Sports Bra

Working out might make you seek a burning sensation in your muscles and lungs, but the one place where you don’t want to feel anything uncomfortable is your chest.  Investing in a good sport bra – or two or three – is one of the most important things you can do as a woman beginning a fitness routine.  It doesn’t matter, either, whether you are well-endowed or not, although admittedly, those who are very well-endowed may have to shop a specialty store or online to find the right size.

When buying a sport bra, getting the right size is everything.  You really must be able to try it on in person, so if you have to order it online because of size needs, make sure the store has a return or exchange policy.  A sport bra that doesn’t fit right can affect your ability and your willingness to keep working out.

There are three main different kinds of sport bras: compression bras, encapsulation bras, and shimmels.  Compression bras press your breasts against your body to minimize bounce.  They go on and off over your head and work best with women who have A or B cup breasts.

Encapsulation bras are better for women with larger breasts.  Because they have individual cups, they often look more attractive.  They typically come with a clasp or hook closure.  For even better support, look for ones with webbing in the cups or underwire.

Shimmels are tank tops with built-in bras.  They may look great and keep you from showing a bra strap in the summer, but for all but the lightest of workouts, they are not very effective.  Use these types of sport bras for activities like yoga.

When shopping for your sport bra, be sure to look for a bra that has wider shoulder straps.  The wider the straps, the more comfortable the bra will be and the less likely it will be to cut into your skin.  Make sure the arm holes fit properly – the material should not rub against your arm or armpit at all.  Finally, make sure the sport bra is made of a material that wicks away moisture.  Cotton, although a soft material, holds water and can be very uncomfortable if you plan on breaking a sweat.  Make sure whatever enclosure the bra uses has material over it to protect your skin.

Once you find a bra you like, you may be tempted to buy several so that you don’t have to shop for them again soon.  My advice is to wait – all that exercise you are doing is bound to bring you down a size or two.  Save the shopping for celebrating your new size!

sports bra 300x300 Sports Bra

Fitness Equipment

The fitness industry is an $80 billion dollar a year industry.  Ironically, more people than ever are obese, out of shape, overweight, or struggling in some way with their health.  The problem seems to be that we like to buy exercise equipment much more than we like to use it.

If you are going to buy a piece of exercise equipment, whether it’s an exercise bike, treadmill, elliptical, at-home gym, or weight bench, the first thing you need to do is research.  Luckily, your research can be done online, doesn’t take much time, and can give you tremendous insight before you go shopping.

When you are researching a piece of exercise equipment, don’t make the assumption that the more you spend the better the equipment will be.  In fact, there are quite a few seemingly “low-end” pieces of exercise equipment that work as well if not better than there thousand-dollar counterparts.  What matters most is whether or not the equipment will meet your needs.  Will it hold your weight?  Will it fit in the space you have available?  Does it have the “bells and whistles” that you think are critically important?

Obviously, once you start shopping around for equipment, you will get a better idea of what exactly you want and don’t want in what you buy.  Buying online without seeing the equipment in person, however, is ill-advised.  Especially if you are buying a treadmill, elliptical, or an exercise bike, you will want to be able to climb on the equipment and try it out.  Is it adjustable, especially if more than one person will be sharing it?  Can you use it comfortable without feeling strained?  Does it have any pre-programmed exercises or health monitoring equipment (if that is important to you)?

Before buying any exercise equipment, you should firmly establish your budget.  You may go in knowing exactly what you want only to have a sales person convince you that for an extra hundred dollars you could have even more bells and whistles than you wanted in the first place.  If you go in knowing exactly how much you want to spend and stick to it, you will be more satisfied with your purchase in the end and have money left over for workout clothing.

One last thing you should do before buying equipment is to check the feedback the equipment has received online from other purchasers.  Thanks to the internet, consumers are more capable of letting each other know what brands or products to stay away from; you can get a lot of information by reading the feedback others give the equipment.  Always read more than just the first few – look for some who have had the equipment for a while to make sure it keeps working and isn’t prone to breaking quickly.

