Working the Plank

In a recent interview, Miranda Kerr described her daily routine that includes a 10 minute plank. While there are discrepant valuations of the plank*, overall it can be a worthwhile complement to any exercise program. Its benefits include balance and stability, along with strengthening muscles through resistance training. Some individuals might feel as though body weight resistance does not provide enough of a challenge for them, in which case they could add weight or make the position more dynamic by incorporating instability (one leg/foot, changing foot and hand positions).

When beginning planks and working up to several minutes of plank pose, excellent form is crucial. Improper form can lead to sore backs, or sore necks and shoulders which can then cause headaches. Try the movements slowly, gradually increasing the hold, always aware of your body positioning.

A version of a 10-minute plank workout is outlined below, incorporating varied movement to reduce boredom and target different muscles:

0:00 – 0:30 – high plank

0:30-1:00 – right side plank

1:00-1:30 – left side plank

1:30-2:00 – high plank

2:00-2:30 – dynamic extension (opposite hand/opposite foot)

2:30-3:00 – alternate dynamic extension

3:00-3:30 – child’s pose

3:30-4:00 – caterpillars

4:00-4:30 – downward dog

4:30-5:00 – high plank

5:00-5:30 – right side plank

5:30-6:00 – left side plank

6:00-7:00 – holding bridge (try to stretch shoulders!)

7:00-7:30 – high plank

7:30-8:00 – upward dog

8:00-8:30 – right side plank

8:30-9:00 – left side plank

9:00-9:30 – downward dog

9:30-10:00 – high plank

Stretch neck, shoulders and arms to prevent soreness.

As you gain confidence and strength, exchange the filler movements (child’s pose, downward and upward dog) with planks.

 

*Plank Commentary:

Livestrong:  http://www.livestrong.com/article/500440-what-does-the-plank-exercise-benefit/

Born Fitness: http://www.bornfitness.com/are-planks-overrated/

Fox News: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/02/14/should-try-30-day-plank-challenge/

Sports Medicine Answers: http://sportsmedicine.answers.com/training/what-do-plank-exercises-involve

Advertisements

Dance Fitness & Cross Training for Dancers

Brief Background on Running & Dancing

Dancing is unarguably a form of physical activity: there is movement, variation of speed, posture and both force and resistance applied. Counterintuitively, well-documented evidence identifies ballet and {distance} running as generally incompatible, begging conversations over muscle building versus or in comparison to cardiovascular fitness. From rudimentary biomechanics and physiology, most of us are ancillarily aware that muscle-building or weight training is anaerobic and cardiovascular exercise like running, walking, cycle, etc. is aerobic. The presiding question comes more from a place of whether or not logging hours in the dance studio provides the same health {cardio} benefits as strict aerobic activities. In other words, do dancers possess the fitness and endurance that other athletes gain?

Running, which is both a cardiovascular (aerobic) and a high-impact activity, can be too hard on joints requiring dancer’s greatest physical strength (knees, ankles). Running can also alter the muscle tone that dancers spend years building in very particular ways. While there exists a body of evidence suggesting that cardiovascular activity diminishes muscles, this is only partly accurate: cardiovascular or aerobic exercise will lean out and tone muscle mass. Running also uses different muscles and uses muscles in a different way from how they are used in ballet and other forms of dance [1]. By utilizing running as a cardiovascular complement to dancing, muscle can still be retained through strength workouts but the impact running induces might not be worth it to someone who wishes to enjoy a long, injury-free ballet career.

Running and Dancing are both skills: there should be no question about this. Elite distance runners train to develop a perfected foot strike, posture and form just as a dancer trains for form, function and pointe. These are perhaps the most evident incompatibilities, as distance running forces a vastly different foot pattern from dancing.

Aerobic Dance

Cross-training has always been part of the ballet conversation, with more emphasis applied to brisk walking, yoga, pilates [2] and more recently the elliptical (less stress on joints) and even my personal favorite: the StairMaster. But there might be a better method: Jacki Sorensen is credited for discovering Aerobic Dance in the 1970’s, after asking the headlining question: How fit is a dancer? How can dance incorporate cardiovascular components thus affording dancers the same benefits purported for runners and walkers? Learn more about the Sorensen program here.

To understand why this is relevant physiologically and how it can be effectively incorporated for those of us who only wish to remain fit, perhaps less blessed with clay-molded physiques, it is first important to assess the full scope of the activity – we’ll break this down and make it logical:

1. Trained, elite dancers participated in a variety of studies, most of which conclude that dancers are prepared to handle oxidative stress from rigorous activity. These are individuals who dance as full-time careers.

2. Some “cardio” dance workouts have proven more beneficial than some gym workouts, such as those performed on an elliptical trainer (cardio barre, cardio ballet (Jessica Smith), aerobic dance, etc.).

3. Proficiency in performance is attributed to strict form practice; however fitness – endurance, cardiovascular and oxidative capacities – are more attributed to movement and supplemental activities like walking, cycling or elliptical training. [3]

Overall, dancing is an excellent physical activity, contributing a wealth of health benefits to those who practice it. If the type of dance practiced is not cardiovascular in nature, research studies suggest supplementing with activities that will allow individuals to reach target heart rates, burn fat and actually improve dance performance. Since dance requires core strength, flexibility and quick maneuvering capacity, proper nutrition should also be a marked feature of this healthy lifestyle.

Reference List

[1] comparison of the aerobic cost and muscle use in aerobic dance to the energy costs and muscle use on treadmill, elliptical trainer and bicycle ergometry: http://www.papersearch.net/view/detail.asp?detail_key=2a500015

[2] Pilates training and rehabilitation for professional ballet dancers: http://174.143.204.4/lib/file/pilates-training-and-rehabilitation-for-professional-ballet-dancers.pdf

[3] Do increases in selected fitness parameters affect the aesthetic aspects of classical ballet performance? https://www.sciandmed.com/mppa/journalviewer.aspx?issue=1191&article=1893

A Sidebar on Failure

In a world swarming with social calamities, brought intensely by media to the point they are not only inescapable but forced mightily on our eyeballs, we might feel our failures more expressly broadcast during our worst moments. There are those who claim failure is “not an option”; those who seem impervious to this interloping outcome so apparent for many of us: their secret rests with them. Whether it is work, fitness, nutrition, relationships or academics, surely most of us can lay claim to a failure.

Less than one year ago, I walked away from success. Having landed my dream job at an organization I stood behind – and still do – I decided seven months in that I needed to be surrounded by the pillars of a research University…and I needed a shorter commute. Did it matter that this organization had built entirely new departments, created my position for my specific skillset, and was just approaching a new level of success it dared not envision previously? Not at the time. I hated driving on 295 for nearly 3 hours a day; I hated being tired all the time; I saw corporate interests moving in a direction that I didn’t understand; and I “missed” Academe. Curiously I’ve found that constantly seeking greener pastures eroded my capacity for satisfaction, perhaps because I held in my clutches the very bauble I coveted…then dropped it. “Failure” in this instance is dual-pronged: I failed the organization by leaving, and I’ve failed myself by entering a position that I like, but in which I still feel unsatisfied. Daily, I question, “Is this it?” This is quite negative, I realize.

Even in our successes we can enemize ourselves: I am an essential magistrate of dropping successes and seeking opportunities that rarely end in my favor! But rather than a diatribe on my personal failures, I suggest this as both a lesson and perhaps a comparison of sorts, for although I am witness to the continued success and impressiveness of my former employer via social media, I am implored to consider that even failures – actual or perceived – have a plan and a solution. Understanding this allows us to unshackle ourselves from the flesh-tearing grips of failure.

Seeking to reclaim or reinforce satisfaction – to find passion – we are better served enquiring “What is this?” rather than “Is this it?” The touchstones on our path to success that prompt such introspection keep it real, making it the journey that encourages evolution. By evaluating the circumstance and the driving forces leading to it we remove some of the negativity and perhaps a sense of entitlement.

What is your failure? Face it, own it, understand what it means to you and decide how you can fix it. Did you cheat on your diet? Stop a run or a workout before it was “supposed” to be finished? Did you forget to study or perform poorly on a test? We’ve all been there – every last one. So, what’s your plan? How are you going to be better than yourself tomorrow?

Rounding out the example, I am taking a thorough inventory of my skills, considering every job I’ve held – every.single.one. – and deciding what makes me the best corporate version of myself. When am I challenged? When am I the most productive? What do I find invigorating to discuss and work through? Through all of this, I am keeping conscious about my diet and my workouts – that absolutely helps! Let’s be better tomorrow, together.

~~~~~~~~

Meta Sidebar: A wonderful article on the Spencer Institute Blog that articulates my sentiments more eloquently:

http://spencerinstitute.com/resolve-to-fail-in-order-to-success/

WalkingFit: A Beach Confidence Workout

Circuit training remains a veritable monolith among continuous exercisers. Even to those for whom exercise is somewhat of an afterthought, circuit training stands the beacon of light back to a fitter way of living. Both its prominence and its longevity are attributed to its purpose: effective, efficient exercising with minimal equipment. “Functional Exercise” is another way to look at circuit training: during functional exercise, we use our body weight to perform motions translatable to every day life (carrying children, lifting groceries in and out the car, etc.). Commercial exercise programs have built empires from roots firmly embedded in circuit training’s humble foundation, and with good reason: it works!

Before getting to this particular circuit, here is a list of resources that might provide you a greater context for the importance of incorporating circuits into a cardio-driven programme:

HI Circuit training/ACSM:

http://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/Fulltext/2013/05000/HIGH_INTENSITY_CIRCUIT_TRAINING_USING_BODY_WEIGHT_.5.aspxjw/kc

HI Circuit Training and Hypertension:

http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1476-511X-12-131.pdf

Circuit Training for Runners

http://running.competitor.com/2014/02/training/the-benefits-of-circuit-training-for-runners_61940

Preparing for the summer? An event? Or just want to look & feel fitter? Here you go:

Walk 2-5 miles at a brisk pace (13-15min/mi)

Pyramid for Saddlebags and Obliques:

30 Plank Jacks

30 Side saddle lifts (each side)

30 Bent-knee donkey kicks

30 Adductors

30 crunches

30 axe chops

30 bicycles

Repeat at intervals of 25, 20, 15, 10 and 5. Finish with 25 push-ups.

Core-Legs-Cardio Mash-Up

DO THIS ONCE:

100 squats ——————————- ———modification: plies

90 walking lunges——————— ———modification: single leg squats, each leg

80 mountain climbers————————– modification: 30 second plank or 20 grinders

70 sumo squats———————————-modification: plies

60 calf raises (no mods)

50 bridges (no mods, but you can go easy for hips, knees, ankles)

40 curtsy lunges (no mods, but you can keep the lunge higher for sore knees, ankles)

30 step-ups

20 jump squats———————————–modification: a modified jumping jack will do

10 burpees—————————————-mod: plank jacks or plank crawl/caterpillars

15 minutes

 

THEN DO THIS ONCE:

50 jumping jacks

50 squats

45 jumping jacks

45 crunches

40 jumping jacks

40 alternating lunges

35 jumping jacks

30 bicycle crunches

25 jumping jacks

25 curtsy lunges

20 jumping jacks

20 russian twists

15 jumping jacks

15 single leg squats

10 jumping jacks

10 reverse crunches

5 jumping jacks

5 burpees

15 minutes

 

THEN FINISH WITH THIS: (maybe 2-3 times depending how you feel)

20 plank jacks

20 side saddle leg lifts, each side

20 bent knee donkey kicks, each side

10 plank jacks

10 side saddle leg lifts, each side

10 bent knee donkey kicks, each side

 

Warm down with a 10-20 minute walk (strolling pace) to reduce potential for acute muscle soreness.