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Exercise Routine Do's & Don'ts: The Right Approach for your Workouts

Workouts, like any activity in life, are best when planned and executed well. Just walking into the gym and doing whatever you feel like might satisfy you in the moment, but the long term benefits are miniscule at best. Instead, approach each training opportunity with a plan that has a defined beginning, middle and end, and understand that the decisions you make in the midst of your exercises will dictate how well your body responds to the demands you impose upon it.

The Do: Some people skip stretching, and others who elect to do it often do it wrong. So, let's clear up the stretching myth once and for all. Yes, you should stretch before and after all workouts. However, stretching cold muscles at the beginning is actually worse than not stretching at all. Rather than jumping into a wide lunge or a deep squat, take five minutes to get your body moving and warm. Jog briefly on a treadmill, run in place, ride the stationary bike, or jump on the elliptical. Doing so lets your muscles loosen up, which readies them to stretch properly. If you do this, you'll find that your stretching is far more productive and your flexibility will increase drastically over time. Once you have finished your training, dedicate some time for a cool down stretch. This engages the muscles, shakes up any acid build-up and allows the body to transition as well.

The Don't: During the middle portion of your workout, the part that requires the most intensity and exertion, you must consistently remind yourself to not become a slave to numbers. Great training reflects pushing the body to its limits, which often means near failure. Doing so will maximizes your muscles' potential. If you maintain a certain number you want to reach, you potentially limit yourself. Stopping on ten, because that was you goal, when you could do fifteen sells the workout short. Instead, push to your maximum and know that the last three need to be hard. If they're not, you need to either do more reps or lift heavier weights.

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At-Home Workout of the Week: Ten Minutes to a Tighter Core

People love washboard abs. A six pack, the kind upon which you could grate cheese, is envied by virtually every human being, even if they do not admit it out loud. So, whether in the privacy of their own home or out in public at the park, people drop to the floor and crunch away. They watch with amazement the infomercials that sell the latest contraption that guarantees results in 30 days, then they run to their wallet, remove the credit card, and call before time runs out for free shipping. In general, people do just about anything to get that look.

But so many don't realize that ab work alone does not produce that slimmed, tightened look. You can eat healthy and do loads of sit-ups, yet you'll never achieve good symmetry and support if all you train are the abdominals. Instead, if you want the complete package, one that not only gives you the best look, but more importantly, provides you with excellent support and posture, you need to think about your core.

The core, the midsection of the body essentially consisting of the abs, the obliques and the lower back serves as a bridge of strength between the upper and lower body. A firm core gives you balance, symmetry, flexibility and posture. So, rather than spending all your time doing crunches, jump out of bed each morning and do these four movements three times a week to create a strong core that will look good at the beach and make your entire body more productive.

Plank: Hold as long as possible. Three sets

Side Plank: Hold as long as possible. Three sets. Vary by raising top leg up six inches or extending top arm into the air.

Supermans: Thirty repetitions each arm and leg. Three sets.

Bridge: Hold for up to 60 seconds. Lower carefully. Three sets.

Three times a week with a good diet and other exercise will tighten you up. Good luck!

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Weekly Guide to Creative Long Distance Runs: Combine your Passions

Ever want to combine parts of life? I know I have. Take a couple of things you love to do and somehow blend them together for the ultimate experience. And while a mind can run wild imagining all the possible combinations, when you are addicted to running, at least one side of the equation is already set.

Fortunately for me, another passion I have is traveling. Whether it is near or far, I adore getting outside of my normal environment to become immersed in some other place, to see new sights, and to experience what I could not have gotten at home. So, I figure why not put these two parts of life, running and traveling, together?

Therefore, if you are incredible, aggressive, and adventurous, try this one on for size. Select a destination about one hundred or so miles away. Not to worry, as I am not saying you have to become an ultra-marathoner overnight. Instead, get three of your runner friends, pack the car, and start....only two people get to ride in the car though.

The other person will run for a predetermined distance. Once that distance has elapsed, then the next person jumps out of the car and carries on the run for the same distance, and then the rotation continues. Thus, you get a nice workout in, and then you have the chance to rest, refuel, and recover before having to hit the pavement yet again.