Dumbell arm exercises

Incorporating a series of low-weight, high repetition arm exercises into your fitness plan can do more than just help you look good in sleeveless blouses and sundresses. According to a study completed by university researchers in Phoenix, women can use weight lifting as a positive method for building bone mass, muscle strength, and preventing the onset of osteoporosis.

As women age and their hormones change with the onset of perimenopause, maintaining bone density becomes a critical issue.  Women who don’t maintain muscle in their arms may eventually find that even every day tasks like lifting, turning, and pulling difficult.

Often women avoid showing their arms because of unsightly jiggle that occurs in the upper arm.  Most women assume that to tighten that area, they should increase the number of triceps-focused exercises they do.  Unfortunately, the triceps is a relatively small muscle, and this misconception can be frustrating for the woman who wants attractive and healthy looking arms.

bicepcurl 300x237 Dumbell arm exercisesWhen doing arm exercises like bicep curls and tricep extensions, it is important to be sure you are using the proper technique in order to avoid straining your elbow joint.  For bicep curls, stand comfortably with your feet shoulder-width apart.  As you lift the dumbbells, keep your elbows close to your body and make sure your wrists stay straight.  When you lower the weight, be sure to do so in a slow and methodical way so that you don’t strain the muscle on the way back down.

Tricepextension 200x300 Dumbell arm exercisesWhen doing a tricep extension, hold the dumbbell securely over your head, wrist stiff and palm facing in.  Gently bend your elbow to no more than a 45 degree angle and then lift again.  Move slowly and carefully, alternating between arms.

While bicep and tricep exercises are important, the best way to exercise your arms is to ensure that your fitness routine contains plenty of cardiovascular exercise as well.  Walking, swimming, and bike riding can all greatly benefit your overall health and your arms in particular.  In addition, specific exercises that focus on both biceps and triceps are important to ensure that your arms look spectacular.  Yes, you should work your triceps, but you should also do bicep curls, shoulder raises, and most of all, pushups.

Pushups are one of the most effective and efficient upper body exercises you can add to your fitness routine.  Not only do they work most of the major muscle groups of the upper body, but they can be done anywhere, without any equipment.  If you want your arms to look beautiful all year round, make pushups a main player in your fitness routine.

Swimming for fitness

For women who are heavier, for those who struggle with joint or bone difficulties, and for those who suffer from chronic pain or have arthritis or arthritic conditions, physical exercise may be something you can only contemplate with pain.

However, those sufferings will only become worse with time if you don’t begin being more active.  Swimming is one of the best ways to increase your physical activity without risking injury to an already aching body.  In fact, women of all ages benefit from swimming and the low-impact, high-resistance workout you can get in a pool.

Swimming for exercise does not necessarily imply getting up at the crack of dawn and doing laps at the local Y.  In fact, swimming has become a very mainstream form of exercise particularly attractive to older or heavier women and includes everything from water jogging to water aerobics.  Any exercise you would do out of a pool has a less negative impact on your joints and bones when done inside a pool because the water’s natural buoyancy protects you.

Swimming, like other aerobic exercises, improves bone density and can help prevent osteoporosis.  It is ideal for women who experience chronic pain from any number of chronic disorders.  Swimming is even a great choice for pregnant women (always check with your doctor first).

swimming 300x199 Swimming for fitnessSwimming increases your endurance and stamina, improves your cardiovascular health, helps you lose fat and build muscle (which helps to increase your metabolism) and gives you more energy throughout the day.  The mental benefits of swimming are also well-noted, as it has been shown to improve depression and anxiety as well as reduce stress.

While you may be sore for the first few days after starting a swimming routine, the likelihood of being injured is much smaller.  You should still warm up and cool down before and after swimming, and you should start slowly and build up your exercise time.

