December holiday fitness challenge

December Holiday Workout Challenge | UPMC Health Plan

Unpredictable winters in Pittsburgh sometimes prevent us from getting outside to walk, run, or participate in other outdoor exercises we enjoy. The holidays also make it challenging to get in even the quickest of workouts when your schedule is jam-packed. This month, we are making those indoor workouts less painful by adding in variety and using equipment that most gyms have.

Workouts consist of rowing, cycling, treadmill, and strength options. Each one is between 20 and 30 minutes in length with warm-up and cool down included. This month we haven’t included a calendar because the goal will be to complete two or three of the indoor cardio workouts and one of the strength workouts per week. Within these guidelines, any option you choose will give you a total of 150+ minutes of activity during each week of the holiday season.

Rowing

 Rowing works your core, upper body, and lower body as you move. It’s a low-impact exercise, so most people find it easy on their joints. And the best part is that it’s challenging for all fitness levels.

Row workout 1:

Warm up for five minutes. Then choose five of your favorite songs, each at least three minutes long but no longer than five minutes. Next, start rowing at a moderate intensity. During the chorus of each song, pick up the speed and head to a high-intensity pace. Once the chorus is over, return to moderate effort. Recover for 30 to 60 seconds between songs. Cool down for five minutes and stretch.

Row workout 2:

This workout is pyramid style. Each set has the same amount of recovery but varying work periods measured in meters. Warm up for five minutes, then start.

  • Interval 1: Sprint for 100 meters, rest for 30 seconds.
  • Interval 2: Sprint for 200 meters, rest for 30 seconds.
  • Interval 3: Sprint for 300 meters, rest for 30 seconds.
  • Interval 4: Sprint for 400 meters, rest for 30 seconds.
  • Interval 5: Sprint for 500 meters, 30 seconds.
  • Repeat backward, then cool down and stretch.

 

Cycling

 Indoor cycling can challenge your cardiovascular endurance as well as your mental strength. If you have time to go to a class, most of them incorporate steady riding with intervals and hill climbs to really focus on cardio and strength. But if you don’t have time to attend a whole class, try one of these workouts for a quick blast!

Cycle workout 1:

This workout is all about control through a longer set. Warm up and then head to a mid hill where your cadence is around 80 RPM at a moderate effort. Each set you will push your cadence to a hard effort (about a 6-9 on a scale of 1-10), then recover.

  • Interval 1: Hard effort for 60 seconds, recover for 30 seconds.
  • Interval 2: Hard effort for 90 seconds, recover for 45 seconds.
  • Interval 3: Hard effort for 2 minutes, recover for 1 minute.
  • Interval 4: Hard effort for 2:30, recover for 90 seconds.
  • Interval 5: Hard effort for 3 minutes, recover for 90 seconds.
  • Cool down and stretch.

Cycle workout 2:

This workout is heart-pounding and fun at the same time because it has three big hill climbs in it with each one getting a little longer in duration.

  • Warm up five to six minutes before beginning at an easy to moderate pace.
  • Hill 1: 1 minute on a flat road, 1 minute on a mid hill, 1 minute at the top of a hill, 1 minute of recovery.
  • Hill 2: 2 minutes on a flat road, 2 minutes on a mid hill, 2 minutes at the top of a hill, 2 minutes recovery.
  • Hill 3: 3 minutes on a flat road, 3 minutes on a mid hill, 3 minutes at the top of a hill, 3 minutes recovery.
  • Cool down and stretch after the last set.

 

Treadmill

Running may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a great way to vary indoor routines and get a quick and effective cardiovascular blast in.

Treadmill workout 1:

This workout is perfect for when you want to get into the gym and back out in 20 to 25 minutes. You can adjust based on whether you want to run or walk, and how challenging you want the workout to be.

Minutes MPH Incline
Warm up 3 1
3:00-3:30 3.5 3
3:30-4:30 3.5 5
4:30-5:00 4 7
5:00-6:00 5 1
6:00-8:00 4 4
8:00-8:30 4.5 6
8:30-11:00 5 7
11:00-12:00 3.5 1
12:00-13:30 5.5 2
13:30-14:00 5 7
14:00-16:00 4 1
16:00-17:00 5.5 3
Cool down 3 1

Treadmill workout 2:

This workout is for those of you looking for speed and a great challenge.