Continue doing so until you either reach your destination or have maximized the day, in which case you can bed down for the night at an area hotel before rising the next morning and beginning anew. You can play games within the run, also. For example, challenge each other to beat the previous man's time.

In the end, you'll arrive at a place you can all enjoy and look back on a very cool way to get there. Map it out and give it a go. You'll love it.

Yoga/Meditation Technique of the Week: The Plank

Although not technically a yoga pose, practicing the plank is really a great way of improving your yoga practice. The plank is a pilates move and really focuses on strengthening the body's core. It can be incredibly difficult at first and beginners are encouraged to try it in short sets, taking care not to strain their bodies.

To begin with, you will start on your hands and knees, with your arms outstretched in front of you, in a leaping frog sort of position. In a swift movement, you will straighten your legs behind you, lift your body off of the ground, and let your arms support you from underneath. At this point your hands should be directly underneath your shoulders and your arms should be taut. Your feet should rest entirely on the floor and you should resist the urge to lift onto your toes. Your body should be straight and as parallel to the floor as possible.

The most common mistake when doing the plank is the tendency to let the core drag -- to let the belly go soft or to the let the lower back sway. If right away you notice this and cannot correct it easily, it is perhaps because your core is not strong enough yet -- you should try the modified plank as will be described below. Letting the belly drop and the back sway or curve is very dangerous, so be sure to not let this happen.

The modified plank is much like the full plank but is done with the knees on the floor (similar to a modified push up). With your knees on the floor, you will push yourself up again so that your body is as straight as possible and your core muscles are engaged. While it might not feel challenging at first, after you hold this position for about 30-40 seconds you should feel the burn. Those in the full plank should release out of the position after about 30 seconds.

Wearing a watch while practicing yoga is important so that you can watch the time as you perform your poses. Straining to get a glimpse of the clock is not wise given the difficulty of many of the positions. 

Yoga/Meditation Technique of the Week: Tree Pose

A good introduction to the vast world of standing poses is the simple tree pose, or Vrksasana. The tree pose is a good place to start because it requires the mastery of balance-- an essential aspect of the practice of yoga. If you are a little shaky when it comes to balance, try a few of these pointers before we begin.

When attempting to balance, it can be extremely helpful to focus on one point several feet in front of you, at a comfortable position. Focusing on one spot will help your body to center itself. The more you glance around the room, shifting your gaze, the harder it will be to balance. Another tip is to place a finger from one hand on your bellybutton. This also will give you the focus you need to stay calm, still and centered. If you're having trouble with the Tree Pose due to balance issues, try these tips as you practice.

First of all, start in standing position. Take a deep breath, anchor your left foot solidly on the ground, and lift your right foot with your hands. Slowly guide your right foot to rest on the inside of your left leg, as far up to your groin as is comfortable. Let the sole of your foot relax as it rests on your left leg. Relax your pelvis so that it is centered and neutral.

When you are ready, release your hand from your foot and anchor yourself deeper into the pose. Raise your hands above your head, if possible, and take a deep breath. Remain in the Tree Pose for about 30 seconds, if you're able, and then taking a deep breath, let your foot down slowly. Take several breaths in standing position, and when you're ready, repeat the process on the other side.

This exercise can be difficult when wearing socks, so consider taking your socks off for this one-- bare feet provide more traction for the Tree Pose, which can make it easier for beginners. Likewise, the exercise can be easier when done in shorts. Give these shorts a try if you're slipping.

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Exercise Routine Do's & Don'ts for the Week: Working out at Home

When it comes to working out at home, for those people who do not have the time to run off to the gym or just want to supplement what they do in the gym by training elsewhere, the need to understand the basic successes and failures of training becomes paramount, as doing solo work takes away the chance to bounce ideas off those around you. Keeping small tips in your mind as you plan a daily in-house workout can keep you from making needless mistakes and allow you to see progress in a relatively short time. Therefore, take these two suggestions and make them part of your daily plan.

