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Exercise Gear to Improve Your Workout and Recovery

Exercise Gear to Improve Your Workout and Recovery

Performing well during exercise is important to get the results you want. Your performance is dependent not only on a challenging workout, but also your exercise recovery. Check out some of this affordable exercise gear that can improve your workout and your recovery so that you can give your best during every exercise session.

Foam Roller

A foam roller is a cylinder-shaped piece of firm foam used to give you a mini-massage that lengthens and stretches the muscles. Regular foam rolling has been found to decrease muscle soreness and improve range of motion.

Leg Sleeves

Leg sleeves are one of the many forms of compression clothing that have gained recent popularity. While most research has not found a direct link between compression sleeves and better exercise performance, studies have shown that they may help with exercise recovery. In some cases, leg sleeves have been found to reduce muscle soreness.

Tennis Ball

A tennis ball is a simple piece of equipment that can be used to massage and stretch small target areas. For example, you can place the ball on the floor and put your foot over it. Then, slowly move your foot around to massage the soles of the feet. In a similar way, the balls can also be used to massage specific areas of the upper back.

Exercise Bands

Performing your strength training routine with exercise bands allows you to challenge your muscles in a new way. The bands are a great alternative to add variety to your routine. They are also ideal for traveling and can be used during stretching exercises to improve flexibility.

Exercise Ball

A study by the American Council on Exercise rated crunches on the exercise ball number 3 among numerous exercises tested for effectiveness. The exercise ball can also be used to improve balance and challenge smaller muscle groups while performing moves like push-ups and shoulder presses. It can also be used during stretching -- especially for the upper and lower back, abdominals, and hamstrings.

Tips to Start Swimming for Exercise

Tips to Start Swimming for Exercise

Swimming offers an effective low-impact workout, and it adds a new activity to spice up a boring routine. If you’ve been thinking about adding swimming to your workouts, use these tips to get started.

Don’t Overdo It On Gear

All you need to start swimming is a training swimsuit and goggles. Most people also prefer to wear a swim cap to keep hair dry and away from your face. A waterproof watch can be helpful, but isn’t absolutely necessary if there is a clock at the pool to help you track your exercise time.

Start with the Basics

Begin by identifying your goals. Do you want to simply include swimming as another form of exercise, or do you have a long-term goal of competing in a triathlon? Once you know what you’d like to accomplish, get yourself familiar with the pool.

Consider taking an aquatics class or grabbing a kickboard to do simple laps when you start out. Give yourself time to get acquainted with how it feels to exercise in the water and to learn what your fitness level will allow. When you are ready to start swimming laps, the standard freestyle stroke is the best place to start. From there, you can determine if swimming freestyle for 30 minutes a few times a week is what you need to reach your goals, or if you’ll need to become familiar with other strokes, speeds, and distances to compete in an event.

Find a Convenient Pool Time

If you aren’t comfortable with being in a crowded pool, plan to visit at different times throughout the day to find one that is less busy. Most recreation centers and gyms have free swim times when the pool is not being used for lessons or classes. Experiment with completing your swim workouts early in the morning, taking a late lunch break, or later in the evening when group classes have ended.

Seek Out Basic Instruction

There are several things you will need to master to swim efficiently. Breathing with water coming at your face and creating a rhythm with your breathing can be difficult. Be patient with yourself and take breaks as you need them. You can practice strokes and kicks on dry land before you hit the water to ensure you understand proper form. If you are completely new to swimming, seek out a beginner class at your local recreation center, or hire a swim coach to learn the basics and assess your performance in the water. Often just a session or two can help you get the hang of things, and then you can return to solo workouts to apply what you learned.

5 Types of Squat Exercises

5 Types of Squat Exercises

The squat is a classic lower body exercise known for working the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. A squat can be incorporated into any exercise routine. You can perform them without weight, on exercise machines, with dumbbells, or with a barbell.

While you may be be familiar with the standard squat, the idea of using a squat as the basis for more challenging exercises that target more muscle groups may be new to you. If you need some variety in your lower body strength training routine, try these squat exercises.

Standard Squat

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend the knees as you push your bottom back, like you are going to sit in a chair. Lower to the point where your thighs are parallel to the floor, or as close as you can get to this position. In order to prevent knee injuries, it is important to keep the knees from extending past the tip of your toes during squat exercises. Hold for about two seconds and then squeeze your glute muscles and push through your heels as you slowly raise back to the starting position.

Narrow Squat

Stand with your feet together. Squeeze your legs together and bend the knees as push your bottom back and squat down, like you are going to sit in a chair. Lower to the point where your thighs are parallel to the floor, or as close as you can get to this position. Squeeze the inner thighs and glutes as you stand back up into the starting position.

