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Get Fab Abs: Part 1

Kymberly Wiliams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit:
What is the best exercise to work on your abs? Yvette
What are the best exercises for toning abs? Sally
What’s the most important move to do for lower abs? Michelle

Kymberly: Ladies, ladies, no crowding, pushing, shoving, and belly poking. We will get to your Fab-ulous Ab-ulous questions in one bulk package. We love questions that have the word “best” in them because they are so easy to answer. The “best” exercises are the ones you will shoo-be-doo-be-do.

Another way to determine the “best” ab exercises is to know your goal. We know, we know: “look hot.” Let’s pretend that your goal includes working as many ab muscles at once as possible AND enhancing ab function. Then you want to choose exercises that recruit the rectus abdominis (the abs that offer the 6-pack look and flex your spine), the transversus (the abs that remind you of 1980’s cumberbunds that guys wore at weddings–they stabilize and compress you), and the obliques (the diagonal muscles that wrap around your waist like a girdle and rotate, flex, and extend you). It helps to know some ab anatomy, so read this article. Quiz at 11:00. http://askthetrainer.com/best-ab-exercises.html

Therefore I like a pack o’ 3 that includes something that 1) stabilizes, 2) rotates, and 3) focuses on bringing lower fibers into play. Three related questions from our belle-beauties; three suggested ab moves.
1) reverse curl (aka “reverse crunch”): works from the bottom up, requires compression, targets the area most people want to look better (ie, below the navel vs above it), gets lots of oblique and rectus abdominis activity.

2) obliques bicycle rotational maneuver: unless you are kicking your legs around as if doing lying down kickboxing or throwing a temper tantrum, this move involves all ab muscles in a big way and helps define the waist.

3) plank (aka “hover”): requires compression and stabilization and is most like the way we use our abs to help with posture. An American Council on Exercise study has photos and more info on each of these moves. Ok, ok, so the study was done waaaaay back in 2001. Last I checked, our ab anatomy had not changed since then. http://www.acefitness.org/getfit/studies/BestWorstAbExercises.pdf

Alexandra:For me, the most important move for all my abdominals is to eat less and better. And that does not include any chocolate-covered bugs,

It's still a bug!

although I am a fan of the Supine Dead Bug.

Photo: ACE Fitness

K: Do you notice what is NOT on my top three list? Yeah baby–stoopid crunches. Crunch, crunch, crunch. How much do you need the ability to flex forward? Not much going on with compression or rotation; not a lot of transversus action; not a move usually performed well; not an action needed a lot in daily life. (More on crunches in the upcoming Get Fab Abs: Part 2).

A: Nor is Captain Crunch. Or Crunch Berries. Maybe not Yo-Crunch either. I’ll have to think about it while I finish the one I just opened.

It's yogurt. It's Candy. It's So Wrong

Which I’m sure has a very low number of useless kcals and won’t hide my chiseled (with a pick-axe…or ice cream scooper) abs under a layer of adipose tissue (okay, that means “fat”). Crunch-a-Tize me, Cap’n!

Crunch My Berries, Cap'n

Dear Readers who have Abs: Well, are you actually going to try the 3 exercises above? What’s your favorite breakfast cereal?

Photo credits: Creative Commons


Can My House Make Me Fit?

Dear Fun and Fit:

What in a person’s home may or may not make that person engage in a more fit lifestyle? Do you think that the way someone’s house is laid out, how much furniture they have, how it’s arranged, type of flooring, and whether or not they have a dedicated “exercise room” has anything to do with whether or not they embrace fitness and wellness?
Tammy, Oakland Park, FL

Austin Powers, you make me feel randy

Why do I have the image of Austin Powers and his rotating round bed stuck in my head? All that spinning would make me nauseous, not fit! While I contemplate the advantages of a ceiling mirror, let me tell you the one most effective thing you can have in your house when it comes to exercise – did you guess a home gym? If so, you’re wrong. It’s stairs.

Choosing hardwood (or tile/linoleum) over carpet is a good idea too. Sweeping and mopping will burn more kcals than vacuuming, but in our experience you are also more likely to work out or dance on hardwood. (Okay, I just gave away my secret cleaning technique. Yes, I dance with my broom and mop to Led Zeppelin. Doesn’t everyone?)

Robert, call me!

As to furniture layout, pretend you live in a department store and make it next to impossible to go in a straight line from A to B. Have you ever wondered why department stores set up their floor plan so that you need a compass, hiking boots and a passport to get from lingerie to the Chanel counter? Erm, um, well, they actually do that to make you buy more stuff, but making your home into an obstacle course means you’ll move more (including jumping over the couch).

Bouncy, flouncy, pouncy fun house

Regarding exercise rooms – very few people actually use them. Yes, some of the more dedicated people will, but the average consumer will mostly use it for storage and laundry-hanging after a few months. Sometimes having a dedicated fitness space makes people feel even more guilty.

