Our quick video tutorial gives you helpful specifics on how to perform oblique (side) abdominal crunches correctly. And as a bonus, we also show how NOT to do them.
Good news – you don’t have to learn technical terms. But just in case you’re wondering why we say “obliques” instead of “waist” or “that area that encircles your spine that used to be oh-so-tiny way back in high school,” we’ve got some quick Ed-U-Cay-Shun-al info about the technical terms.
Your external obliques run diagonally, forming a V in front. Imagine you’re putting your hands into a vest or front coat pocket. Feel those rock hard muscles? Yeah, me neither. But I do know that my obliques are there somewhere.
Your internal obliques run at right angles to your external obliques and form an inverted V. Put your hands on your hips with your thumbs in front and fingers behind, pointing down as if putting your hands into back pockets.
For those of you who like the nitty-gritty, oblique-y details, here’s an excellent definition by our colleague Dr. Len Kravitz, who teaches at the University of New Mexico and is way smart!
Now you know the official terms for “I want my waist to be fit and trim, but don’t want to copy any of those lame exercises I see people do in the gym that are destined to hurt their back or neck.” More importantly, you can now confidently add oblique crunches to your exercise routine. Score!!
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Photo credits: CreativeCommons. org
by Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Now he’s graduating from high school, with plans to move across the country to go to a university that has 22 science majors for him to choose from. I put him on that bus 13 years ago to start him on the journey to get him prepared for now. I cried a little back then because he looked so small inside that big bus. And I will cry at his ceremony because he looks so big.
In between my crying jags, I hope I’ve taught him how to live a healthy, rewarding life that’s full of purpose and joy. Those of you who are parents will have your own definition of what that means, but the things I can point to include:
* He doesn’t drink soda, and he knows the difference between healthful and unhealthful foods
* He gets plenty of sleep (boy, does he like to sleep)
* He knows how to make people laugh, which will help him in work and social situations
* He knows how to be a good host to guests, and has excellent manners
* He believes exercise is part of life; it just is
* He is becoming more confident about taking risks
* He has seen me act like a dork in public (a lot) and it’s now somewhere inside his brain that you don’t need to wait around for approval; you have to approve of yourself
* He knows the value of money, how it works, what it can (and cannot) do
* He drives safely (I believe) and wears a seat belt
* He is beginning to appreciate his younger brother for what he can do, rather than railing against what he cannot
* He can be trusted with money (although he can’t ever seem to find his own iPod cord)
* He eats when he’s hungry, not because he’s lonely or bored or because it’s there
* He writes thank you notes and is gracious
* He chooses friends wisely
Hmmm, I’m his mom so I could make a really long list. But my son isn’t a list; he’s so much more, just as your children are more than you imagined and hoped for! And no matter how much I exercise and make my heart strong, it will never be big enough to hold all the love I have for him.
I”m going to share a cute story that demonstrates that he “gets” how nutrition works. When we moved to Santa Barbara to be nearer my sister, he was 12. Kymberly took him to the grocery store with her. When they came back with bags full of prepackaged, processed food (she’s not like that anymore), he turned to me and said, “Mom, I love shopping with Auntie Kym. She buys food. You buy ingredients.” I laughed so hard and still smile whenever I think of that.
Earlier this week, my son gave me a gift – he came to my kickbox step class and brought his girlfriend. He knows I love exercise. He knows I love teaching. He knows I’ve wanted him to come to a class so I could show him off. I love having a job where my kid can come.
I haven’t named him here because I am a protective person about his identity, but you get to admire his massive handsomeness (all from me, of course, even though he looks just like his dad) in these photos.
I’m proud of the fact that I’ve taught my kids the link between health and happiness. I’m happy my son is moving on to start the next phase of his life. I’m sad that my son is moving on to start the next phase of his life. And I guess that’s how it’s supposed to be.
What are the things your children do that make you proud?Disclosure: I was not compensated in any way for writing about my kid, unless you count 18 years of having him around! His cute tux is a rental. My cute outfit is from Aventura Clothing. And thanks to my sister, who let me take over our blog so I could write this.
We bring you a guest post today, compliments of two young men who have been members of a nutrition club, study nutrition, and haven’t had soda in over a year.Miles Rouzer, with additional research by Willie Pate
But this isn’t about trash-talking school lunches, because I want this to actually be read in less than four hours. Teens actually do want to eat food that’s good for them, not just pizza, chips and sodas every day. So…what are some good things to pack as a snack or lunch?
