30 Day Fitness Experiment

What can you do for your body in 30 days?

Pilates Book Winner!

Curso de Instructor de Pilates
Image via Wikipedia

Congratulations to Caitlin, who won the Pilates For Weight Loss giveaway.

She recently had her second child, and her goal is to designate 30 minutes a day to working out, and lose the baby weight! Pilates is a great choice. It’s a flexible workout that doesn’t always require special equipment (except maybe some stretchy pants), and it will tone up the abs and “powerhouse” while providing a great full-body workout.

Enjoy!

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June 10, 2010 Posted by | Giveaways, Lifestyle Fitness | , , , , | Leave a comment

Pilates Book Giveaway 2010

Like This!

There’s been lots of jabber here on 30DayFitnessExperiment about Pilates, and even about Pilates instructors, and it’s high time for a giveaway, so here we go.

What’s up for grabs: A copy of the book Pilates for Weight Loss by Lynne Robinson.

How to enter: Comment on this post and tell me: 1. What one small change you’re going to make this month in pursuit of better health and fitness 2. What factors have affected your current state of health and/or fitness, i.e. I used to have a job where I was on my feet or physically active; now I work in an office or I had a baby and haven’t gotten back into shape or I used to play on a team and now I don’t or My mom used to cook for me and now I’m on my own so I eat fast food… You get the idea.

The fine print: You can enter up to 2 times, once by answering #1 above, and once by answering #2. Please include your email address when you make your comment (in the form, not in the comment itself, for your privacy), or your Twitter @name, so that I can let you know if you’ve won! If the prize is not claimed within 48 hours of the announcement of winner, we’ll re-draw.

The deadline: Enter by the end of Sunday, June 6th, Eastern Time.

Have fun! I hope you win!

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May 28, 2010 Posted by | Giveaways | , , , , , , | 32 Comments

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Tadpoles

At 30 Day Fitness Experiment, we’re always talking about ways to make physical activity part of normal, day-to-day life. This is as important for children as it is for adults. It used to be that children played outside regularly, running and jumping and climbing and building… but we know that’s not the norm anymore.

California Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights

California Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights

In response to reports that childhood obesity and inactivity are causing an alarming amount of health problems in young people, several states have enacted a Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights. California, Maryland, Florida and North Carolina each have their own version, and Iowa appears to be working on developing one.

Some of the basic elements include swimming/splashing in water, camping under the stars, catching a fish, learning to swim, following a trail, building a fort or sandcastle, connecting with the natural world, and celebrating their heritage.

Another common thread is having a responsible adult to share these experiences with. What can you do in your own family or community to promote children’s health and physical activity? Here are a few things:

  1. Turn off the TV. Take your family for a walk, swim, hike, or bike instead.
  2. Volunteer and become involved at your children’s school. Offer to chaperon a field trip, and offer ideas for alternatives to pizza parties as a celebration of accomplishment.
  3. Plan ahead for active vacations. Going on a trip sometimes involves renting a car, laying around reading novels, etc. But with a bit of advance planning, you can take a trip without the car, which means getting around more on your own two feet. It’s also an exercise in packing light and getting by on less, since you’ll be carrying your things with you while you walk or bike. Remember to include progressively longer walks as part of your planning. You don’t want to get exhausted because you’re not used to walking or biking!
  4. Brainstorm with your kids and make your own Outdoor Bill of Rights. Find out what interests them and make a bucket list of things to experience before their 14th birthday.
  5. Have fun! Lifestyle fitness is about sustaining an active way of life, with or without the gym or aerobics class. Physical fitness shouldn’t be a chore or a punishment for your kids. If it isn’t fun, it won’t be sustainable.
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May 26, 2010 Posted by | Lifestyle Fitness, The Physically Active Family | , , , , | 2 Comments

5 Ways to Work Out For Free: No Gym Membership Required

Beach Stairs @ Opal Beach
Image by live w mcs via Flickr

Are you on a budget? Have you had to give up your gym membership in order to cut costs? That’s ok. There are tons of ways to get in shape for free!

