Category Fitness Guides and Gear

Bodyweight Workout For Beginners/Returners

For some folks the idea of integrating exercise into your life can be daunting. With all the gym commercials, fitness influencers on social media, and sexy underwear advertisements it can indeed feel like having a fitness lifestyle is too much to handle. A lot of work. Unattainable.

Let me clear up some of the unnecessary messages that are out there, and give you a great starter workout!

First of all – to live a lifestyle that successfully includes exercise does not mean you have to have six pack abs, Carrie Underwood legs, or a sculpted rear end. You can indeed be on a healthy track, and be “in shape” with some cellulite and a small muffin top.

Yes I am sure we would all love to look utterly fantastic, but unless we put in some extraordinary amount of diet and physical effort, and for some of us, figure out how to change our genetics, it’s not reasonable. It’s not attainable. But what is attainable is a healthy resting heart rate, a strong core to support our low back, and cardiovascular skills to keep us playing with our kids. That is what an exercise lifestyle is really about – not about looking hot and sweaty in a sports bra. Eventually you may indeed look in the mirror post workout and look and feel amazingly attractive, but you don’t need the six pack abs to feel that way. Whatever healthier, happier version of yourself comes out of incorporating exercise into your life IS GOOD ENOUGH!

For my beginners, or my getting-back-into-it’ers, I have an at-home, zero equipment (okay, one chair is needed, but I know you have one) workout for you. It does not take too much time, and you can even do it on the go as you travel. If you read this, and do this, please let me know how you felt about it! I appreciate feedback.

Note: If you have any health concerns, or chronic physical injuries, please confirm with a medical professional before attempting these exercises. If you need to seek an alternative exercise for one of these, ask me and I can help you. If this is too easy for you – GREAT! If it is too difficult, play around with the number of repetitions or amount of time. Decrease if you have to, and add weights when appropriate, if available.

My Favorite Things – Fitness Edition

Ever bought something online at the mercy of hoping some group of strangers reviews were truthful? I find myself looking for key details, a substantial amount of positive opinions, and for clothes I definitely need picture proof before I’ll pull the purchase trigger.

The holiday gift buying season is upon us, whether you’re ready for it or not, and for anyone looking for ideas for that fitness guru/exercise buddy/fit mom in your life, I’m giving some reviews and ideas from items I have fallen in love with – not just like, love! I like finding useful little things that make big impact on my daily life, without costing a bunch of money. All of these items cost $35 or less! So here you go:

Duduma Polarized Sports Sunglasses

If you dislike squinting while running, and hate when sunglasses slip down your nose or rub the top of your ears raw, then I have some great (inexpensive – yay!) sunglasses to recommend.

These things are only $20, and they have lasted me in high heat and humidity, through marathons, and they stay in place! No you’re likely not going to pair them with a cute dress, they are for outdoor exercise activity as they definitely look sporty. They look very gender neutral too, so even my husband has borrowed them for runs and playing softball.

Aurorae Yoga – The Ultimate Racer Back Tank Top

Let me be clear – this tank top is pictured as being worn alone and giving full coverage. That’s not true unless your chest hangs quite low. But! I don’t like the feeling of loose tank tops when I’m working up a big sweat. Nor do I like to constantly have to pull it back into place. This tank is fitted, soaks up the sweat, and I wear it underneath another tank/tee/sweatshirt. I currently own three! They are limited on stock right now, so hurry if you want one. They are true to size, and the material is stretchy and comfortable. They are long in length, so if you have a problem with shirts being too short for your long torso, I highly recommend adding this to your exercise wardrobe.

Dasuta Sport Athletic Headbands

As I’m writing this I’m starting to see a trend – I love things that stay in place as constantly having to reposition my shades, shirts, pants, headbands would drive me crazy. So these headbands! If you follow me on Instagram (@couragetosweat) you have likely seen me in these. I wear them any time I exercise outside. They absorb sweat so it doesn’t trickle down my forehead. They cover up my crazy hair and flyaways. They come in several colors to make an outfit more fun, or to even help you be seen if you’re out running at dusk or dawn. Andddd they stay in place! They’re also stretchy without hurting your head like the small tights ones often do. They also hold up very well going through the washer and dryer.

