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Fitness Friday: Fun Ab Exercises

Welcome to another edition of Fitness Friday!

I’m not sure about you guys, but I reeeeally dislike doing ab work. I don’t have the personal motivation to stick it through a long plank. I don’t like taking a break during my heart-pumping workout to lay down on a mat. I justify skipping ab work all the time because I’m “bracing my core” during all my other exercises.

Truth is, yes, we work our core in almost every exercise we do. But that alone is not enough. Core strength is imperative to everyday movement. A weak core can lead to a slew of pains and injuries in your back. I’m the kind of trainer who will tell you crunches are lame, but that doesn’t mean we should skip out on the core work all together.

The following are a list of some of my favourite core exercises. They’re the few that motivate me enough to focus on my tummy. And when done properly, it hurts to laugh the next day. The true sign of a good ab workout ;)

 

Diagonal Woodchop

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Start holding a medicine ball or dumbbell (5-15 lbs). Come down into a partial squat, bring the weight to one side like you’re picking something up. The straighten up and push the weight above your head on the other side. Really exaggerate the movements to get the full benefit of the exercise.

 

Sit Up on Ball

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Sit on the edge of the ball with your feet planted on the ground. Let your spine fall over the ball, and pull yourself up using your abs. Try not to let the ball roll underneath you. As this gets easier, you can hold a plate or medicine ball at your chest or above the head.

 

Reverse Crunch

ab-exercises-20

Lay on the floor with your arms to your sides. Bring your feet above your body, with a slight bend to the knee. Using your abs, lift your hips toward the sky. Try not to tense up your neck and shoulders and don’t use force to get your hips up. As this gets easier, you can try doing it on a decline bench.

 

Prone Jackknife

 

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With your feet on top of a ball and hands under your shoulders, roll your feet in toward your chest. Try to keep your hips down and control with your abs.

 

Ball Pike

 

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A step up from the prone jackknife. Start in the same position, but bring your hips up in the air and toes on the ball. This one is hardcore!

 

 Russian Twist

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Take a seat with your feet on the floor and slight bend to the knee. Keeping your back straight, lean back bringing your torso to about 45 degrees. Hold your arms straight out in front of your chest (better with a weight like a dumbbell or ball) and twist your torso side to side. Try not to move your arms too much and keep the twist solely in your core. Make it harder by lifting your feet off the floor and/or sitting on the round part of a bosu ball.

 

Boat Pose

 

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When I don’t feel like doing a plank, I do a boat pose to get my isometric core work in. Take on a similar position to the Russian twist, leaning back with a straight torso and slightly behind your sit bones. To begin, keep your knees at 90 degrees and shins parallel to the floor. Once you master that, bring your legs straight out like in the picture. Want to make it even harder? Get out that bosu ball!

 

Hanging Leg Raises

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One of the hardest ones, but amazing once you master it! You can usually find horizontal bars on the cable machines at the gym. For a beginner, start by bending your knees toward your chest. Straighten your legs once you have that down, stopping once they’re parallel to the floor. Once you have that mastered, you can bring them all the way up like in the picture!

 

As always, there are tons more ab exercises to do. This is just a handy list of the ones I find to be:
1) effective
2) fun!

Just don’t watch any funny movies after ;)

 

Question of the Day: What’s your favourite ab exercise?

Weekend Delight

Hellohello!! Hope everyone had wonderful weekends :) I went MIA yesterday, but hopefully my new Fitness Friday series was enough to hold you over! I’m trying not to get all bent out of shape about posting every single day anymore. When it comes to writing, I’m a true believer in quality over quantity. But I’m happy to finally be sitting down to share my weekend with you!

Let’s get to the highlights, in a topical and orderly manner.

 

Breakfast

I like to think of Friday’s breakfast as the black & white cookie of oatmeal.

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Dark chocolate dreams + marshmallow fluff atop protein oats.

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Post picture, I swirled together the two melted toppings. My father said marshmallow fluff is not appropriate breakfast fare. I beg to differ.

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I can’t get my new protein waffle recipe off my mind. On Saturday, I made another fluffy batch with date pieces cooked in. Dipped in a sauce of syrup and almond butter. It was nothing short of amazing.

