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Posts Tagged ‘Fitness’

Nothing makes me happier than trading in the elliptical and stationary bike for my real bicycle. However, every year p1010240I need a refresher on how to best take advantage of my workouts in the great outdoors. Cycling is a great way to stay in shape because it is low-impact, high-fun, and requires a high level of physical fitness. On an average bike ride, I can easily burn 600 calories, depending on the number of hills and intervals in my bike ride. Contrary to popular belief, I find that cycling tones my legs rather than bulks them up, which I love. In order to refresh my mind on the rules of the road and the best way to gear up for a new bike season, I asked my friend, Scott, a cyclist on the MetLife pro-am team, to help me out.

CLOTHING: As a recreational cyclist, don’t feel like you have to go out and buy the fanciest gear. As long as you follow a few simple, common sense rules, you should be fine. For bottoms, choose something that fits snugly to your ankles or shorts. Spandex works well. I have a pair of padded shorts that I like to wear because I find them much more comfortable on a bumpy, long ride. On top, regular tee-shirts or long-sleeve shirts are fine, as long they’re breathable. Tank tops are less preferable because they provide less protection in case of a crash!

GEAR: This is always my question: what do I bring with me? I find that I always need a zillion things before going out on a ride, but I don’t want to weigh myself down. Stick with the essentials. You will definitely need a water bottle, and depending on the length of the ride, a light snack. I have a bike with clip-in pedals, so I wear cycling-specific shoes in order to get the most out of each rotation. Always bring your cell phone, a multitool, and maybe a portable bike pump in case of emergencies. If you’re cycling at night, wear reflective clothing and you might want to invest in front and rear blinking lights (red in the rear, white in the front).

ROAD SAFETY: Read this part carefully in order to avoid angry gestures – or worse! Cyclists should basically follow the same rules as drivers. You bike with traffic and must obey traffic signs and signals. Be sure to assert your space, especially around cabs, because you have just as much a right to be on the road as they do. Act confidently, even if you’re feeling nervous, and make eye contact with other riders and drivers to make sure they’re aware of you. Be aware that the bike lane isn’t always reserved to bicycles (although it should be). Also important: don’t ride too close to parked cars, lest you get “doored” (which is just as painful as it sounds). For more information, check out the Bicycle Habitat website.

HAND SIGNALS: Important for riding in traffic. Remember to always use your left arm.

                                   LEFT                 RIGHT                 STOP

bikesignals2

MY MOST IMPORTANT TIP: Remember how far you’ve ridden away from your starting point; you’re going to have to bike back!

For more information on biking in New York City, check out the New York Cycling Club and Bike New York!

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Like everyone in Manhattan, I can hardly contain my delight when the sun finally comes out, even if it’s only 30 degrees.I find myself wanting to take advantage of the nice weather and go for a run outside. While this option is always tempting, I find that my muscles never benefit as much as they do inside. I get cardio galore, but it’s such a chore to have to lift weights when I get back to my room, or worse yet, go over to the gym after an already intense run.

Park Bench Push Up
Park Bench Push Up

While I was running through Riverside Park today, I found myself wondering how I could use what was at my disposal to give myself a total-body workout. Of course, my mind went immediately to a workout I had seen while leafing through endless stacks of “Fitness” magazines during my time as an intern. I have borrowed their workout, cut some silly ones, and added a couple of my own tips based on personal experience.

Get Fit Outdoors

1)    Side Leap: Running on bricks getting boring? Stop for a minute to do some inner thigh/glute work. Starting with both legs together, bend your knees and hop to the right as far as possible. Don’t bring your feet together, but instead bend your right knee and hop to the left. Do 20 hops on each side.

2)    Park Bench Dip: I always feel this one in my triceps. Facing away from the bench, support yourself with your arms on the seat of the bench with your legs bent at a 90 degree angle in front of you, dip your arms so that your upper arms are almost parallel to the ground, then raise. Do 12-15 reps.