ANBES Wireless Earbuds

I have not tested out the battery length for these to hold up during a full marathon, however they have worked for multiple hour workouts without recharging, so for 5Ks, 10Ks, or lifting, they will do the job! There are SO many options for wireless earbuds at all different price points. Searching for them can honestly be a headache. I previously tried two other brands that didn’t work. I also refuse to pay the price Apple is asking. One brand wouldn’t stay in my ears, and the other had a crappy battery life, but these stay in my ears and last – yay! They have a loop that goes around the outer ear that is not uncomfortable, it simply helps me feel that they’re truly secure so as I’m moving from exercise to exercise they stay in position. You can run, do burpees and pushups in these with no problem. They simply sync with the bluetooth on your phone, and off you go!

Contraband Pink Label 5137 Womens Padded Weight Lifting Gloves

These come in a few different colors, so pick your style. They help me when my hands are sweaty so the bar doesn’t slip from my hands. They also help me avoid calluses so I don’t get “man hands” from lifting. They also give me a better grip on the pull-up bar, since I can’t quite 100% rely solely on my strength yet to stay up there. They don’t feel hot, and I can easily transition from weights to bodyweight exercises without bothering to take them on and off.

WOD Nation Pull-Up Assistance Bands

Let’s be real here – pull-ups are not easy! They take a lot of strength and practice. They require good form or you’re bound to hurt in a number of areas. If you don’t have access to a pull-up bar that has the knee bench to assist you, or you simply don’t like that, these bands are perfect! There are different sizes and colors depending on your weight and how many pull-ups you can currently do. You simply wrap the band around the top of the pull-up bar (please carefully read the instructions online or watch a video before attempting this!) and then stick a foot into the part of the band that is hanging down, and voila! You’re on your way to gaining pull-up strength. These bands are tight and sturdy, so if the bar is quite high, do not bust your butt or pull a muscle trying to stick your leg into this thing from standing on the ground. Grab an exercise box, bench, or even a chair to help you safely get into this. These are easily portable, so if you plan to exercise at a park with equipment, you can bring it along in your bag.

CRZ Yoga Racerback Tank

Full confession – I may have a tank top problem. I own many. Like many, many… They’re my go-to tops. There’s going out tanks, bedtime tanks, exercising tanks, wear under a sweater tanks, and so on. I don’t love them all, and I’m definitely not brand loyal which is likely why I’ve tried so many, but this one I recently found and I fell in love. I should buy more – no, no stop Jen… It’s a sturdy material, absorbs sweat, does not require another tank underneath, is a great length, and truthfully I feel attractive in it. I like a good workout tank that not only stays in place while exercising, but makes me look good so I feel confident. It is fitted but thick so it’s more forgiving.

And there you have it! If you have any favorite fitness-related items you recommend, send them my way! Happy shopping!

At-Home Workout Guide

Some of the major barriers to an effective, motivated workout is time, location, and an exercise plan. If you don’t have enough understanding of why to workout what muscles, or when, or even how, then fitness classes with an educated instructor is a good alternative. However, if classes don’t align with your life schedule, and you can’t seem to get to the gym, then an at-home workout may be the solution to getting your fitness on track.

Yes, there are many exercise programs out there you can do from home. Some require you to purchase equipment, or signup for a subscription, which is all fine if you’re dedicated to your fitness journey. But! If you’re trying to start your fitness journey slowly, to tackle the basics, or you already have an effective workout plan but need extra help on the days you cannot get out of the house, this guide is for YOU!

Buckle up, here we go! Here is a list of exercises you can do in your house, without purchasing any equipment:

  • Pushups
  • Situps (I recommend putting your toes under a couch to ensure you use your core, instead of straining your low back and hip flexors)
  • Squats (Regular, Sumo, Crisscross Jumping, Pulsing – there are a lot of options here)
  • Lunges (Forward, Reverse, Pulsing)
  • Curtsy Lunges (Your form MUST be on point or you could tweak your knee. If you have a history of knee problems, I do not recommend these)
  • Planks (Forward, Static Hold Left and Right Side, or Side Pulsing) – You may do this with your palms down, or for a greater core challenge, go on your elbows and forearms
  • Tricep Dips (You can use a chair that is pushed against a wall so it doesn’t move away from you, or remove the cushions from the couch and use the firm part – ensure elbows are pointed back)
  • Burpees (these are advanced, and if you have any issues with your knees or low back, I do not recommend)
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Arm Circles
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Dead Bug Core Exercise
  • Static Wall Sit (Either pick a goal time to hold it, or see how long you can hold it and try to beat it the next time) – Get that butt down! Parallel with your knees.
  • YTW Shoulder Exercise (you can do this on the floor)
  • Planks with side-to-side toe taps and/or alternating heel raises
  • V-Sit (Arms and Legs straight – hold it for time)
  • Dragon Walk (this will require space and coordination)
  • Glute Bridge (on your back, knees bent, feet on the floor, and raise your hips/butt up) – You can increase this challenge by adding a weight to your pelvic area or switching to a single leg raise
  • Russian Twists (If you cannot raise your feet, start with your feet on the ground and work your way up over time as your core strength improves)
  • Standing Calf Raises