  1. Walk. You already know it’s good for your body. Just keeping active works wonders and keeps obesity and a host of health problems at bay. But what if you want more?
  2. Do Pilates. Yes, you can do Pilates on a mat, at home, without a studio or equipment. It will improve your posture, your breathing, your core muscles (which will tuck in your tummy), and will help you relax. Don’t be mistaken, though, it’s not all stretching and relaxation! Find a DVD with the basics at your local library.
  3. Find a flight of stairs. Yes, climbing a flight of stairs is good cardiovascular exercise, that’s not all you can do with them. Try this: Step on the lowest step with the ball of your right foot, heel hanging off the step. Tuck your left foot behind your right ankle (hold onto the rail or wall for stability), and raise up onto the ball of your right foot. Lower, repeat, switch sides. This strengthens and stretches your ankles and calves. To work your triceps: Do standard triceps dips, using a stair step instead of a bench. Sit on a step, arms at your sides, palms down on the step. Scoot your booty off the step, and lower yourself by bending your arms until you’re almost sitting on the next step down. Don’t sit down! Use your arms to push yourself back up to the starting position. Ta da! There’s a great video series on eHow called “Stair Exercise Workout.” Check it out!
  4. Go hiking. Even if you’re used to walking regularly, hiking or trail walking will work different muscles and give you a totally different workout than walking or running in town or on a treadmill. Bonus: You get to see new sites, breathe fresh air, and hang out with friends and family! Throw some camping in there when you get the chance. Most stunning spot for wild and beautiful camping: Carpinteria State Beach in Carpinteria, California. But there’s a place near you, too! Check out the hiking resources, including links to State Parks and National Forests by State, at americanhiking.org.
  5. Do push-ups. Yep. They’re not just for the military, and they’re not just for your arms. Push-ups work your shoulders, back, abs, several muscles in your arms, and your chest. There’s an amazing workout program at hundredpushups.com. It covers good form, etc., and then you start out with an initial test (how many push-ups can you do in a row?) and follow the program depending on the results of your initial test. The goal is to work up to 100 consecutive push-ups by working out three times a week for several weeks. Once you can do that, your upper body is going to be in much better shape than it was when you started!
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May 17, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Teacher Appreciation Day: Thank You, Brooke Siler

If you can read this, thank a teacher. It's Teacher Appreciation Day. If you can't read this, never mind.
I laughed at this, and then I thought: “Wait a minute, only 1 of my 19 students can read.” Hmph. Preschool.

Being a teacher and an ed major myself, there are a bazillion teachers I could thank today, but I choose Brooke Siler. She didn’t teach me how to read, how to ride a bike, or even how to teach others effectively. She taught me to take 10 minutes for myself each day, to insulate myself from the hateful environment I once existed in, and to find energy within myself and even spread it to others. How did she accomplish all of these things? She taught me Pilates.
The Pilates Body Kit
I was overweight, depressed, and still reeling from the abusive relationship I had just fled, and I knew I had to do something. Every morning I awoke in a fog, and I didn’t want to take a walk because I didn’t want anyone to see me. I looked at the few exercise books and DVDs I owned, but they all looked too hard. Then I remembered the little box I had picked up somewhere, called The Pilates Body Kit: An Interactive Fitness Program to Strengthen, Streamline, and Tone . It sounded like a quite a promise, and quite a workout, but it did have a Beginner’s section. I popped in the audio CD, and Brooke Siler’s voice came on, calm and steady, reassuringly explaining everything. There was no video, no group of fabulous bodies behind the voice to show me what I was supposed to aspire to. You might think that was a drawback, but it wasn’t. Being able to relax, listen, and follow the very clear directions was much better than straining my neck trying to see a screen and figure out how to move my body the way the people on TV were doing it.