The absolute best thing to bring is a mad grip (aka a handful) of tangerines! Not only are they delicious and nutritious but you can waste some precious minutes of class time in an attempt to peel off the skin in one whole piece!
A nicely rounded healthy lunch would look something like this:
* peanut butter and jelly (from the local farmer’s market) mashed between two pieces of whole wheat bread (makes one heck of a fine sandwich)
* Planters NUT-rition mix
* finish strong with a delicate cherry pie LaraBar
If you want to be known as a gourmet chef, try this one out for size:
* the night before cook up a batch of quinoa and a vegetable medley of some sort (stir fry also works, and I actually prefer it), then just microwave that goodness at school or carry a microwave to school in your backpack – LOL
* those Juicy Juice boxes go great with this
* a snack with this could be a Zbar, which are actually really dank (translation: awesome)
Another lunch that I make quite often:
* turkey jerky for snack
* turkey sandwich, with turkey from your local deli of course, with some fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese. Feel free to add homemade bacon to this. Just kidding! Unless you do that kind of thing…
* some apples, which helps get your body enough fiber without making you have to eat that horrid “fiber sticks” old-person cereal instead of Cap’n Crunch in the morning
* lastly, there are some interesting pouches called Mashups Squeezable fruit that you can eat to get a straight injection of healthfulness
I know that many people think teens just eat junk, but we actually like stuff that’s good for us too. Except shrimp; I hate shrimp. And here’s a little hint for adults – if you put healthy stuff into the school vending machines, that’s what we’ll eat. And we are also concerned about our future. I bring this up because I found out about a cool company called H.U.M.A.N. Healthy Vending (helping unite man and nutrition). It’s a company that places healthy vending machines in schools (and other places) and gives 10% of the proceeds back to charitable causes that fight obesity and malnutrition. Some of the snacks they sell are mentioned above, so you know it’s regular food that kids eat. Some of the snacks were definitely not me.
Anyway, I hope parents are reading this too, so you’ll know to buy us healthy food for us to pack in our lunches.
Giveaway: Thanks to Healthy Vending, we have one sample pack of healthy snacks to give to one lucky reader. Named in Entrepreneur Magazine as a “Top 100 Brilliant Company” and in Forbes Magazine as one of “America’s Most Promising Companies,” they are on a mission to put healthier food options in front of consumers. For your chance to win the sample pack pictured here, put a comment below and (if you’re on Twitter) send out a tweet mentioning this giveaway via @healthyvending. Let us know in the comments that you’ve sent the tweet. If you want to find them via Facebook, they are at H.U.M.A.N. Health Vending. Contest ends midnight PST, Friday, Jan. 20. We’ll notify the winner on Saturday, Jan. 21.
If you’re a student, what are some healthy foods you pack for your lunches?
Congratulations to Emily at Family and Live in Las Vegas, the winner of the healthy snacks sample pack.
Guess what?! Planking and a fitness plank are not the same thing. For example, if it’s Hugh Hefner and the Playboy bunnies, that’s planking:
Actually, that looks kind of fun. Maybe I’ll try it. Gotta find a good location, though. Then I will focus on demonstrating the wrong and right way to do a fitness plank.
Hmm, obviously my son wants to be JUST LIKE ME when he grows up!
Readers: What crazy locations have you sought out for your foray into planking?
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
This blog is mine, all mine. (Insert maniacal laughter here) as A-twin is off on vacation. She’s probably upping her serotonin and dopamine levels, which is a brain balancing good thing! So you all get to hear about my fave topic these days (ok, my “obsession”) –– how can we achieve the healthiest brain possible?
That’s enough sitting and reading for now, eh? Time to get a move on. She’s a brainiac, brainiac, on the floor, and she’s dancing like she’s never danced before!
For the record, the rumors of twins being half-wits are not true! I got all the brains! Alexandra got the
looks, personality, inheritance, sympathy cards.
Readers: What would you do to get smarter with age and be the most intelligent 100 year old around?
Brain Graphic courtesy of the talented Heather Frey, aka SmashFit, a fitness pro par excellence AND a graphic designer! Did I mention that exercise also increases creativity?
