Workout Wednesday: 5 Things to Bring to the Gym

What should you bring to the gym other than your sneakers and some clothes that you can break a sweat in?  To help make every workout successful and enjoyable, here are five items to bring along with you.

  1. Headphones – Nobody wants to hear Kanye West blasting through your headphones while you’re on the rowing machine.  But listening to music while your exercise is important – just do it at a volume that won’t make you half-deaf!  It’ll help get you through a tough workout and keep you from getting bored.  One of my favorite ways to workout is to push your hardest during each chorus and recover during the rest of the song.  By the time your favorite playlist is over, an hour will have already passed and it’ll be time to hit the shower.
  2. Water Bottle – Drinking water while you exercise is essential.  Of course, you need to hydrate before working out, but continue to do so while you’re sweating buckets.  This will keep your energy high and body fueled.  If you’re working out for more than an hour, consider filling your water bottle with a sports drink!
  3. Towel – This one is easy.  You don’t even have to remember to throw one into your bag.  You can check out a towel at the gym!  When you hand over your One Card to be swiped into the gym, ask for a towel.  Then simply return it when you leave – and be sure to have an employee swipe your card again or you might get charged!
  4. Smart Phone – Ignore the texts and Facebook notifications.  Click here to check out some the latest and greatest apps for your workout.  Your phone can be a great tool to keep you focused on your goals and to help you see results quicker!
  5. Snack – If you’re hitting up the gym between classes or have a meeting to go to after your sweat session, you may not have time to stop by your dorm and grab a bite to eat.  Post-workout nutrition is incredibly important!  Getting a combination of carbohydrates and protein (ideally a 3:1 ratio) will help your muscles recover and rebuild.  Pack a protein bar, a small turkey sandwich or some trail mix.  After you finish on the treadmill and head out the door to whatever your next appointment is, eat a little something.

If you’ve got all these items packed, you will be rockin’ your next workout at the gym.

Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation. Each Wednesday we swap blog posts with the Tar Heel Tone Up blog so that readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Workout Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on tarheeltoneup.com.

Power Poses to Challenge Self-Doubt

This blog post was originally published on March 24, 2015.

I’ve heard it called Impostor Phenomenon or sometimes Impostor Syndrome, but it tends to announce itself more like…”OH MY GAH, YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE DOING DO YOU?! SOMEONE ELSE WOULD HAVE KNOWN EXACTLY WHAT TO DO AND WOULD HAVE DONE THIS WAAAAAY BETTER. THEY’RE GONNA KNOW! THEY’RE ALL GONNA KNOW!” …At least that’s how it shows up in my head.

But whatever you call it, false feelings of not-good-enoughness are pretty common. Google it. Some researchers estimate that as many as 70% of people feel this way at some point in their lives. And while it can happen to anyone, researchers find this phenomenon especially common in women, people of ethnic and racial minorities, and anyone who’s trying something new or who feels different from the people around them.

Common or not, these automatic thoughts of impostordom can stall or stunt a person’s progress in life in major ways. And fears of having one’s “shortcomings” “found out” can keep folks from reaching out and connecting with others who could help.

There are a lot of theories out there about where this comes from and lots of advice for what to do about it, but I happened upon a TED talk the other day that gives scientific evidence to something I’ve learned doing theater.

ITC ensemble members using Image Theater techniques.
ITC ensemble members using Image Theater techniques.

With Interactive Theatre Carolina, we use a range of theatrical tools to help folks better understand themselves and discuss the world we live in. One technique we use is Forum Theatre—sometimes called a “rehearsal for real life,” which seeks to empower regular folks to make courageous and healthy choices by practicing changing the outcomes of problematic scenarios. Another technique we use is called Image Theatre, in which participants strike poses and audience members discuss and analyze the stories and associations the body postures convey. A “picture’s worth a thousand words,” right?

