Getting the Youth into Yoga

Instructor aims to help students learn to ‘deal and cope with emotions’

ONTARIO — On Fridays, it’s yoga day — well, at least for some members of the Boys & Girls Club of the Western Treasure Valley.

At the end of every school week, since April 14, approximately 22 fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade club members swap their school bags for yoga mats.

As part of Triple Play, a program focused on the wellness of the mind, body and soul, yoga at the club has been possible in the last few weeks.

Though the wellness program isn’t new to the club, offering yoga to members is a fresh spin.

Megan Cook, the yoga instructor leading the class, said she is beyond thrilled for the opportunity to do so.

Cook, who owns Balance Studio – a local yoga and spin cycle business – said she originally pitched the idea to Matt Sorenson, executive director of the club.

“I just asked Matt if I could teach here,” Cook said. “And when he said it would be great, he got in touch with John and we put it on the schedule.”

Scheduled for a period of eight weeks, the sessions will wrap up June 2.

John Lucero, who is the youth development coordinator overseeing Triple Play, said he has noticed a deep interest in club members since it began four weeks ago.

“I feel like the kids are really getting into yoga,” Lucero said. “Some of them keep asking, ‘When will Megan come back?’”

Another positive, Lucero added, is the ability to demonstrate to club members that there are other ways to get active and exercise.

“It’s definitely getting a point across that there are other ways to get in shape,” he said.

Among other benefits is fine-tuning the children’s ability to understand and connect with one’s emotions.

Cook said she began yoga four years ago, and most recently began teaching it to children because she felt it necessary to teach emotional awareness.

“Once I got into the training, I thought ‘Well, kids need to know about this.’ As a parent, and just being around kids — and even adults — you see that being able to deal with emotions in everyday life, including stress, is so important to learn,” Cook said. “It inspired me to teach kids yoga so they learn how to deal and cope with those emotions, because I see so many adults that have a hard time — including myself — just trying to get through the business of the day.”

Each session begins at 4 p.m. and lasts for an hour.

An introduction is typically the warm up, and on Friday, those in attendance were able to share their name, grade and favorite breakfast food. Club members were also tasked with posing as their favorite breakfast meal.

Once they finished sharing, all 10 members began the posing sequence. The goal, Cook said, is twofold. She would first like the members to familiarize themselves with the poses and getting to know the names. And, most importantly, Cook said, it’s key to hold a conversation about how the body is reacting to poses.

She pointed out that, “Your mind is telling you something and it’s OK to listen to that and be in the moment. I think it’s so important to not only know what our feelings are, but to be able to be OK with them and know we are having them for a reason.”

During every pose, Cook would remind the children to focus on how the brain is reacting to the body.

“It hurts,” expressed some girls.

“My body doesn’t like that,” said others.

“Why may we be feeling that way?,” Cook asked the club members.

Many came to the conclusion that it was a lack of exposure to exercising.

Following poses is the pranayama, also known as the breath. Here, Cook takes the members through a breathing exercise. Depending on the day, the routine varies. Cook said her favorite exercise is called “good breath in and bad breath out.”

“We think of something good about ourselves while we are breathing in, and then something that maybe we often tell ourselves that isn’t very nice; we breathe that thought out. It’s a nice way to get them centered,” Cook said.

Creativity is also incorporated into the yoga session, and on Friday, members were able to color mandalas— a circle pattern that represents life.

Following the mandala, is savasana (pronounced shavasana); it’s a time where club members lay down and relax on a mat. The focus, Cook said, is to relax the 11 body systems at the same time, which doesn’t happen often during the day.

“Especially as a child. You get up and go, and you go all day, so it’s nice for them,” she added. “During this time I like to go through a body scan, so it brings awareness to their body and their breath because part of yoga is trying to match the breathe and the body in order to create awareness.”

To conclude the session, a positive reinforcement in the form of a mantra is repeated three times.

Naturally as humans, Cook said, people tend to be hard on themselves and often don’t take time in the day to remind themselves they are happy, or that they believe in themselves.

During Friday’s class, the following mantra was repeated.

“Repeat after me,” Cook said to club members as she began wrapping up Friday’s session. “I am happy (I am happy). I am free (I am free). I am safe (I am safe). I believe in me (I believe in me).”

Total Body | 15-Minute Workout For Busy Guys

For most busy professionals, the biggest consideration when it comes to training is time.And when you only have 15 minutes to train, the best bet is some form of metabolic conditioning that can get you strength, cardio, and mobility benefits and requires little to no warmup. (Check out the Men’s Health MetaShred program for a 21-day training plan based on this technique.)

One of my favorite MetCon workouts is the classic 50-10 circuit where you pick 5 non-competitive moves that collectively work your whole body and pretty much alternate between them nonstop for 15 straight minutes. The training density in this circuit is sky high so you can maximize every minute of the workout.


Here’s how it works:

Do each move for 50 seconds of work with 10 seconds of rest between them:

1. Hip hinge to row to curl
2. Bear crawl jack
3. Single-arm squat to lateral lunge, right arm
4. Single-arm squat to lateral lunge, left arm
5. Burpee and side plank combo

That’s 1 round. Do 3 rounds.

This can be done at any home or hotel gym, so there are no excuses not to get it in. Prepare for a great sweat and you’ll feel like you just went for a run by the time you’re done.

Quick Workout for a Stronger and Leaner Core

These quick, targeted moves tone your entire midsection.