  • Warm up
  • 1-minute run at 70-85% max
  • 1- to 2-minute recovery
  • Repeat 10 times
  • Cool down and stretch

 

Total body strength exercises

Complete 10 repetitions of each set (or what you are able to) for a total body blast.

  • Sit-up
    1. To start, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor with heels placed flat on the mat or ground.
    2. Next, place your hands on opposite shoulders (arms crossed across the chest) or behind or either side of your head. Note that it’s important not to grab or pull your neck or head.
    3. Time to engage your core by making sure the small of your back is being pushed into the floor. Draw your belly button into your spine, tightening the abdominal muscles.
    4. Begin to slowly and gently lift your head and then your shoulder blades off the floor or mat. Next pull up from the floor (keeping your core engaged) until you are at a 90-degree angle and your elbows are on or past the knees.
    5. Hold this position for a second or two, then slowly lower your torso back to starting position.
    6. Finally, remember to breathe throughout the exercise. Think exhale as you exert. In this exercise the exhale is on the way up and inhale on the way down or at the bottom of the exercise.
  • Squat
    1. To start, stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart.
    2. Your toes should be pointed slightly outward with your head forward, looking at a spot on the wall throughout the entire exercise.
    3. You want a strong base. This means your weight should be on your heels and not your toes. Give them a little wiggle just to make sure.
    4. Arms can be in several positions: out in front with palms face down and bent at the elbows, or behind your head being careful not to pull on the neck.
    5. Take a deep breath and flex your knees and hips to sit back in your hips. Visualize sitting back into an imaginary chair. As you progress through the movement, keep your head forward and back straight.
    6. Lower your squat so your thighs are parallel to the floor (or as close as possible depending on flexibility). Stop when your knees reach a 90-degree angle and avoid extending your knees past your ankles, which could cause injury.
    7. Finally, engage your core, exhale, and push through your heels to get back to the starting position. Make sure to focus on squeezing your glutes and driving your hips up.
  • Push-up
    1. Start on the floor and set your hands at a distance slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
    2. Feet should be about shoulder width apart. Depending upon your strength, you may choose a wider stance in your feet. The wider your stance, the more stable you will feel when starting out.
    3. You will want to think of your body as a straight line throughout the movement, so make sure your hips are not up in the air or sinking down.
    4. Position your head to be looking slightly forward in front of you. Always avoid looking straight down and never tuck your chin.
    5. To start the push-up you want to slowly lower your body until your elbows are at about a 90-degree angle, keeping your elbows close to the body. Many people fan their arms and elbows out for the push-up and it can put stress on the shoulders, so try to avoid it.
    6. Pause for a moment and explode back to starting position.
  • Burpee:
    1. Start by standing with your feet hip width apart and your arms down by your side.
    2. Next, lower into a squat position, placing your hands flat on the floor in front of you.
    3. Then, kick your legs backward as if you were headed into a push-up position and lower your chest to the floor.
    4. Next, complete the push-up and then thrust both feet forward so you are back in the squat position.
    5. Finally, jump up and raise both hands over your head.
  • Jumping jacks:
    1. Start out standing with your feet together and your hands at your side.
    2. Next, jump your feet out to the side and raise your arms above your head.
    3. Finally, reverse that motion by jumping back to your starting position.
  • Planks:
    1. Start with your hands directly under your shoulders as if you were about to go into a push-up position.
    2. Next you want to make sure that your toes are pointed into the floor, making sure you are not locking your knees. Try to squeeze your glutes (butt) here to help with stabilization.
    3. Next, position your head so that your neck is in a neutral position. You can do this by picking a spot on the floor just beyond your hands to stare at. This will then put your head in line with your back.
    4. Finally, hold the plank for the allotted time making sure to breath throughout the exercise.
  • Lunges:
    1. Start with your chest lifted, chin up, abs contracted and feet parallel and hip-distance apart and knees soft.
    2. Next take one giant step forward and lower your body slowly, bending both knees, and creating two 90-degree angles, then return to standing.
    3. Repeat on the other side for one repetition.
  • Bicycle crunch:
    1. Start by lying on your back with your hands behind your head and legs raised and bent at 90 degrees.
    2. Next, alternate knee to elbow by bringing opposite knee to opposite elbow.
    3. Hold each rep for a count and then switch sides.
  • Bicep curl:
    1. To start this exercise, place two dumbbells in your hands, keeping your elbows close to your torso and palms up.
    2. Next start to curl the weights towards your biceps until the dumbbells are at shoulder level.
    3. Pause at the top and slowly release to starting position.
  • Overhead triceps extension:
    1. To start this exercise, stand with your feet hip distance apart holding one dumbbell with both hands, bending at the elbows behind your head.
    2. Next straiten your arms to lift the dumbbell into the air towards the celling keeping your elbows pointed forward, biceps stationary and only the forearms moving.
    3. Finally lower the dumbbell to starting position.
  • Dead lift:
    1. Start with your feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent, holding a dumbbell in each hand in front of your thighs.
    2. Next, bend at your hips to lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor.
    3. Remember to keep the weights close to your body.
    4. Finally, return to standing — that completes one repetition.
  • Hip bridge:
    1. For this exercise you will start on your back with your knees bent and feet hip width apart.
    2. Next you want to slowly bring your spine off the floor starting with your tailbone. As you start to head up, remember to tighten your glutes (butt) and hamstrings (back of the leg).
    3. The goal is for the body to have a long and slanted line from your shoulders to your knees.
    4. Hold this for a few seconds and then lower back to starting position, back flat on the floor.