3)    Park Bench Push-Up: Facing the bench, put your hands on the seat. Fully extend your legs behind you and do 12-15 reps. Fitness recommends you do push ups again with your feet on the bench and your hands on the ground, but I’d just as soon do another set to avoid putting my hands on the gravelly ground!

4)    Side Shuffle: Along the same vein as the side leap. Shuffle three steps to the right, jump up and turn around, and shuffle back. Continue for a minute. Watch out – sounds easy, but is surprisingly difficult.

5)    Side Step: I felt silly doing this one in the park. Basically, find a step and alternate bringing one knee up to your chest, then the other. Repeat til you’re bored.

Side Step
Side Step

6)    Slalom Jump: Place 4-6 small rocks in a zigzag pattern, with about 1.5 feet in between each rock. Keeping both feet together, hop to the outside of each rock. Turn around at the end and continue for a minute.

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I feel better on days that I exercise—spend an hour in the gym, go for a jog in Riverside Park, indulge in a yoga flow class—than on days that I don’t. This is no surprise. I bet you share in my sentiment. And we all know why we respond well to a little physical labor: when we exercise, our body releases endorphins, our muscles stretch and release tension, our energy level increases. But, I’m convinced that my psyche—not just my body—plays a role in the freshness and fulfillment I feel on days when I take the time out of my day to exercise.

I know that exercise is good for me; I know that I’m supposed to exercise often. Thus, when I go for that late afternoon jog, I reap not only the physical benefits of my workout, but also the mental gratification of knowing I did something good for myself. Unfortunately, the converse is also true. On days when I spend more time exercising the speed and agility of my gchat-ing skills than my sun salutations, I go to bed with stiff limbs and a mild sense of disappointment in myself.

So, whats the solution? I could, of course commit to exercising everyday for at least an hour. But, the truth is, for me (and maybe for some of you), it’s not that easy. As busy Barnard students with avenue-long to-do lists, an hour at the gym is not always the top priority, even when we know how good it makes our minds and bodies feel. So, how is it possible to go to bed with loose limbs and a sense of self-worth when you did not have the time in your hectic day to practice 60 minutes of flow yoga?

An idea struck me as I was impatiently waiting for the elevator in my dorm the other evening. I was thinking about everything I had to before bed and how I just wasn’t going to make it to yoga at 8PM, when inspiration hit. I dropped my purse, bent at the hips, sunk my back towards the ground, and touched my toes. Ahhh. As I stretched, I forgot about my annoyance with the elevator and annoyance with myself for skipping yoga while also loosening my hamstrings and calf muscles. For the rest of the evening, I stretched every time I had to wait for the elevator.

Below, you’ll find Elevator Stretching, and 4 other 5 minute (or less) wellness exercises that you can insert into even the busiest of Barnard days. If you don’t have time for that hour-long jog, see how many of these you can work into your schedule, so that you can end your day with peace of both body and mind.

Elevator Stretching

You probably get the gist already, but this one is for any time you find yourself waiting for the elevator. Pick a standing stretch that you can easily slide into and hold it for the entire time you’re waiting for the lift. My favorite is a toe touch—described above—but you can also stretch your upper body with a shoulder stretch or simple neck circles. You could also go up to the wall beside the elevator, prop a foot up, and stretch your calf. If you live on a high floor in your dorm like I do, by the end of the day, you should have some really loose limbs!

Elevator Strength training

Now that your muscles are stretched, give them a good workout once inside the elevator. Elevators are great places for stationary lunges or wall sits, because they provide a set time interval. So walk in, take your position, feel the burn, walk out, and continue on your day!

*This one is best if you’re alone in the elevator (for both modesty and courtesy’s sake), but if you’ve got no shame and aren’t infringing on anyone’s personal space, strength train away!

Forget the elevator—take the stairs!

As a psych major, I have tons of classes on the third and fourth floors of Milbank. Some days, I’ll commit to taking the stairs to my classes and appointments in Milbank all day long. Try picking one building on campus where you frequent the higher floors, and walk to and fro all day long. (You can save the elevator wellness activities for your dorm). Who knows, you may just go to bed with a pleasantly sore bum!