I just listed 20 exercises that don’t require equipment! TWENTY! All that can be performed in your living room, on your own time, and can still kick your butt!

Now that you know what exercises can be done, how many do you do? How often? For how much time, or number of reps? Some of that depends on your current fitness level, but here are couple variations to try and see what works best for you:

Option 1: All About Time

If you prefer to watch the clock instead of counting repetitions, a pre-set time may be easiest for you (your phone has a timer!) 30 seconds or 60 seconds are good starting points (plus or minus 15 seconds if you are weaker or stronger in some areas).

Choose exercises from the list above (the number is dependent on your fitness level, and can be tweaked depending on how you feel afterwards). Try one for your pre-set time, then move to the next. Alternating muscle groups (ex: core exercise, followed by shoulder exercise, followed by leg exercise) is more likely to enable you to go for more rounds. Go through them, see how you did/how you feel, and decide if you want to go again.

Option 2: All About The Burn

If you prefer to hit a muscle group hard for a quick workout and quick burn, this is a good option. Choose your exercises, group them (core, legs/butt, arms/back), decide if you’re going for time (30-60 seconds) or for reps (10-15, give or take) and then begin with one muscle group, perform those exercises, then move onto the next. Finish, rest (if needed), and then begin again (if able).

How often? That depends on your activity level. If this is the only workout you are doing, I recommend doing this every other day. But! See how you feel. If you’re at the beginning of your fitness journey and you are sore – not just a regular sore, but painful sore – allow your muscles to rest longer. Stretch and hydrate!!!

How to keep yourself on track when home life can be so distracting (laundry, kids, cleaning, sports and shows on TV, that enticing comfy couch, Facebook):

  • Put a specific workout time on your planner/calendar, so it has a set time in your day, not just a “when I get some down time”.
  • You can choose to integrate some of these slowly during a movie or show. Choose to not fast forward through the commercials, and do these exercises during that time.
  • Elect to require yourself to do the workout before you are able to do something else, such as doing them in the morning before you have coffee, or in the evening before you’re allowed to have a glass of wine.
  • Invite your spouse, neighbor, teenager to do these with you if you need an extra boost in motivation or accountability.

Stay optimistic, and realistic! You will not do an at-home workout and suddenly be a fitness star. But you will slowly start to see changes in your muscle tone, your motivation level, and your understanding of different exercises. This will (hopefully) lead to a desire to want to try and learn more – such as integrating weights, or trying new equipment at a gym. Just like when you were learning to read as a kid, you have to first build a basic foundation of understanding, until one day you’re just rocking it!

Good luck! Ask me questions if you need help. Reach out if you’re interested in any of my training packages too.

Tone It Up – The Basics of Weightlifting

Weightlifting 101 Infographic

We each have our different styles and preferences when it comes to strengthening our muscles, but here’s some important information to keep in mind as you train:

– If you don’t/can’t maintain proper form through the entire motion of each exercise, you WILL injure yourself. You WILL create a negative impression towards lifting. Ask for help from a professional if needed, or decrease the weight as you practice to get the form correctly.

– Do not lift everyday. If you are able to, then you didn’t use enough weight or do enough reps/sets the day before. Two or three times a week is enough. The other days can be left for cardio, Yoga, Pilates, body weight exercises or stretching for recovery. Your muscles NEED to rest or they will break down and not strengthen.

– If your heart rate needs it, or it’s just your exercise style, you may completely rest between sets (30-90 seconds) or move onto strengthening a different muscle while the first muscle rests, and then come back to it for another set/round.

– If you have absolutely no idea where to begin, or what exercises to do, ask a professional, or do your own research. Research is a bit more time-consuming, though cheaper. It won’t critique your form, but with basic, simple exercises you can start to build up a bank of exercises and increase from there.