This TED talk references a study in which Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist and researcher at Harvard Business School, reports findings that support that rehearsing for real life…is also real life. She finds that changing our body language not only influences the messages we send to others but also the messages we send to ourselves at the chemical level.

In short, striking powerful poses (poses that open the body and take up space) alters hormone levels—increasing testosterone and decreasing cortisol (a stress hormone)—which results in a person actually feeling more powerful. The opposite happens, as you might imagine, when a person strikes a low-power pose (body closed off and made small). These changes are measurable and almost instant; Cuddy’s subjects only held the poses for 2 minutes.

Will striking a power pose and altering my brain chemistry suddenly make me capable of being the next president? Highly unlikely. But could striking a power pose for a few minutes before leading a presentation help me interrupt some negative self-talk that might otherwise hold me back? Probably.

Check out some of the articles embedded and below for other strategies to get past fears of being an impostor in your own life. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to stand like a starfish for the next 2 minutes and have a brave afternoon.

Workout Wednesday: Prep Your Workout

Do you ever get to the gym and feel somewhat clueless?  Working out isn’t as simple as just showing up and getting into your routine.  Whether you are new to the gym or a veteran, follow this plan to prepare for a workout.  It’ll help you avoid injury, perform your best and see results.

  1. Plan – What will you do at the gym?  Weights, cardio or a combination of both?  Come to your workout with a specific plan.  If you do, you’ll be less tempted to skip out the hard stuff.  If I wait to do my abs after my workout, sometimes I’ll just skip and go back to my dorm a tad early.  Know exactly what you will do and for how long at the gym.  If you’re like me, do your abs before your cardio.  Know which arm exercises and which leg exercises you’ll perform.  Know how many miles you will run on the treadmill or how long your set of sprints will be.  Be prepared!
  2. Fuel – As I’ve stated before, it is incredibly important to have a pre-workout meal.  Maybe “meal” isn’t the right word, but a snack with some carbohydrates is a great way to get your body ready for intense exercise.  Try some fruit, a granola bar or even some toast with peanut butter.  Carbs will fuel your body with the energy it needs to get through any sweat session.
  3. Warm Up – If you’re short on time, it can be tempting to skip the warm up.  Do not, I repeat, DO NOT skip this 5-10 minutes.  If you casually walk into the SRC and go straight into doing heavy squats or extreme sprinting, you can easily hurt yourself.  Skipping these few minutes could force you to skip the gym for months to recover from a major injury like a pulled hamstring or a torn ACL.  Seriously, it happens.  So just save yourself from injury and warm up your muscles prior to an intense workout.
  4. Stretch – You can either do dynamic stretches (like these from Runner’s World – which help warm up your muscles while stretching them) or stretch after warming up your muscles with an easy walk on the treadmill or any light cardio.  Skipping your stretch session could lead to injury.  And, believe it or not, simply holding a stretch for 30 seconds prior to warming up could also damage a muscle.  It is important to warm up while stretching, like through dynamic stretches or warm up slowly and then stretch after.
  5. Get Rest – Sometimes the best way to prepare for a workout is to skip one.  If you’ve been doing intense workouts every day for a week, you should take a day of rest.  Your body needs to recover and rebuild.  You’ll come back to your workout the next day feeling better than ever.

Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation. Each Wednesday we swap blog posts with the Tar Heel Tone Up blog so that readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Workout Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on tarheeltoneup.com.

Workout Wednesday: Run the Distance

Running is no joke.  Adding miles to your “usual distance” is not done overnight.  You may be new to running or you may have completed a few half-marathons and are reaching for a full one.  Endurance is built the same way for runners with all levels of expertise (or lack of).

winter_run_188
A student runs through a pool of winter light in the afternoon at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. – Dan Sears, UNC Chapel Hill

If you’ve been stuck logging the same amount of miles for the last few months, it’s time to step it up.  Challenge yourself to go farther.  Here are some tips on how to build endurance.

