April Fitness Challenge & DietBet

pumps-iron-april-challenge-dietbetWhen I polled you guys last month about doing another DietBet or a separate sort of challenge on the blog, the responses were pretty evenly mixed—lots of requests for another DB, but also enthusiasm for a challenge not related to weight loss. So let’s do both!

For this month-long challenge, you pick the goal. What’s something you’ve been wanting to achieve? What change have you been needing to make? It can be anything related to health and fitness. If losing 4% of your bodyweight is on your list of goals, awesome—sign up for the Pumps & Iron DietBet. If weight loss isn’t a goal, challenge yourself to something else: Build up the strength to do 10 consecutive push ups without modifying to your knees; train for a 5K; drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water a day for a month; cut out sugar from your diet for 30 days to see how it affects your body; increase your flexibility so that you’re able to touch your toes. Tailor the challenge to your own personal goals.

I’ve put together a printable goal-setting chart to help you map out your challenge, break it into smaller weekly goals, and plan your month. It sounds dorky, but the process of writing down your goals, breaking them into steps, identifying obstacles you’ll face, and accordingly planning for getting through them is so paramount in succeeding. Start brainstorming your goal for next month and I’ll share the printout on the blog next week before the DietBet starts!

The Deets

If you’re unfamiliar with DietBet, it essentially allows you to win money for losing weight. You buy into it for $35, and then everyone who successfully loses 4% of their bodyweight in four weeks gets to split the pot. Usually winners end up doubling their money. It’s fun because you have this ongoing message board with everyone involved in the bet that allows you to support each other, get motivation when you’re lacking, share your victories, and seek advice when you falter. I always end up getting really emotional and typically cry at least twice throughout the month from reading the inspirational support being offered to the mini DietBet community (I know I know, I need to get a grip). Full rules can be found here.

The DietBet and blog challenge will start Monday April 6. I figured it’d be easiest for some people to wait until after Easter/Passover. And April seems like the perfect month because the weather is getting warmer, and that summer-is-coming buzz is absolutely infectious.

Throughout the month, I’ll be hosting giveaways at the end of each week for some added motivation. Everyone who succeeds in reaching their weekly benchmark can enter to win a prize package of awesome health and fitness goodies (that goes for DietBetters and those just taking on the blog challenge).

I’m in the process of finalizing prizes and content, so let me know if there are posts you’d find helpful during the challenge month or prizes that would help motivate you to stay on track. All suggestions welcome! And don’t worry–if you think the whole thing sounds stupid, there will still be all the regular workout/fitness posts I do throughout the challenge. :)

Hope you all (or at least some of you) are as excited as I am! I know challenges can be a little dorky, but c’mon—they’re fun! And a great way to get on track toward whatever goal you want to achieve. It’s not 100% final, but my goal will probably be to stick a handstand without using a wall. I think I have the core and upper body strength to do it—it’s just getting over my fear of falling over and practicing the balance. Maybe a month isn’t long enough and I’m being overly ambitious—yogis, feel free to pitch in your two cents!

If you’re interested in the DietBet, you can sign up HERE. You have until early April to get involved and it’s way more fun with friends, so start recruiting family members, friends and coworkers!  cta-april-dietbetsignature

3-Circuit Kettlebell Workout

Full-Body Kettlebell Workout (made up of three mini circuits: the first focusing on core, then lower body, then upper body)I mentioned in a previous post that I was excited about a Dragon Door kettlebell certification coming to Boston at the end of this month. Welp, missed the sign-up deadline. Womp. But it’s actually a blessing in disguise because a reader introduced me to StrongFirst (thank you, Lindsey!) and I was pretty blown away at how amazing (and totally intimidating) it sounded. StrongFirst has an intense, 3-day certification program that will be in Boston in August, but it’s expensive ($1,600) and after reading the testing requirements, I’m actually not even strong enough to pass! I read the weight of the bells that would need to be used for each of the tested exercises and just went damn.

My first thought was, ok better get training. But before I start increasing my weights, I really want to have the form perfected. StrongFirst offers courses (different from certifications) that are one day and go over the ins and outs of kettlebells and proper form and alignment. They’re $299 and that cost can go towards a certification course should I chose to do that in the future. It sounds perfect for where I am right now, and it’s coming to Boston late April—whoop! I won’t be credentialed afterwards, but will be 100x more knowledgeable. Really excited to share all I learn with you guys!

And speaking of kettlebells, here’s a full-body workout I did the other day in my apartment made up of three mini circuits (one focusing on core, one on upper body, one on lower body).