30 day lunge challenge

30 day lunge challenge | UPMC Health Plan

Welcome to June’s 30 day lunge challenge, which is all about sculpting the legs! The exercise is lunges, and we are in for a lower body blast with this one. That’s because lunges are one of the most effective lower body exercises you can do. They effectively work several muscle groups. These groups include your quadriceps (front of the thigh), the glutes (butt), calves, and even your hamstrings (back of the thigh).

30 day lunge challenge | UPMC Health Plan

You can do this exercise practically anywhere, with or without equipment. This means you can lunge in place in your living room, down the driveway, or even down a hallway in your house. The variations and modifications let you customize your routine and ramp up the challenge for the experts. This challenge can meet the demands of any exerciser.

If you can keep up with this challenge, your bottom half will thank you in 30 days! Use the calendar to stay on track and get stronger with every set you complete. Keep in mind that the number listed in the challenge is per leg. So on the first day, you will want to do five lunges on each leg, and so on. As the numbers get larger, consider breaking into smaller sets like five or 10 and switching legs. Or mix in another type of lunge (see modifications), since there are many to choose from. Before you begin, always remember that form is very important and technique is critical to your success. See safety cues and form instructions below.

Forward lunge:

  1. Start with your chest lifted, chin up, abs contracted, feet parallel and hip-distance apart, and knees soft.
  2. Take one giant step forward and lower your body slowly, bending both knees so that you create two 90-degree angles, and then return to standing.
  3. Repeat on the other side for one repetition.

Safety cues:

  • While stepping and lowering, remember to bend your knees no more than 90 degrees and keep your front knee right over your front ankle.
  • Make sure you aren’t leaning too far forward or back while doing the exercise or rounding your spine.
  • Keep your knees aligned with the front knee over the shoe and the back knee pointing down.

To add more variety, you can turn this into a backward lunge or a side lunge.

Modifications:

  • Backward lunge – Same as the forward lunge, but step back instead of forward.
  • Walking lunges – These are the same as the forward lunges, but you walk while alternating legs.
  • Side lunges – These are lunges to either side of the body. Start with your feet hip-width apart. Then engage your core and take a large step to either side of the body, making sure to sit your hips back and making sure your knee does not extend past the toe. Keep your leg relatively strait. Finally, push through the extended foot to return and complete one repetition.
  • Jumping lunges – To add a little bit of a challenge, you can add in a jump to the forward lunge. This means you switch legs midair, like scissors, and land on the opposite leg.

Good luck — and remember to tag your friends to join in! After all, summer is right around the corner and it’s beach body season!

Want to work your whole body? Click to check out our other 30 day challenges

30-day plank challenge

30 Day Plank Challenge | UPMC Health Plan

Welcome to May’s 30 day plank challenge! This month, we are going to get the core moving for some serious abs this summer! Planks are one of the best exercises you can do, and here’s why. This exercise focuses on strengthening your abdominal muscles. Holding a plank can help strengthen the shoulders, back, chest, and core — all in one exercise. Planks can also be easily modified to fit any level of strength.

Since you are at varying levels of fitness, we will start off the month with a quick plank test. This will give you a starting point. For the test, all you need to do is set a timer and get into the plank position. Time how long you can hold the exercise while keeping form and not having to drop down. That’s your base time! Each day, you will add the number of seconds listed on the calendar to your starting time.