As to embracing fitness, come here and give me a hug!

Read the tiny writing on her sign!

Readers and homebodies: What in your home enhances or diminishes your plans to be healthy? And what music do you play when you clean?

Photo credits:Creative Commons


Fitness Fact or Fiction – Aaahh, Freak Out!

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

QUIZ TIME! How well do you know your Fitness Facts? Yes, it’s time to get your freak on with Fun and Fit, who examine the DARK side of activity this time around. At least one of the following Freak Out Fitness Facts is in fact, not a fact. Sadly, some of them are true. Can you pick out the fiction?

1) Adults and children spend an average of 70% of their awake time sitting (driving, eating, watching tv, reading, working at a computer, playing video games).

2) Kymberly is sitting now, being sedentary and adding to the dismal stats about sitting and butt parking. Oh, Meow!

3) The average woman adds 10 pounds of fat every decade.

4) Our readers are not average and therefore are bucking the fat gain stats.

5) Sedentary jobs have increased 83% since 1950; Physically active jobs now make up only about 25% of our workforce. That is 50% less than 1950.

6) Alexandra is way more fit than Kymberly.

Alexandra doing a back bend

Kymberly almost worked out

7) Eighty percent of midlife women (age 40 to 60) have one or more heart disease risk factors.

You better have said “number 6.” Or else……

Let’s end our time together today boys and girls with a few Fun Fit Facts….or Fiction???!! Can you pick out the Fun Fit Facts that do not belong?

1) Just five minutes of “green exercise” – cycling, gardening, fishing, or other outdoor activities – can enhance your mood and self esteem.

2) Exercise can improve your brainpower .

3) Fun and Fit are brainiacs beyond belief, partly because they work out regularly.

4) Studies show that for every hour of walking, life expectancy may increase by two hours.

What the heck??!! Did you think number 3 was the fiction? No way; that is solid fact. In fact, all of the Fun Fit Facts are TRUE. Motivated yet to at least go take a walk? 

Now, where did I put my high-heeled exercise shoes & fitness mini?

Photo Credits: Creative Commons & Photobucket


Animal Desire

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

We often get asked whether our pets are as fit as we are. Maybe… How are you defining “fit?” So in a departure from our usual format, we focus our experienced laser beam on the pet world this week. In fairness to our exercising animal companions, Fun and Fit present SOLID, DOCUMENTED proof that animals love to move and be active. One thing we learned, they enjoy yoga moves and incorporate them into their daily regimen. Let’s take our example from our fab felines and caring canines. They consistently exercise and reap the benefits that intense workouts bring.

Caturanga Pose
What can we say. Bella has reached nirvana as she salutes the sun and welcomes the asanas ahead. So active; so devoted; so inspiring!

Bella mastering the look and feel of the Caturanga asana

Down Dog
Chloe loves her yoga practice and is getting really good. She was able to hold this pose for half an hour.

Great extension from Chloe practicing the Down Dog for her yoga class

Up Dog
To novices this may look a lot like the Down Dog pose, but yoginis and discerning readers can see that Chloe has elevated herself to the “up” level of enlightenment.

Chloe wants to finish strong with the Up Dog pose

Puss-in-BootCamp Pose
Carrot is getting ready to rock it at Puss-in-BootCamp. Just thinking about the exciting workout ahead gets her super fired up!

Carrot prepping for Puss-in-BootCamp

Catboxing Workout
After an intense hour of kicking, biting, scratching, and clawing his way through his CatBoxing class, Zorro is ready to check his heart rate. He knows he put it all out on the exercise floor.

Zorro takes a quick break from his CatBoxing class

Max Tracks with TRX

Max knows how to throw his body weight around when he suits up for his TRX workout. Long tail for balance; great alignment and focus; sleek workout gear. He knows what it takes to reach his resistance training goals.

Max Tracks TRX

So there you have it: the motivation and inspiration you need to get your tail a’ waggin’ and your fur all fluffed. Now get out there and have some workout fun people!

Legal disclaimer and nod to pet lover advocates: No animals were exercised in the making of this post.

Readers: What exercises and workout classes do your pets love? If you’re going to claim it, better prove it! Oh Meow!

From reader Kathleen: See her comment below. Admire her cat, Bailey right here!

Bailey doing spider curl-ups.

Bailey getting ready for her whirlpool bath.


