, working out in the morning is sure to keep you sharper during the day because exercise enhances secretion of neurotransmitters.

Another benefit of an early-bird workout is that exercise at the start of your day can boost your metabolism for the rest of the day, allowing you to more effectively burn calories.

There are definitely days that I’d rather hit the snooze button and go back under my covers but working out in the morning makes me feel like I’ve already accomplished something that day. But like any new routine, you can ease into it and acclimate to the new routine with these tips:

  • Make it a date- You wouldn’t blow off a date on any other occasion so why leave your fitness plan hanging? Make your morning workout into the dream guy or girl of dreams who you’d never stand up.
  • Mangia!- Eat something! You’ve been asleep for the last eight to 10 hours so you don’t have any calories to burn. Whatever you choose to eat make sure it contains some carbs. I usually have a small bowl of cereal or granola bar (and some coffee so I don’t fall asleep on my drive to the gym!).
  • Get you gear in gear- Having your gear ready the night before so you’ll be set to head out early. The more time you waste looking for your water bottle and socks, the more time you have to come up with an excuse not to go. I keep my gym bag next to my nightstand to remind me to get out of bed, my gear is waiting.
  • Take a class- Sometimes the best way to ease into a morning workout routine is by taking a class that’s filled with other people who are just as tired as you are. The group dynamic will keep you motivated to keep going.
  • Give it time- It won’t be easy in the first week or so to get into the grove of working out early. You might experience a crash around late afternoon- according to Active.com “morning exercisers often need to eat more in the morning and less in the evening to optimize their performance all day.”

Once you get into your new routine, I promise you will feel more energized and motivated to take on the rest of your busy day!

The ‘Greatist’ Runner’s Guide

I came across this infographic on one of my favorite fitness blogs, Greatist.com, and thought I’d share it. It’s a clear, concise and visually appealing runner’s guide, that gives you all the information you need about running, from finding the right shoe for your running type to eating the right foods to enhance your performance.

More Health and Fitness News & Tips at Greatist.

The makings of a “runner”

(via Pinterest)

“Congratulations! You can now call yourself a runner!” Betty told me as I finished my run today, sending me into the final third of my 5k training program. Betty is the British woman who narrates my running workouts on the “Get Running” app I downloaded two months ago. I felt pretty good after she reassured me that I was actually a runner, but why now? Why wasn’t I already a runner? What makes a runner, a “runner”?

Granted I’ve only been really running consistently for the past two months. I ran in high school when I had to for varsity sports but I never ran for fun. Now that I’ve gotten back into running all I want to do is become really good at it but I know I have a ways to go. What I’ve come to realize however is there are so many different categories of runners- there are marathoners, sprinters, trail runners, distance runners, triathletes, joggers, beginners, professionals, recreational runners, and so many more. While these categories separate runners, they don’t mean that one category is better than the other.

In an article on Active.com, freelancer, Anne Kymalainen, writes, “To me, the true definition of a runner is not necessarily only that person with the thin legs and the short shorts running the sub-six-minute miles but a person who honestly feels a pull of sneakers to the road or trail.”

I cannot agree more. There is such an emphasis sometimes on speed and distance in running- runners who can run a sub-six-minute mile are “real” runners- but I think a “real” runner is anyone who can get out on the open road, pace themselves, be confident in their stride and feel good about the miles they ran, no matter how long it takes them.

UPDATE: My runner’s knee is almost healed!

I have a great update! Since buying my new Asics GT-2170s my runner’s knee has almost healed 100 percent. I’ve been continuing with the stretches I posted before as well as actually resting on my “rest days” and I think it has paid off. I’ve also continued using the compression strap which I would highly recommend to anyone else who is having problems with runner’s knee. The stretch that I have found most helpful is the Illiotibial Band stretch. Here are some other after-run stretches:

Hunger Games workout: Train like a Tribute

"I work out because I know I would've been the first to die in the Hunger Games." (via Pinterest)

The much anticipated adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ hit novel “Hunger Games” was released today and fans are wondering how they can get in shape like star heroine Katniss Everdeen. One New York gym has developed a new workout, Train Like a Tribute, to get fans and fitness lovers alike in shape for the Hunger Games arena.