Love handles are a tricky area to target; sometimes it feels like they’ll hold on for dear life no matter how much you tone the rest of your body. The secret—other than good nutrition—is to perform a combination of moves that strengthen your core (like these three), rather than just going for the classic crunches. That’s exactly what this routine does, stringing together a series of moves with twists, crunches, and planks for a serious fat-blast. After running through three sets of each move, your abs and obliques will feel like they’re on fire—just be sure to engage your core the entire time to really maximize those results.

Bye-Bye Love Handles Workout

How it works: Run through each exercise as described, then repeat the entire workout 2 to 3 times. You’ll need a set of medium-weight dumbbells.

1. Standing Oblique Crunch

A. Start standing on left leg with right leg pointed out to the side and right arm reaching above head.
B. Crunch right elbow to right knee. Return to start.

Do 25 reps on each side.

2. Long Arm Long Leg Reach

A. Stand on left leg, knee slightly bent, with right leg pointed out to the side. Put your left hand on hip, right arm reaching above head.
B. Raise right leg and lower right arm to meet at hip height. Return to start.

Do 25 reps on each side.

3. Side Bend

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells in right hand.
B. Keeping core tight, bend at right hip reaching right hand toward ground. Return to start.

Do 15 to 25 reps on each side.

4. Side Lying Reach

A. Lie on the ground on right side with right arm reaching above head.
B. Raise left leg about 1 to 2 feet.
C. Raise right leg to meet left, lifting your shoulders off the ground and reaching left arm toward feet. Return to start.

Do 15 to 25 reps on each side.

5. Side Plank Hip Dip

A. Start in a right forearm side plank with left arm on hip.
B. Lower right hip to ground. Return to start.

Do 10 to 15 reps on each side.

6. Side Plank and Side Bend

A. Start in a right side plank with left foot in front of right and left arm reaching to sky.
B. Reach left arm above head while raising hips.
C. Lower hips and and reach left arm to sky.
D. Lift and square hips to ground, threading right arm under left to reach behind you. Return to start.

Do 8 to 10 reps on each side.

7. Forearm Plank Hip Dip

A. Start in a forearm plank.
B. Rotate core to lower left hip to tap ground.
C. Return to forearm plank.
D. Rotate core to lower right hip to tap ground. Return to start.

Do 16 reps (touching each hip to ground counts as 1 rep).

8. Knee to Elbow

A. Start in a full plank.
B. Bring right knee to right elbow.
C. Return to full plank.
D. Bring left knee to left elbow. Return to start.

Do 16 reps on each side, alternating sides.

9. Lateral Flexion

A. Start lying on the ground in a crunch position with knees bent, right arm behind head, and left arm reaching toward feet.
B. Crunch on left side to reach left hand closer to left foot.
C. Return to start.

Do 25 reps, then switch hands and repeat on right side.

10. Bicycle Crunch

A. Start in a tabletop crunch position.
B. Twist to bring left elbow to right knee while extending right leg.
C. Twist to bring right elbow to left knee while extending left leg.

Do 25 reps, alternating sides.

Workout Habits That Are Hurting You

If you’re wondering why achieving your fitness goals seems elusive as ever, it may not have anything to do with how many reps you’re cranking out or your mileage on the treadmill. Your workout plan and habits outside of the gym are just as important. These bad habits can ruin your workout and affect your health in the long run.

1. Bad Form

Whether from a lack of proper guidance, not asking for advice, or being new to the gym, many people don’t realize the importance of good form when exercising. Exercising in the wrong way can be dangerous to your joints and muscles, and even minimize the effect of your workout. Make sure you learn the right form from a certified instructor or expert from the get-go. Bad habits can be difficult to get rid of later in the game.

2. Exercising on an Empty Stomach

Experts recommend fueling your body before you start exercising. Jay Cardiello, a fitness expert and ISSA and NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist, says fasted cardio—AKA doing cardio on an empty stomach in the morning—can be both good and bad for your body, but it’s not sustainable. Instead, he suggests getting in your glucose before starting your workout. That’s because when your blood sugar is too low, your body extracts glycogen from the muscle tissues once it runs out of available glycogen. What does that mean, exactly? You start losing muscle instead of building it. Yikes. Not to mention low blood sugar can also cause dizziness and weakness during training, so eat a banana, berries, or low-fat yogurt 45 minutes before working out to skip those negative side effects.

3. Too Much Cardio

Cardio can burn a lot of calories, but overdoing it can minimize strength, cause muscle atrophy, and even lead to fat-loss plateaus. And, if you’re on a strict diet plan and combine it with an overdose of cardio, it can take a toll on your muscles. Karina Baymiller, a powerlifter, suggests “a few 15-minute HIIT or conditioning sessions a week to keep your fat-loss rolling and strength maintained.” Instead of overcompensating with cardio, focus on strength training and consider fine-tuning your nutrition habits—after all, a healthy diet is the foundation of any effective, long-term fat-loss plan.

4. Starving or Eating the Wrong Food

Too many people think that skipping meals can help them lose weight, but that’s far from true. You need to eat after working out, and you need to eat right. Otherwise, “your body breaks down muscles into amino acids to convert into glucose,” says John Ivy, Ph.D., chair emeritus of kinesiology at the University of Texas, and your body will essentially start sabotaging itself. Avoid eating refined or processed foods, and aim to have a good mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats. (Here’s 6 Smart Snacks to Eat After a Workout.)

5. Not Enough Zzz’s

Adequate sleep allows your muscles to recover. Without it, you can’t exercise at full intensity and muscles feel sore from yesterday’s gym sesh because they couldn’t repair themselves. Not to mention sleep helps mitigate stress, which in turn reduces cortisol levels that are responsible for balancing testosterone and HGH production to metabolize fat. All that’s to say that you should aim to get 6-8 hours of sleep, though that number is customizable for everyone.