This morning, I wanted more waffles, but was missing an ingredient.

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Next best thing – coconut walnut french toast. Bread dredged through a mix of two eggs, almond milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon, flaked coconut and walnuts. Ohyes.

 

Snacks

A dark chocolate vitatop smothered in my Easy Peasy Cream Cheese Icing and flaked coconut.

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Just how easy is it? One wedge of laughing cow cheese + one tablespoon marshmallow fluff = instant deliciousness.

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New tasty snack thanks to Lynndates stuffed with cream cheese. Sugar and cream cheese were meant to be!

 

Music

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My friends rocked it out on Friday night. I’m trying to learn how to take decent band pictures. The low light and movement makes it pretty damn hard! The pictures don’t do them justice either, you can listen to The Station Agents here ;)

 

Exercise

During my fitness assessment last week, I realized that I’ve been ignoring my core a little too much. Okay, I hate working my abs. But I know having a strong midsection is so important to not just sports and exercise, but everyday mobility. So here’s the ab-focused full-body strength workout I came up with:

Exercise Sets Reps Load Target
Assisted pull-up  3 12 70 lbs Back, biceps
Push-up  3 12 Chest, triceps
Swiss ball crunch with dumbbell pullover  3 12 10 lbs Abs, upper back, chest
Curtsy lunge  3 24 30 lbs Quads, glutes
Swiss ball leg curl 3 12 Hamstrings
Prone jackknife  3 12 Abs
Front raise with lateral open 3 12 5 lbs ea Shoulders
Back extension on roman chair 3 12 10 lbs Lower back, glutes
Captain’s chair  3 12 Abs, hips
Cable pushdown  3 12 40 lbs Triceps
One arm cable bicep curl  3 12 12 lbs Biceps
Cable horizontal woodchop  3 12 25 lbs Obliques

I did these in mini-circuits of three exercises, indicated by the different colours. With a 15 minute cardio warm-up, whole thing took me 65 minutes :)

 

Beer

I did pretty well in terms of beer this weekend. I went out both Friday and Saturday nights, which provided ample opportunity to consume mass quantities of alcohol. I waited till Saturday night to splurge on any, and they were worthy splurges indeed.

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Mill St. Lemon Tea Beer: “Sunset-coloured (orangey-amber) slightly sweet, malty palate with dry lemon-tea finish. Beer made with addition of Black tea leaves and lemon in aging tank. Very smooth and quenching; unfiltered.”

Smelled like tea, tasted like beer! A good tasting beer, thumbs up.

On an impulse, I treated myself to my new favourite beer, Fruli.

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I know how some people feel about fruity beers, but this strawberry white is downright delightful.

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The view at Sin & Redemption pub isn’t too bad either. Nice bike, no? ;)

 

Sausage

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Because you can’t attend a barbecue without grilling up some of the delicious sausage prepared by your neighbourhood butcher. Featured here is a handmade garlic mushroom sausage. Probably one of the best sausages I’ve ever had. No joke. Not pictured is the sauerkraut that was eaten on top. Not audible are the “MmmMMmMmmms” made while eating this.

 

Salad

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Because there’s no better way to wrap up a weekend than with a giant bowl of greens. This one here included some kale, tuna, olives, mozzarella cheese, and a dressing made up of pesto and lemon juice whisked together.

 

Last but not least, I bought a watermelon for two dollars today. A pretty stellar end to a pretty stellar weekend, I’d say :)

 

Question of the Day: What are your weekend highlights?

Final monthly goal check in!

Loved hearing all your favourite muffin varieties!! I’m a big muffin head. I blame it on my mom, who didn’t let me eat them as a small kid because I would crumble them everywhere and make a HUGE mess (don’t worry mom, you made up for it by teaching me how to make a mean chili). One muffin variety that piqued my interest were Ellie’s “kitchen sink muffins” with carrot, zucchini, raisins, banana, and walnut. Doesn’t that sound fab? Must add that to my ever-growing list of things to bake…

Moving on!