Let’s Focus On Running (even if you “hate” running)

Hello August!

I’ve done the Zone Diet. I’ve done a month of weight-lifting (though I’m not satisfied with how that month went, so we’ll go back and try that again). I’ve done the Paleo Diet. Now here we are in August and the focus is on…. Running! If you hate running, don’t go darting away from this page. Stay with me a few minutes.

A lot of people love to run. A lot of people hate to run. Putting aside serious ailments and health issues, I think one of the big reasons people hate to run is because it’s not easy. Even though our bodies are designed to do it, and as a kid we likely ran around the neighborhood playing Tag and Manhunt, it’s still not easy. If you’re not in great cardiovascular shape, after five minutes you might be huffing and puffing, ready to quit. I get it. Training to actually be decent at running is one of the reasons I actually continue to run. I don’t want to get out of running shape and have to re-teach my body to handle it again. It sucks! So I just keep running…

Exercise isn’t meant to be easy. It shouldn’t bring to the brink of death or serious injury either, but it should challenge you physically and mentally. Every single run will make you question how far and how fast you can go. It will test how easily you will quit, or how strong you are to keep going even if you are hating life at that hot, sweaty, moment.

Running – as well as many other exercises – is often a big mental game. Everyone comes up with a number in their head. It may be the number of minutes you want to run, or the number of miles, or the speed at which you run. Then if those numbers are not met, negativity and disappointment set in, ultimately leading to quitting. Why? Aside from you, who is keeping track? Who is paying attention? Isn’t any number above sitting on the couch at least worthy of some joy?

If you’re not a regular runner, don’t come up with an unrealistic number. If you have never run 3 miles in your life, or haven’t in the past 10 years, don’t make that your number. Obviously failure is right around the first bend. And when it comes, can you handle it, or will you give up and declare, “I hate running” because that’s just easier?

Again, our bodies are made to run. There is not a ton of equipment needed to get it done. An open road, pathway, or a treadmill at a gym. A decent pair of shoes meant for how your feet are designed. Regular comfortable exercise clothes. Nothing fancy needed. It’s on the cheap end of all possible sports to partake in. I challenge you to really think about why you hate running (if you do). Is it because it’s difficult when you don’t regularly do it? That can easily be improved. That whole feeling of failure when you suck at it can rapidly be turned into a feeling of achievement when you see how quickly you can go from running half a mile to two miles, nonstop. It is because you compare yourself to other runners and feel a sense of inadequacy? That’s nonsense, don’t do that to yourself. The world of exercise is supposed to be a happy, encouraging place. Cheer on the faster runner and keep going.

If you haven’t run in awhile and decide to get out there and go for a run, tell me how it goes! I’d love to hear about it.

Happy running, friends!

(Hey Jen, what’s up with that painful looking picture up above? That’s me running the Marine Corps Marathon back in 2015. It hurt, and I was tired, but I was damn proud!)

Can you workout with Pinterest?

Ah, Pinterest. What a great invention, right? We can get lost on that site for hours. Have seaglass you don’t know what to do with? Someone on Pinterest will have an idea for you. Want to teach your child to speak Spanish? Someone on Pinterest already has a plan for you. It’s great, seriously.

Have you ever checked out exercises on there and wondered how good they really are? It can be overwhelming and you can easily lose focus. Do I want to work on my abs? Do I just want a quick, full body, at home workout? Do I want to do push-ups for a 30 day challenge? Realistically, we can spend so much time pinning these exercises and then never actually end up doing the exercises!

But how can we effectively use Pinterest to help meet our fitness goals? First – Have a focus. What specific exercises are you looking for? Do you want body weight exercises, or 30-day challenges, or to learn how to use specific equipment at the gym so you don’t feel or look silly when you go to the gym and try to use it? Figure out that focus, and then only pin exercises related to it.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to be a professional to pin, so if you see exercises that seem a little wonky, maybe not try those. Be smart. Be safe.

I am a fan of using the 30-day challenges on Pinterest. Anyone can easily stick to doing at least one exercise everyday for a month. I’ve done challenges for ab exercises, burpees, push-ups. It’s a great way to challenge yourself, give yourself a goal, and give you the instant gratification one needs to see improvement in strength and ability.

What are your favorite Pinterest workouts?

Happy pinning!