New York Sports Club fitness instructor and former Marine, Eric Salvador, created a workout similar to the training of the “tributes” in the book. He developed exercises that simulate the four skills necessary for survival in the “Hunger Games”- archery, tree climbing, speed work and strength. Although the classes do not start until next week, classes will also be offered in Boston, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.

Salvador’s 45-minute workout includes “Katniss kickbacks and Peeta presses (named for two of the main characters), along with archery work, simulated tree climbing (using TRX bands) and even a ‘Sprint to the Cornucopia,'” according to a TODAY Health article.

“In the book, the characters have to sprint at the beginning to grab all the materials they need for survival,” Salvador said in the article. “In our class, the participants sprint to the center of the room to grab their dumb bells, water, mat, towel and a bow. But they can only grab one item at a time, so they’re going back and forth and back and forth.”

Fox News gave an outline of some of the exercises that are involved in the workout:

  • Katniss Killers- Using an actual bow, ” while standing in an archer’s stance, participants pull the bow back until taut.  But instead of releasing the bow string, they bring their arms back to starting position and repeat until finished.”
  • Capitol Crunches- “The capitol crunches help participants improve their core strength.  Tributes lay flat on their backs, with a weight extend above their heads.  They are then told to do a number of full sit-ups while keeping the weight above their heads.”
  • Jabberjay Jacks-  “In the ‘Train Like a Tribute’ workout, jabberjays are also keeping tributes in line by making them do jumping jacks while crossing their legs.  This helps them improve their speed and agility for the games.”
  • Peeta Presses- “In order to build strength, participants position dumbbells by their shoulders and then extend them upwards over their heads.”

Fun races for any runner

The Color Run

Who says running has to always be so serious? Personally, I like to switch up my running routine by running at the gym, around my town, on the beach and on trails, and there are plenty of races out there to accommodate all running styles. Whether you are looking for a scenic race, a fast race, a dirty race or just a crazy race, websites like Active.com and CoolRunning.com are great resources to help you find the perfect race. Here are some of my favorites:

  • The Color Run- This 5k race takes place all over the country and is “3.1 miles of color madness.” The Color Run is for runners of all experience levels and ages and is designed to be more about fun than about speed. Every runner is required to wear a white t-shirt and as they approach each mile marker, color paint is blasted onto them- by the end of the race “they end looking like they fell into a Willy Wonka… tie dyed… vat of colored goodness.”
  • Hollis Fast 5k- If you’re looking to get your best 5k time, you may want to sign up for this race because it is the fastest 5k in New Hampshire. The race is a USATF-certified point-to-point downhill course creating a unique run for all participants. Some of the fastest 5k times have been recorded at this race as the course drops 224 feet in elevation in the 3.1 miles. Unfortunately, this drop in elevation exceeds the state limitations to qualify times for state records, but that doesn’t have to stop you from getting your own PR!
  • Will Run for Beer race series- This race series takes place throughout New Hampshire and Massachusetts and is sponsored in part by Smuttynose Brewing Company. I am running my first 5k in one of the series races in Hampton, New Hampshire and the best part of this 5k is there is free beer at the end. (No other incentive necessary!)
  • Rugged Maniac 5k- You thought the Color Run looked messy? Try the Rugged Maniac 5k, a 3.1 mile obstacle race. Each course has at least 20 obstacles that include climbing over 7-foot walls, crawling through mud, jumping over fire and more. This is for the true adventure-seeker who is sick of your average 5k and is willing to get a little rugged!
  • Luv2Run Portland- If you’re just looking for a scenic 5k to run, the Luv2Run Portland might be the right race for you. The off-road course through the Back Cove Trail in Portland is a scenic race sure to please any running who enjoys running near the ocean.