Tag Archives: Yoga

My Top 3 Exercises for Core Strength (The First One Will Make You Cry)

Do them until the vein in your forehead bursts!

Yesterday, I was speaking with a relative who’s nearing 60. She’s been doing a ton of hard work to strengthen her legs after dealing with a knee issue. Now, she wanted to add some serious abdominal exercises for extra power and stability. I thought that if she needed this information, you guys might too!

Many of us know how to do a push-up, but the best exercises to work your core aren’t as well known. The classic crunches have never given me the burn and strength increases that these do.

See the video below for an introduction to all three!

  1. Flutter Kicks

A mainstay of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUDS) training. If it’s hard enough to challenge aspiring Navy SEALs, it should challenge us too! Lay on your back and move your legs in a scissor pattern without putting them down. After 90 seconds of this, my abs are fried from top to bottom.

  1. Plank

Until I started yoga, I had probably never done a plank properly in my life. The key is to get your shoulders above your wrists. When you do this, your core muscles will engage and you’re well on your way to serious strength gains.

  1. Boat Pose

Just did this in yoga this morning! You sit down, holding your legs up and bent and your arms alongside them, and open and close your body in a V shape. I find this particularly challenging for the lower abs.

Like all strength training exercises, I suggest doing them until failure. Keep going until your muscles give out. And if you’re hungry for more strength training resources, see this post.

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What Is the Ideal Amount of Exercise?

Above: Me sucking wind after a tough workout.

We often hear what the minimum amount of exercise we need is, but what amount of exercise is actually optimal? At what point have we reaped all the benefits exercise has to offer, and possibly even gone over the edge into damaging overtraining?

With the largest snowstorm in years lashing my apartment today, I thought it was as good a time as any to try to find an answer.

The federal government recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. This establishes a useful lower bound we definitely shouldn’t dip below, but a highly cited study in JAMA Internal Medicine finds that you can get further longevity benefits by exercising a lot more:

the longevity benefit threshold appears to be approximately 3 to 5 times the recommended physical activity minimum

So, in order to be sure to get the maximum longevity benefit, you need to do five times the minimum recommended level of exercise. 5x the minimum recommended level would be 1 hour 47 minutes of moderate activity daily or 54 minutes of vigorous activity daily.

Furthermore, the study found no danger from exercising even more than what it takes to get the full longevity benefit:

there does not appear to be an elevated mortality risk with LTPA [leisure time physical activity] levels as high as 10 or more times the recommended minimum.

Looking at the differences between moderate and vigorous activity, I also wondered if one is better than the other. There doesn’t seem to be solid data to say that either moderate or vigorous activity is superior from a health perspective:

comprehensive reviews of the literature on physical activity and mortality report that overall volume of physical activity is associated with lower mortality risk but report mixed findings on the relative contributions of moderate- vs vigorous-intensity activities

So am I doing enough? Looking at the pedometer app on my phone, I’ve averaged 2.75 hours per day of walking (moderate intensity exercise) over the past year. I also do about 3-4 hours a week of vigorous exercise (yoga and strength training, mostly), so about 30 min daily.

So, I seem to be comfortably above the level needed to get the maximum longevity benefit. That said, counterintuitively, I sometimes find my mood is a little lower on days I don’t do vigorous activity. (You think you’d be happy for a rest day, but maybe not!) Just because I’m at the maximum amount of exercise to produce longevity benefits doesn’t mean that more exercise might not produce other benefits in terms of mental health, athletic ability, appearance, etc.

Since there appears to be no harm from even very high levels of activity, I may add another vigorous workout (likely yoga or calistenics) to my routine some weeks, depending on my schedule and desires at the time.

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What Made Me Happy in 2020

We are waving goodbye to this year, and a lot of people are saying good riddance. But I’ve been thinking to myself, how can I write off an entire year of my life? Even optimistically, it’s at least 1% of my existence. So lately I’ve been reflecting on all the great parts of 2020. These are some things I have been grateful for in this most unusual of years:

  • My dear little pet gerbil lived over 3/4ths of this year, so I can never say 2020 was bad. He passed away in October, and in 2021 I’ll be without him the entire year. So since I had the joy of being with him in 2020, I can never say 2020 was bad.
  • I made more new friends this year than in the prior 5, oddly enough. I think people are reaching out for human contact, but also trying to be safe. My relationships with my existing friends also became deeper as distractions were removed and all of us needed more of each other’s support.
  • I discovered yoga, which helped me heal from a tendon injury that made it hard to walk. I now have a great new hobby I plan to vigorously pursue in the New Year. It also provides me a community of great people to talk to.
  • I got into camping, which is something I never thought I’d enjoy but came to love. As our usual activities shut down, my friends and I went to the one thing that was open: the woods. We deepened our friendships by facing challenges together and found peace amongst nature.
  • I will truly appreciate getting to see family and non-local friends again. Normally, I would’ve seen them from time to time as a matter of course, but being deprived of that this year means I’ll relish their company all the more in 2021.
  • I’ll also really enjoy being in a crowd of friends, being able to act in TV shows and movies, volunteering at the animal shelter and other activities I can’t do now.
  • I gained real understanding that the world can change absolutely unpredictably in an instant. I had only ever seen gradual change before in my life. That will give me greater insight into the world and help me prepare for other challenges.
  • Even though unexpected changes can happen, I realized certain solid habits like exercise, a decent diet, and saving money set you up well for any eventuality.
  • I gained greater confidence in myself. I assimilated new information quickly about testing, masks, etc. and successfully kept myself and my family safe. I feel like if I can get through this, I can get through most anything, and I think the same is true of society at large.
  • This blog! I was searching for a lockdown-proof hobby and rediscovered my interest in writing. We’ve had views from countries as far away as Belgium, India, Dubai and Nigeria. What a joy to be able to connect with people from all over the world!

What did you enjoy in 2020, despite all the difficulties this year has presented? Let us know in the comments!

Happy New Year everyone!

“New Year’s Eve 2020 at Numbers” byenigmaarts is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

How I Took An Awesome Yoga Class for $1.75

One of the new hobbies I’ve picked up in 2020 is doing yoga. I became a believer when it helped me recover from a painful tendon injury, and I’ve been turning myself into a pretzel (or trying to) ever since.

Yoga classes can be expensive, but I’ve found a way to take great classes in person for as little as $1.75, which is what I paid last night. Perhaps as a way to coax people back into gyms, ClassPass has yoga, spinning, and numerous other classes for incredibly low rates. And you can do it all a la carte with no monthly membership fee.

You can do a 0 credit a month plan for free and then buy credits any time to take a class. That’s what I do.

I’ve taken almost a dozen classes since November and I’ve never paid more than $6. I go to a local studio with great teachers, and I feel very energized and relaxed afterward. I work out, socialize a bit, come home and eat dinner, then sleep like the dead due to the evening’s exertion.

An a la carte model is perfect right now because the COVID situation can change rapidly and impact people’s willingness to go to a gym. With this plan, you only pay when you actually go.

I don’t know of any cheaper way to do yoga, and the app is easy to use, so I strongly recommend this to anyone who is interested in yoga or other fitness classes.

I can’t tell you how nice it is to be around this community of people who enjoy yoga and live nearby. It makes me feel normal and feel happy, and that’s valuable nowadays. See you at spinning tonight!

Try CkassPass for free for 14 days using this link. (If you do, I will also receive some free credits. )

“Yoga in King George Square Brisbane-06=” by Sheba Also 18 Million Views is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0