  • Strength Train: To go farther, you need to strengthen those muscles.  With power in your legs and arms, you can go the distance.
  • Go Slow: Add distance to at least one run per week, but slow down your pace.  Running slow and steady will help you build up to added miles.  Then once you have the distance down, you can focus on increasing your pace again.
  • Sprint Work: Adding in a day or two of sprints every week can really help your endurance.  Like strength training, it’ll build muscle and make your “normal runs” feel easy, allowing you to go farther.
  • Ab Work: Sure, you use your legs when you run, but endurance comes from your core.  Getting strong abs will give your better running posture, making a long run effortless.
  • Fuel Correctly: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – your body needs carbs prior to cardio.  This will create the energy you need to go for miles and miles.
  • Mantra:  So much of running is mental.  I always have a few mantras in my head to push myself when I feel like I can’t go anymore.  My favorite – Don’t quit when you’re tired. Quit when you’re done.
  • Pump up the Jams: Sometimes running is, er, boring.  Load up your iPod with some fast-paced songs and you won’t even think about how far you’re going!

For some other running motivation – check out these blog posts on Map My Run, Tips for Beginning Runners and The Marathon Club.

 

Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation. Each Wednesday we swap blog posts with the Tar Heel Tone Up blog so that readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Workout Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on tarheeltoneup.com.

Workout Wednesday: Tips for a Health Hike

Fresh air, breathtaking views, and space to explore – these are just a few of the tangible reasons to enjoy an outdoor hike. Engaging your mind and body with a short excursion could also yield health benefits extending beyond physical exercise. Research with nearly 2,000 participants in England found that walking outdoors in a group delivered a significant mood boost as well as lower perceived stress and depression, especially for those experiencing stress from a traumatic life event.

Before lacing up your boots and heading to the trail, take the time to pack and prepare the right way. We’ve compiled a few tips to make your next hike the healthiest to date.

Let’s start with your pack. If your filled backpack weighs more than a few pounds, it’s a good idea to select an ergonomic pack with waist strap capabilities, which will take the bulk of the weight off of your back and distribute it to your torso. When wearing the backpack, adjust the shoulder straps first so that the backpack fits comfortably on your shoulders, and then fasten the waist strap.

Now that your backpack is up to par, let’s examine the contents. Take everything out of your backpack and lay in on a table. Are you bringing any unnecessary items? Think twice before packing the second tube of toothpaste or the heavy binoculars. Ensure that you’ve packed a conservative first aid kit, and one or two plastic bags; these can really come in handy.

The most important part (and my favorite aspect) of hiking is food and hydration. Fill a stainless steel bottle (or two) full of water for the trek. Metal is preferred over plastic, as many plastic bottles can leach small amount of toxic BPA or other chemicals into your water, which means you’ll be drinking those chemicals.

As for snacks, aim for balanced portions. If you’re only hiking 1-3 miles, high protein and low carbohydrate food can be sufficient fuel. Three ideas:

  • Turkey sandwich with spinach and cheese, accompanied with a side of almonds
  • Tuna and high-fiber crackers, completed with an apple and peanut butter
  • Salmon and a whole grain tortilla, topped off with a banana and cheese

Once you’re hiking, remember to make smart choices. Take your trash to go, don’t litter. Watch your step, and adopt a wide stance when scaling steep trails. Finally, look up from the cell phone and enjoy the view! If you keep your eyes peeled, you’re sure to find some wildlife.

Ready to take a weekend hike? Check out UNC Campus Recreation’s outdoor expedition schedule here. Our next trip March 27th-29th is Kayaking Contentnea Creek. See you there!

Follow UNC Campus Recreation on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and be the FIRST to know what’s happening here at UNC Campus Rec!

 

Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation. Each Wednesday we swap blog posts with the Tar Heel Tone Up blog so that readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Workout Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on tarheeltoneup.com.

Workout Wednesday: Seriously, What are Electrolytes?