6. Protein-Deficient Diet

Protein is essential to help your body recover from training and helps repair sore muscles. A protein-rich diet helps to increase the fat metabolism in your body, since you burn more calories while digesting and protein takes longer to break down. Science backs it up: studies indicate that the body burns up to 30 percent of the calories consumed from protein during the digestion process, so load up in every meal—even breakfast.

5 Ways to Burn More Fat in Zumba Class

Image result for zumba

Love Zumba? You’re not alone! The Zumba program has helped melt the pounds and inches off 12 million Zumba-enthusiasts in 125 countries, according to the Zumba Fitness website. The Latin-dance inspired workout features fast and slow rhythms which, when combined, successfully tone and sculpt the body and burn fat.

We caught up with master Zumba instructor Staci Boyer to get her top tips for burning even more calories (and having even more fun) during your favorite Zumba class:

1. Let Loose
Zumba is all about having fun, and joining the party, which is hard to do if you’re stiff or self-conscious! The best way to burn more calories in class is to let go, have fun, and try not to think too much. “Letting yourself go will let the calories go!” Boyer says.

2. Maximize Your Arm Movement
During the moves, be sure to fully extend your arms, Boyer says. You’ll boost your calorie burn and engage more muscles by maximizing your arm movements during class. “It’s not that tricky and you can do a lot for your body by lengthening, raising, and extending with oomph.”

3. Move Up and Down More
“When your instructor takes you though a level change try and do it,” Boyer says. All that up and down movement will not only boost your burn, it will also get your glutes, hips, and thigh muscles firing even more. “Sit into your moves, bend your knees, and go up and down and all around as much as you can—level changes burn calories!”

4. Work Your Booty
“There is always a lot of booty shaking in Zumba!” Boyer says. “Just shake it—and shake it good (to best do this, see tip #1).” Boyer recommends pressing through your heels whenever you can to maximize the move’s booty shaping benefits.

5. Rock the Moves You Know
So maybe you don’t have every move mastered yet, that’s OK! You can still get a great workout as long as you rock the moves you’ve got! “Always accentuate the moves that you are actually comfortable with,” Boyer says. “Make the most out of that shimmy you love, or the salsa step you have mastered. Feel confident in adding your own flair to the movement. If you know it, show it!”

Seemingly Harmless Foods to Stop Eating Before You Work Out

When Healthy Isn’t Enough

You know better than to go into a workout on empty—food equals fuel, after all. But just because something is good for your body normally doesn’t mean it’ll be good for your body in motion. “Every athlete and gym-goer is different regarding what they can handle; some have an iron stomach while, for others, the mere thought of something fibrous, fatty, sugary, or filling sends them scrambling to find a nearby restroom,” says Pam Nisevich Bede, RD, sports dietitian with Abbott’s EAS Sports Nutrition.

Before you hit the gym or head out on a run, erase these six seemingly harmless foods as options to fuel up with. (And if you’re a morning workout gal, check out the best foods to eat before and after your sweat sesh.)


Because flaxseeds are a good source of fiber, they’re a natural laxative and great for regulating your GI tract—but that’s not exactly the effect you want right before a run or a workout. “While a small serving of flaxseeds may help you clear your digestive tract, too much (especially without water) may cause constipation or loose stools,” explains sports dietitian Marni Sumbal, R.D., owner of Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition in Greenville, South Carolina. Stick to under two tablespoons and you’ll avoid any emergencies.


“While a smoothie can make for a healthy recovery meal post-workout, it’s not too difficult to make or order a sugar-filled, unhealthy shake,” Sumbal says. The result: Sky-high blood sugar levels, which will then crash your energy mid-circuit. Plus, a large volume of smoothie—or any liquid—increases the need to pee, Sumbal adds, and a bathroom break is less than ideal when you’re trying to keep your heart rate up consistently. Suck your smoothie down two hours before hitting the gym.

Nut Butter/Healthy Fats

“While items like avocado and nut butters are typically great choices, many people hitting a workout find that too much fat in the hours before exercising can leave them feeling leaden and weighed down,” Bede says. “Fat takes considerably more time to digest compared to carbs, and it’s not the high-octane, glycogen-creating fuel you need for your workout.” What’s more, the macronutrient can create acid reflux for many runners. Sumbal agrees, adding you should stick to less than 15 grams of fat pre-workout (that’s roughly one tablespoon of nut butter, one ounce of cheese, or two large eggs).


“Drinks like tea, warm water with lemon, and coffee can be excellent choices when you need a quick pre-workout, well, clean out,” Bede explains. We’ve all experienced it—the warm liquid helps to activate and move your bowels. “Cut it too close or drink cup after cup of coffee on your way out the door and you could be mid-run when your system wants to ‘lighten up’—and that won’t be pretty,” she adds. But studies do show caffeine can help improve your endurance and training intensity, so if you want that boost, you have two options: Opt for caffeine tablets or powder which won’t cause the same GI distress, or, as Bede suggests, give yourself 20 minutes post-java to process the drink before heading out on your run.


Apples are a natural source of caffeine and carbs, so you might think they’d be great for a pre-workout snack. But high-residue foods—i.e., anything high in fiber—can cause GI distress or diarrhea during your workouts, Sumbal explains. Fiber is super important to help regulate your bowel movements, but you’re better off trading high-residue foods like apples and multi-grain bread for lower residue alternatives like applesauce or rice cakes, she adds.