Still, it was hard. The beginner’s program, where you learn to master the techniques you’ll use in the later Mat Class programs, is a lifesaver. Mastering Pilates breathing might be the hardest aspect of it all, and it’s an ongoing challenge. Still, after just one week of Pilates practice, I found myself feeling taller, more centered, more alive, and more relaxed. Eventually it made me stronger, better balanced, and helped me start my day with mental clarity.

If you haven’t tried Pilates yet, try it now. Commit to at least one week of practice. No giving up on the first day! Listen to the instruction, and really visualize what you’re doing. When Brooke says “Button your belly button to your spine,” visualize the change in your body. When she says to roll up the wall, “vertebrae by vertebrae,” see the bones in your spine sticking individually to the wall.

Also check out this YouTube video where Brooke talks about how Pilates changed her whole approach to fitness, and the role that physical exercise and body balance plays in a healthy life.

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May 4, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Six Ways to Measure Your Progress Without a Bathroom Scale

The Long Walk
Image by l.gence via Flickr

Thursday Check-in Time!

I gained .5 pounds this week. Yep, I’m half a pound heavier. Documenting this (and not feeling sad about it) got me thinking about metrics: what is the best way to measure progress?

That depends partly on what your goals are. If you’re in a body building program, you probably expect to gain weight.

In this project, I’ve stated my starting weight and measurements. I’ve also stated my basic, loose goal: Lose 100 pounds. Here’s how I got that number: I did not enter my height, sex, and age into an “ideal body weight” chart. I did not wake up one day and shriek: “Oh no, I’m fat! I’d better lose 100 pounds!” I did not research a celebrity, find out her weight, and make that my goal.

What I did was this: I thought back to the time in my life when I was most fit. I tried to remember what my lifestyle was. I’ve never gone on a diet or been involved in a sport, so what I came up with was this: I was physically active, I avoided fast food and junk food, and I ate lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The physical activity I participated in so regularly was using my two legs to get me places. That’s it. At that time, I weighed about 100 pounds less than I did at the beginning of this project.

That’s why I’m using 100 pounds as a basic gauge. If, however, I find myself physically fit and active but over 120 pounds, I am not going to take extreme measures to get myself to weigh less. See, the pounds in themselves are not the measure of my progress.

Six Ways to Measure Fitness and Weight Loss Without a Bathroom Scale:

  • Waist to Hip Ratio: This is a measurement of the distribution of your body fat. People with a lot of abdominal fat are at higher risk for heart disease and other maladies. How to do it: Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. For women, the number should be 0.8 or lower. For men, 1.0 or lower.
  • Vital Signs: Your blood pressure and cholesterol levels speak volumes about your health, including your risk for heart attack and stroke.
  • Resting Heart Rate: The fitter you are, the more efficient your heart becomes. To calculate your resting heart rate (RHR), count your pulse for one minute, before getting out of bed in the morning. Take an average over three days. The normal range is between 60-80 beats per minute, but the average rate steadily declines among people who are more physically active.
  • Endurance: The more you exercise, the easier it becomes. Find a way to log your mileage if you walk or bike. Compare what you can do at the beginning of the month with what you can do at the end of the month.
  • Body Composition: Your body composition can be measured by a doctor, or at a gym or university. There are several methods of testing. What it tells you: A body composition test tells you what percentage of your body is composed of fat. 32% is considered obese for women; 26% is considered obese for men.
  • Clothing Size: The good ol’ dress size test. If you can fit into clothes you couldn’t before, you’ve improved your body. You don’t need a bathroom scale to tell you that.
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April 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Making Physical Activity a Family Affair

You already know the benefits of regular exercise:

    family hike
    Image by woodleywonderworks via Flickr
  • Weight Management
  • Bone Health
  • More Energy
  • Better Sleep
  • Reduced Risk of Heart Disease
  • Reduced Risk of Diabetes
  • Increased Life Expectancy

When is the best time to start reaping these benefits? Should everyone wait until they’re an overweight, at-risk adult?