If you’re like me, you’ve stumbled across dozens of different fancy beverages containing “electrolytes” while looking for a drink to go. “Electrolytes” – this seems to be the fitness drink buzzword nowadays in many popular brands: Smartwater, Gatorade, Powerade, Propel.

energy drinks

But what are electrolytes? How do they fit in the context of your workout, and your life? And should they be in your drink?

Maybe you’ve taken chemistry so you have a general idea of the scientific context of electrolytes (if not, no worries!). Electrolytes are salts, specifically ions. In solution (dissolved in water), these ions conduct electricity. The human body contains cells, organs, and fluids that maintain balance through the use of electrical impulses. The transfer of these impulses depends on the existence of electrolytes and an electric current. It is the job of the kidney to regulate electrolyte concentrations in the bloodstream despite changes in the body. In your body, the major electrolytes include sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium and a few others. Whenever you sweat heavily through exercise, electrolytes are lost – mainly sodium and potassium.

Here’s where the drinks come into play. It’s important to replace these lost electrolytes during and after exercise to maintain body fluids concentrations and stay healthy. Several factors influence which type of drink you should reach for when exercising: duration of exercise, intensity level, body size, environment conditions, and the degree of sweating. For most people performing moderate exercise, drinking just water for hydration will do the job. However, individuals working out for longer periods of time (in the ballpark of more than 1.5 hours) at a more intense level may need to replenish electrolytes in addition to hydration. Drinks with electrolytes sound like a great idea, right? However, many sports drinks are also filled with sugar, which ultimately cause more harm than help.

Here’s the bottom line – choose your drink carefully. Read the label, and choose a drink with very little sugar content. Bottled coconut water is a great natural option for electrolyte replenishment if you’re heading out to for some very intense exercise. But for most cases, water is the best option. If you have more detailed concerns, research your specific question or talk to your doctor.

Here at Campus Rec, we celebrate self-acceptance. We also encourage you to make the best choices to take care of your body. Whether you’re at home playing tennis with friends or walking to class through “The Pit,” remember to stay hydrated with a smart choice!

 

Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation. Each Wednesday we swap blog posts with the Tar Heel Tone Up blog so that readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Workout Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on tarheeltoneup.com.

The Best Time of the Day to Work Out

So when is the ideal time of day to exercise? In short – there isn’t one. The answer for YOU depends on an array of factors. The American Heart Association recommends “at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity.” However, there are benefits for working out at certain times. Let’s break it down.

Silhouette woman run under blue sky with clouds

If you have trouble falling asleep at night, then a morning workout could help. A recent study from Appalachian State University revealed that moderate-intensity exercise at 7am can help adults (and perhaps college students too!) sleep longer with deeper sleep cycles. And sleep is the ultimate restorative mechanism. When resting, your body repairs muscles, sorts through memories, and maintains heart health. Also – morning exercise can help with consistency. If you make the habit, you will be much likelier to stick with it. Maybe your friend who swears by a 6am run is onto something.

If high performance is your goal, then an afternoon exercise session could be the best fit. Using a group of cyclists, researchers found in another study that 6pm workouts resulted in higher performance than 6am workouts. What does this mean for you? If your preferred form of exercise is walking on the treadmill, then you can likely work out at any time of the day without much difference. However, afternoon running, biking, or swimming workouts could give you better results.

Ready to get your work out on? Check out all of the UNC fitness opportunities, including facility hours, on the brand new Campus Rec Interactive Calendar.

 

Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation. Each Wednesday we swap blog posts with the Tar Heel Tone Up blog so that readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Workout Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on tarheeltoneup.com.

Club Sports and Intramurals: A great way to get some exercise and become involved!

This blog post was originally published on December 9, 2014.

With the end of the semester come finals, and often, lots of stress. But the good news is at the end of the week you are done (congratulations)! Whether you finish strong or limp across the finish line, the semester is over and you cannot change the past. What you can do is enjoy your time off, get some rest, and look to the future and a fresh start in January. And if I may, I would like to make a recommendation for the spring semester: do something new and something that will help you with all that stress that school can bring. Become part of some sort of extracurricular physical activity, preferably one that gets your heart rate up.