When there are changes in the nervous system (spinal cord, brain, neurons, nerves, etc.) and circulatory system (heart, veins & arteries deliver blood to body’s tissues), this can cause a drop in the amount of blood getting to the brain. This decrease leads to Ka-Thunk – loss of consciousness. We discussed this right here and here.
* Anemia is having a lower than normal red blood cell count. Why does this matter? Because a low count means decreased oxygen to the brain. And lots of university students are iron-deficient, which is strongly correlated to anemia. Lots of females with heavy periods are prone to anemia too.
* Eating disorders wreak havoc on the body, so it’s no surprise that fainting is a result.
* Pregnancy is fairly uncommon, but not unknown to this age group. Besides changes to the circulatory system and dehydration, those dang fetuses can sit right on top of the blood vessels and SQUEEZE, there goes the brain’s blood supply.
* Stress affects the nervous system, and not in a good way. Blood pressure goes LOW, LOW, LOW when you get under stress. This is rare for university students, as they never, ever worry about finals, papers, social issues, money, grades; that kind of stuff!
* Drugs do not mix well with exercise, including some prescription meds. Actually, if you’re misusing or abusing drugs, fainting is probably the least of your health worries!
* Medical issues, such as cardiac (heart) problems, seizures, or certain types of migraines are a big deal. If you’re fainting a lot or for longer than a minute, get checked out!
* Hyperventilation (fast breathing) causes carbon dioxide (CO2) to decrease in the blood. Combine exercise with an anxiety/panic attack, and you see the problem!
* Overexercising pisses off your histamine receptors, and they get so upset that they overact.
* One of the most common reasons students faint is dehydration. Drink more fluids, especially water, and eat properly before your workout. Sadly, this is so easy to prevent, yet accounts for most of the fainting. Does this sound like you? If so, get a water bottle. Use it!
* Another frequent reason for passing out in class is becoming overheated. This goes along with getting dehydrated, so after you get your water bottle, stand by the fan, A/C unit or the open door.
And now we come to the reason that I suspect there’s an epidemic of fainting this particular quarter – too many people in the room. More students are showing up to class, which means they are all getting hotter, sooner. Considering the fact that students are not fainting in the early morning classes, but are dropping with alarming consistency in the mid-day slots, my guess is a reasonable one. Now I just have to figure out if it’s better to have fewer students (it’s hard to say no to all those eager undergrads) or require them to bring personal spritzers! Or ask them to be absent more often!
Bonus word: Syncope – This is the medical term for “fainting after exercise.” Pre-syncope is when you have signs that you’re about to faint, but manage to recover before fainting occurs. Not to be confused with “syncopate,” which is to place musical accents on the normally unaccented beats, or to shorten a word such as “Sequim” to “Squim.” (Anyone from the Pacific Northwest knows this one!)
Photo credits: Creative Commons
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
A: You have PFS? I have SFS – Sistella Femala Syndrome. That’s when you have a female twin who can’t (or won’t) help a sister out! I have found nothing, but nothing, to alleviate that particular pain. As to your knee…you could do these knee exercises while balancing against a wall (and holding a delicious pregnant-lady snack), yet we suggest avoiding #s 3 & 8 and maybe 4. We love the advice on familydoctor.com, but we also suggest you talk to Real Life Doctor dot Brooklyn Ob-Gyn. Of course, we could suggest you take a break, but you are a pregnant lady, which means you feel impelled to do stuff. But really, your knees would feel fine if you sat down and let the bad boy who got you pregnant do all the work!
K: I think you are secretly asking two questions: “what exercises can I still do to stay fit while pregnant?” AND “what exercises can I do to help with knee pain?” Well, we are offering a two-for-one coupon special (kind of like you and your baby-to-be). Alexandra already addressed the knee situation. Gotta ask — any chance you could and would get into a pool and swim or do aqua classes? You can keep up the workouts with minimal knee loading. Just no peeing in the pool, pregnant personage! For overall activity check out the ACOG Guidelines for exercising during pregnancy. Keep in mind that the guidelines are for the “average” pregnant person, which means averagally inactive and kinda sedentaryish, which you are not. So you and your doctor may free you to do more (we are just in a link crazy kind of mood here).