Sports Drinks

Sugars like sorbitol, xylitol, isomalt, and mannitol aren’t fully absorbed by the gut, which may cause gas, bloating, cramping, and diarrhea, Sumbal explains. You know to avoid added sugars in the form of candy and juice, but these ingredients are common in sports drinks, electrolyte tablets, and sports bars. What’s more, you really don’t need the specialized drink. “While many people may be baptized on carb-rich, sugar-laden sports drinks, unless you’re working out for over an hour or in extreme conditions, water is likely your best bet,” Bede says. On a long run? There are hydration aids that won’t hurt your workout—the electrolyte-rich, sugar-free drinks. Just read the labels and avoid any added sugars.

How to Engage Your Core, Plus 7 Abs Exercises for a Stronger Middle

Have you huffed and puffed your way through hundreds of sit-ups without seeing results or feeling any stronger? You’re not alone. Despite our favorite class instructors and trainers constantly hammering in the words “activate your core,” it can be know if our muscles are actually firing, no matter how hard we work. So why does everyone seem to be totally core-crazed? A core workout is key to bringing your sweat sesh—abs or otherwise—to the next level.

What Exactly Is the Core?

It’s more than six-pack abs (which, by the way, we all have). The core is comprised of layers of muscle on your stomach, back, and butt, which support your pelvis and spine. These muscles work as a team to keep your posture tall and your back safe from any strains or unwanted forces that can cause pain or injury down the road. In a nutshell, your core exists to help your torso turn (think about your upper half during a jog—it slightly moves from side to side), and to resist rotation (think about holding your ground during a crazy concert). (Try our Flat Belly Core Fusion Workout!)

So What?

Your core is the secret ingredient to having your best workout ever. Whether you’re swinging a kettlebell or hitting spin class, engaging the core allows you to work other muscle groups in a more effective and efficient way. Ever try to crank up the weight in a dumbbell shoulder press and find yourself majorly arching your back? Cue the core. By zipping up your abs and squeezing your butt, your spine is way more protected and your shoulders are able to move through a safer range of motion.

Outside of the gym, a strong core helps to resist slumping into slouched posture, which doesn’t look good on anyone. As we age, it gets harder to resist the force of gravity and poor posture habits that have been developed through the years. Building a strong core as early as possible will help combat stooping and relieve smaller muscles from doing the brunt of the work that really belongs to the core. (These exercises will get your closer to perfect posture.)

It’s Worth the Work

It can be tempting to forgo a core workout after a hardcore circuit. Challenge yourself to feel the burn. Weak cores promote postural deviations that can act as a host to various injuries, from a disc herniation to runner’s knee. We’re often so focused on the injury, we forget to look at the culprit: a weak core. The core muscles serve as the powerhouse of the body, so it’s crucial to make sure those muscles are strong and sturdy.

How Do I Know I’m Doing It Right?

Engaging your core is different than sucking in your tummy. Imagine bracing your stomach muscles as if you’re going to bounce a coin off your abs (#goals). They should feel rooted and secure. Roll your shoulders open so your chest appears tall and proud to avoid collapsing in. By gently tucking your pelvis and firing your glute muscles, you should feel the lower part of your abs engage to support your lower spine.

Try These Core-Blasters!


Cat/Cow: This soft rocking motion through the pelvis is perfect for waking up your abs before kicking your workout into gear.

A. Come to all fours with hands under shoulders and knees under hips. On an inhale, look up and arch spine, lifting tailbone and rolling shoulders away from ears (cow).
B. On an exhale, press the floor away with hands and knees, and round spine (cat), relaxing head toward the floor. That’s 1 rep. Continue alternating for up to 10 reps.

Trainer Tip: Align your breath with the movement—inhale as you arch your back and gaze at the sky, exhale to fire your abs as you round your back, allowing the head to hang heavy. Feeling this more in your shoulders? Try to soften the elbows to resist the temptation of your arms doing the work.

Hip Bridge

Hip Bridge: This is one of the most fundamental exercises that just about everyone should have in their workout program! It’s important because your flutes tag team spinal stability with your abs—to be able to move forward with more intense exercises, it’s necessary that both components of your core are equally strong. Try using this as an active recovery to reinforce the proper muscle activation during your deadlifts.

A. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat. Lift hips up toward the ceiling for a bridge.
B. Release your hips to lower your pelvis two inches from the floor, squeezing your glutes. That’s 1 rep. Repeat for 10 reps.

Trainer Tip: Keep those toes down! Press through the arches of your feet to fire your hamstrings and glutes while staying out of your lower back.

Forearm Plank

Forearm Plank: Made for those who have injury-prone wrists, the forearm plank is a classic exercise for a reason: It emphasizes all of your core muscles by resisting rotation!

A. Start in a push-up position on forearms. Keep arms perpendicular to body, forming a straight line from shoulders to ankles. Engage core and hold for thirty seconds.

Trainer Tip: Roll your shoulders back before you get into position. This will help sustain an open chest during your plank. Psst: Squeeze your butt! It’ll facilitate a flat, lower back through the entire exercise, which will keep you from rounding or hyperextending the lumbar spine, which could lead to disc herniations and pinched nerves.

Side Plank

Side Forearm Plank: Sister to your front plank, the side plank highlights muscles that help you rotate quickly and safely. Extra perk? A nipped-in waistline will be yours in no time.

A. Lie on side with bottom elbow on the floor. Raise hips so that the body forms a straight line from ankles to shoulders. Extend the top arm laterally so that it is perpendicular to the floor. Engage core and hold for 30 seconds.

