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Build a Great Home Gym Without Breaking the Bank

   

Today’s article on how to build a home gym was written by guest author Harry Wilson. If you’d like to get in touch with Harry please check out his contact info at the end of the article.

       
home gym
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Everyone leads such busy lives in today’s wired world.

Just grabbing the time to travel to and from the gym is often excuse enough to postpone the session. That’s before you’ve even thought about working out!

More and more people want to build a home gym on a budget.

We’ll give you some handy hints on creating a suitable exercise environment at home without the need for fancy equipment like inversion tables or recumbent bikes.

First Thing’s First

Before heading off to buy anything at all, there are 5 simple pointers to think about.

  • Motivation: Home gyms are not for everyone. Some people need the discipline of an organized schedule or they lose interest and momentum. If you embrace a healthy, active lifestyle and have plenty of motivation, a home gym is cost-effective and saves you time. Be honest with yourself. Is this you?
  • It’s Not A Race: Assembling a worthwhile home gym can take years. Start methodically with the essentials. Build as you progress.
  • Reasons For Training: Analyze why you are working out. Is it for general cardio, weight loss or strength training? Perhaps it’s a combination or maybe some resistance training? Be clear about what you want.
  • Space: You’ll ideally find a dedicated space or room in your house. As long as you have space for your equipment and a full-length mirror, you’re good to go.
  • Budget: Work out how much you can afford to spend initially and stick to your budget. You can buy more equipment over time.

Equipment

1) Weight Bench, Olympic Barbell, Weight Plates

The trusty bench and barbell should be the staple of any home gym if you want to lift weights.

This is heavy and bulky so buying this equipment online is a wise idea.

When using a barbell alone always be extremely careful not to overdo it. It’s always best to have someone close by to spot you.

2) Dumbbells

If you want to use free weights, a good set of dumbbells is a sound investment.

Dumbbells are incredibly versatile. You can use them with or without the bench. For superb strength training, use these weights either individually or paired up.

You can choose from hundreds of exercises and target all muscles.

Boredom is the enemy of progress when you’re working out so mix it up with a good pair of dumbbells. Keep your muscles guessing and growing.

3) Kettlebell

A third option for weights is a kettlebell.

Made from cast metal, this resembles a cannonball with a handle grip.

The traditional Russian version weighs 16kg. If you are ready to lift some serious weights, kettlebells are fantastic for squats, swings and other ballistic movements.

4) Rack

With all these weights, you’ll need a solid rack if you work out hard.

Seek out a rack which takes attachments so you can add on a pull-up bar and get more bang for your buck while saving space too.

5) Punch Bag

In addition to promoting high-intensity workouts, punch bags are a wonderful way to vent the stresses of modern life.

Put your body through its paces while also clearing your mind.

6) Rowing Machine

If you want a great cardio session that will benefit your arms, legs and torso, a rowing machine is a smart choice.

As well as the health benefits, rowing machines are generally lightweight and easy to fold up so they make a great addition to any home gym.

7) Elliptical Machine

Unless you are lucky enough to live in a mansion, space will invariably be an issue in most home gyms.

Rather than opting for a straight exercise bike, why not choose an elliptical machine instead?

Whether you want to tone up or lose weight, ellipticals offer a full-body workout and a fantastic burst of cardio.

8) Stability Ball

A stability ball, often known as a Swiss ball, looks like an oversized, reinforced beach ball.

These are great for really testing your abs, improving balance and stability.

An added bonus is that stability balls help with rehabilitation of hip, back or knee injuries.

9) Ab Wheel

These inexpensive and ingenious devices merit a place in any home gym.

An ab wheel is great for fully body tension exercises alongside its intended purpose of honing your six-pack.

This really will be ten dollars very well spent.

10) Mirror

Last but by no means least is that full-length mirror.

This is not a question of vanity. Form is everything when you are training.

Pick yourself up a mirror and make sure that, rather than rushing through your reps, you watch yourself closely. Perform each move slowly, deliberately and to the best of your ability rather than obsessing about numbers.