3-Circuit Kettlebell Workout

Equipment I Used:

  • 25-lb kettlebell
  • 20-lb kettlebell
  • Exercise mat

This workout consists of three circuits: the first focusing on core, the second on lower body, and the third on upper body. There are kettlebell swings in each one for a little cardio boost (plus kb swings might just be the most perfect exercise…ever). Go through each circuit three times. Complete one circuit before moving onto the next. Complete each circuit as quickly as possible (without sacrificing form!) and rest for up to 1 min in between circuits.

I indicated the weight I used in the exercise descriptions but adjust these to match your fitness level. With kettlebell exercises, it’s always best to start with a lower weight until you’re comfortable with the form.

I would budget 30 minutes for this workout. If you’re more advanced, you’ll be able to finish in less time; beginners will need a little longer. Full-Body Kettlebell Workout (made up of three mini circuits: the first focusing on core, then lower body, then upper body)

Circuit 1 (Core) | Go through 3 times

1 min Kettlebell Swings | Start with kettlebell on the floor between your legs and lift it up to starting position with both hands, flat back, using your legs to lift. With kettlebell hanging between your legs, use your arms as a pendulum, and swing the bell to chest-to-eye level by thrusting with your hips while keeping your core tight as you stand up straight. Swing back down and repeat. Your knees should remain slightly bent, but the main source of movement is hinging at the hips—not so much squatting. I used a 25-lb bell (but need to go up!).

50 Russian Twists | Start seated, holding the kettlebell in both hands at your chest, feet lifted off the ground with your knees bent. Lean back slightly, core engaged, balancing on your tailbone. Twist to one side, bringing the kettlebell to the outer side of that hip; then repeat in the other direction. Really twist at the waist—you want your chest to be totally facing whatever side you’re bringing the bell. I used a 20-lb bell.

25 Standing Side Bends (each side) | Stand with feet hip distance apart and a kettlebell in one hand. Lean over to the side with your torso as you lower the kettlebell towards the ground (try to get it at least to knee height, if not a little lower). Engaging the obliques, bring your torso back upright to starting position once you’ve gone as low as possible. I used a 25-lb bell.

Circuit 2 (Lower Body) | Go through 3 times

1 min Kettlebell Swings

25 Goblet Squats | Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart with your toes angled slightly outward. Hold a kettlebell in both hands, cradling it at the base of the handle at your chest. Keeping your torso as upright as possible (you don’t want to hunch forward with the weight of the bell), squat down, trying to get your bum lower than your knees. As you bend the knees, they should track in line with the angle of the toes and not jut forward of them. Once you reach the bottom of your squat, weight in your heels, power up to standing, thrusting the hips forward slightly at the top as you squeeze those glutes. I used a 25-lb bell.

25 Figure 8 Side Lunges (each side) | Begin standing with kettlebell in your right hand. Lunge out to the side onto your left leg, sitting your butt back to prevent the knee jutting forward of the toes. As you lunge out, gently swing the kettlebell around that left leg in a partial figure 8 movement, passing it off to your right hand as you continue to circle it around that left leg. Pass it back off to the right hand as you push off the left leg and return back to the starting standing position. I used a 25-lb bell.

Circuit 3 (Upper Body) | Go through 3 times

1 min kettlebell swings

15 Clean ‘n Press (each side) | Start standing tall with feet shoulder-width apart, holding the kettlebell in one hand, arm straight, bell hanging in front of your body. Bend knees into a half squat, and bring the kettlebell from a straight-arm hanging position to being closely held by the center of your chest with arm bent, fingers facing up. It’s a smooth movement, pulling the bell straight up and flipping your grip around the handle from an overhand grip to underhand (it will be cradled in the crook of your thumb and index finger at the end). Use your legs to help you achieve the clean: push up from your feet, straightening your legs for added power as you pull the bell up, and landing softly back into that half-squat as you catch the bell in its new hand position. From there, straighten legs as you stand up and extend your hand and the bell skyward. Reverse the moves to bring yourself back to starting position. Try to keep the kettlebell towards the center of your body throughout this move. When done correctly, this isn’t just an upper-body workout, but great for your core.

15 Mini Get-Ups (each side) | This is a partial Turkish get-up (very partial). Start laying down with the kettlebell in your right hand, right arm extended straight up towards the ceiling. You want to “pack” your shoulder blade down and back into the floor. Your right knee should be bent with right foot planted on the floor. Left leg is outstretched and left arm is laying beside you on the floor out at an angle. This is your starting position.

From here, engage your core and drive through the right heel as you punch the kettlebell straight up, coming up to a propped position on your left forearm. So you crunch the abdominals and, leading with your chest, rotate the shoulders so that the right arm is still perpendicular to the ground and your left forearm/elbow is supporting the weight of your upper body.