Trainer Tip: Start simple. Begin with your bottom knee on the ground to reiterate proper muscle activation. Envision sending your bottom hip to the sky. If you feel like this is more of a stretch than a workout, straighten your legs and try to stagger your feet with your top foot in front of your bottom foot. Still yawning? Stack the feet! Keep an eye on squaring off your top and bottom hip the entire time.

Plank Jack

Plank Jacks: If you’ve gotten your front plank down to a science, crank it up a notch by adding dynamic movement! Hop your toes to the outside of a yoga mat and then back together while maintaining your pretty, flat back.

A. Start in a full plank position with feet together and abs tight.
B. Jump feet apart into a wide V, then immediately jump them back together (like a jumping jack). That’s 1 rep. Start by incorporating 8 reps into your circuit. If this feels super easy, up the number to 10. Consider increasing by two reps every two weeks as long as you can maintain strong form.

Trainer Tip: Keep your shoulders over your hands. The shoulders can take a major beating during this exercise if you’re not careful. By keeping them in proper alignment, the core is doing all the work!

Mountain Climbers

Mountain Climbers: Hello fat burn! These guys are one of the most efficient ways to get your heart pumping and to reach your fat melting zone. The good news? It doesn’t take long. You can intersperse short periods (around thirty seconds) to supercharge a circuit.

A. Start in the push-up position with your arms completely straight and directly beneath your shoulders. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles.
B. Squeeze your abs, lift one foot off the floor and bring your knee up towards your chest while keeping your body in as straight of a line as possible. Return to the starting position and repeat the movement with your opposite leg. That’s 1 rep. Start by doing 10 reps on each leg. Time how long this takes you. Use this as a baseline, then see if you can increase the number of reps during the same amount of time.

Trainer Tip: Maintain a long spine by keeping your hips in line with your shoulders. It’s common for your hips begin to pike as a way to decrease pressure on your abs. Fight the urge! On the other hand, be sure that your spine doesn’t begin to majorly arch. Start with brief sets to make sure you’ve got the form down before kicking it into high gear.


Farmer’s Walks: Um, who doesn’t juggle tons of bags, computers, and groceries on any given day? Farmer’s Walks are an awesome way to check your posture before you load up for the next day.

A. Hold a heavy dumbbell or farmer’s carry bar in each hand. Avoid leaning forward at hip. Stand tall and chin parallel to ground. Keep your shoulders pulled back and down throughout the entire exercise. Avoid letting your shoulders round forward.
B. Stand tall and walk forward for 10 paces, then turn around and walk 10 paces back to where you started.

Trainer Tip: Pick a heavy but maintainable weight. The purpose behind this exercise is to introduce stress similar to your daily demands. Stand against a wall before you get a-walkin’ to feel that your spine is tall, core is braced, and butt is firing. Your shoulder blades should be against the wall, your lower back should minimally slope away (beware of hyperextending!), and your butt should graze the wall.

5 Unconventional Post-Workout Drinks

Today, just about anything—from actual water to maple water to beer—can pass as a post-workout bevvy. But with so many products on the market, sometimes it’s hard to tell which are legit and which shouldn’t touch your lips. Separate trendy from truth with this handy guide to sipping after you sweat. (And beware of these 5 Signs of Dehydration—Besides the Color of Your Pee.)

Tart Cherry Juice

Sip. It might be time to switch up your favorite juice. “There are certainly promising data using cherry tart juice to aid in recovery,” says Christopher Mohr, Ph.D., R.D., owner of Mohr Results Inc. One study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that runners who drank tart cherry juice twice daily (about 24 fluid ounces in total) for a week before a long-distance relay race reported significantly less pain than a group who didn’t chug the cherry juice. (Tart cherry juice is just one of six weird ways to treat sore muscles.) The benefits likely boil down to the powerful antioxidants in the juice, says Mohr.

Chocolate Milk

Sip. This popular lunchtime carton isn’t just for kids. Studies continue to show the benefits of chocolate milk for recovery, says Mohr. Why? The drink combines carbohydrates and protein—both of which are important after training, he says. But dairy is also a complete protein, made up of whey protein that also has the amino acid leucine, which helps build lean muscle. To up your gains, Mohr suggests adding more whey to the chocolate milk.


Skip. Most popular 5Ks, 10Ks, and half-marathons end the same way: with a beer. And drinking beer post-run does get the hydration stamp of approval.) This is more of a fun thing, says Mohr. But you might want to get something real in your system before indulging in the booze, he says. Research suggests that alcohol hinders recovery—even if you eat it with something like protein.

Green Tea

Skip. So you’ve seen reports about the metabolism-boosting powers of green tea. It helps to fight free radicals and boost overall health. While this may be true—green tea certainly has its health benefits—there’s nothing specific to recovery that your matcha will help with, says Mohr. If you like the green stuff more than coffee, keep it in your diet (it’s lower in caffeine!). Just cap your cups at four a day—an amount where you’ll still reap the health perks but also sidestep any of the risks linked with excess caffeine.

Maple Water

Sip or skip. Notice a newcomer to the flavored water space? Maple water is a form of hydration that’s also a carbohydrate, says Mohr. But while there are a variety of minerals in the beverage, they’re in such minuscule amounts, that they won’t amount to anything, he says. That said, if you dig the taste and it helps you drink up, then enjoy, he says. (Read: Is Maple Syrup the New Racing Fuel?) And no matter what you drink after a workout, optimize recovery by aiming for about a 2 or 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein, says Mohr.