Wrap-Up

OK, you now have the makings of a highly respectable home gym.

Remember, don’t think you need to accumulate all of the above equipment at once…

Go slowly, focus on what you need most and enjoy!

Harry WilsonAuthor Bio

My name is Harry Wilson. I’m the author of www.goodhealthplanning.com. Whether it’s workout routines, diet ideas or a guide to the equipment you need, we’ll help you get in the best shape possible. Follow my twitter: @ghealthplanning

Running in the Morning – Tips to get Out the Door

   

Today’s article on running in the morning was written by guest author Dan Chabert. If you’d like to get in touch with Dan please check out his contact info at the end of the article.

       
running in the morning
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Many people – myself included – often have the best of intentions to start their day with a workout. The day soon gets away from them, so they think that they’ll work-out after work.  When that doesn’t happen they say they’ll work-out after dinner.  When that doesn’t happen they say they’ll just do something short and sweet before bed, at home.  And when that doesn’t happen they relegate themselves to the couch, binging on Netflix and ice cream, and feeling bad about themselves. Sound familiar?

Without a doubt, we’re all busy people. I don’t know a single person who has so much free time on his or her hands that he or she complains about regularly being bored. With work, parenting, family obligations, school, and whatever other life commitment that pops up, many of us may feel like we don’t have the time or the opportunity to properly take care of ourselves.  Whether it’s eating right and exercising regularly  it’s not so much a matter of willpower as it is a matter of time management. If only I had a 25th hour, we say…

I’ve read studies that suggest that people’s willpower is at its highest levels in the morning, which means for many people that the likelihood of them making positive, healthy decisions – such as exercising – is more apt to happen earlier, rather than later, in the day. I’m one of those people. Experience has taught me again and again that if I don’t figure out a way to get my run in in the a.m. hours, it’s safe to assume that it’s not going to happen at all.

I’m guest posting on Former Fitness Flunky today because I want to share with you some of my best practices for developing a morning fitness routine. I’ll couch my suggestions specific to running, but the same principles hold true for any fitness routine you can complete. Running in the morning is completely doable, but it takes not only the ambition and drive to stick with it day after day but also a hefty amount of deliberate planning. Before you quickly dismiss me and claim that you’re not a morning exerciser and will never be one, I implore you: try it! You may find that exercising most mornings becomes the difference between you entering into a regular fitness routine and you continuing to falter and planning to start “next Monday.” Hear me out, and give running in the morning a chance.

Before You Go to Sleep at Night

Set multiple (and I mean multiple!) alarms.

My experiences have taught me the value in setting many alarms to ensure that I wake-up to run in the early morning hours, and this was especially true for me when I was in the process of developing my habit for the first time. If you’re going to be waking-up much earlier than you usually do, setting more than one alarm – at least initially – will be wise. It goes without saying, but unless you’re working third shift, set your alarms for the A.M. hours, not P.M. (You’d think that’d be obvious, but alas…).

Prepare all your gear.

It can be a nuisance to take the time before you go to bed to lay-out all your workout attire (such as your shoes, watch, clothes, and the like), but before you start to complain about this tedious extra step, think of it in different terms.  If spending 10 minutes at night putting out your clothes ensures that you can sleep for at least 20 extra minutes in the morning – and save you extra time fumbling around your house looking for an errant sock – is it worth it? (Unequivocally, yes!).

You could even literally sleep in your workout attire if you wanted. Even consider setting timers on your coffeemaker, so it goes off when you’ll be getting up in the morning (or shortly beforehand), and prepare your pre- and post-workout food so when you get up and get going, you’ll be ready to get moving straightaway. You’ll find that you’ll be able to streamline your morning process, thanks to lots of trial and error, the more you do it. Don’t get discouraged if you miss something the first time around.

Just go to bed.