I caved and bought dark chocolate M&Ms yesterday, so you know they found their way into my breakfast cookie today.

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  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 scoop chocolate protein powder
  • unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • M&Ms
  • splash almond milk

All mixed up, flattened out on a plate and set in the fridge overnight :) One of my coworkers came in a FIVE A.M. this morning while I was chowing down on my cookie. It scared the crap out of me! But it was nice to see a friendly face. Normally I’m there all by my lonesome on the weekends.

Snack was one of my chocolate banana protein bars muffins.

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I put peanut butter on it last night before wrapping it up again, that’s why it looks funny. I also heated this up before eating, as that usually makes bad baked goods taste better. But it made it squeaky :\ Like, it squeaked in my teeth. It was still edible with the PB though. And surprisingly filling!!!

“Lunch” (I always put that in quotation marks because I eat it at 10am) was a smoked salmon bagel sandwich. 

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I finally found decently priced local smoked salmon at my grocery store – it’s my new favourite thing! It had laughing cow cheese, mustard, onions and spinach as well. There was an orange in there too, but I trust you know what that looks like ;)

I immediately dug into my Peanut ButterNut Squash Muffins when I got home from work.

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Wait. You hear that? Oh, that’s just me tooting my own horn. *Toot toot* :P I’m in love with these muffins! Besides the perfect marriage of the PB and squash flavours, the texture is perfection for me. Soft, dense and a little crumbly. Nomnomnom.

Then I read a chapter of Eclipse, and proceeded to conk out for an hour. One of those naps where I just remember closing my eyes, then all of a sudden I open them and it’s an hour later. I laid around for a bit, waiting for my post-nap drowsiness to subside. Then had another snack in preparation for a long gym visit:

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Bananas, dates and almond butter. I don’t always photograph it because it’s redundant, but if you’re reading about a workout on here, you can just assume I had some variation of this beforehand. Never fails me.

My gym visit today was ohsogood. I’ve been doing a combo of HIIT, upper-body weights and abs on Sundays lately, so that’s what I stuck to. Since I only ran once this past week, I decided to do all my cardio on the treadmill. I ended up with three separate variations of HIIT on the treadmill. It was awesome. I felt h-core.

Warm-up:
Walk/jogging on the treadmill for 5 minutes

HIIT:
incline = 1%
0:00-1:00 – 6.0 mph
1:00-2:00 – 6.2 mph
2:00-3:00 – 6.4 mph
3:00-4:00 – 6.2 mph
4:00-5:00 – 6.4 mph
5:00-6:00 – 6.6 mph
6:00-7:00 – 6.4 mph
7:00-8:00 – 6.6 mph
8:00-9:00 – 6.8 mph
9:00-10:00 – 6.6 mph
10:00-11:00 – 6.8mph
11:00-12:00 – 7.0 mph
12:00-13:00 – 6.8 mph
13:00-14:00 – 7.0 mph
14:00-15:00 – 7.2 mph

A1 – Wide-grip lat pulldown:
3 sets @ 55 lbs x 8

A2 – Dumbbell shoulder press:
3 sets @ 15 lbs (ea) x 8

B1 – Seated cable row:
3 sets @ 50 lbs x 8

B2 – Dumbbell bench press:
3 sets @ 20 lbs (ea) x 8

B3 – Tricep dips:
3 sets @ bw x 8

HIIT: (a la Janetha)

incline=0 – 2 min @ 5.5
incline=0.5 – 1 min @ 6.0
                       1 min @ 6.5
                       1 min @ 7.0
                       1 min @ 7.5
incline=1.0  – 1 min @ 6.0
                        1 min @ 6.5
                        1 min @ 7.0
                        1 min @ 7.5
incline=1.5 – 1 min @ 6.0
                       1 min @ 6.5
                       1 min @ 7.0
                       1 min @ 7.5
incline=2.0 – 1 min @ 6.0
                       1 min @ 6.5
                       1 min @ 7.0
                        1 min @ 7.5
incline=0 – 2 min @ 5.5

