4 Dynamic Stretches For An Effective Warmup

Stretching is one of the most underrated things you can do for your health. It’s kinda like the broccoli on your plate…everybody knows its good for them, but for some reason we all want to skip it. I can’t tell you how many times I see people hop on the treadmill without so much as a toe-touch. I cringe and wish them luck in my head. But seriously how friggin’ good does it feel to take a deep breath, stretch your arms above your head and just feel your body come alive?! Ahhhhh.

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It’s time to embrace the stretch! Stretching is essential to get blood flowing to your muscles and help your body prep for movement (or just your day). Before a workout its important to practice dynamic stretching, which means your body is moving throughout the stretch as opposed to static stretching, where you hold a stretch without moving.

Dynamic stretching is key for anyone prepping to do any sort of sport that requires intense movement, ie. running, dancing, basketball, shopping (just kidding…but am I?). By making small movements in the stretch you can better prepare your muscles for what you’re about to do….whether it’s a burpee or a reach for a tank top on a high shelf. Dynamic stretching increases your core body temperature, increases range of motion around joints and decreases chance of injury. Basically it’s awesome and you should try it.

So today I’m sharing with you my favorite dynamic stretches! I incorporate these into my dance warm-ups and into my own pre-run routine (and hope the non-stretcher on the treadmill next to me notices).

4 Dynamic Stretches For An Effective Warmup

1. Toe-touch toe lift

Face right leg and bend to touch toes, placing hands on either side of foot. Lift right toe up and down 8x. Repeat left.

2. Flex heeled bend

Face right leg again and bend to touch toes, placing hands on either side of foot. Bend left leg and lengthen body over right leg. Repeat bend 8x. Move to left side a repeat.

3. Knee dip lunge

Move into lunge on right side and dip knee to floor 8x. Repeat on left side.

4. Toe touch heel lift

Bend over right leg and lift left leg, bending at knee. Lift right heel 8x. Repeat on left side.

These stretches are super simple, but can be modified for any flexibility level.

Having trouble touching your toes? Put a chair in front of you to hold onto.

Can’t go down all the way into the lunge? Put your hands on your knee or hold onto a wall.

Basically these stretches are built to help your muscles slowly work into your range of motion and gradually warm up so you’re ready for greater things. Like running a few miles or shopping till you drop 🙂

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5 Tips For A Vacation-Ready Body

Happy first day of spring! With a foot of snow on the ground and temps hovering in the 30’s it does not feel like spring here one bit! But the calendar tells me it is, so I guess I’ll believe it. It’s all good though because next week the hubbs and I will be sailing into the warm Bahama sunshine 🙂 So I wanted to share some of my tips for shedding your winter-body and becoming the beautiful spring butterfly that has been hiding under all those sweaters for the past 5 months. I am by no means an expert on this, but these are just some of the tricks I find helpful and what I am doing right now! Warm weather here I come!!

5 tips for a vacation ready body

1. Say yes to sweat

This may seem obvious, but you’re gonna have to start working out – hard. Or if you are already working out, it’s time to amp up whatever you’re doing. Here’s some tips on how to do that.

  • Increase mileage/time – If you’re currently running 2 miles every other day, make it 3 miles.
  • Add an extra workout – Even by simply adding one extra exercise day to your week will make a big difference. Sunday evening is my favorite time to get in an extra workout because I usually have extra time. Think of what day you might have just an extra 20 minutes and do your workout, no matter what.
  • Add a walk into your daily routine – Moving throughout the day is just as important as the time you spend at the gym. Commit to a 10 minutes walk during your lunch break, even if it’s cold outside!
  • Stop making time an excuse. Try my 20-minute at-home workout for a quick and easy way to get your sweat on.

5 tips for a vacation ready body

2. Make sleep your best friend

My personal goal for every weekend is to sleep as much as possible. During the week I am go go go and barely have time to breathe, so the weekend is my time to re-charge. That means sleeping in late AND planning a nap in the afternoon. This rest time ensures that I have the brain capability to handle the coming week and it prevents nasty things from happening to my body, like an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, which increases appetite. No one wants an increased appetite when they’re trying to fit into their summer clothes…in March. So make sleep your b$tch.

