Tag Archives: workout

Hold it! A Static Circuit Workout


For those of you deep into the January doldrums, for whom the enthusiasm for the New Year and all of its promise has already waned, I offer to you today a simple but effective workout.

And while it may not instantly transport you to a beach with a beautiful, golden-lit sunset, it probably will make you feel better.

Baby steps, people.

This workout is a static circuit.

Static?  What’s that about?

Each of the five exercises in this circuit don’t require any movement.  You simply hold the body form– this type of exercise is known as an isometric exercise because even though the muscle isn’t moving through a range of motion, it is still under stress (this is a good thing) which is necessary for muscle growth.

This workout is five exercises done one right after the other, three times through.  The total workout time is fifteen minutes.

The first circuit is 30 seconds/exercise.

The second circuit is 60 seconds/exercise.

The third circuit is 90 seconds/exercise.

That’s right…it gets harder as you get more tired.

(How delightfully wicked of me!)

In order, the exercises are: plank, wall sit, v-sit, cobra, bridge (lift & hold).

If you know how to do those exercises, rock and roll.  If you don’t click on each one to be taken to a short video with Yours Truly espousing form cues and tips for modifications.

Let me know how you liked this workout.  Sometimes not moving much is a harder workout than you’d expect!

Good health and great happiness to you!


Marathon Training Plan Review: Smart Marathon Training

This post is the first in a series of four blog posts that reviews different marathon training plans.  I hope to offer a very brief synopsis of each training plan along with my editorial comment about what I perceive are the plans’ strengths and weaknesses.  All opinions are mine.  As we like to say in distance running: your mileage may very.

Jeff Horowitz’s book Smart Marathon Training espouses a simple premise that is also the books subtitle: run your best without running yourself ragged.

Sounds great, right?!

The Basics

Smart Marathon Training is based on three runs per week, each of which has a specific focus and intention.  The types of runs are broken down into Hill Workouts, Speed Workouts, Tempo Runs, and Long Runs.  These types of runs are familiar to anyone who has done distance training, and Horowitz explains their purposes clearly for the novice.  The goal is to eliminate junk miles (miles a runner runs without any real purpose other than to go out and run) in an effort to combat overtraining and burnout.  The book includes six training plans for the half-marathon and marathon distances.

The Differentiator

Smart Marathon Training adds to the three runs per week a prescriptive cross-training regimen and strength training program.  Horowitz makes a sound case for the merits of cycling as cross-training, and the program assumes you will follow his advice and get on the bike to supplement your overall fitness.  The book also includes two chapters devoted a very specific strength training program.

The Pros

The training schedule is neatly laid out on two facing pages of the book.  It is clear, easy to read, and logically progressive.  This may not sound like much, but given how many different components there are to this plan (11), the fact that it is graphically pleasing is a real accomplishment.

The photos and descriptions of the strength training exercises are, for me, the best part of the book.  They are presented in such a way that even someone who has never done any kind of resistance work can understand how to do the moves.  Furthermore, the inclusion of such a thorough strength training program will likely help prevent injuries during training, as there is an emphasis on building a balanced body.

I like that many of the runs are done at a pace based on Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE).  This is especially appealing to new distance runners, as they learn to tune in to how their body feels during a run.  Also, RPE allows runners a freedom to flow with the reality of life that pure pace-oriented training programs do not.

The Cons

The 20-week training plan includes three 20-mile long runs, with the first coming as early as week 11.  In my experience, that’s at least one 20-miler too many for most people, and if you can run a good (meaning not-get-injured) 20-mile run that early in the training cycle, it might be hard to keep interested in a goal that is still more than two months away.

Also, I have no interest in cycling.  I don’t want to buy a bike and all the gear necessary to follow the cross-training parts of Horowitz’s plan.  Even as a personal trainer who owns quite a lot of fitness equipment, the strength training plan can’t be done as indicated without a gym membership that gives you access to weight machines.  I am a runner because I enjoy the freedom of fitness without all the stuff required of other endeavors.