Social media is great for a lot of things, but it’s definitely not great for helping us fall asleep at night. If I’m not careful – and maybe this is the same for you – “just checking” my social media channels before bed usually sucks a good 45+ minutes of sleep away from me because I get lured into watching videos that I don’t need to watch or taking silly quizzes that I don’t need to take. When you’re going to be waking-up early in the morning to run, you need to do everything in your power to ensure that you’re getting adequate amounts of sleep each night, and perusing social media does not help.

You might even want to consider setting hard-and-fast boundaries for yourself for technology usage in bed, such as limiting yourself to a set amount of time or cutting yourself off from it entirely. After a while, once you get used to waking up early to run/exercise, you’ll likely find that when you get into bed each night, you actually want to go to sleep, anyway. Plus, when you’re first getting started, consider getting into bed a little earlier than normal each night, even if it’s only a 20- or 30-minute difference. Sleep is critical for all of us, but it’s especially important for early risers. Don’t shortchange yourself!

The Morning Of

Initially, it will probably stink. Expect it.

Unless you are a naturally early riser, those first few early wake-up calls will probably be rough, and you’ll probably question your motivation, if not also your sanity, for waking up early to run. My experiences have taught me that it’s easier to just accept and acknowledge that those first few times will probably be mildly horrible; once you accept it and even anticipate it, it’s really not so bad. This adjustment period takes time to get accustomed to, but once you are, you’ll probably find that getting up early just becomes part of your routine, something that you do without question.

Anytime we do something different from how we usually do things, there’s typically a learning curve involved, and once we figure things out, it’s not so bad after all. Give yourself a chance here, and I implore you: don’t be so quick to write off early morning workouts based on your first few experiences (especially if it means the difference between you working out and not working out at all). When your alarms start to buzz, cue your inner Bob Marley and get up and stand up;it’s that easy. Exercising in the morning is a tremendous way to wake-up, and you’ll probably find that it puts you in a great mood for the rest of the day, too.

Research the weather, if necessary, but nothing else.

Like I mentioned before, social media is a killer time-suck, and if you “just check” your social media channels in the morning, before you exercise, you may lose your opportunity to run altogether. If anything, if applicable, check the weather so you ensure that you’re dressed appropriately for the elements outside, but that’s it. Don’t let the internet sabotage your workout opportunity; unfortunately, I’m speaking from experience on this one. Your email, Facebook, twitter, Instagram, blog – whatever – can all wait until you return.

Make it a group effort for (more) fun and safety.

When you’re an early morning runner, you might find that you feel more motivated to get up and get out there when your friend is doing the same – and is waiting on you to show up. Plus, you may also find that you feel safer if you’re hitting the roads with someone else, whether it’s your best friend or your furry, four-legged friend. If you go out with someone else, you’ll probably find that the time flies by, and it’ll help you get your day off to a great start.

Be as safe as possible.

Last but certainly not least, when you are exercising in the pre-dawn hours outside, it is critical that you ensure your own personal safety because your life could be on the line, as over-dramatic as that may sound. Invest in some safety accouterments to help make yourself be visible to others when it’s dark outside – such as apparel with reflective elements, a reflective vest, a headlamp, knuckle lights, and some sort of personal identification (like a RoadID) – so that other pedestrians and motorists can see you from afar.

Running with a buddy (person or canine) can help with safety, as well, but be sure to also use common sense. Don’t run somewhere in the dark that you haven’t run in the daytime before, and trust your instincts. Consider, also, running with your phone and without listening to music. Lastly, while black is incredibly slimming, don’t wear all black on your morning runs because you’ll be hard to see.

Before you write yourself off as not being a “morning runner” or exerciser, give running in the morning a try for a while. You can literally help yourself plan for success by doing a fair bit of planning in order to make morning exercise a habit. The longer you keep at it and give it a try, the more opportunities you’ll find that you can streamline, distractions that you can eliminate, and processes that you can strengthen. In time, I bet you’ll even come to enjoy your early-morning workouts/runs and look forward to them … and wonder what took you so long to try it in the first place.

See you out there, fellow sunrise chaser.