Plank:

  1. Start with your hands directly under your shoulders, as if you were about to go into a push-up position.
  2. Next, you want to make sure that your toes are pointed into the floor. Make sure you are not locking your knees. Try to squeeze your glutes (butt) here to help with stabilization.
  3. Next, position your head so that your neck is in a neutral position. You can do this by picking a spot on the floor just beyond your hands to stare at. This will then put your head in line with your back.
  4. Finally, hold the plank for your allotted time. Make sure to breathe throughout the exercise.

Modifications:

If you need to, you can drop down and do this exercise on your forearms.

If starting in a standard position is too challenging, drop your knees to start as if doing a modified push-up (in the up position).

If you need a step up, try a side plank. Just remember to stack your hips and prop up on one hand or elbow. Then, if you are brave, go one step further and lift one leg or arm for an even greater challenge.

Remember that proper form is the most important part of any exercise. In a plank, make sure that you are not raising your butt into the air (cheater), sinking your lower back (ouch), dropping your head to your chest, or forgetting to breathe.

Good luck and remember to tag your friends to join in! After all, summer is right around the corner and it’s beach body season!

 

Information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It’s always best to check with your doctor before starting any new diet or fitness routine.

30 Day Push Up Challenge

30-day-challenge-april_532PX

Welcome to April’s 30 day push up challenge! In my opinion, push-ups are one of the best exercises for the shoulders, chest, and triceps (the back of the upper arm). Push-ups also help with core strength — an added bonus!

Since you are at varying fitness levels, I encourage each of you to start off this challenge at a place or movement that feels comfortable. Push-ups can be modified so that anyone at any level can start building strength — and eventually work up to a full push-up! Finally, invite friends and family to do this challenge with you. After all, fitness is more fun in numbers!

Below is a step-by-step for push-ups. You will have rest days built in to recover for the next repetition increase, so feel free to really challenge yourself on this one!

Always remember to check with your doctor before starting a new physical activity program. While exercise is recommended for almost anyone, certain conditions can be worsened by specific types of exercise. Remember to always stop if you feel pain or have any unusual symptoms.

Click here to download the calendar. 

Push-ups:

  1. Set-up
    • Start on the floor and set your hands at a distance slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
    • Feet should be about shoulder-width apart. Depending on your level of strength, you may choose a wider stance in your feet. The wider the feet, the more stable you will feel when starting out.
    • You will want to think of your body as a straight line throughout the movement, so make sure your hips are not up in the air or sinking down.
    • Finally, position your head to be looking slightly forward in front of you. Always avoid looking straight down and never tuck your chin.
  2. To start the push-up, slowly lower your body until your elbows are at about a 90-degree angle, keeping your elbows close to the body. Many people fan their arms and elbows out for the push-up and it can put a lot of stress on the shoulder. Try to avoid doing that.
  3. Pause for a moment and explode or “push-up” back into the starting position.

There are several ways to modify this movement. The progression would be starting off with wall push-ups, moving to push-ups on the desk or chair and then working up to knee push-ups. Once you have knee push-ups, you can head into the regular push-ups.

Join the challenge and show us your progress. Tag your photos on Instagram and Twitter with #MonthlyMovesApril.

30 Day Squat Challenge

Welcome to the March Monthly Squat Challenge! I absolutely love squats because they are a compound movement. This means that it involves multiple joints- the hip and knee joint. Muscles targeted are the quadriceps and the gluteus maximus. Squatting also helps with other areas too like core strength and balance so it’s a no brainer for anyone looking to build strength and stability!

This challenge starts out low in volume for beginners, but those of you experts out there; feel free to do a variation to add intensity to the challenge. You can add weight; make it a plyometric exercise, or even increase the volume. If the starting repetitions are too low you can add a base repetition and each set throughout the month to scale it. Have fun and make it challenging!

30-Day Squat Challenge | UPMC Health Plan Download a printable version here

Below is a step by step for squats. Remember, as you get stronger you can move on from a basic squat onto some of the others listed below. You will have a rest day built in every other day to rest and recover for the next repetition increase, so feel free to really challenge yourself on this one!

Always remember to check with your doctor before starting a new physical activity program. While exercise is recommended for almost all individuals, there are certain conditions that can be worsened by specific types of exercise. Remember to always stop if you feel pain or have any unusual symptoms.