9 Reasons to Skip Your Workout… Sometimes

In our more-is-better world, it’s easy to get caught in the overtraining trap. But when it comes to your workouts, it pays to do less. We’re certainly not telling anyone to quit exercising, but your workout schedule should have built-in rest days (and even weeks sometimes!). Not convinced? Here are nine reasons why you shouldn’t go to the gym every single day:

1. Your muscles grow when you rest. Lifting weights creates tiny tears in your muscles that can only repair during rest. This repair process is what makes your muscles stronger than before. While it’s important to work your muscles (hard!) to stimulate muscle-building proteins, it’s equally as important to give your body enough time to recover (usually until you’re no longer sore).

2. Overtraining can cause a weight-loss plateau. You know that working out too often or too intensely can lead to too much weight loss, but most people don’t realize that it can also have the opposite effect. Thanks to your body’s built-in protective mechanisms, overtraining can cause a plateau in your weight loss or even weight gain (unrelated to increased muscle mass).

3. Overtraining can mess with your menstrual cycle and cause amenorrhea, the absence of menstruation. Aunt Flo may not be your favorite visitor, but think of your period as the canary in the coal mine. Its presence indicates that your body thinks it’s in good shape to grow a baby and its absence signifies a problem, especially if it disappears for three months or more. The drop in estrogen can also cause premature bone loss, making you even weaker and more susceptible to injury.

4. Trouble sleeping? You might be overtraining. Needing excessive sleep to fuel your workouts or being unable to sleep, even when you’re very tired, are both indicators that something is wrong.

5. Overtraining can cause mood problems. Exercise can be a potent anti-depressant—studies show it works just as well as medication for mild depression. And we can attest to the mood-boosting power of the runner’s high. But too much exercise can have the opposite effect, causing anxiety over workout schedules and depression from being chronically run down.

6. More exercise = bigger appetite. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to notice the link between exercise and hunger. The more you train, the more energy your body needs to sustain that exertion and the hungrier you get. Women often fear that cutting back on their cardio will make them gain weight, but that’s not how it works. Your hunger usually decreases in proportion with your lighter workout schedule, so you won’t feel the need to feed your body nearly as much.

7. You’ll feel exhausted… all the time! We all love the great energy burst we get from an awesome workout, but more exercise does not always mean more energy. If your workouts are regularly making you crash in the afternoon or drag through your day because you’re so tired and sore you can barely move, then you’re doing too much. Listen to your body. If it says, “I’m so sore that I dread sitting down to go the bathroom,” the intense Kettlebell session you have planned is not what it needs.

8. Overtraining often leads to burnout. In the end, life is about balance. We all have limited resources—time, energy, money, physical reserves—and spending too much of them on exercise can lead to burnout. It’s better to commit to a sane program that fits in with your schedule and goals than to go all out and want to quit after one month. Exercise is a lifelong pursuit, and it should make you happy. Find a balance that works for you—your body and your life.

9. It eats up your limited free time. Medical problems aside, hitting the gym for lengthy workouts every day is a big time commitment. It’s important to make time for other quality-of-life boosters too, such as hanging out with friends and family, learning something new, treating yourself to  manicure, or even catching up on your secret Real Housewives addiction

15 Exercises Trainers Would Never Do

Skip: “Pressed Heels” Sit-Ups Do: Bent-Knee Pilates Hundred

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The “pressed-heels” sit-up is performed like a typical sit-up, except both feet are flexed so that toes point up and heels are pressed into the ground, says Michele Olson, Ph.D., professor of exercise physiology at Auburn University in Alabama. “It was thought that pressing the heels into the floor would increase the effort of the abdominal muscles while decreasing the load to the lower spine. But actually, EMG (electromyogram) data has shown that pressing the heels into the floor did the opposite.”

The bent-knee Pilates hundred, on the other hand, effectively works the abs with very low hip flexor activity, Olsen says. “And because only the shoulder blades are lifted off of the floor, there is decreased stress to the spine.”

To do the bent-knee Pilates hundred (pictured), lie faceup with knees and hips bent 90 degrees. Inhale and extend arms to ceiling, palms facing forward. Exhale and lift head, neck, and shoulders off floor, pressing arms down by hips. Inhale for 5 counts and exhale for 5, pumping arms up and down on each count (while keeping torso still). Do 10 reps total.

Skip: The Thigh Adductor MachineDo: Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts

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Why should you skip this popular gym machine? “Think about it, our leg muscles are designed to move our body during walking—sitting in a chair and moving the legs in and out does not work the muscles the way they are designed to move our skeletal structure and is a complete waste of precious training time,” says Pete McCall, an exercise physiologist for the American Council On Exercise.

Instead, train the muscles of the inner thigh, hamstrings, and glutes with single-leg Romanian deadlifts, McCall suggests.

To do single-leg Romanian deadlifts (pictured), stand with feet together and knees slightly bent, holding a dumbbell with left hand. Engage abs, and balancing on right leg, hinge forward at hips, lifting left leg behind hip until chest is almost parallel to the floor. Keep spine naturally straight, abs engaged, and return to start.

Skip: Seated Torso Rotation Do: Wood Chops

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“When using [the seated torso rotation machine], the pelvis does not move as you rotate your upper body, which can place excessive twisting forces on the spine,” says Jessica Matthews, a certified fitness instructor and exercise physiologist for the American Council On Exercise. “Plus, the main reason people use this machine is because they think it will help work off their love handles, but the reality is that it won’t help reduce fat in that area of the body.”

A rotational exercise like wood chops, using a medicine ball or cables, is a great alternative move that will challenge your midsection while sparing your spine in the process. The key is to focus on bracing the core throughout the entire movement, Matthews says.