Squat with a Leg Lift

For this exercise you will perform a standard squat. As you stand up from the squat position, shift the weight to your left foot and lift your right leg out to the side for a standing leg lift. Lift just to the point where you feel the muscles of your bottom and the hips engage. Lower the leg to the starting position. Repeat the squat and this time lift your left leg. Continue to squat and alternate leg lifts.

Jump Squat

For this exercise, you will also perform a standard squat. Once you are lowered into the squat position, push through your heels to jump up and propel yourself into the air. Land in the starting position, repeat the squat and jump.

One-Legged Squat

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Shift your weight to your right foot. Bend your left knee to lift your left foot off the floor. Slowly bend your right knee and move into a squat position on your right leg, pushing your bottom back. Lower as far as you can, working towards getting your right thigh parallel to the floor. This exercise is very challenging so you may only be able to lower a little bit when starting out. You can also place your hand on a sturdy chair or wall to help keep your balance during the movement. To make the exercise more challenging, extend your left leg out in front of you as you squat down and back up. Switch sides and repeat the squats on your left leg.

Minor Changes that Improve Fitness

Minor Changes that Improve Fitness

You don’t have to drastically change your exercise routine to get results. Often small changes to your current routine are all you need to accomplish your goals. Whether you are just getting started or you feel like you are in a rut with your current program, try some of these minor changes that improve fitness.

Take time to stretch.

Flexibility has a big impact on normal daily activities. Bending, reaching, and walking become more difficult when your muscles are tight and your range of motion is limited. Flexibility training should be as much of a priority as your strength and cardio exercises. Take 5 minutes after each workout to stretch all your major muscle groups. Take a break from the computer during your work day and perform a few stretches at the office. Also consider incorporating activities that focus on flexibility like yoga, Pilates, dance, and martial arts.

Add higher intensity intervals.

It doesn't matter what type of cardiovascular exercise you choose, incorporating short bursts that pick up the pace or increase the resistance is an easy way to challenge your cardiovascular system and boost the number of calories burned. If you walk on a treadmill, increase the incline for 1 minute every 5 minutes throughout your workout. You can do the same thing on a stationary bike by increasing the resistance. If you exercise outside, pick up the pace and walk quickly or run faster during these intervals. The low-intensity intervals will help you recover between each high-intensity burst.

Pick up more weight.

Once an amount of weight becomes easy for you to lift, your muscles are no longer challenged. Without a challenge, the muscles can’t continue to gain strength. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), once you can lift a weight one to two more times beyond your repetition goal, it’s time to increase the weight by 2 to 10 percent. This small change is enough to get your muscles back on track with strength gains.

Never pass up an opportunity to move.

Even short bursts of activity, like climbing a flight of stairs, gets the heart pumping and burns calories. Taking time to move more throughout the day can also give you a break from your environment and help you return with a refreshed outlook for problem solving. When possible, turn these short bursts into slightly longer segments of at least 10 minutes. The ACSM continues to support the idea that multiple short sessions of at least 10 minutes count toward your daily goal of 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise.

Exercising When You Are Sick

Exercising When You Are Sick

It is tough when you finally make exercise a habit and see progress, only to have a cold or the flu knock you off track. With your strong desire to challenge yourself, you might be tempted to ignore your symptoms and push through your workouts. While this is okay under some circumstances, there are also times when exercise may only make things worse. Pay special attention to your symptoms before exercising when you are sick.

When to Exercise

Most health experts agree that when your discomfort and symptoms are in your head, like a stuffed up nose or minor sore throat, it’s okay to stick to your workouts. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise may briefly ease nasal congestion. If you decide to exercise, consider decreasing the intensity or time.

Even though you can exercise, it doesn’t always mean that you should. Keep in mind that these beginning symptoms might be the first signs of a more serious cold. Trust your instinct and take a break if you feel your body needs it. Rest can help you feel better, and one day isn’t going ruin your progress.

When to Rest

When your symptoms move below your neck and include chest tightness, coughing, upset stomach, aching muscles, or a fever, take a break until you start feeling better. Exercise increases your internal body temperature, so exercising when you have a fever can make you feel even worse. Pushing through workouts may set you back further than if you take a few days and allow your body to fight off the bug.

Allow Time to Recover

A bad cold and the flu can cause fatigue, muscle weakness, and dehydration. Be patient with yourself. If you were regularly active before the sickness, your body will likely bounce back quickly, but don’t get frustrated if it takes some time. It often takes up to two weeks to feel like your energetic self again. Ease back into workouts with lower intensity exercise and shorter sessions until you feel confident that your body is ready to push harder.

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