The Do: Always work to improve what you do not do well. All too often people stick to their comfort zones, as they know that some level of achievement can be had. Rather than risk failure, they do the normal routine. The problem that, however, is that routine thwarts progress. To truly progress and strengthen muscles, you need to tackle the movements that give you the greatest difficulty. For example, if you know that pull-ups are nearly impossible, set a goal to improve in that area. It doesn't matter if you can only do one at the start. Keep going and you'll see yourself improve steadily. As a result, you'll not only get stronger and more built, but you'll also enhance your overall confidence.

The Don't: You hear stories of people doing a thousand sit-ups a day. No way. To dispel the common myth around getting that washboard stomach, understand that abs cannot be worked every day; in fact, you should schedule serious ab training no more than three times a week. Do not listen when people claim that abs are different from other muscles and can absorb more abuse. Contrary to that perspective, the abs are just like any other muscle in that, once broken down and depleted, they need time to recover, so give it to them. Moral of the story: Don't train abs on a daily basis, no mater what others say.

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The Best '80s Workout Videos: Getting Fit in Jerusalem with Gilad

One workout guru who has been around since the 1980's is Gilad Janklowicz, better known as Gilad. He started making workout videos in the late 1980's and continues to put out new workouts. One of the best 80's workout videos is his Getting Fit in Jerusalem.

Getting Fit in Jerusalem is geared towards intermediate exercisers but it will have advanced people breaking a sweat as well. Gilad is known for his sweat-inducing aerobic and sculpting workouts and this video doesn't disappoint. The video combines aerobic fat-burning workout routines along with workouts to sculpt the body. It's an all inclusive workout video that can be done on a regular basis and you don't have to worry about getting in a separate cardio or weight session.

Unlike most of Gilad's other workout videos which are taped on the beaches of Hawaii, this one is taped in Jerusalem with the city as the backdrop. The routines are set to live music by a band that combines eastern and western styles to produce an exotic sound that will have you wanting to move your body.

Getting Fit in Jerusalem lasts approximately 55 minutes and has different sessions that concentrate on different areas of the body, as well as aerobic and toning sessions. A person may pick and choose which routines they do, but for an all inclusive workout that will work the entire body, it is recommended that the complete workout be done. These 55 minutes of working out with Gilad will have you sweating like you may have never sweated before.

This workout video has recently been released on DVD which means that you no longer have to look for an old VHS tape from 1987. All you have to do is ignore the funny hairstyles and clothing from the 80's and get sweating with this workout.

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At-Home Workout of the Week: Blasting the Chest

Every person wants a more defined and rigid chest; no one likes the idea of getting flabby. So, as a result, people turn to all types of gadgets and machines to buff up and get the toned look they have always wanted. Yet, for all the knowledge and intelligence floating around out there, it is amazing that people don't see the simplicity of building chest muscles.

You see, the most basic movement in chest work is to push weight away and resist it coming back. Sure the directions and angles can change, but the foundation of push and resist never goes away. Therefore, all you really need to make that chest tighten and grow is a floor and a dedication to the oldest exercise move on the planet: the push-up.

The push-up, which has seemingly gone by the wayside in favor of fancy machines, represents the best overall movement for the chest. Pushing body weight to failure is an intense, satisfying workout. Therefore, follow the chest blasting routine below, complete with five basic positions, in the privacy of your own living room to get the results you've always wanted.

Standard width push-up: Hands a little more than shoulder width apart, lower your body to the floor and then push your body back up to starting position.

Wide width push-up: Just like the standard push-up but with hands extended out underneath the elbows to provide more resistance.

Change of Speed push-up: Complete 3 fast and 3 slow push-ups.

Fly push-ups: Just like the regular position, but with each movement up reach one hand out into a wide position (you will be supporting your weight with one arm) and then complete the motion back down to the starting point. Repeat the process and alternate arms.

Military push-up: Hands beneath the shoulders. Keep elbows tight against the sides.

Do all movements to failure, but keep track of your final number. Write it down so you can chart your progress with each workout. Focus on form over the number completed and repeat the routine multiple times during a single workout to increase the burn. Best of luck!

Check back soon for advanced chest movements.