Photo: Going up for the frisbee in the fog by Nathan Rupert, Flickr Creative Commons.
Photo: Going up for the frisbee in the fog by Nathan Rupert, Flickr Creative Commons.

Now before you say, “I don’t have time for exercise,” or “but I don’t like to exercise,” stop. One, you do have time for a little exercise, but often you will not do it unless you set aside a time for it. If you continually say, “I will exercise when I have free time,” you will always find something else you could be doing. Additionally, if you have hours and hours each month to check Facebook, tweet, Instagram, watch movies, online shop, play video games, or any other things that your normal day entails, then you likely have time for some exercise. Second, exercise will help all the other parts of your life as well. So many studies show that exercise not only improved physical health, but mental health as well including stress and depression. And if you don’t like to exercise, fear not! There are many options for exercising that don’t feel like a chore, including many club sports and intramural activities.

For me, physical activity means getting into the Carolina North Forest for runs, and joining road bike group rides in Chapel Hill. In addition to this, last year I joined the UNC Cycling Team, which includes a wide variety of individuals who have all different ability levels and who enjoy all different types of biking. Maybe this is something you would like to try, but if not, there are so many opportunities to participate in club sports, and intramural activities here at UNC. These include: basketball, soccer, tennis, ultimate Frisbee, football, rugby, and so many more. These are great opportunities to meet people, create social networks, and get exercise at the same time. These also can be really helpful for motivation on those days when you would rather just curl up in bed, but you know that getting some exercise would be good for you and you would enjoy doing it once you got out there. Not everyone is self-motivated, however, how or why you get out there is not the important thing, but rather that you get out there.

Olympian Tours Colorado Trip (by Jed Hinkley)
Olympian Tours Colorado Trip (by Jed Hinkley)

So, if you’ve wanted to become involved with some sort of sport or activity, there’s no time like the present. This is the perfect time and there are so many options to choose from. After all, college is about trying new things and meeting new people. It is also about becoming immersed in the culture and involved with the school. What better way to do that then with a bunch of other students, faculty, and staff that like doing the same things that you do. Your heart, your head, and your grades will be better for it.

Spring Break Fitness Reboot

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No matter how true our intentions are, sometimes we fail to stick to our healthy habits. Be it daily exercise, vigilant hydration, or eating enough fruits and vegetables, it can be tough to stick to our positive habits. With Spring Break around the corner, this is an opportune time to re-dedicate to health and fitness habits.

Here are a few simple tips to get back on the fitness bandwagon:

  1. Go slow! Give your body time to readjust to the fitness habit. If you push yourself too hard too soon, you risk injury. Start with a vigorous walk or a light jog. If you are lifting weights, start each set with lighter weights than you’re used to, so your body can adjust to the movement.
  1. Focus on flexibility. Light stretches help increase blood to target muscles, while assisting with joint mobility and range of motion. This can help you avoid injury when starting to exercise anew.
  1. Do what you can, and forget the rest. In huge mega-gyms, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the multitude of machines and weights. Instead of taking it all in at once, create a simple plan for yourself within your limits. Look beyond the super-fit triathletes and the 20-something bodybuilders to your own capabilities. An all-or-nothing mindset may discourage you.
  1. Begin with an easy goal. Employ “SMART” goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.
  1. Hydration: take a water bottle with you wherever you go, and drink often. A good rule of thumb is to drink a glass right after you wake up and before you go to bed, a glass between meals, and a glass before meals.

 

Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation. Each Wednesday we swap blog posts with the Tar Heel Tone Up blog so that readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Workout Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on tarheeltoneup.com.

Ease Your Way Back Into Working Out With Campus Rec

At this time of year, there are plenty of things that could be keeping you from working out regularly. Midterms and projects are beginning to sap away all of your free time to be used for studying and various sicknesses are striking down students on campus left and right. Thankfully, I don’t get sick very often, but this year my immediate family all had the misfortune of passing some week-long terrible cold or flu virus from one to the other in the past month. I typically work really hard to make room in my schedule for exercise several days each week, but working out was the very last thing on my mind while I was sick.

