Feel the Burn: 4th of July Firecracker Plyo Workout

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This past Monday we did a themed workout at Team LUNA Chix Portland Run practice in honor of the upcoming holiday. And there’s no way to pay better tribute to the explosive power of all those 4th of July fireworks shows than with plyometrics, of course!

Plyometric workouts are great for runners because this type of training helps produce greater power and efficiency through the recruitment of more muscle fibers. In layman’s terms: When you train your muscles to contract more quickly and forcefully, you can really amp up your strength and speed.

Hint: If you’re not familiar with some of the moves listed, simply Google the term, and you’ll be able to find a description or video of it in action.

And, as always, remember to go at your own pace and use proper form. Think quality over quantity when it comes to this workout!

Do you utilize plyometrics in your training?

20-Minute Bodyweight AMRAP Workout

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AMRAP

[am-rap]

Acronym for “as many reps/rounds as possible,” which is usually combined with a certain amount of time to create killer workouts. 

Not only do AMRAP workouts force you to concentrate your effort throughout the entire workout (thanks to rep/round goals), but they’re more palatable mentally — I think! — because you know the pain will only last so long (thanks to the time limit).

This workout format has come in handy during pregnancy, in particular, because it allows me to work out out with a group but go at my own pace. So whether you’re going it alone or gathering a crew, simply apply the same principle and know that everyone will get a solid sweat session regardless of current level of fitness and/or expertise!

Have you tried the AMRAP approach to workouts?

10-Minute EMOM Lower-Body Burner

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We tried a new (to me) format in one of my strength training classes recently, and it was A) so challenging and B) so much fun, that I wanted to share it here so you can jump on the bandwagon, too.

EMOM stands for “Every Minute on the Minute.” It’s a type of training where you complete a specific set of movements or exercises at the top of every minute, rest until the end of the minute, and then start all over again once the next minute begins.

EMOM workouts are not only time-efficient, but they’re also focused on quality over quantity; instead of racing the clock and getting sloppy, you simply do your predetermined number of reps, then recover until the next minute comes around. Many people find that EMOMs help with pacing, too, because there’s minimal rest between sets as the clock keeps on ticking.

Here’s a sample I’ve created if you want to add some lower-body zing to the end of your workouts a few times a week:

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EMOMs are also butt-kickers, I might add. While not meant to totally replace your workouts — that defeats the purpose with this type of short-form interval training — they’re a great supplement to your usual routine when you want to kick things up a notch in the strength, endurance and cardiovascular departments.

And don’t forget to use rest periods to analyze your performance each minute. How were you feeling? How was your form? Is your pace slowing? Each new minute is a chance to refocus, track progress and set goals, which is a fantastic motivator for workouts.

 To EMOM or not to EMOM — what’s your take?

Valentine’s Day Partner Workout

Partner Workout

Instead of (or, let’s be honest, before) hitting the couch and starting that next Netflix marathon this Valentine’s Day, grab a partner and get your hearts pumping with this bodyweight circuit workout.

How it works: Assign one move in each circuit to yourself and the other to your partner. Repeat as many repetitions of that exercise as you can in 30 seconds before swapping exercises. Once you’ve completed four rounds of alternating moves per circuit (4 minutes), take a minute to rest before moving on to the next circuit.

Flying solo? Don’t sweat it. You can still do this workout on your own, utilizing the same format, before you hit the town!

Valentine's Partner Workout

Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day or are you planning on boycotting this year?

January Jump-Start: Full-Body Stability Ball Workout

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It’s January, so there’s a good chance you A) made some kind of resolution to lose weight or get in better shape, and B) are already sick of fighting the crowds at the gym this month.

We’ll I’ve got some good news, and it comes in the form of an at-home workout that’s effective, adaptable for all levels and — dare I say — fun?!

That’s right; it’s tough to keep a smile off your face when you’re playing around on a giant bouncing ball. Yes, even if you’re drenched in sweat and feeling the burn.

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All you need is a stability ball and access to your favorite piece of cardio equipment, which could also be a set of stairs or the great outdoors if you’re determined to steer clear of resolution-goers this month.

At home, feel free to try this in front of the TV or break it up into chunks throughout the day. If you don’t happen to have a ball, no problem — just grab one at the gym, find yourself an uncrowded corner and get to work.

And if you really want a treat, finish off your workout with a few of these stretches. Not only do they feel great, but they’re also a good way to support your body so it can really settle into the positions and properly relax. Ahhh…

Are you doubling down on gym time this month or avoiding that place like the plague?

Tabata HIIT Holiday Workout

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year, yes. But it’s also the time of year that can start to undo all the hard work you’ve put in over the past 11 months.

Think the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s aren’t taking a toll on your waistline? Despite media exaggerations, the average person only puts on a measly pound or two.

So what’s the problem? Well, it’s not so much the weight gain, but the fact that most people won’t ever lose that weight…so the scale slowly starts to creep up over the years.

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But the good news is that you can do something about it. A lot, actually.

Don’t wait until January 1st to commit to a healthy eating and regular exercise regimen. And being strapped for time over the next few months is no excuse, which is why I put together this quick Tabata High-Intensity-Interval-Training Holiday workout — not only can you do it anywhere, but it also doesn’t require any equipment.