To do wood chops (pictured), begin in a split stance with left foot forward, holding a medicine ball. Brace abs in tight and reach ball overhead and to the left, keeping torso steady. Slowly bring ball down and across to right hip. Keep abs engaged and body still, return to start.

Skip: Shoulder Presses Behind Head Do: Overhead Shoulder Presses

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A shoulder press done behind the head doesn’t have any added benefits from a regular shoulder press, only increased risk,” says Rick Richey, a master instructor for the National Academy of Sports Medicine and owner of R2Fitness in New York City. Even for people with optimal range of motion, the behind-the-head shoulder press puts the shoulder joint at a highly disadvantageous and dangerous position that locks down joints at the sternum, collarbone, and shoulder blades and inhibits arm movement, he adds.

To do standard dumbbell shoulder presses (pictured), stand holding a pair dumbbells, engage abs, and curl weights in front of shoulders. Extend arms overhead, keeping dumbbells slightly in front of head, rotating palms outward. Bend arms and return to start.

In addition to shoulder presses that avoid going behind the head, I also recommend scaption exercises since they create minimal pain or trauma and allow for greater range of motion under resistance, Richey says.

Skip: Straight-Leg Deadlifts Do: Romanian Deadlifts

By locking your knees while performing straight-leg deadlifts, your lower back is forced to round (instead of hinging at your hips) and do all of the work to move the weight, which increases your risk for injury, says Nick Tumminello, certified strength coach and owner of Performance University. “It also makes the exercise less effective because it decreases the training stimulus on your glutes and hamstrings.”

Maintaining a slight bend in your knees and hinging forward at your hips (without rounding your lower back) like you do to perform Romanian deadlifts, or RDLs, keeps the lower back in a much stronger and safer position and works the glutes and hamstrings—the muscles you want to be training, Tumminello says.

To do a Romanian deadlift (pictured), stand holding a weighted bar or dumbbells with knees slightly bent. Keeping abs engaged and back naturally arched, hinge forward at the hips, reaching weight toward the floor. Without rounding spine, return to start.

Skip: Squats with Exercise Ball Do: Thera Band Squats

“People think that by using a ball, it increases their knee stability and tracking during a squat. But it doesn’t,” says Alfonso Moretti, certified personal trainer and owner of Angry Trainer Fitness. “If you can’t track your knees correctly during a squat, in most cases that means your gluteus medius muscle is weak. Without proper strength in this area, the larger, more powerful adductor muscles of the inner thigh will literally ‘pull’ the knees toward the centerline of the body while squatting. Although using a ball between the legs appears to fix the issue by preventing the knees from caving in, it actually makes it worse. By holding or squeezing the ball between the legs, you further strengthen the adductors and once the ball is removed, the knees will collapse in.”

To do the safer alternative (pictured), wrap a Thera Band (or Mini Band) around the base of the knees during traditional squats. Think about tracking knees over and in line with hips and feet by ‘pushing’ the knees out slightly during the entire movement. This will help to engage and ‘fire off’ the gluteus medius, Moretti says.

Skip: Tire Flips Do: Clean and Press

“The problem with this particular exercise is that it is a difficult movement to perform and creates imbalance in the body, which can cause injury,” says Daryl Conant, exercise physiologist, personal trainer, and creator of the AB Inferno. “When you lift a heavy tire, the gravitational point is set further away from the midline of the body, which creates more torque,” he says. Oftentimes the torque is generated in weaker muscles and can ultimately cause injuries.

A better option? The clean and press. “The clean and press challenges the entire body. It is one of the only exercises that works every joint, in addition to working the cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and nervous systems,” Conant says. The barbell also allows for easier handling and control of resistance, reducing the chance of imbalances, he adds.

To do the clean and press (pictured), load a barbell and stand behind it with feet hip width. Conant recommends starting with a lighter weight to master form before progressing to a heavier load. Lower into a deep squat to grab onto the bar, keeping spine naturally straight. In an explosive motion, pull the bar up quickly in front of the chest. Rest the bar there for a split second, then push the bar overhead, locking the elbows into full extension. (When the bar is overhead, make sure your body is in alignment from wrists to hips to ankles.) Then, in a reverse motion, return the bar back down to the floor.

Skip: Crunches Do: Horizontal Squats

Research shows that people who suffer from spine conditions such as spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the vertebral lumen), disc bulging, or herniation should not do crunches,” says Linda LaRue, RN, certified personal trainer and creator of the Core Transformer.

The horizontal squat may not be a well-known exercise, but “it’s a great move that works your entire core three-dimensionally and involves acceleration and deceleration (most sports injuries happen when you’re decelerating). You can also progress this move by adding a side plank or mountain climbers at the end,” LaRue says.

To do the horizontal squat (pictured), start on hands and knees, keeping belly button drawn into spine and holding a constant kegel (the same feeling as holding in urine when you really need to go). Lift knees off ground slowly, shifting weight into legs, sitting back into hips as if doing a squat. Quickly drive body forward, extending legs into the top of a pushup or plank position. Hold this pose for 2 seconds, keeping head stacked in a straight line with hips, knees, and ankles. Keep shoulders down and stacked directly above hands.

Skip: Double Leg Lifts Do: Bridges

“People do leg lifts to tone the abs, but it’s actually one of the worst exercises for the lower back,” says Lisa Kinder, certified personal trainer and star of the 10-Minute Solution: High-Intensity Interval Training DVD. “When the legs are lifted, one of the prime movers is the psoas, which attaches to the lumbar spine vertebrae. When this muscle is contracted, it pulls the lower back into hyper-extension and squeezes the discs, which can put a person at risk for a herniated disc.”