3. Cut the sweets

This one gets me every time. For me, it’s hard to say no to chocolate. But if you’re 2 weeks away from bearing your pasty white body for all to see, you gotta give it up. Reducing your sugar intake will help you reduce unnecessary calorie intake, but it will also help you eat more nutritious and satisfying foods. If you usually reach for a cookie after lunch, reach for some nuts instead. Or if you really need a sweet fix, opt for a snack that still offers protein and fiber to help keep you satisfied – like fruit, a yogurt (low sugar preferred, like Oikos Triple Zero) or a Lara Bar (natural sugar from dates). Shoving a handful of M&M’s into your mouth may temporarily keep you satisfied, but 20 minutes later you will crash and need something real. Skip the extra calories and go straight for the real stuff.

5 tips for a vacation ready body

4. Say no to bread

Cutting bread from your diet helps reduce your carb intake, which helps you burn fat, but it also opens up your eating possibilities. Think of all the super nutritious foods you could be eating instead of bread; like sweet potatoes, quinoa, oats, brown rice, coconut flour, etc. Try eating roasted sweet potatoes with your morning eggs, subbing quinoa for pasta or using coconut flour in your baking. Have a serious hankering for some toast? Opt for whole wheat and keep your portions small.

5 tips for a vacation ready body

5. Get your bronze on

There’s nothing worse than showing up to a tropical beach and being the whitest person on the sand…or just blending into the sand completely. You gotta get a little pre-tan happening so that you have the confidence to strip down and frolick into the warm waves. I recommend getting a spray-tan or applying some self-tanner the day before you go. Sun Tan City always has coupons available and Fake Bake is super popular for the DIY sunless tan. No harmful UV rays needed!

5 tips for a vacation ready body

Now I’m not saying that I can stick to this every second of every day, but I’m certainly trying. I mean, nothing makes you want to run that extra mile like knowing you need to fit your winter bum into your summer bikini in t-minus 10 days.

20-Minute At-Home Workout

Let’s face it, working out in the winter can be tough. Unless you live somewhere that is eternally warm or you have a home gym, getting motivated to go to the gym or go for a walk can be like pulling teeth. I just do not want to get out from under my warm blanket!

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If you’re like me and the temperature outside has been below 30 for days on end, I have a solution for you that will not require you to get cold. This at-home workout is my go-to for those snowstorm days or when I only have about 20 minutes to get a workout in. All you need is your body, 3-5 lb weights (or soup cans) and some good tunes to keep you motivated! (check out my playlists here)

20-Minute At Home Workout

CARDIO – Do whole sequence 2x

1. Burpees – 10 reps

Touch floor, shoot legs into plank, bring legs back to hands, jump up.

2. Weighted squats – 20 reps

Hold weights together and squat, then lift weights over head.

3. X-Jumps -20 reps

Make X with your hands, jump and land reaching towards opposite leg, jump and reach to other leg.

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4. Lunge and curl – 24 reps

With weights in hands lunge front and bring weights up in bicep curl. Bring legs back together and uncurl. Alternate feet.

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ABS – Do whole sequence 2x

1. Toe touches – 20 reps

With legs above hips reach over head and then up towards toes.

2. Butt crunches – 20 reps

Lift hips towards the sky and engage glutes. Bring hips down.

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3. Bicycle – 20 reps

Lift head and twist towards opposite knee as other leg extends straight. Switch to other side.

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4. Arm Dips – 20 reps

With fingers facing your heels, bend elbows and straighten.

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Still can’t get your butt off the couch? Here’s a tip. I always find it hard to change into my workout because I don’t want to get cold. So instead of changing, I start the workout in whatever I’m wearing and then as I get hot I change into my workout clothes. It works in a pinch!

What’s your trick to motivate yourself to workout?

4 Things I Learned At Nuvo Dance Convention

Happy almost-Friday! I don’t know about you, but I am so glad the weekend is only hours away. Before I throw in the towel for the week I wanted to share a few things I learned last weekend when I attended Nuvo Dance Convention  in Boston!

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Nuvo is a big treat for me because I’m able to take class, observe amazing dancers and learn from some of the greatest teachers in the industry. It’s honestly like a trip to Disneyland for a dance teacher. Plus any weekend with dancing + Cheesecake Factory + drinks with the girls is a win in my book.

Below are just a few of the many things that I took away from the weekend.

1. Improv is Everything

Improvisation is built into every single class, whether it’s before the start of a combo or as an exercise itself. And the kids are AMAZING at it. It’s something that I try to work on with my students, but now I know that it’s even more important for them to be comfortable with it and at an even younger age.

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Improv Tip: For contemporary classes I like to start class every now and then with an improv warm-up. Instead of doing the usual isolations and stretches I spread the kids out, put on a song and give them prompts to lead them through an improvisation. I ask them to stretch a bit before they begin and limit their improv to smaller movements if they haven’t taken class yet. This warms their muscles, their minds and helps them practice improvisation.