In just 30 minutes, you can get your heart rate up, burn some calories and build muscle — all of which will help you hit those New Year’s goals early. Now that’s something you can toast to on December 31st!

What’s your game plan for avoiding unnecessary holiday weight gain?

Portland Fit Fix: Strengthening ‘Mommy’ Muscles at Mod Physique

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Entering into a new phase of fitness has taught me a lot these past few months, not the least of which being that there’s a serious lack of attention paid to prenatal programs for women who want to work out — thoroughly, safely and effectively — while pregnant. From what I’ve seen, most of the options out there seem to fall into one of two camps: Either wing it in your usual classes, trying to modify and keep up where you can, or hit up a prenatal yoga class, which ends up just being a lot of slow stretching.

That feels lovely, yes, but I can’t help but wonder about the functionality beyond learning to control breathing and practicing relaxation techniques. Both are important tools for labor, sure, but what about properly prepping the body and strengthening those special muscles to aid in getting Baby from point A to point B on delivery day?

This is something I’ve been especially focused on during my weekly MYMA Mama prenatal movement classes; both the exercises we do and don’t do come with the specific purpose of helping to ease our bodies into the idea of labor. So when my friend, fellow blogger and LUNA teammate Tiffany mentioned she’d heard about a new series of similar prenatal workouts in the area, we both jumped at the chance to check ’em out.

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Tiffany’s about 19 weeks along, and I’m 24 weeks, so we’ve both hit what I’ve been calling the “sweet spot” of the second trimester where workouts are fun again — and not just an energy suck like those first few months where our bodies were working overtime to turn a tiny ball of cells into something! We both also enjoy a good workout; so when Jessa Freeman, founder and owner of Mod Physique, invited us to her studio last weekend to take a Mod-Mama class, we hoped it’d hit the mark when it came to expectations.

The first thing I noticed when we stepped into the room was a lack of mirrors. This is by design, as Mod Physique prefers that students gain more body awareness by able to “feel the movement” in their bodies versus being distracted by their reflections.

Fair enough, especially now with an expanding belly — once in a while I’ll catch a passing glimpse in a mirror and have to to a double-take because I don’t recognize my shape-shifting self!

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Instructor (and soon-to-be-new-mom!) Kerri Maskol started the class by explaining that we’d be addressing some of the alignment and postural changes that occur during pregnancy. That means strengthening the core to help support the lower back and getting those glutes firing to help balance things out as the pelvis starts its forward tilt.

In layman’s terms, this means ballet barre and Pilates-based mat and resistance training with props — all of which are done with the philosophy that “just because you can’t do crunches doesn’t mean you can’t keep your core strong and your body healthy.” Amen to that. 

After leading us through a gentle, cardio-based warm-up to help loosen up our muscles, Kerri wasted no time in getting us into some of the more advanced (read: challenging!) moves. Think upper body strength work for holding baby, core and pelvic floor work to prepare for pushing and recovery, hip stabilization from fine-tuning surrounding muscles, as well as some soft stretches in between.

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This was no walk-in-the-park prenatal class by any means, though. Both Tiffany and I were laughing as we found ourselves doused in sweat and grunting as we felt the burn of the isometric holds and floundered our way through the stability work while trying to navigate our now-changing centers of balance.

Kerri kept a keen eye on form throughout, slightly adjusting us during each exercise for maximum impact and safety. And at the start of each exercise, she’d remind us to “hug baby in” in order to keep our cores engaged and lower backs out of the equation. This turned out to be a really helpful cue!

We ended class with a 90-second squat at the barre, which she reminded us would be the length of a contraction during the more intense part of labor (Huh?! Cue slight wave of panic). It’s not only a thigh-burner of a stretch now, but it’s also a great position to practice for later when we want to help open up the hips so baby can more easily pass through.

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I appreciated the variety in class, as well as the fact that “prenatal” didn’t translate to “we’ll just sit and stretch.” And I’m even more excited to have found another fitness option to add to my pregnancy repertoire.

The lesson in all of this? It is possible to get an awesome workout that’ll challenge your body, as well as help prepare it for what’s to come in just a few short months.

And despite not getting down on the mat to do traditional ab work, my core was pleasantly sore the next day. They’ve also got a post-natal series, which I’m looking forward to checking out once Baby H makes his/her debut in the spring.

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Oh, and the only responsible thing for two preggos to do after burning a bunch of calories during a weekend workout is to re-fuel, right? At least this was Tiffany’s and my reasoning when we stopped off at Pip’s Original on the way home…

Pips’ has earned the reputation of being one of Portland’s best doughnuts shops; I usually don’t buy into the hype, but after trying them I’d wholeheartedly have to agree. Made-to-order, these mini bites of heaven are perfectly spiced and crispy on the outside with a nice, fluffy cake-like center.

They remind me of my favorite cider mill doughnuts back home in the Midwest. Totally worth the wait (and there usually is one) if you’re in Portland anytime soon!

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Have you found any good ‘prenatal’ workouts? And, more importantly, what’s your favorite way to refuel afterwards?