Step By Step:

To Start:

    • Stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart.
    • Your toes should be pointed slightly outward with your head forward looking at a spot on the wall throughout the entire exercise.
    • You want a strong base. This means your weight should be in your heels and not your toes. Give them a little wiggle just to make sure.
    • Arms can be in several positions- out in front with palms face down and bent at the elbows, or behind your head being careful not to pull on the neck.
  1. Next, take a deep breath and flex your knees and hips to sit back in your hips. Visualize sitting back into an imaginary chair. As you move through the movement, keep your head forward and back straight.
  2. Lower you’re squat so your thighs are parallel to the floor (or as close as possible depending on flexibility). Stop when your knees reach a 90-degree angle and avoid extending your knees past your ankles, which could cause injury.
  3. Finally, engage your core, exhale and push through your heels to get back to the starting position. Make sure to focus on squeezing your glutes and driving your hips up.
  4. Repeat

There are several variations you can do depending upon your strength and experience.

  • Body weight squat: This is your basic squat and the easiest place to start.
  • Sumo squat: This variation uses a wider stance with toes pointed slightly outward.
  • Jump Squat: If you are looking for a higher intensity squat, this plyometric option is for you! You take the basic squat up a notch by adding a jump. Lower yourself into the squat position about half way and then jump up and make sure to land on both feet.
  • Goblet squat: In this exercise you simply add a weight such as a dumbbell close to your chest as you perform the exercise. Remember to maintain proper form with the weight added. If you can’t maintain proper form, reduce the weight or go back to the body weight squat.
  • Back squat: Once you have mastered a body weight squat you can try adding weight. Take your basic squat and add a barbell across your shoulders and upper back or dumbbells to your sides.
  • Front squat: In this variation the barbell is in front of your shoulders with your fingertips under the bar and back towards you. You may find this one really challenging so master the weighted squat first.

Join in the challenge and show us your progress. Tag your photos on Instagram and Twitter with #MonthlyMovesMar

 

Looking for more monthly challenges? Here’s last month’s sit-up challenge

30-Day Crunches or Sit-ups Challenge

Welcome to February’s monthly fitness challenge! We are extremely excited to bring you an all-around excellent exercise for our first challenge.

Basically, we think crunches (or sit-ups) are a great exercise for anyone! They help build a strong core, which can improve things like posture, balance, and even low back pain. Better still, this exercise can be done anywhere. You don’t have to lug around fancy equipment.

Monthly fitness challenge: crunches or sit-ups | UPMC Health Plan

Check out our step-by-step guide for both exercises below. Remember, too, that as you get stronger you can move from crunches to sit-ups. 

Always remember to check with your doctor before starting a new physical activity program. While exercise is recommended for almost everybody, there are certain conditions that can be worsened by specific types of exercise. And don’t forget to check back next month for our next challenge! 

Step By Step

Crunch:

  1. To start, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the mat or floor, hip distance apart.
  2. Place your hands (lightly) on either side of your head. I recommend your ears as a good landmark. It’s important not to grip or pull your head or neck.
  3. Next, it’s time to engage your core by making sure the small of your back is being pushed into the floor. Draw your belly button into your spine, tightening the abdominal muscles.
  4. Begin to roll your shoulders off the floor towards your knees. While doing this, check that you have a few inches of space between your chest and chin and that while the shoulders lift, your back stays flat on the mat or floor.
  5. Hold for a moment (or two) at the top, and then slowly come back down. Finally, remember to breathe throughout the exercise. In this exercise, you exhale on the way up and inhale on the way down (or at the bottom of the exercise). Think exhale as you exert.

   

Sit-up:

  1. To start, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor with heels placed flat on the mat or floor.
  2. Place your hands on opposite shoulders (arms crossed across the chest) or behind or either side of your head. Note that it’s important not to grab or pull your head or neck.
  3. Next, it’s time to engage your core by making sure the small of your back is being pushed into the floor. Draw your belly button into your spine, tightening the abdominal muscles.
  4. Begin to slowly and gently lift your head and then your shoulder blades off the floor or mat. Next, pull up from the floor (keeping your core engaged) until you are at a ninety-degree angle and your elbows are on or past your knees.
  5. Hold this position for a second or two, and then slowly lower your torso back to starting position.
  6. Finally, remember to breathe throughout the exercise. In this exercise, you exhale on the way up and inhale on the way down (or at the bottom of the exercise). Think exhale as you exert.

Click here for a printable version.

twitter