2. Lay Down To Get Aligned

Proper alignment is very important and something I struggle with communicating to my students. Chantel Aguirre took us through an enlightening Floor Barre exercise that forces you to align and activates the correct muscles while you’re laying down, making it easier for your muscles to remember to activate when you stand up.

Floor Barre Exercise

  • Lay on the ground and put your hands on your hips. Tilt you thumbs towards the ground and tuck your pelvis. In this tucked position you may be a bit lifted off the ground, but engage your abs so you are not arching.
  • Staying tucked, do 4 demi plies, trying to keep your length with each one.
  • Immediately stand up and repeat the same 4 demi plies.
  • Lay down again and in the tucked position do 2 tondues front (right, left) with a flex and then 2 tondues side (right, left) with a flex.
  • Immediately stand up and repeat the same 4 tondues.

4. Forget Your Legs

Dancers these days are so obsessed with getting their legs higher that they forget about their arms. They can do the kick, but their arms are dead in the air.

Tip: Stacey Tookey had a great tip – make the dancers perform their combo without using their legs at all. Just have them stand in 2nd position, but do all the same arm movements that are required in the combination. It forces them to focus on the arms and make sure they are fully extending.

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4. Verbalize Tap Steps 

In Anthony Morigerato‘s class he talked about the importance of dancers verbalizing the sounds they are making with their feet. One way to practice this is to associate words and syllables with a step, with the number of syllables denoting the timing of the step. To make this easy for kids to understand, Anthony associates the steps with names of fruit and calls it “making a fruit salad”.

Anthony’s Fruit Salad Tap Exercise

Do the step, right and left, and say the word at the same time, exaggerating the syllables. Repeat each step 4x before going to the next one.

Step = pear

Dig heel = ap-ple

Shuffle step = pine-ap-ple

Paradiddle = wat-er-mel-on

 

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Overall it was an awesome weekend of dancing and we all came back with a little more knowledge and a little more swagger, which helps in class, at the club and in life in general.

Have a great weekend friends!

 

5 Stretches You Haven’t Tried Yet

Happy Tuesday! How is your week going so far? Today we are talking about stretching!

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I want to talk about stretching, not just for performance, but also for general well-being. Everybody knows that stretching is important for injury prevention and flexibility, but it can also be key to feeling balanced. Read on to find out why! (if you’re impatient scroll to #5)

Below is a list of some of my favorite stretches that are geared to challenge your normal and make you push a bit further.

5 Stretches You Haven’t Tried Yet

1.Foot Stretch – Point

This stretch will be most enjoyed by the dancers and yogis looking to work on their point and foot flexibility.

HOW TO: Start on your knees and bring your right leg in front of you. Gently roll over your point. Use your left hand as support and use your right hand to firmly press against your heel, leading your heel forward and pressing your arch further. Hold for 10 seconds and then switch to #2 below. Repeat 4x on each foot.

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2. Foot Stretch – Ball

This is part 2 to #1 above. Simply flip your foot so that you are stretching the flex position of your foot on the ball. Again press your heel forward with your hand. Alternate between this and #1, 4x on each foot.

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3. Split Stretch – Reach Back

This stretch will be enjoyed by anyone looking to increase their flexibility in their split. Only attempt if you already have your split, meaning you do not have to support yourself on either side and your thighs are completely touching the ground. This stretch can be very intense for your hips, so make sure to stretch before attempting.

HOW TO: Once you are fully in your split, reach back with your right hand. At the same time lift your back left leg up to meet your hand. Hold for 30 seconds. Do #4 below and then switch to the other side.

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4. Split Stretch – Flex & Lift

This stretch is again only for those who want to further stretch their split, this time the front foot. Only attempt if you are fully down in your split already. This stretch can be very intense for your calves and hamstrings, so make sure to stretch them before attempting.

HOW TO: Once you are in your split, flex your right front foot and grab and lift with your right hand. Hold for 30 seconds.

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5. Stretch. Every. D@m#. Day. 

My 5th and final stretch tip is not a specific stretch, rather a challenge to incorporate stretching into your life every day.

Throughout the day stress builds up in your body and causes muscles to contract, making you feel tense and generally uneasy. All this tension can lead to negative affects on your mind and body. Bah! We do not want that. Especially when the solution is so easy.

Stretching loosens muscles, increases blood flow and releases endorphins (love those guys!), all of which helps you to relax and feel balanced.