Furthermore, as someone who travels a lot, the inclusion of four long distance cycling efforts instead of long runs during the 20-week training could be a real logistical challenge.  One of the great benefits of running is that I can do it wherever I go with very little advance research and planning.

The Bottom Line

Smart Marathon Training is an excellent plan for a triathlete or avid cyclist who wants to try the marathon distance.  Likewise, if you’re coming to running from a weightlifting background, the strict and integral strength training program will appeal to you.  The components of the plan are scientifically sound and the focus on creating a well-balanced body would be helpful to those who are plagued by injuries.








Product Review: the FLYUP


OnBalance is all about combining family life with fitness for a lifestyle of wellness.  I am contacted regularly by companies who would like me to review (or just flat out endorse) their product.  It is rare, though that the basic premise of a fitness product aligns so well with my simple, straightforward, realistic approach.  I’m please to say that the good folks at Flyup Fitness have developed a fitness tool that is easy-to-use, effective, inexpensive, and perfect for people who travel.

The FLYUP is two rectangles, smooth on one side and slightly textured on the other.  The textured side has holes where handles (included) can be inserted or removed easily, depending on whether you need them for a particular exercise.  When you’re finished, you can stack the blocks together and insert the handles into the ends which makes the product compact for either storage or travel.


I used the FLYUP several times before writing this post.  At first, I was uncertain how useful it would be, as I could only think of  several variations of plank and pushups to do using it.  I went to the Flyup Fitness website to check out the videos of exercise demos.   I tried the exercises– first on my knees, then up on my toes for more of a challenge–and came away feeling like my core and shoulders were on fire.  I started to figure out how the FLYUP would be good for travel, even when I’m taking a resistance tube– these little sliders require core stability in almost every exercise.

The Flyup Fitness You Tube channel has a wide variety of videos introducing even more exercises.  I found the videos easy to follow, and their informal, friendly approach gave me confidence.  I liked that the videos gave quick overviews of several exercises rather than a do-as-I’m-doing-it video class format. That allowed me to learn the exercises, try them out myself at my own pace, and then move on to the next one when I was ready. The FLYUP is good for both beginners as well as advanced exercisers, as each individual can choose body position and unilateral or bilateral movement to modify exercises to a specific ability level.

The only drawback to the FLYUP is pracitcal– it is to be used on low-pile carpet.  My entire house has wood floors, and the only low-pile rugs are in my closet and The Monkey’s bedroom.  He’s an 8-year-old boy, which means his low-pile rug is covered in legos more often than not.  I did one workout in my closet (see photos), but I’m not too keen on being sweaty where my clean clothes are.  I read the warning that comes with the FLYUP that using the product on anything except low-pile carpet could damage flooring or the FLYUP itself– I took the risk and used mine on the wood laminate in my laundry room.  While I may be reducing the lifespan of my FLYUP by scratching the smooth surface slightly each workout, that’s better than never using them.


Also, I’m not likely to use the FLYUP much with my clients, as I train so many pregnant women.  Most of the exercises are done prone, so it’s not a great fit for expectant moms who aren’t already confident in their core, chest, and shoulder strength.  Regardless, it’s a great way to do deep abdominal work post-baby.

The FLYUP is sold through the Flyup Fitness website  for $40.  I haven’t had mine long enough to tell you how they hold up over frequent, regular use.  But I do think they are priced fairly and are a good investment, particularly for people who have little storage space or travel frequently.  They’re also inexpensive enough that you could use them only occasionally to change up your strength training routine.  Overall, I thought the FLYUP was a useful fitness tool that caused me to focus on my alignment and muscular integration in a new way.

I received a FLYUP from Flyup Fitness in exchange for writing this review.  The opinions presented in this post are entirely my own, based on my experiences of using the FLYUP.  