Dan ChabertAuthor Bio

Writing from Copenhagen, Denmark, Dan is an entrepreneur, husband and ultramarathon distance runner. He spends most of his time on runnerclick.com and gearweare.com and he has been featured on runner blogs all over the world.

 

How Cold Therapy Can Help You Burn Fat

   
Cold Therapy
Credit: Photodune

Today’s article on cold therapy was written by guest author Jon Newby. If you’d like to contact Jon please check out his social media and contact info at the end of the article.

       

In recent years there has been encouraging evidence that a practice called cold therapy has many potential health benefits, not the least of which is natural weight loss. Uncomfortable as exposure to the cold may be, research suggests that doing so can help us tap into deep, natural mechanisms of burning fat.

The key to understanding weight loss via cold therapy is how brown fat cells work. Until 2009 we were only aware of white fat cells in humans, but Harvard Medical School found that we also have brown fat cells. Simply put, white fat cells store fat while brown fat cells burn fat and continue to do so even after strenuous exercise! So, while both cells serve important functions, managing the ratio of white to brown fat cells is important. This study also suggests that the hormone irisin, which is released during exercise, may help to produce brown fat.

Increasing brown fat cells is the goal, and fortunately we have evidence for how cold therapy can help us do just that! Researchers at UC Berkeley discovered a protein called Zfp516, which is essential for the formation of brown fat. Two mice were both given a high fat diet, but one mouse was injected with a boosted level of Zfp516. Amazingly the mouse injected with this protein gained 30% less weight compared to the wild type, or control mouse!

The study also found that the mouse with the boosted Zfp516 had on average 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit higher body temperature than that of the control mouse when both were exposed to 39.2 degrees Fahrenheit for four hours. It appears that the conversion of white fat to brown fat is induced by cold.

We know that babies have a higher level of brown fat and that it tends to diminish with age. It’s a matter of “use it or lose it”. The modern comforts we enjoy probably aren’t helping much either. Compared to our ancestors, we’re able to get food and stay warm almost without lifting a finger (except to feed ourselves)!

The good news is that our bodies are still amazingly adaptive to the cold. We’ve just got to take advantage of this process, but how exactly?

It’s hard to put precise figures on the temperature and duration of cold therapy vs calories burned. However we now have the evidence that cold therapy works for weight loss! A study at UCSF explains that simply sitting in room at about 61 degrees Fahrenheit without a jacket will have you burning fat.

While there are certainly a lot of ways to get chilly, there are three methods I read about which I really like. Please bear in mind that if you’re unsure cold therapy is for you, then you should by all means speak to your physician first.

Cold Showers

Water draws heat from your body many times more efficiently than air does, so taking cold showers is a great method of cold therapy. It’s something you’re already doing every day, which makes it an easy habit to develop. Of course, getting doused with freezing water is not fun, unless you’re watching it happen to someone else (think ice bucket challenge). You’ll probably start breathing quickly, but there’s no need to panic. That’s the immersion reflex, which helps you take in more oxygen which is important for thermogenesis. And remember, you don’t have to make it excruciatingly cold in there, but it’s got to wake you up! You might also find that you get a healthy boost to your mood when you’re done.

Cold Workouts

As we know, exercising produces the hormone irisin, and exposure to the cold increases the protein Zfp516, both of which are used to make brown fat cells. Exercising at home in a chilled room or simply going out for a run in brisk weather may compound your effort to lose weight. Just remember to warm up your muscles first!

Ice Baths

If you’re feeling a little more daring, then you might fill your tub with cold water and ice and then slide in. There is less control over the temperature here, so be careful to not overdo it. Be sure to monitor the temperature with a thermometer. Ice baths are more intense but are nonetheless effective for stimulating the production of brown fat and even soothing injuries.

Please consult with your doctor before beginning any fitness or exercise program, including one using cold therapy, to ensure you are safely able to participate.

Author Bio
Jon Newby is a writer at National Fitness Outlet, which provides education, inspiration and tools for fitness success! You can follow National Fitness Outlet on Twitter or Facebook.