Swimming does not have to be an expensive exercise; check with your local community center or school and find out if the pool has public use hours; this accessibility is typically offered at very low prices if not for free.  If you don’t have easy access to a swimming pool but live in a moderate climate, consider purchasing an above ground pool.  The maintenance is fairly simple, the pools inexpensive, and the long-term benefits of swimming will make it worth it in the end.

Running for exercise

People who incorporate running into their fitness plans either love it or hate it.  Some people claim running gives them that endorphin high we have all heard about, while others complain that the impact of running cripples their exercising efforts.  If you plan to add running to your fitness plan, be sure you clear your health with your physician first.

Running can be great, calorie-burning, aerobic exercise.  It can be done on a treadmill or even better, when the weather is nice enough, it can get you out into fresh air.  Running can also be a troublesome form of exercise if you don’t take the proper precautions.

running 225x300 Running for exerciseThe most important consideration when adding running to your exercise regimen is to make sure you have a pair of great-fitting running shoes.  The shoes should be professionally fitted, and you should try them on wearing the type of socks you will be wearing when you run (which should be slightly padded, moisture-wicking athletic socks).  Running shoes absorb the impact of your feet hitting the ground and help prevent you from sustaining injuries that keep you from exercising.

The next major consideration for running is a sport bra.  You cannot just go to the local department store and grab a small, medium, or large sport bra off the shelf.  You need to buy a sport bra that is sized by circumference and cup size, offers more than adequate support, and is designed from a moisture-wicking material.

Finally, before and after your running session, you should stretch and warm your muscles.  In fact, if you haven’t been running and decide to start, you should start by walking and incorporate a few minutes of running combined with your walking.  Each day, you can increase your running time and decrease your walking time until you are running the entire time.  It can take six to ten weeks to bring your body to a point where it can accomplish a run without overexertion.

As your body adjusts to running, you may find yourself wanting to run longer and more often.  Be careful not to overstress sore muscles; if you feel as though you’ve pulled a muscle, go back to walking and running in combination until the pain is gone.  Running and ignoring the pain will eventually make it impossible for you to exercise.  Be smart and listen to your body, and you will find that your body will respond well to running and you’ll see many positive benefits.

Outdoor Fitness

While some of us are perfectly happy just plugging in their MP3 player and hopping on a treadmill every day, many of us need more motivation to get moving.  Even if you start out with a treadmill or other exercise machine or use it when the weather is bad, you may find yourself lacking motivation at some point.  Outdoor workouts can make the idea of physical fitness much more inviting, especially if you find that you’re having trouble staying motivated otherwise.

Working on physical fitness outdoors gives you the advantage of fresh air, being out in your community, connecting with nature, and being able to do exercises that just can’t be replicated inside the house.  Things like biking, swimming, and running simply cannot be perfectly simulated on a machine, and while treadmills and elliptical machines are great for people in harsh climates, they just can’t match nature’s ability to provide challenge.

The advantage of outdoor physical fitness is that you can take advantage of the changing terrain available in nature that is not programmable on your treadmill.  You also have more variability, which keeps your body working at its hardest.  On a treadmill, you can only keep moving forward; outside you can try running laterally or run backwards, forcing your muscles to work in different ways.

Outdoor physical fitness is a great way to increase your mental fitness as well, since you literally have to walk away from everything waiting for you – email, work, demands of home and family.  It can really become YOUR time.  My suggestion?  Leave the cell phone at home, or at least turned off, while you are exercising.  Really make it a break from the routine of things.

Stop at a playground.  Those monkey bars aren’t just for kids to climb on.  Do some pull ups, stretch your muscles, and laugh and have fun.  It’s much more likely that you will burn more calories, exercise longer, and enjoy it more if you are interested in your surroundings and the exercise doesn’t just become the same old thing every day.

Outdoor physical fitness is simple.  It’s always there, even if you are traveling and often away from home.  Exercising outdoors doesn’t require anything more than a good pair of shoes  and some moisture-wicking exercise clothes.  There are no special pieces of equipment you have to buy, so you can start exercising even if you don’t have a budget for it – just walk out the front door and hit the ground running.