The last step is to squeeze the glutes and left oblique to lift the hips up into a sort of side plank. Don’t change the position of your feet when you do this. Reverse the motion, lowering the hips back to the ground and lowering your shoulders back down to the floor to your starting position. I used a 20-lb bell. full-body-kettlebell-workout-20

WEARING: t-shirt: c/o Reebok (old) // leggings: c/o Eddie Bauer

SHOP A SIMILAR LOOK:

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5 Side Plank Variations to Try

5 Side Plank Variations to Try (add these to your next ab workout!)There are endless exercise possibilities based in a plank or side plank position. Simply holding the static pose is great for the core (especially obliques), but you can also switch it up by adding movement, dumbbells, ankle weights and sliders. Try incorporating some of these fun side plank variations into your next workout!

5 Side Plank Variations to Try

Scroll down below for full exercises descriptions. 5 Side Plank Variations to Try (add these to your next ab workout!)

Toe Tap Side Planks

Start in a side plank position with top arm reaching straight up towards the ceiling and top leg lifted up at a high, straight 45-degree angle. This is your starting position. From here, bend the top knee, pointing your toes as you bring them down in front of your bottom base leg and lightly tap them to the floor. Don’t shift your bodyweight into the foot—it’s just a light tap. Straighten the knee, returning to your starting position. Bend the knee once more, pointing the toes and bringing them behind your body this time; again, lightly tapping them to the floor before extending the leg back up to your starting position.

Breaststroke Kick Side Planks

Think of your kick while swimming the breaststroke. I’m wearing ankle weights while doing these for an added challenge, but you can also perform them without the added resistance. Start in a side plank position with supporting hand stacked underneath your shoulder. Hover your top leg (the goal is to not rest it on the ground the entire duration of the exercise). This is your starting position. Crunch the top knee in towards your chest. Next, kick that top foot straight out in front of you (as if you were trying to kick yourself in the face). From here, sweep the leg straight back into the starting position. That’s one rep: bend, kick, sweep. Try not to let your hips sag while doing these; engage the bottom oblique to keep hips lifted.

Thread-the-Needle Pikes

This exercise is another megaformer favorite that I’ve adapted to be done off the machine. Start in a forearm plank position with your feet on a dishtowel (or sliders). You’ll want your top foot staggered in front of your bottom foot. Your shoulders should be stacked over the bottom elbow and your top arm is reaching up towards the ceiling. This is your starting position. From here, you’re going to “thread the needle” by wrapping your top arm around your torso, weaving in between your body and floor (like giving yourself a one-arm hug). As you do this, twist your chest towards the ground and pike your hips up towards the ceiling, keeping your legs straight and sliding the feet in. Slowly return to your starting position by sliding the feet back out and untwisting your torso, reaching your top hand back up towards the ceiling. 5 Side Plank Variations to Try (add these to your next ab workout!)

Star Crunch Side Planks with (Optional) Hand Weight

Start in a side plank position, bottom hand stacked underneath your shoulder, top arm stretched up towards the ceiling holding a weight (optional). I also like to wear ankle weights during these for an added challenge, but these are optional as well. Hover your top leg a couple feet up from the bottom supporting foot. The goal is to never rest this top foot down on the floor during the exercise. From this starting position, you’re going to crunch your top limbs, bending the top knee and top elbow and pulling them towards each other while keeping your hips lifted in a strong side plank. Extend the top leg and arm back out to starting position.

Sliding Breakdance Side Planks

For this side plank variation, your top leg is the base leg. Start with your bottom hand stacked underneath your shoulder and the bottom foot on a dishtowel or slider. That bottom foot will just lightly slide across the floor; don’t shift your bodyweight into it (top foot and bottom hand support your bodyweight). Top hand is lighting behind your head, elbow bent. Start with the bottom foot slid forward in front of your body. From here, slide the bottom foot back behind your body and as you do, crunch your top elbow down towards the floor, twisting through the waist so that your chest faces the floor. As you open back up and untwist from the torso, slide the foot forward again.

5 Side Plank Variations to Try (add these to your next ab workout!)

WEARING | tank VS Sport (old but similar here) // sports bra c/o Puma (old but similar here) // leggings c/o Eddie Bauer

SHOP A SIMILAR LOOK:

What’s your favorite way to side plank? Have you tried any of these five variations?

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P.S. Sorry it’s been so quiet on the blog this week! Sometimes life gets in the way of … everything. It’s been one of those weeks! 
deal-classpassBefore I end this post, I just wanted to let you guys know that ClassPass is running another of their referral deals. If you sign up using THIS LINK before March 24th, you’ll get $25 off your first month. I love CP and it’s expanded to a ton of cities throughout the US (and Canada!). Last time they did one of these refer-a-friend deals, several of you were bummed to miss the sign-up deadline, so just thought I’d pass along the news again this time around! :)