Once you have your baby, you can enroll in the exclusive fitness training program for parents: lift your baby over your head 10 times per day…..until he or she is 18. After that, employ your baby to do all housework and anything else that might hurt your knee. That should free you to get back to those core strengtheners.
A: We hope these exercises help you get to the end of your pregnancy in more comfort. And peace. And joy.
K: (And that’s just what the baby’s dad will experience once you are out of pain).
Dear Mom Readers: When you were pregnant, what pained you the most? The least? What did you do about it besides taking it out on the partner?
Photo credits: Creative Commons (Editor B)
A: Legersizes? Legersizes? Is that a Dutch word or a leftover from a Jane Fonda video you have stashed away somewhere? Okay, relax your mind. You are growing sleepy, sleepy. You are traveling back to the early 80s. You are pulling on your leg-warmers and leotard. SNAP! Wake up and get moving, Miss Jackie Foxy Dutchy Brown! Time for your legersizes.
We’ll get to number three later. If your lower body and hip area are carrying any extra fat, you need to engage in regular cardio activity to use up calories. Power walking, biking, and ice skating along frozen canals are all popular and effective cardio activities.Tulip picking does not qualify unless you are running as you grab tulips. In this case you are probably running from the bulb growers who can’t believe you can move so fast in skinny, tight jeans carrying snatched tulips. Of course you cannot zap fat in one particular area through cardio (sometimes called SPOT REDUCING, which is bad English and worse fitness advice), but you can reduce overall fat if that is part of why the jeans are not fitting now.
In addition to reducing stored fat through cardio, you are right to want to do some lower body strength training as well. Not only will such training improve your metabolic rate (the rate at which you burn calories at rest) and help use calories before they get stored as excess body fat, but also you will define and streamline the leg muscles. The important thing is to distinguish between training for hypertrophy (bigger muscles, which you probably don’t want) and actual strength. The exercises Alexandra advises below are all perfect for your goal in that they mostly use your body weight against gravity as the resistance factor. That is, you are not taking on heavy loads as you perform the leg exercises, aka legersizes.
A: I would happily describe some actual exercises for you, but my fingers are all worn out from pulling on my leg-warmers and “tushy-floss” thong leotard. Since you say “do-it-yourself,” I assume you mean at home, no machines, right? Or do you mean you want to grab your leg and move it around a little? Come to think of it, hopping around on one leg, doing the “Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Conan O’Brien dance-off” bit.ly/9zUzr3 would be pretty special. But I digress. Since we love happy readers, though, here is a link to some nice exercises that should do the trick:bit.ly/97ZqT2. Pay particular attention to the 3-legged squat, wide squat, single-leg dip squat, all-fours alternate arm/leg lift, lunge w/barbell or bar, alternating power lunges, prone leg lift, standing single-leg hip extension with knee flexion and (finally, I was starting to bore myself) the hip bridge. These are all great exercises, and there are many more, yet here is the most important thing of all…wait for it…wear your skinny jeans while doing all these exercises. That way you know for sure that they’ll fit.
K: Now that your jeans fit, let’s discuss that third aspect mentioned above: fashion tastefulness. If your skinny jeans can easily be imitated by spray paint or if when wearing them you suddenly develop Muffin Top syndrome, then what the heck are you thinking??!! Get some other kind of Euro pants that allow you to comfortably and tastefully cruise the achthondered achtentachtig grachten (888 canals).
Fashionista Readers (including foreigners who speak English): What outfit did you devote exercise time and effort to just so you could wear that special outfit?
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
K: If you are wanting to reach true Bridezilla status, you are already on the right path. Stay inactive, increase your frustration, lose more patience, and take out your stress, pain, and weight gain on those around you. Instead of saying “bum ankle,” pare down to just “bum” and mean your fiancé.
A: A true Bridezilla would claim that both ankles are sprained, and insist on being carried to all events. So you might just be a “Wanna-Willa-Zilla.”
K: Okay, fine, you can have some serious humorous advice. Given your pending wedding, focus on getting ready for that versus strengthening your ankle. Even with a sprain you have many workout options. Commit to a full strength training program: upper body, abs, lower body. Choose non- or low-weight bearing lower body exercises. For cardio, get into a pool or onto a bike. Then ride like the wind, Bridezilla! Cue up the Wicked Witch music from Wizard of Oz. You could also get onto low-impact cardio equipment such as a stationary bike, elliptical machine or rower. Avoid the treadmill or stairclimber for now.