Swim Workout: Keeping Cool, Getting Fit


Apologies for missing last Thursday’s water workout post.  I got caught up in the last week of school for my boys, fifth grade graduation for The Bear, and recovering from an awesome vacation you’ll get to hear all about next Monday….

But I’m back today, ready to continue the series of WATER WORKOUT posts.  Today I want to give you some examples of what to do in the pool for a swim workout.  This post is especially aimed at those of you who know how to swim but don’t do it for exercise often.  First, a word of warning: breathe.  Swimming for exercise is hard work.  But if you can find a rhythm for your breath, you’ll soon find yourself logging the laps in a zen state.

I like to do swimming workouts as interval workouts.  The reasoning for this is two-fold: 1) Swimming is hard (see above), and rest is essential, and 2) The thought of swimming for 30+ minutes is exhausting, but the thought of swimming for 1-2 minutes at a time and then taking a rest is much more mentally manageable.

Here are my favorite swim workouts, which all take about 30 minutes to complete:


20 x kick 1 length with a kickboard, rest 20-30 seconds (depending on your ability level)– major low body burner


5 x kick 2 lengths, rest 15 seconds, swim 1 length, rest 15 seconds, use pull buoy 1 length, rest 30 seconds– full-body workout

3 x 1 length fast, 1 length easy; 2 lengths fast, 2 lengths easy; 3 lengths fast, 3 lengths easy; 2 lengths fast, 2 lengths easy; 1 length fast, 1 length easy with 1 minute rest between sets– an endurance challenge


Kick  4 lengths, Swim 20 minutes (any stroke, just no rest!), Kick 4 lengths– for those days you just want to get in the water and swim

These workouts are based on those presented in Run Less, Run Faster, a distance-training book I’ll review in a few weeks as part of my marathon training overview.   I’ve found these workouts a fantastic compliment to my running.

Do you like to swim as a summer workout?  What’s your favorite swimming challenge?

This post is part of a series about Water Workouts: you can see what swim kit you need to make your workouts most effective, learn more about aqua yoga, get a water safety refresher, or find other summer workout options here at On Balance.



Swim Workout: Key Kit to Get Fit


When I’m working with a child who is learning to swim, I often remind her that swimming is hard work.  That’s why adults swim for exercise!  By using your upper body, lower body, right side, and left side– all while your face is in the water– your body gets a complete workout.  Even better, the connections between the body and the brain are strengthened as well.

Over the years I’ve come to learn that teaching swimming is a lot like building a sandcastle.  Each of the individual parts has to be really strong before the whole thing works together.  Often, I ask the kids to put the parts together, but then I see we need to take the whole thing apart and work on the individual parts again.  Once the components look strong, we go for the whole stroke again.

It’s really no different than how I swim myself.  Each workout I do consists of leg drills, arm drills, and full stroke practice.  Other than access to a pool, the only items you really need in your swimming kit bag are a good swimsuit (which is very different than a good bathing suit), goggles, a kick board, and a pull buoy.  Some people like to have hand paddles and flippers, too, but for my purposes of recreational swimming for fitness, I just don’t find I use them very much.

Let’s start with the legs: a kick board allows you to isolate the swim stroke to the legs only.   This helps you to concentrate on the flow and the rhythm of your kick.  You can get fancy and practice side kicking or one-legged kicking drills with your kick board, as each of those elements can help the efficiency of your stroke by making you a more streamlined breather or a stronger kicker, respectively.  I use my kick board as part of my warm up as well as an active-recovery tool in the middle of a workout.

When I want to focus on my arms, I use a pull buoy between my thighs.  This keeps my legs afloat so I can maintain a long, horizontal swimming position without expending the effort of kicking.  I use the pull buoy to think about the extension and pulling of my arms through the water, trying to generate more power from my upper body.  The pull buoy also helps prevent shoulder injuries, because this focus on technique allows me to check-in and make sure I am moving my arms in an ergonomic, efficient manner.  I usually use the pull buoy at the end of a workout, when my legs are already toasted but I want to get in a few more laps  while my heart rate is still elevated.