Love Exercise; Work is a Pain Though

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit: Yep, I am a workaholic and a busy mom of three, but I still try to get my exercise. I try to get a bike ride and a couple of kettle bell workouts a week. Additionally, I have a workout bench on an incline that I like to do crunches. My problem comes with the endless hours I spend at the desk. I have a recurring pain in my right shoulder blade, on my mousing side, and it affects my shoulder’s range of motion. It usually flares up after I have been working extra hard. I would like some exercises and stretches I could do throughout the day. At my husband’s work, they call them fitness breaks and they are designed to prevent Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSIs). I am sure almost all of we desk jockey’s could use some pointers about this. Thanks!  Kami, Houston, TX

Desk Jockey with Poor Posture

Alexandra: Why are you working extra hard? That’s just wrong. You should go work with your husband since his company gives wife-smooching fitness breaks. But let’s just imagine for a second that you like your job and have no plans to change your good-girl of fitness ways. That’s a flare-up of another color.

1. Check your chair height. If it’s too low, you are over-contracting in the upper traps (shoulder/neck area).

2. Stretches – Do some that lengthen and release the upper torso area.

3. Posture, posture, and oh, posture. Go back and read this so that I don’t have to repeat repeat myself: http://funandfit.org/2010/07/straight-scoop-on-super-posture/

4. Many people like to roll the shoulders forward. Why? I don’t understand that. Most desk jockeys are already over-stretched in the back and over-tight in the front (chest/shoulders). Why do more? So….a mini-desk fitness minute is to roll your shoulders back and down. Don’t roll forward.

5. Lastly, find out if your company has an ergonomic professional on staff. If so, that person can assess your work area to make it more physically functional and supportive.

Kymberly: Let’s also address the “endless hours you spend at a desk,” you “desk jockey” you. Look for opportunities to stand up more and sit less. When you talk on the phone, stand or walk about your work area. At least once an hour get up and out of the sitting position. Walk to the farthest bathroom; get supplies one at a time; forego calling a colleague and go see that person in person. Oooh, I like the alliteration of that last sentence, which rolled so trippingly off the mouse. Gotta go stand up now or risk turning mousy. In short, interrupt your desk jockey pattern. RSI is Really Sucky Inactivity so actively check that you are not in the same position for minutes on end. One great hour of exercise cannot overcome 8 hours of a locked-in sitting position. But if that ergonomic professional advises a hot tub, spa, and barcalounger for your office, go for it! With three kids you deserve some down time. Yeah, Down at the Gym!

Readers: What are your favorite workplace exercises or stretches? What is your favorite work?


Fit Enough to Horse Around?

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit: Kymberly and Alexandra:

Q:I want to know the best way for me to determine my fitness level without going to a gym.  What kind of tests or guidelines can I use to test myself? (background – I’m 50 (!), run a horse ranch with my husband, have daily exercise, but not a set routine or cardio).

Dana, Santa Ynez, CA

Dear Dana:

K: I’ll meet your question and raise you one. What do you want to do with the information you get from a fitness test? For instance, you could ask “how do I know if I am fit enough to keep these hossies of mine in good condition and still have energy to plow the fields, till the land, and ride off into the sunset?” Then your fitness level is defined by your ability to function and continue doing the activities you love. This kind of fitness is called “functional” or “real life fitness.” Well, I call it “real life fitness” anyway and I think my sis will back me up on any terms I make up. Hey, I went along with her new word “plumpers” back on the posting “Perky or Saggy: Push-Ups or Push Up Bra.”

For determining your functional fitness level, you have an easy job. Can you do the ranch work and other daily activities with relative ease, comfort and range of motion without getting exhausted or injured at the end of the day? And can you keep doing that until you or your horses head out to pasture? Easy, shmeasy to measure, so I hope you go for that definition of fitness.

Your question might also be coming from the perspective of “how do I measure percent of body fat, lean muscle mass, flexibility, and endurance without actually taking those tests, which are the standards for defining and measuring fitness?” That question is a horse of a different color entirely. Oh, two points to me for getting that in! I have to cut to Alexandra for a moment while I contain (or applaud) myself.

A: I have to say that Kymberly is not containing herself at all; she is just horsing around! Oh, neigh it ain’t so! For all those measurement tests Kymberly mentions, you will need to go to a qualified personal trainer. Since you are a horse rancher, not a gym rat, get the trainer to come to you. You can find one in your area at acefitness.org/findanacepro/default.aspx. But…since you say you want to test yourself, go in your closet and try on all the stuff you haven’t worn in a year. If it fits, you know you are the same size.

Next, count how many push-ups you can do with good form. Make a record. Count your push-ups again in 3 months. Compare the numbers. Burst out in tears of joy. Same with lunges or squats. Gotta say, in all my years, it’s rare to see someone perform a lunge, squat or push-up with good form right out the gate (oooh, another horse reference). So we are back to that personal trainer idea.

Since you need at least one good chuckle from this blog, I’d say ask your husband to check you out first thing in the morning before you get dressed. If he says you look hot and exactly like you did at 30, you are fit. And he gets points for dodging that set-up. If he says you don’t look quite the same, throw a horse at him. If you can do this, you are fit enough!

Q from K and A to our readers: Who else wonders whether you are “fit enough?” And fit enough for what? Do tell.