Be One With Your Breath

Wellness is not just about working your muscles. Sometimes you need to relax them. Try this breathing meditation activity to release anxiety, recommended by Yoga Journal writer Richard Rosen, in his article, “Inhale, Exhale, Relax.” Lie down on the floor with your legs straight out and your arms by your sides, a few inches from your body. Concentrate on your breathing. Inhale and exhale at your normal rate, counting, in your head, the number of seconds in each breath in and out. To reduce stress, Rosen recommends “gradually and deliberately” lengthening each exhale. So, if your normal exhale lasts 5 seconds, lengthen it to 6 for a few breath cycles, then 7, until you find a comfortable length.

5-Minute Dance Party

This one is my favorite. Reward yourself every time you finish a page of a paper, a problem on a problem set, a chapter in your text book with a 5 minute dance party in your room. Put togther or short playlist, or just pick a ballad you can boogie down to. My favorite? “Gin and Juice,” by The Gourds.

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Earth Day is approaching quickly — April 22 — and publications are gearing up for their “green issues.”  There are lists of eco-friendly gifts, home improvements, and fashion choices.  One of the trendy catch phrases, “sustainable eating,” is being re-fashioned as thrifty rather than just a goal for the wealthy.  Sustainability, however, doesn’t just have to apply to the food we eat, whether we eat organic, local, home grown, or just plain ol’ on-sale foods.  We can apply the ideas of sustainability to our fitness practices as well.  Here are some fantastic ideas from GreenLivingIdeas.com:

Run outdoors to conserve energy and to enjoy the spring weather

Run outdoors to conserve energy and to enjoy the spring weather

1) Spend more time outside. Running on a trail or track doesn’t require the electricity that a treadmill does.  Many public spaces also rely on volunteers, and volunteering in conservation activities like gardening or trail building can be a solid workout.  Making a trip to the countryside, national park, or local farm to hike or explore can be a refreshing substitute to the gym.  Meeting with outdoor workout buddies can provide the same comradery and motivation of the gym.

Interesting note: A gym in Portland, Green Microgym, uses the stationary bicycles to produce the electricity used to power the treadmills.

2) Make your commute active. A commute can be a chance to get aerobic exercise rather that a chance to catch up on the latest issue of a favorite magazine.  Green choices can include walking or cycling rather than taking the subway or bus.  Even walking the extra blocks to the subway rather than taking a taxi conserves energy.

Aluminum, BPA-free Water Bottle

3) Make your own energy bars. Energy bars can be made with fresh fruit, honey, granola, and nuts to fuel up before or during your workout.  Making your own saves on packaging and unnecessary processing.

4) Use reusable water bottles. Rather than using fresh, disposable water bottles for every workout, invest in a BPA-free water bottle like SIGG or Nalgene.

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As a student in NYC, it’s important that every once in a while we step back,  relax and enjoy what the city has to offer. Sure, it’s hard to do during midterms, or during the lull after midterms, or during the craziness right before finals, but as spring starts approaching and the weather starts warming, it’s a good idea to take a bit of a break and enjoy NYC from the outdoors. Sure, there are nice museums and buildings and lots of things to look at during the winter, but the warm Spring weather opens up a whole new door of opportunities. In addition to the double-decker bus tours and the Circle Line around Manhattan, there are some outdoor activities that combine seeing NYC and exercise!

So as not to bore our avid readers, I won’t go into all the opportunities to bike ride around NYC, but I will briefly mention two things definitely worth looking into: 1 – the Five Boro Bike Tour coming up in May (see my previously posted Daily Apple for more information) and 2 – A bike tour around Central Park, which is a great way to learn the ins and outs of central park, if you’re up for the challenge of a couple of hills along the way! I will, however, inform you of something new I have just learned about – the Manhattan Kayak Company. Sounds cool, right?