By using the simple tools of a kick board and a pull buoy, I can isolate different aspects of my swimming stroke.  I can focus on moving through the water efficiently.  When I am ready to add the components together, I find I have a more powerful and intentional stroke.

Have you ever used equipment to help you improve your swim stroke?  Have any questions as to how these pieces can be used to work best for you?

Good health and great happiness to you!

This blog post is the third in a series regarding water and fitness.  Check out my thoughts regarding water safety and the FAQs of Aqua Yoga.  We’ll stay in the pool next Thursday as well, when I’ll give you some ideas for a swim workout.

Happy Independence Day!

If you’re in the US, you may be thinking today is all about taking it easy.  After all, it’s a federal holiday that’s going to kick of a lazy four-day weekend for a lot of people.

I’m here to encourage you to rethink your Fourth of July.  Rather than turn this holiday celebrating our freedom into a stereotype of what much of the world thinks of when the think of Americans (see lazy, above), why don’t you use this break from your work life to try a wellness challenge.

Maybe you want to dig way back into the onbalance blog and try my Explosive Independence Day workout.  The plyometrics will really get your heart rate thumping before you see your first firework.

Going to a hang out in someone’s pool today?  While you’re there, see if you can sneak in some exercise in the water.  There are some simple-to-do but good for you exercises in that workout.

If you’re in a part of the country where summer is only just arriving, you may be able to head out for a hike.  Exploring a new part of our great country– even if it’s just down the road from you– can give you a fresh perspective of all the beautiful resources we have.

Regardless of how you decide to exercise your freedom, take a deep breath and give thanks for all of the blessings it affords you.

Good health and great happiness to you!

Stay Fit This Summer!



If you’re worried about how you’re going to keep up your fitness routine while your kids are out of school this summer, today is your lucky day.


Because registration for Balance Virtual Bootcamp Summer 2013 opens today!

What You Get:

  • 24 workouts– delivered 3x week for 8 weeks– designed by a Certified Personal Trainer that are appropriate for a wide range of fitness levels and will take about 30 minutes to complete
  • complete warm up and cool down guidance for each workout
  • descriptions of each exercise (NEW!)
  • videos of each exercise
  • accountability partners (NEW!)
  • a private Facebook page for support, questions, and wellness sharing
  • a chance to win a $100 cash participation prize awarded at the end of the bootcamp– the more you participate, the better your chances to win

What You Need:

  • two sets of dumbbells: 5lbs and 10lbs (experienced exercisers may want 8lbs and 12lbs instead)
  • a yoga mat
  • a resistance tube
  • about 5′ x 5′ of floor space

Nice to have, but not absolutely necessary:

  • a step with non-slip grip (or the bottom step of a staircase)
  • a stability ball (though an ottoman or chair can work as a substitute in most cases)
  • a pull-up bar (if you have access to a playground that will work, too!)

“But,” you say, “I’m not working this summer.  I don’t have the budget for a program like this.”

And that’s when I tell you the whole program cost is only $45.

Do it for yourself!

Here’s the link to register.  

Still not sure it’s for you?

Here’s what some Balance Virtual Bootcamp Spring 2013 participants said:

  • I loved the variety, the no-gym-required part, and how healthy and normal (I.e. not plastic!) you look in your videos.
  •  I really enjoyed the workouts! I especially loved that they were short and sweet so I could fit it in at home even on one of those busy mom days.
  • I loved the Facebook Page…it was the best part of the bootcamp!
  • I really liked the bootcamp and it was so easy to stay motivated because the workouts were short and I could do them anywhere, anytime.

If you’re convinced now, here’s the registration page.

If you still have questions, please ask them in the comments.  I’d love to have you join us!