#175 Fitness Gear

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"Most say as you get old you have to give up things.
I say you get old because you give up things."

Theodore F. Green

Round Out Your Workouts with a Stability Ball
By Ian Cohen

If Christopher Columbus had tried to sculpt and strengthen his body back in the day, you'd better believe he wouldn't have used some FLAT old bench during his workouts. Unfortunately, historians have seemed more interested in chronicling his travel exploits than his training methods, so we'll never really know if the man who discovered the world was round also discovered the roundness of fitness apparatus. And while there is no evidence that Chris ever attempted to balance his behind on an inflated ball while fine-tuning his washboard abs, there is proof that a globular training tool can work wonders for your entire body.

The stability ball (or Swiss ball as it is commonly called) is rolling into more and more workout spaces, and bringing some much-needed shape to our typically flat routines. Aside from providing a fun, new approach to fitness, this plump piece of equipment presents the perfect platform for strengthening all your muscles, especially the all-important core. What was once performed strictly on a level surface can now be done on something more cylindrical, thanks to the advent of this unique training device. As a matter of fact, the stability ball can be used to perform such exercise favorites as curls, flys, back extensions, dips, presses, crunches, and even squats. The truth is, if you can do it on a bench or the floor, you can do it on a stability ball. But before you end up sailing headfirst through your living room wall, be sure to follow the specific instructions set forth by Beachbody's director of fitness and certified personal trainer, Steve Edwards.

"The reason it's called a stability ball is because the added energy you need to balance on the ball requires the use of smaller stabilizer muscles that are often not engaged during your workout," says Edwards. "While the benefits are great, this does require you pay closer attention to what you are doing. Always use a weight that you can easily control. And don't get caught up in the desire to heft large amounts of iron. These movements are all about control. It's not about excessive muscle growth, but balanced muscle growth."

Stability ball benefits:

  • Better balance
  • Stronger core muscles
  • A tighter midsection
  • Greater flexibility
  • Leaner muscle mass
  • Enhanced coordination
  • Improved posture
  • An extra chair
5 Ways to Use Your Stability Ball
: Never attempt to stand on a stability ball. When using dumbbells during an exercise on the stability ball, be sure to start off with much lighter weight than you would normally use on a flat surface. Your primary focus should be maintaining your balance on the ball. Once you're confident with your balance, you can gradually increase the dumbbell weight. Keep in mind, you will most likely never be able to lift as much weight as you can on a flat surface; however, you will enhance your overall performance by developing stronger and more powerful core and stabilizer muscles.
  1. Back Extensions (Focus: lower back – no weights) Place your belly on the ball, legs extended straight out with toes on the floor. Clasp hands behind your head and allow body to drop "into" the ball. In a slow, controlled motion, raise your upper body until you create a slight arch in your back. Return to starting position and repeat.

  2. Dumbbell Press (Focus: chest – using dumbbells) Lie with your midback on the ball, legs bent at the knees, and feet firmly on the floor. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, slightly above shoulder level. Press dumbbells straight up toward the ceiling. Slowly lower dumbbells back to the starting position and repeat.

  3. Wall Squat (Focus: legs – no weights) Place the ball between your lower back and a wall, keeping feet hip-width apart. With arms dangling at sides, slowly lower body and squat into seated position. Stop when your knees are bent 90 degrees. Proceed to raise your body back up in a controlled manner.

  4. Curls (Focus: biceps – using dumbbells) Sit straight up on the ball with a dumbbell in each hand. Maintain your balance and keep elbows in as you curl both arms simultaneously. Lower in a controlled manner until arms are straight down at sides.

  5. Crunches (Focus: stomach – no weights) Lie so entire back is resting on the ball. Keep knees bent 90 degrees and feet flat on the floor. Lock hands behind head and proceed to bring chest towards your pelvis, until your upper back is off the ball. Slowly return to starting position and repeat.

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Picking a Workout Shoe
By Andrea Pesce

Shoes were once designed to protect and support the foot. But when they don't fit properly, you don't get the support you need. Ask any woman how her foot feels after dancing the night away in stilettos! Poor shoe fit can restrict joint movement and circulation to your foot, cause blisters, and eventually even bunions. Here are a few tips to help you pick the right shoe.

  1. Measure your feet. As we age, our feet keep growing. Measure them every time you buy new shoes. While your shirt size may not change, your shoe size will!

  2. Fit your shoes to your larger foot. Most people have one foot that is larger than the other.

  3. Leave some room to spare. Make sure you have at least 3/8 to 1/2 an inch of space past your longest toe when you try them on. If you are getting running shoes, you may want a bit more room for your foot to swell as you run, and so you don't hit your toes while running downhill.

  4. Always try the shoes on! Manufacturers vary in their sizing and even if you're buying the same brand of shoes you normally do, the sizing may have changed since last season.

  5. Don't expect shoes to stretch. If they are too tight anywhere, don't buy them.

  6. Get shoes that are shaped the same as your foot. If you have a wide instep or narrow heel, you can find a company that makes a shoe that works for you. For sport shoes, many running stores have knowledgeable staff that can recommend the best brand for your foot.

  7. Your heel should not slip up and down as you walk. If you have very narrow heels, you can try to insert a pad that helps prevent slippage.

  8. Try them out. Walk in both shoes in the store, and spend a few minutes to be sure they are comfortable after the first impression. A good running store will have a treadmill and can analyze your gait.

  9. If you wear orthotics, never buy shoes without trying them inside. They use up a lot of extra space and you'll likely need the next size up.

  10. Consider inserts if the arch support isn't enough for you.

  11. Avoid heels (sorry ladies), especially if you're on your feet all day. If you must wear them, go low for daytime and save the stilettos for night.


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