It’s amazing how much of an effect ten days of sickness or of no exercising in general can have on your body when you try to start exercising again! The feeling of trying to catch up to your former fitness level can be discouraging and exhausting, especially if you make the mistake of trying to jump right back into your routine!

Luckily, Campus Rec offers so many fitness options that you can use to help you build up your endurance again after a workout hiatus for any reason!

Group Fitness Options:

Aquatics

  1. Start with yoga or Tai Chi. You probably don’t want to jump back into intense cardio or strength classes immediately. Both classes still provide great workouts that will increase your strength and help you feel active again without requiring any jumping around, weights, or heavy breathing.
  2. Next, try pilates! Pilates uses a lot of similar movements to yoga, but provides a slightly faster pace, more strength exercises, and increases the cardio intensity just a bit.
  3. Zumba is a great option to start re-building your cardio endurance. You’ll be up on your feet and moving around during the entire class, but there are no weights involved and no specific intense cardio intervals that could send your recovering lungs into a tizzy.
  4. Barre is a great option for increasing your strength, because you literally have a ballet barre to hold onto for support during the class. Don’t let that fool you into thinking that this class won’t offer a great challenge and leave you feeling strong and accomplished, though!
  5. Upper body conditioning and lower body conditioning are great classes to focus on strength exercises while incorporating only short bursts of cardio. Prepare yourself for some sore muscles after these classes, though! You may want to choose lighter weights than usual if you’re still trying to recover your strength!
  6. You’ll want to save Kickboxing, 3-2-1, BOSU Strength/Cardio Circuit, Muscle Cut, Absolution, KickHIIT, and Cycle classes until you’re feeling completely healthy, energized, and up for a challenge! These classes will push you to your limits and really help you gain both cardio and strength endurance after only a few classes!

Find the group fitness class schedule here!

Non-Group Fitness Options:

Group Exercise

  • First, remember that your own health and fitness is not a competition, so don’t worry about feeling like you have to keep up with the people around you in the gym! After being sick for a week, I couldn’t work out nearly as hard as most other people in the group fitness classes I attended, and that’s ok! What matters most is respecting how your body is feeling, so you don’t push yourself too far and make matters worse!
  • Instead of running, try just walking on the treadmill and then gradually increasing your speed to a short run when you feel like you can! Stationary bikes are another great option because they allow you to sit down while you get in an awesome cardio workout.
  • Just because you could lift a certain weight or do a certain number of squats last week doesn’t mean that you have to do the same amount this week! Accept the fact that you may need to work your way back up to your goal.
  • Create your own workout in the studios upstairs in the SRC! Grab a mat, listen to some music on your phone, and create a self-paced workout using dumbbells, steps, and the big exercise balls – all available to you in the studios when group fitness classes aren’t in progress!
  • Go for a swim! Sure, it’s definitely chilly outside, but Bowman Gray Pool is heated, and swimming is wonderfully easy on your joints and muscles. Bundle up, grab a friend, and head to the pool, or go on your own and enjoy the quiet and the feeling of the water supporting your weight!
  • Remember to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and to take days off as you need it if you become sore or you didn’t get enough sleep the night before!

Judging by the constant sounds of coughing, sneezing and sniffling present in all of my classes lately, I know I’m not the only one who has been feeling a bit under the weather! If you’ve been sick lately, or you just haven’t been able to get comfortably back into a fitness routine in the midst of another busy semester, consider giving yourself a chance to ease into working out with Campus Rec. Our fitness facilities and group fitness classes are waiting to help you establish healthy habits and reach your fitness goals!

 

Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation. Each Wednesday we swap blog posts with the Tar Heel Tone Up blog so that readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Workout Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on tarheeltoneup.com.