Even if it’s just a quick toe touch and a shoulder stretch, try to fit stretching into your daily routine to reap the (easy and free) benefits! Why not?! Dancer or not, stretching is good for everyone.

 

Plank & Split Exercise

There’s something refreshing about being upside down. All day long we live our lives right side up, so when the opportunity arrises to get those legs in the air, it can be a really nice change of perspective. Plus being able to support yourself with your arms is a great core workout in itself.

planks and splits exercise

This exercise combo is something I use in my Jumps & Turns classes to get the kids to practice their splits and at the same work on core and arm strength. But it’s not just a dance exercise, it can be good for anyone who wants to work on their flexibility and core strength. You can modify the number of commandos and push-ups based on your ability.

planks and splits exercise

I would definitely recommend some dynamic stretching before attempting this combination, especially for your legs muscles and hips flexors. Dynamic stretching is active stretching, meaning muscles are repeatedly put through the range of motion. For example, bending over and touching your right toe, but lifting the right toe 8x while you’re in the stretch. This helps the blood flow to your muscles, warms your muscles and is proven to help increase performance compared to static stretching (no movement during stretch).

planks and splits exercise

Plank & Split Exercise

  • Start standing with your back to a wall
  • Walk your hands down your legs to touch (or reach for) the floor
  • Walk hands out to high plank and hold for 16 counts
  • 4 commandos (left arm down, right arm down, left arm up, right arm up)
  • Walk hands back to legs
  • Extend right leg up wall and hold stretch for 16 counts
  • Walk back out to plank (bring leg down as you go) and hold for 16 counts
  • 8 push-ups
  • Walk hands back to legs
  • Extend left leg up wall and hold stretch for 16 counts
  • REPEAT

planks and splits exercise

You leg may not look like this, and that’s OK! Hey, it might look even better, and that’s awesome! The goal is to try to get your hips as close to the wall as you can. The wall and your hands pushing on the ground give you the right leverage to really deepen that split and push your flexibility (safely of course).

And you might even find some new perspective while you’re down there. Just don’t look at your face if you’re looking into a mirror like I am…upside down face can be quite frightening.

Running + Dance Playlists January 2017

Whether it’s cleaning the house, organizing my desktop or sweating it out at the gym, music is a huge motivator for me. And of course I have to have the hottest beats for my dance classes. Nothing like hearing the same songs during warm-up all year long to make you go crazy.

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I spend a lot of time curating my playlists because one of my biggest pet peeves is overplayed music. I CANNOT listen to Shut Up and Dance one more time, and yet, it used to be my favorite song. For a hot second that is. To me, as soon as a song is on the radio, it’s over for me.

Well maybe not that drastic, but it’s a slow downward spiral after that point.

My running playlist needs to be upbeat, positive and the more it can make me want to dance while running (although not recommended), the better. This is also the playlist I use for my jazz classes and warm-ups.

Running Playlist

My dance class playlists are split up into Hip Hop and Contemporary, mostly because those are two very different music categories. But it’s basically faster music that helps you get your swag on, and then slow chill music.

Contemporary Playlist

Hip Hop Playlist

Happy listening!

Fall Favorites

For many many reasons Fall is my favorite season; the pumpkin-spice-everything, the leaves, the crisp air and the cozy clothes.

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It helps that I live in an area where Fall is celebrated everywhere you look from early September all the way to Christmas, with festivals every weekend, corn mazes to get lost in and scarecrows lurking around every corner.

This year we were actually going to skip the Fall festivities since we have a very busy October with weddings and our honeymoon, but one Saturday morning we were pulled out of bed by Shawn’s niece and nephew and whisked over to Applecrest – the Disneyword of Fall and one of my favorite places.

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And obviously we had to bring Theo. This guy loves apples more than life itself.

So we did the hayride thing and the apple picking thing and the donut thing and then promptly went home to do the watch-a-movie-and-pretend-you’re-not-napping thing. Crowds + donuts + wrangling an apple monster/dog can be tiring.

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With the plethora of apples taking up space on our counter I knew it was time to get baking. Recipe coming to the blog later this week!

Another one of my favorite things about Fall is that it’s the start of a new dance season. That means new classes, new students and of course new music! So here is my Fall playlist complete with songs to dance to, songs to run to and even some songs to cry to if the mood strikes you.

Time to grab your pumpkin spice latte and pump the jams. And before the season passes, get on your flannel and get yourself to Applecrest to bask in all of its Fall glory.