Guest Post: Shape up with the Best Health Insurance Plan

   
Shape up with the Best Health Insurance Plan
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Today’s article on Shaping up with the Best Health Insurance Plan was written by guest author Tina Hamilton. If you’d like to contact Tina please check out her social media and contact info at the end of the article.

       

Whether you are young or old, staying in shape is critical to increasing the odds of a long and happy life.

With that said, you would think that more Americans would make sure they had all their ducks in a row when it comes to taking care of them. Unfortunately, too many studies/reports show that being in tip-top shape is not all that common for many folks, with millions officially coming in as being out of shape.

So, if you’re one of the millions of Americans who is not in the best of shape, how can you change that? More importantly, why should you change that?

Fitness Matters to Your Long-Term Health

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that taking care of one’s self is the smart thing to do.

As everyone ages, their bodies have to deal with numerous breakdowns in bone strength and structure, energy levels, and overall ability to recover from injuries and/or illnesses. As a result, being in tip-top shape can certainly become more of a challenge.

With the fitness challenges that come with aging, it is important for individuals to make sure they are eating an exercising properly, taking preventative steps to avoid injuries and illnesses wherever possible, and also being insured against such problems.

Now, ask yourself if you have the proper health insurance plan in place should you need to use it? If the answer is no, you have some work to do.

Make Your Finances Healthier with the Right Coverage

Over the last couple of years, the implementation of “Obamacare” has meant many things for many people.

Most importantly, having access to ACA subsidies and other health insurance options improves the odds of better and sustained good health for millions.

As part of your efforts to cover all your bases, keep the following in mind:

  • Fitness – You can’t get yourself in shape if you call the couch home, make never-ending trips to the refrigerator, or do things such as smoking or drinking routinely. Create a fitness plan that not only helps you get in shape, but one that will motivate you. This can include finding a workout partner or partners, giving you more of an incentive to put in the time and effort;
  • Insurance – With the right health insurance plan in place, you lessen the chances of a major financial setback should you fall ill or be seriously injured. This is also true as it relates to your fitness plans to get in better shape. One major mistake individuals make is trying to get into shape too quickly. As a result, injuries are more likely to happen. Take your time to improve your fitness (see below), while also making sure you are financially covered;
  • Goals – Finally, set fitness goals for you from day one and review them regularly. With goals in mind, you can pace yourself and arrive at the desired fitness pinnacle without a ton of problems along the way.

Tina Hamilton HeadshotAuthor Bio:
Tina Hamilton is a journalist, blogger and social media guru. You can usually find her online or walking along one of Southern California’s beaches with her dog, Joey. You also find her on Twitter.

Guest Post: The Difference between Whey, Soy and Casein Protein Powders

   
The Difference between Whey, Soy and Casein Protein Powders
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Today’s article, The Difference between Whey, Soy and Casein Protein Powders, was written by guest author Rick Grimes. If you’d like to contact Rick please check out his social media and contact info at the end of the article.

       

If you’re at all into fitness, exercising, bodybuilding or just a general health enthusiast, then you’ve no doubt heard about the importance of protein. You may have even heard about it a little too often, considering the popularity of this, sometimes misunderstood, compound.

People love to talk about protein, especially protein powders. If you’ve ever stepped foot inside a gym, you’re probably aware of protein powder. It’s that liquid in those fancy shaker cups everyone is carrying around.

Protein powder is one of the most polarizing supplements out there. Some people take it, some don’t. Some people love it and others hate it. Some swear it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread and others swear it’ll kill you in your sleep.

The truth is, protein powder is rather harmless and has plenty of benefits, especially for those of us who are staying active and beating up our bodies in the gym.

So let’s take a closer look into the three most popular and often used protein powders: Whey, Casein and Soy.

What is protein and why do you need so much of it?

So first let’s take a quick look at what protein actually is and why it’s so important for the human body.