Of course not!

Lifestyle Fitness is a concept that basically means: You don’t have to have a gym membership, a personal trainer, and a dire prognosis to be fit and healthy. Make physical fitness a way of life.

If It’s Your Way of Life, It Will Be Your Children’s, Too.

Julia climbing at Shelf Road
Image by s_mestdagh via Flickr
    Here Are a Few Things You Can Do:

  • Go for a daily walk together. A couple of blocks after dinner time works wonders.
  • Choose a far parking spot. While everyone else is competing for the ones nearest the door, you might even get in sooner!
  • Play games. Instead of passive entertainment (like watching TV), opt for an activity that engages both the mind and body, like catch, tag, or basketball. For younger ones, even Duck Duck Goose and Ring Around the Rosy will get their hearts pumping.
  • Plan fit vacations. Going on a road trip? Include some hiking, biking, or swimming. Feeling more adventurous? Take the family rock climbing or sailing. Many companies that rent out equipment also have beginners lessons or guided group activities. Even if you’re going on a Caribbean cruise, there will be plenty of planned outings at each port.
  • Eat (and serve) a variety of fruits and vegetables. This is an easy habit to start when your children are infants. Making your own baby food is not difficult, and exposing young children to a variety of foods will help them have a balanced diet later.

How have you incorporated wholesome nutrition and physical activity into your family’s routine? Share your tips and ideas below.

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April 27, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

New Experiment: Integrating Physical Activity Into the Daily Routine

Jogging on a bright November morning
Image by Ed Yourdon via Flickr

I’m so ready for the 2nd 30 Day Fitness Experiment!

The goals are: 1) Integrate physical activity into my daily routine and 2) use the car less.

The reason for using the car less is partially and environmental one and partially a personal health and well being one. The less I use the car, the less I pollute the earth, and that makes me happy. Also, the less I rely on using the car to get me places, the more likely I am to choose physical activity when I have the option which is a wonderful habit to get into. I think I am also more likely to shop and do business locally, which is another wonderful thing.

So, how to translate these goals into a measurable experiment…

I will use the car less by committing to walking or biking to work. I will also not drive to the grocery/drug store, or to the Farmers’ Market (even though it’s a couple of miles across town). “Not driving” also means taking public transportation. Ok, Cool.

I think these methods of using the car less fulfill the other goal of integrating physical activity into my daily routine. Perfect!

I’m leaving my job at Indiana University on 7 May, so that only leaves twelve days to walk or bike to work. We’ll also be traveling to California for nine days, and we’ve committed to not renting a car. We’ll travel by air, train, bus, and airport shuttle. We’ll also do a lot of walking and possibly some biking, so we’d better pack light!

This 30 Days’ Hypothesis: Through limiting use of our car, I will lose weight, build endurance and muscle/strength, and keep my blood pressure down. I hypothesize that I will lose another 10 pounds, drop another dress size (lose 1-2 inches everywhere), and maintain an average blood pressure no higher than 125/85. Strength is harder to measure, since I’m not climbing or lifting weights anymore. To see if I build endurance, I’ll clock my bike rides (mileage and maybe time) and see how much farther I can go at the end of the 30 days compared with the beginning.

And we’re off!

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April 22, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How Much Can You Do For Your Body in Just 30 Days?

Walking to church
Image by cheerytomato via Flickr–One Step at a Time

It’s Day 30! We Made It!

Twenty-nine days ago I set out to make some positive changes in my body size and shape by cultivating a few simple habits: Eat real food, Drink water, Be physically active every day.

Here is a summary of the results:

Weight: I lost 10 pounds (from 220 to 210 pounds)

Bust: Lost 2 inches

Waist: Lost 2 inches

Hip: Lost 3 inches

Thigh: Lost 2 inches

Bicep: Lost 1.5 inches

I’m so happy with these results! I can’t wait to see what the next 30 Day Experiment brings!

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April 21, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments