Tried & Tested: The Best Water Workouts

Written by: on Wednesday, March 18th, 2015
Water Workouts

No wonder water workouts make me happy: studies show that water-based exercise boosts mood and decreases stress and anxiety.

I’m not much of a swimming fan, so I never really considered the pool when it came to regular exercise. But then someone suggested I try aqua aerobics. And what I’ve found is that by adding the water to my workouts, I’ve gotten in amazing shape—and I’m never bored because there are plenty of workout options for any mood I’m in!

So what exactly is aqua aerobics?

Any exercise in the water that gets your heart rate up can qualify as aqua aerobics. The water has plenty of advantages, the first of which is that your heart has to work less in the water (thanks to the zero gravity). But, even in spite of this, you’re still able to get a great cardio workout because of water’s natural resistance. The buoyancy of the water also provides a lightness you can really feel, because you’re only supporting a fraction of your body’s weight in the water (which is why this workout is amazing for pregnant women—and for people prone to, or recovering from, injuries). In fact, studies show that people can exercise longer in water than on land without increased joint or muscle pain. What’s not to like?!

Looking for more information about aqua exercise? Try My Ultimate Guide To Aqua Aerobic.

Water weights

Movement in water offers 12 to 14 percent more resistance than in air, which means your muscles get a better toning workout in the water.

My All-Time Favorite Aqua Workouts

I choose different water workouts depending on my exercise needs/goals. Here are my favorites:

Aqua jogging: This is my absolute favorite water exercise. In the summer, I get in the water when it’s too hot to exercise outside. I go to the community pool when the lap lanes are open, jump in one, and begin moving up and down with my best running posture. I have to lean forward like I’m sprinting to push through the resistance. I wear old tennis shoes to protect my feet, and keep a water bottle at the end of the lane to stay hydrated. I was surprised at how hard I worked in the water. No wonder competitive runners use aqua jogging for cross training!

Aqua kickboxing: If I’m having a hectic week, kickboxing in the water is my secret stress buster. Kicking through water works my legs really hard. Combine that with punching routines and it’s like I’m doing a weight workout in the water. I tried a kickboxing class in the gym, and I kept falling off balance, but in the water, it’s much easier to stay grounded. The instructor will work us hard for an hour, and when I finish, I know I’ve done a super effective workout—and I feel pretty relaxed afterward too.

Aqua Zumba: I didn’t want to try this workout at first (I’m too shy to do all those hip-swinging moves in front of people). But then I realized that with a water Zumba class most of my body would be underwater during the workout. That changed everything, so I got my friend Marsha to go with me, and we tried a class. Talk about a great workout to get in shape! The teacher didn’t stop for most of the hour. The best part was that the whole experience was a blast—and thanks to it, I’m doing it more often and getting in much better shape.

The best part about water workouts: I look forward to them— and I always leave my workouts with a smile. They make me feel great!

 

The Workout You SHOULD be Doing

Written by: on Friday, August 23rd, 2013
Woman doing pushups

Push-ups are just one part of a bootcamp class.

There are plenty of exercise trends that come and go—but one workout that’s sticking around for the long haul: bootcamp. And for good reason. These non-stop exercise classes torch calories, a lot of them (about 500 to 1,000 calories per class)—and fat—and improve overall strength and conditioning. And who doesn’t want that?!

It’s the non-stop part of these workouts that’s the hardest. Most times, you exercise at your own pace for however long you want—and then stop. That’s what gets boring—and prevents you from seeing the results you want. Bootcamp classes keep you moving constantly thanks to interval training and switching up between pretty intense cardio and weight training.

We got a chance to try two different ones—on the beach and in the gym. Here’s what to expect at both (and how to find one near you):

BeachBootcamp

The perfect spot for a workout!

On the beach: Cheryl Herzog—a trainer and owner of Surfside Fitness in Avalon, NJ.—has been offering bootcamp on the beach for 10 years now.

The class may seem intimidating at first, but waking up to a run on the beach, watching the waves roll in can be amazing!

The calorie-crunching routine: The class kick starts with a sprint down a stretch of the sand bar and back, followed by jumping jacks, lunges, and shuffles, all moves to get the heart pumping! This was followed with stretching exercises; push-ups, sit-ups, burpees, and squats. Then we moved on to stations that had been set up on the beach: one was a loop of push ups, sit-ups, spider crunches, and jumping jacks, while the other included a medicine ball toss, kettle bells, sand sprints, and rope tugs.

“The sand adds an unbelievable element that requires more stability, more power, and more coordination in every movement,” Herzog said, adding: “We incorporate 40 percent cardio, 40 percent high intensity training, and

SurfsideFitness

When you can't do beach bootcamp, there's always this full-service fitness center, owned by Cheryl Herzog, which is open 365 days a year.

20 percent core and flexibility.” (Classes are $12 each; a 10-pack is $100.)

Indoors: Barry’s Bootcamp is one of the most well-known bootcamp franchises—with locations from West Hollywood to New York to London —and a celeb following that includes Jessica Biel, Katie Holmes, and even Kim Kardashion pre-Nori.

We got a chance to try it out at the Tribeca location in New York (1 York Street) with master instructor Natalie Raitano* (check out this woman’s sculpted body; if this is what bootcamp can do for your body, sign me up for the long haul!).

According to Raitano, the key to success during one of these 60-minute workouts is the 30-second blasts of cardio and the constant switching of activities that really keeps the body moving. Add to that some pretty intense music (click here to sample one instructor’s Spotify mix of hip-hop workout music), and you’ve got one pretty amazing workout.

BarrysBootcamp

Barry's Bootcamp master instructor Natalie Raitano and Kelsey O'Toole.

The calorie-crunching routine: The first half of Raitano’s class, we were stationed on treadmills at a 3 percent incline, running at 6 mph for one minute (not easy!), then climbing to 7 and 8 mph for what’s called a “warm-up” (but is so much more than that). We continued in intervals for 20 minutes, all the way up to a 10 percent incline sprint! You will sweat, guaranteed.

As if that wasn’t enough, the second half of the class focused on strength training: side-step squats (over a raised step) with weights of 10 to 20 lbs, followed by lateral side lunges, quick feet, normal squats with weights, and finally resistance-band exercises, which targeted the glutes and thighs. These blasts of cardio mixed with weight training and resistance are very challenging, but also fun! This class literally kicks butt! (1 class, $34; 10 classes, $320.)

To find a bootcamp in your area, check with your local gym, click on active.com and search for workout bootcamps in your area, or just do a search for bootcamps in your own city or town. But before you sign up, check to see if there are any prerequisites—and if you’re concerned about whether you can handle a class, check with your doctor.

* Full disclosure: We got to take a free class, compliments of Chobani yogurt. No only did we get to burn calories and build muscle, we got to refuel afterward with a Peanut-Butter Chocolate Chobani Shake…not too bad!

“What a real-life home gym looks like”: Weight Loss Diary

Written by: on Monday, April 30th, 2012
What a Real Home Gym Looks Like

My home gym doubles as a playroom (hence my daughters' drawings on the walls!), which is the reality for most people!

You want to know what a real home gym looks like? Well, for one thing: it usually doubles as another space (some people have it in their basements, by the washer and dryer; others have it in their dens; and some—like me—have it in the kids’ playroom). But … here’s mine! Cardio Central. Pumba, ever faithful workout partner, is lurking in the corner too. He stares at my feet whether I am on the treadmill or the elliptical. I have to pick my way through a floor littered with toys to get to my equipment. (Note to self: my girls have too many toys!)

But it doesn’t matter what the room looks like; what matters is that you get your butt there to do your exercise. If it’s not motivating, then you won’t want to step foot on the equipment!

Do you have a home gym? Tell me how you get motivated (and stay motivated to work out there); write to me at melissa@valerielatona.com.

Our treadmill is a free hand-me-down. Actually, we are the 3rd to house it. I am grateful for it in ways I never thought possible. Husband has had to repair it and jerry-rig the top back on. Sometimes, it doesn’t smell right. Every step could be its last. I have my eyes on a new one. It’s over $1,000. To save and prepare, I have been charging myself $3 each time I step on it. As it nears its demise, I started charging myself $3 to get on the elliptical too. The girls even pay 25 cents to use the equipment! I have almost $250 saved so far. Today, the self-imposed usage fee goes up to $5 because I am afraid it is going to quit before I am ready!

I am still on my quest to be a contender in a 5K race in May. May is tomorrow! I need to step up my training schedule. It seems I need to do more “suffering”…but it definitely pays off!

 

“How I’m Ramping Up My Exercise”: Weight Loss Diary

Written by: on Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Nobody is impressed by how good your excuses areI am feeling a little bit punchy today.  Yesterday I ran 55 minutes at an average pace of 12 minutes 32 seconds per mile for 4.40 miles. That was a workout. Remember I said I tried to avoid suffering? Well, it has become apparent to me that I will not move into the 100’s on the scale unless I do some suffering.

Lauren, my nutrition advisor from FOODTRAINERS, wants me to do more cardio. I wouldn’t want to disappoint. Today I did 45 minutes on the elliptical while watching this week’s episode of The Biggest Loser that I downloaded from iTunes onto my iPad. Technology can be just plain cool. I would have felt guilty if I wasn’t suffering while watching this show. I followed the elliptical with about 20 minutes of weight work with my medicine ball, hand weights, and weighted bar. There was an Usher marathon on Pandora and my energy level was high.

Very early this morning while at work, I ate not 1 but 2 bowls of some sort of shepherds-pie-like-casserole concoction that the nursing supervisor’s husband made.  I ate it with gusto and had to STOP myself from going for a 3rd because it was so darn tasty and I was STARVING.  I could only estimate the calories…somewhere in the neighborhood of 700. That means the rest of the day is going to require a bit more vigilence in the calorie department. But it was well worth it!

 

 

The Flat Abs, Firm Butt, Strong Legs Workout: Try It!

Written by: on Tuesday, February 14th, 2012
flat abs on fit woman

Consistent strength training—and cardio—will help transform your body.

If you’re looking for a good workout to get you toned from head to toe, this is it (and it’s just the first in a new series of workouts being featured here). Created by New York City-based Equinox trainer Katherine Roberts-Hill, it’s meant to ease anyone into a total body workout. She created it for me as I needed a not-too-difficult workout to start on after having a baby about 10 weeks ago. I’ll be adding this to my cardio (elliptical and swimming) workouts. Keep me posted on your progress (I’ll be keeping you posted on mine)!

Disclaimer: You should have your doctor’s okay before starting any exercise program—and if you have questions about any of these moves, ask a trainer at your gym for help. If you feel pain or discomfort, STOP. Do not continue exercising and work with a professional before starting up again. We want people to get fit—not hurt!

How often to do it
This is the first workout for 2 weeks. Try to get in 2-3 workouts each week. It should take 40-50 minutes with a warm up and 15-20 minutes of cardio. Choose 7 exercises each time (you can mix it up).

Plus…
Prior to the warm-up, do myofascial release on your legs with the use of a foam roller (from $11.95 at powersystems.com). To see how to do this, watch this video >

Workout Plan

ACTIVITY  TYPE  SETS   REPS   DURATION   WEIGHT   INTENSITY   REST
Squat to Shoulder Press – 2 Arm  Strength  3 15-20 20 lbs  –
Lunge – Forward  Strength 3 15 30 lbs 75%  60 sec
Squat – Front with Barbell  Strength 3 20 20 lbs 75%  60 sec
Chest Press – Incline Dumbbell  Strength 3  –
Supine Triple Flexion to Extension – Alternating Leg  Strength  –
Abs – Backstroke  Toning 3 20
Side Iso-abs with Crunch  Toning 3 15 30 sec  –
Lat Pulldown – Standing (Free Motion)  Strength 3 15 40 lbs
Stability Ball Pull-Over  Strength 3 20 15 lbs

Cool Down

The cool-down should consist of some light walking and stretching for about 5 minutes.

SQUAT TO SHOULDER PRESS – 2 ARM
Reps:  15-20 Sets:  3
Weight:  20 lbs
To start:

  • Begin with feet shoulder-width apart, feet pointing straight ahead.
  • Start with dumbbells at shoulder level, palms facing forward.
Movement:

  • Perform a squat as deep as you can (A).
  • Squat up to starting position; perform a shoulder press (B).
  • Lower weight slowly, then repeat.

A

B

LUNGE – FORWARD
Reps:  15 Sets:  3 Intensity:  75%
Weight:  30 lbs Rest:  60 sec
To start:

  • Stand in proper alignment with hands on hips.
  • Place feet straight ahead and shoulder width apart.
Movement:

  • Draw lower abs inward toward spine (activating the deep stabilizing mechanism).
  • Step forward and descend slowly by bending at the hips, knees and ankles (A). During the descent maintain weight distribution between the heels and mid-foot. Don’t allow feet to cave inward or shift outward. (Knees should be between first and second toes.)
  • Perform downward reps slowly and concentrate on the descent and the alignment of your body. Only descend down as far as you can maintain optimal alignment, keeping upper torso erect. (Leaning forward can injure the spine, knee, and ankle.)

A


SQUAT – FRONT WITH BARBELL
Reps:  20 Sets:  3 Intensity:  75%
Weight:  20 lbs Rest:  60 sec
To start:

  • Stand with feet pointed STRAIGHT AHEAD with a barbell placed comfortably on the top back of shoulders (A). Be sure to position your head up over shoulders and shoulders in line with hips (i.e., neutral spine).
Movement:

  • Draw your belly button inward toward your spine (from the start position).
  • Descend slowly by bending at knees and hips (B). Maintain weight distribution between mid-foot and heels. Don’t allow feet to cave inward or shift outward.
  • Push up through the feet extending the ankle, knee and hip joints while weight is evenly distributed between heels and mid-foot. Don’t allow weight to shift toward toes. (Knees should track over the second and third toe.)
  • Perform downward reps slowly, concentrating on proper alignment of body.
  • Descend as far as you can control. Partial squats should progress to full squats as you get better at this exercise.
  • Note: This should be back loaded (on the shoulders with a barbell). If it is too difficult to do, use 2, 15-lb dumbbells.

A

B

CHEST PRESS – INCLINE DUMBBELL
Reps:  20 Sets:  3
Weight:  12.5 lbs each hand
To start:

  • Lie on bench with feet straight and flat on the ground.
  • Position dumbbells, arms fully extended, over lower part of shoulders, not the head.
Movement:

  • Draw belly button inward toward your spine.
  • Slowly, lower your elbows out and down, maintaining wrist position over the elbows (A).
  • Continue to lower the weight until your upper arms are level with the shoulders.
  • Move elbows up and in toward center to return (B). This will create a triangular motion. Wrist should maintain a neutral position. Keep dumbbells over wrists throughout entire exercise.

A

B

Note: Maintain proper posture, as the weight is lowered. DO NOT allow your head to “jut” forward.
SUPINE TRIPLE FLEXION TO EXTENSION – ALTERNATING LEG
To start:

  • Lie with back flat on the ground, knees bent 90°, and place hands on the ground by your side (A).
  • Activate core with a drawing in and pelvic floor contraction.
Movement:

  • Lift BOTH legs off the ground.
  • Extend one leg into triple extension.
  • Simultaneously alternate each leg from flexion to extension (B), keeping head relaxed on mat while maintaining good upper body posture.

A

B

ABS – BACKSTROKE
Reps:  20 Sets:  3


To start:

  • Maintain good posture throughout the exercise with shoulder blades retracted and down, good stability through the abs, and neutral spine angles.
Movement:

  • Begin in a crunch position (shoulders slightly off the mat), ensuring that spine is ‘long’ and not excessively rounded. Hands are to the side, palms facing up (as shown).
  • Perform a backstroke motion with one hand (A), while holding the crunch.
  • Return hand to the side and alternate sides (B), once the backstroke motion has been completed.

A

B

SIDE ISO-ABS WITH CRUNCH
Reps:  15 Sets:  3
Duration:  30 sec

To start:

  • Make sure you’ve done a quick warm-up prior to doing this exercise.
Movement:

  • Take the top arm, place the hand behind the ear (A) and rotate elbow towards ground (B). Ensure body line is straight, visual gaze is straight ahead and shoulders and trunk rotate.
  • Repeat for desired number of repetitions.

A

B

LAT PULLDOWN – STANDING (FREE MOTION)
Reps:  15 Sets:  3
Weight:  40 lbs

To start:

  • Adjust cable arms as shown.
  • Stand in squat position (facing Cable Cross), knees bent, maintaining good posture with arms outstretched. Grasp handles (A).
Movement:

  • Brace spine by drawing your lower abdomen in.
  • Start movement by pulling elbows into side of body (B), maintaining proper posture.
  • Check alignment and positioning and repeat press.
  • Squat deeper or adjust back from Cable Cross if weight stack touches at end range of motion.
  • Variations: Try various grip positions, Single arm alternating.

A

B

STABILITY BALL PULL-OVER
Reps:  20 Sets:  3
Weight:  15 lbs

To start:

  • Adjust the column toward top and place stability ball in front of column.
Movement:

  • Hold the triceps rope above head with straight arms, sitting on stability ball facing away from the machine (A).
  • Engage abs, and roll body and arms out parallel to the floor (B).
  • Pull arms back over head to starting position.

A

B