I’m going to skip the technical definition that you can get from a quick google search and simply say that protein is one of the building blocks of our bodies. It’s in just about every single body part, from muscle and bones to hair and skin.

Protein is made up of 20 chemicals called amino acids. 11 of these are created by our bodies, but 9 (referred to as essential amino acids) must be consumed through food. This is why protein powder is so useful, it gives you a full dose of all 20 of these amino acids in a quick shake.

There are three major protein powders that you can utilize into your routine depending on your goals and a few other factors that I’ll go over below.

What is Whey Protein Powder?

Whey protein powder is the most popular of the three, most likely because it is the fastest digesting protein, making it useful for people who exercise heavily.

Whey is found in milk and dairy foods (as is casein). In milk, over 20% of the protein is whey.

Another reason why whey is popular is because it is classified as a complete protein, meaning it comes packed with all 20 of the essential amino acids that our bodies require. This makes whey protein a staple in bodybuilding, since it does just an awesome job of repairing and building your muscles quickly after your workouts.

Who can benefit from whey?

Whey protein powder is beneficial to anyone who needs extra protein in their diet, but especially those who need it to be fast acting. This can include bodybuilders, athletes, runners or anyone who performs a lot of intense activity that breaks down their muscles.

What is Soy Protein Powder?

Soy protein is the most different of the three, reason being is because it comes from a plant (soybeans) whereas the other two come from milk.

Soybeans have zero cholesterol and are very low in fat, making soy protein a good choice for the health conscious among us. Soy protein is often popular among women and vegetarians. It is helpful in reducing LDL cholesterol, risk of heart problems and helps to make other foods you intake more effective.

Soy is often not necessary if you’re taking a whey or casein powder and it is most beneficial for vegetarians/vegans who want the extra protein per day but don’t like the idea of it coming from dairy products.

What is Casein Protein Powder?

Whereas whey protein makes up 20% of milk, the other 80% is known as casein. The main difference in the 2 is that casein digests much slower than whey does in the human body. This has its benefits. Along with being anti-catabolic it also contains calcium which is crucial for bone health and body composition.

While casein is great for times such as, before bed and with meals, it’s slow digestion rate makes it a bad choice for pre and post training.

Who can benefit from casein protein?

Realistically anyone who is benefiting from whey protein can also benefit from casein. Many fitness buffs will recommend you take both. Whey before and after your workouts and casein right before bedtime or with your meals.

Since it is slow digesting, taking casein before bedtime is a great idea because your body is asleep for 8-10 hours and it can use that time to digest and absorb the casein which will reduce the risk of a catabolic state.

How to Pick the Right Protein Powder

Choosing a supplement can be difficult considering the amount of products out on the market right now. It can get confusing, especially for beginners. Luckily we live in an era of the most advanced information technology in history. Using the internet to narrow down your choices is a wonderful way to make sure you’re not wasting your money.

Check out Top 10 Supplement Rankings as a good starting point for your research. It lists the top 10 supplements by category and has some great selections for whey, soy and casein protein powders.

A few things to look for in a protein product:

  • The amount of protein
  • The amount of BCAAs
  • Limited Sugar
  • Price
  • Brand quality
  • User Reviews and Feedback
  • Reviews from blogs and youtube

Wrapping Up

Hopefully this article has given you some insight into the major differences between the 3 most popular protein powders on the market. But always remember, supplements are just that, supplements. The best source of protein is and always will be food and natural sources. Taking a protein isn’t dangerous, but it can be if you start to rely on it for all your nutritional intake.

Never let supplements be your main source of nutrition. Always meet your daily protein needs with healthy meats, dairy and vegetables and only add in a powder if you really need to. I’d recommend speaking with your doctor first also, they’ll be able to help you make a better decision on whether you actually need a protein powder in your routine or not.

Thanks for reading!

rick-grimes-author-avatarAuthor Bio:
Rick Grimes is an ex-soccer pro who is in love with health and fitness. He enjoys writing, reading, blogging, hiking and most of all fishing. You can find more of his work over at his supplement info website or his Google Plus page.