A: Shouldn’t we tell her to avoid people for now too? I mean, it’s just a month until the wedding. Who wants to be around that? Any exercise suggestions we make are not medical advice, by the way. Make sure your doc or physical therapist approves of our winning ways before attempting bungee jumps or anything that “almost hurts.” With that in mind, I have lots of students who surf and skateboard, and I put them on wobble boards, discs, and the BOSU® to strengthen their ankles. Here is a link that describes some excellent exercises: bit.ly/9L28uP. You are required to print it out, decorate it with doilies and have all your wedding guests perform these exercises while your band plays, “Red Right Ankle” by the Decemberists. To prevent re-injury, you might want to find out about plantar flexion (bendy indoor plants), dorsi flexion (flipbooks about dolphins), inversion (a DVD you watch at home), and eversion (what I do when it comes to chores) bit.ly/9hEgDz. Why? So you can ask your physical therapist what your feet do and choose the right exercises for the future. You are planning an exciting future full of love, joy, candy, tip-toeing through the tulips, and a complete lack of spousal snoring, right?
K: Lastly, Fun and Fit are sorry you hurt your ankle so close to your big day. What a Bud-a Pest that must be!
A: The doc advised me to work with Kymberly “just until it almost hurts” and look how that turned out! Constant nagging pain. But don’t tell her that I call her that.
Dear Readers (and Bridezillas): What contributed to your pre-wedding stress? Have you had to deal with any Bridezillas? What are “girly” push-ups?
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
A: First of all, let me explain for any readers who are unfamiliar with this workout, it does NOT refer to chipped beef on toast (and I DO know the slang term for it – Fun and Fit get out a lot). “30 Day Shred” is a work out that combines muscle work with cardio moves. Tamie, if your muscles are fatigued in a good way (you have some soreness, but can still crawl to the DVD player to push “stop”) then you can move up a level, sure. But why would you want to do that? It wouldn’t be fun, so you wouldn’t continue, right? Just like me trying to live with Kymberly (I call those the “Bossed Years”). Because my metabolic set point is stuck on “lethargic,” I am almost too inert to tell you that……zzzzzz….cardio…next level…snork. To get to the next level, push the “up” button on the shred cardio elevator.
K: Answer-wise, you are cardio-wise to wonder. Like me trying to figure out what Alexandra just ad-wised. Can you pretend you are at Lululemon trying on clothes that Mix and Match? Is the DVD workout set up in a way you can view Level 1 for the strength training part and jump to Level 2 for the cardio part? Sounds as though you do have the option to select a higher intensity cardio portion while sticking with the initial level of resistance work. Ideally you want to enjoy both the process and the goal. If you are too wiped out to move up a level with joy and eagerness, you have entered the “30 Day Dread” zone. You are probably not a’gonna last 30 days into Infinity and Beyond! (Toy Story, Level 1).
A: I think I’ll put this whole thing into terms I can understand. You have a new boyfriend.You expect eternal joy to occur in 30 days. You like going for walks on the beach with him, but it’s kind of boring and your heart doesn’t go “Ka-thunka, ka-thunka” like you wish it would. But he has these other fine qualities that make you go skippity-hop through the tulips until you are all tuckered out. You are asking if you should go bounding through the sunflowers and get exceptionalistically (definition found in “Nabokov’s Dictionary”) exhausted or stay with the eye-gazing beach stroll-a-thon. I say, stick with the tulips (my favorite flower), but start running on that beach. If he (let’s just call him Hearty Rat – or HR) really loves your body, HR will catch up and adjust. I shall now sip a beverage of deliciousness while Kymberly translates.
K: Translate??!! Alexandra, we already established that we do not have twin telepathy. (See “Spinning, Walking, Treading Are Big Fat Pains,” June 2010 post ) We don’t even have the same parents or husbands. Stick with Level 1 for metaphors but jump to Level 2 with Hearty Rat HR attack while Tamie mixes, matches, and shreds in batches.
Readers: What do you do when your heart rate says “yes,” but your muscles say “no?” Would you rather work out with Woody or Buzz? And does anyone actually eat chipped beef on toast?