The Manhattan Kayak Company offers a whole range of classes of instruction, but their most popular activity is their “short tours.” Short tours are one hour, 1.5 hours, or 2 hours long, and they run both in the middle of the day and in the evening. You can choose your tour by theme: they offer Sunset, Full Moon, Paddle and Pub, Cardio Fit, and Skill Fit tours. There are also a variety of other types of tours offered for intermediate and advanced Kayakers. You can go in a typical kayak, and you can learn how to paddle standing up! The MKC is located on Pier 66, which is three blocks north of Chelsea Piers (26th St and 12th). Visit http://www.manhattankayak.com for more information.

Don’t forget though, that this is just one of the amazing opportunities for outdoor exercise in NYC. When you have that Sunday where you’re just not in the mood to do school work, and the nice weather is calling your name, spend a couple of minutes google-ing outdoor activities in NYC, and your bound to find something interesting!

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real-age-testimg_assist_custom1As a college student, I find I frequently treat myself with less kindness than I should. I stay up late, wake up too early, and occasionally find myself with a late night slice of pizza in hand on the steps of Low in the dead of winter. This made me wonder – even though I am technically only 22, has this misuse aged my body more than my biological years would betray?

c7a61f18-e9ae-4b84-80de-9503b124745fimg100To find the answer to my questions, I turned to RealAge.com, a useful and extremely popular tool invented by Drs. Mehmet Oz and Mike Roizen to calculate the body’s true age, based on your behaviors. As Oprah’s unofficial doctor, Dr. Oz has appeared on her show numerous times to promote RealAge and his series of books (co-written with Roizen) called YOU: The Owner’s Manual.

I used the easy-to-navigate website to determine my body’s true age in less than fifteen minutes. I answered all types of questions ranging from my genetics – heritable diseases, my parents ages and education – to how much time I spend in a car, what I eat, and how much I exercise. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised to find I have the “RealAge” of 16! According to the analysis provided after I took the test, my low real age was mostly due to my vegetarian diet and my exercise regime, but they found that I needed to sleep more (of course) and take more vitamins in order to bring my RealAge down.

Although I think this test would be more accurate if I were older – and thus had more years to subtract – I think that it is overall a great concept. As a student, I need to pay attention to my health because these are my formative years, and this easy test helped me break down the different areas of my life in which I can improve my behaviors to improve my health. 

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I’ve noticed more runners ramping up their training now that warm weather (slowly, temperamentally) approaches. For those interested in participating in a fun, low-mileage race in April–either to stay motivated or to compete–I recommend the Thomas Labrecque “Run As One” 4-miler in Central Park (make sure to register early, as New York Road Runners has begun capping their races). I ran the race last April, and enjoyed the energy of running together with so many others on a beautiful spring morning in the park. I even ended up being offered a summer job by a runner I spoke to for a portion of the race.

If you know you can run the distance, I recommend doing some hill workouts over the next few weeks to prepare, as the course is far from flat. Don’t be discouraged, the hills are very manageable if you are prepared. To train for such a short race, I usually just tack on a hill or two to an easy run or do a few hill repeats instead of a full run–what Ed Eyestone calls a “Short Hills” workout in this article from Runner’s World.

For those who live on Barnard campus or in Columbia dorms on the west side of campus, my favorite hill to run repeats on is in Riverside Park at 96th St. Warm up on the run down there, take the path that loops around the dinosaur playground, and as you head back north, power up the hill. If you’re running repeats, simply slow down and jog back around the playground to recover before powering back up the hill.

For those living in East Campus or in Cathedral Gardens, run along the northern perimeter of Morningside Park. From the corner of 110th Street and Columbus Ave, run north up the hill to where it plateaus at 114th St, jog the flat to 122nd, and then practice running downhill as Morningside Boulevard curves back towards Amsterdam Avenue. Turn around to power back up the hill, recover, and run the downhill back to 110th and Columbus. For a longer run, you can run the entire perimeter of the park–the southern border is mostly flat. There are also plenty of hills within the park, and if you really want to feel the burn in your calves and quads, try attacking the many staircases that prove that, yes, Columbia really is in the Heights.

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