Instead, Kinder recommends glute bridges (pictured). “This exercise will lift your booty, tone your thighs, strengthen your back, and sculpt your abs,” she says.

To do it, lie faceup with knees bent, hip-width apart, and feet flat on the floor. Gently contract abdominal muscles to flatten lower back into the floor (try to maintain this gentle contraction throughout the exercise). Exhale, and keeping abs engaged, lift hips off the floor and lift toes, pressing heels into the floor for added stability. (Avoid pushing hips too high, which can cause hyper-extension in the lower back. Keeping abs strong helps prevent arching.) Inhale as you slowly return to start.

Skip: Lat Pulldowns Behind Head Do: Kneeling Band Pulldowns

Lat pulldowns behind the head force the shoulders to work at an angle they’re not designed for, which can cause inflammation and tears in the rotator cuff muscles, says Matthew Richter-Sand, certified personal trainer, sports nutritionist, and owner of NX Fit. The trouble is that [pulling a weighted bar down behind the head] 
slowly tears the rotator cuff, so it’s hard to realize that you’re doing damage. Plus, the only way to avoid smashing your head is to extend your head forward, which puts even more stress on your spine.

Kneeling band pulldowns are a better option because you can keep your body perfectly aligned without worrying about a bar hitting your head. Plus, the band allows a full range of motion and provides resistance throughout the entire movement. Doing them in a kneeling position increases engagement of the thigh muscles, which may not be as active during a traditional, seated pulldown, Richter-Sand adds.

To do the kneeling band pulldowns (pictured), kneel while holding onto ends of a resistance band anchored at a high sturdy point. Hinge forward about 45 degrees from hips, keeping spine naturally straight. Pull band down, pressing shoulder blades down, and bend elbows by sides. Extend arms overhead.

Skip: Isolated Biceps Curls Do: Plank Rows

While biceps curls aren’t an unsafe or “bad” exercise, I’d rather do a three-for-one toning move that strengthens your shoulders, core, and arms at once, says Andrea Metcalf, certified personal trainer and author of Naked Fitness.

To do plank rows (pictured), begin in plank position, dumbbell under right hand. Brace abs in tight, and row the weight up to the side of ribcage, bending right elbow in by side. Do one full set (10 to 12 reps) and then switch sides, or alternate arms for each row (just be sure to do equal reps on both sides).

Skip: Upright Rows Do: Dumbbell Front Raises

“[Upright rows] can cause inflammation and pain in your shoulder joints,” says Tom Holland, an exercise physiologist and author of Beat The Gym. Dumbbell front raises are a better alternative because they do not require internal rotation of the arms under load, a potentially harmful combination, Holland says.

To do the dumbbell front raise (pictured), stand with feet hip width, holding dumbbells in front of thighs, palms facing in. Keeping torso steady, raise arms to shoulder height. Hold for 1 count, and then return to start.

Skip: Weighted Oblique Crunches Do: The 90-Degree Burn

Most people do not perform standing, weighted side-to-side crunches with proper posture, so it creates too much strain on the spine and can lead to lower-back injuries, says Kim Truman, certified personal trainer and owner of Kim Truman Fitness. Since the 90-degree burn only uses your body as resistance, you place less stress on your spine while still working your obliques.

To do the 90-degree burn (pictured), lie on right side with legs and feet together, upper-body propped up on right elbow. Bend left arm across chest with fingertips lightly touching the floor. Extend legs and feet slightly in front of body, and lift to about a 45-degree angle, keeping hips stacked. Hold at the top of the movement for about 3 seconds, and then slowly lower legs back to the floor. Perform equal reps on both sides.

Skip: The Scorpion Do: Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

The scorpion is typically performed during a dynamic warm-up to activate the glutes and open up the hips, but it places a combination of rotational and extension forces on the lumbar spine which can result in serious injury, says Jon-Erik Kawamoto, C.S.C.S., owner of JK Conditioning. The kneeling hip flexor stretch or single-leg hip lift are both better alternatives because they do not place the spine in a harmful position, he says.

To do the kneeling hip flexor stretch (large image) place left knee on a mat with right leg forward, forming a 90-degree angle at each knee. Lift body upright and brace abs. Reach left arm forward and hold onto a body, chair, or wall for balance. Contract glutes and shift weight forward into right foot, pressing pelvis forward to stretch front of left hip and thigh. Hold for 5 seconds. Return to the start and repeat on other side.

To do the single-leg hip lift (small image), lie faceup with knees bent, feet flat. Hug right knee into chest with both hands, forming a 90-degree angle with leg. Press left foot into the ground to lift hips up, forming a straight line from shoulders to left knee at the top of the lift. Return to start and repeat on other side.

Skip: 45-Degree Leg Presses Do: Bulgarian Split Squats

People often use very heavy weights when performing leg presses, which places a lot of force on the knees and hips and can result in injuries, says Pearla Phillips, certified personal trainer and owner of Fit Body Transformations in Epping, NH.

“[Bulgarian split squats] not only will give your legs strength and definition, they also engage your core and work your balance at the same time. This is working smarter, not harder, while reaping better results,” Phillips says.

To do the Bulgarian split squat (pictured), stand with your back to a box or bench that’s about three feet away, holding onto the end of a dumbbell (up to 25 pounds, depending on level) with both hands. Place left foot lightly on top of the box or bench behind you. Bend elbows and bring dumbbell to the outside of right ear. Keeping torso steady, slowly lower into a squat. Press back up to standing.