A1 – Swiss ball crunch:
3 sets @ 11 lbs x 15

A2 – Russian twists:
3 sets @ 11 lbs x 30

A3 – Reverse crunch:
3 sets @ bw x 8

HIIT:
incline = 0%
0:00-1:00 – 3.0 mph
1:00-3:00 – 3.5 mph
3:00-4:00 – 8.0 mph
4:00-6:00 – 3.5 mph
6:00-7:00 – 8.5 mph
7:00-9:00 – 3.5 mph
9:00-10:00 – 9.0 mph
10:00-12:00 – 3.5 mph
12:00-13:00 – 9.5 mph
13:00-15:00 – 3.5 mph

Cooldown:
Bah! Accidentally skipped it! I was so hungry when I finished, I ran out of the gym. But no worries, I foam rolled and stretched at home while my dinner heated up ;)

This workout took me almost 90 minutes and I loved it! HIIT on the treadmill is so much fun, I ended up covering just over 5 miles. And Janetha, I lovelovelove your routine. I was a sweaty mess at the end of it, and I even skipped the final sprint because I knew there was more in my future.

As previously mentioned, I was ready to eat my arm off when I finished. I grabbed the quickest, most filling thing I could thing of when I got home. Frozen leftovers of moo-beef chili.

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I realized I was lacking in the green department today, so I heated two big handfuls of spinach into it. Hit the spot! Just what I needed.

 

Final November Goals Check-In!

I cannot believe it’s almost December. Wow. This was my first month checking in every week on my goals, and it really kept me motivated. With that said, I feel I only accomplished maybe half of them. I don’t see that as a bad thing though, I may never have accomplished any of them had I not set the goals in the first place!

Have fun workouts.

Monday – Step class at the women’s gym. Sosososo fun. I LOVE this class.

Tuesday – 5 miles speedwork on the “dreadmill,” except I really enjoyed it!!! I swear, I really did ;) I’m a sucker for intervals, they make anything fun.

Wednesday – Rest day.

Thursday – Body Pump at the gym, followed by HIIT on the elliptical. It was “meh” but got the job done.

Friday – Spun my little heart legs out in spin class. I pushed myself and it felt good!

Saturday – Rest day. Broke my quads in spin.

Sunday – HIIT extravaganza on the treadmill with some upper-body weights and abs. Best way to spend a “lazy” Sunday afternoon :)

I also did no yoga this week! My schedule didn’t jive with yoga classes, and I suck at getting motivated to do it at home.

Be less complacent with food.
I’m still feeling okay with this. I definitely feel like I’m “on track” and my food choices are for the most part deliberate.

Get more sleep.
Again, it’s hard to switch from early morning shifts on the weekend, to evening shifts throughout the week. But I did okay once I got into the swing of it. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve had 8 hours though…

Make it through the last month of work with a positive attitude.
My co-workers set up a going away get-together for me!! How sweet!!! I’m not incredibly close with any of them, so I’m very touched by the gesture. My schedule for this last week is going to be tough, but having that in there should make it easier :)

Try my best to not let anything hold me back.
Um, I registered to get my personal training certification this week. I finally followed my heart and took the plunge. I say I excelled at this goal.

Figure out a way to get into the holiday season.
I’ve been smiling at all the pretty lights that are starting to pop up :) I’m getting really antsy to see my family again too. Definitely feel like I’m entering December with a positive attitude.

Spend more time with my grandparents.
I really wish I did better at this one, as I only got the chance to see my Nana once. I still have two other grandparents in another city that I never get to see.

Be more honest with people.
Check and check. This goal has been on the back of my mind a lot this month. I think I moved forward a lot by being more honest with people, it’s something I’m definitely going to continue to think about and strive to do.

Look for a job.
How about got a job :D Albeit, it’s just another temporary gig at Starbucks. But a paycheck is a paycheck my friends.

Start playing music again.
This is my biggest fail of the month. I don’t want to push it though. I’ll start playing again when I feel inspired again.

 

Re-reading that, I feel pretty good about it actually. Tomorrow, I’ll do another instalment of “Things I Learned This Month” and then Tuesday will be a whole new set of goals for December!

 

Question of the day: What’s one thing you feel you accomplished this month?

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