Beauty, Health, Love, Well being, Work outs

End of the day work out

A great way to exhaust yourself after today’s run and ab work to secure a great, solid night sleep:

Chest presses 3×10
Wall sits 3x 45 seconds
Squats 3x 12, in my case- with a 50 pound bar
Single leg squats, back foot elevated 3x 10, 10 lbs in each hand
Step ups, 3x 8, elevation: knee high bench, 10 lbs in each hand
Split squats, back foot elevated, 3x 10, with a 25 lbs plate
Jumps – knee high bench, 3×10
Deadlifts, 3×12, 45 lbs bar


And if you aren’t exhausted…well, I have someone here who is always drained enough for all of us!

Night night:)


Health, Running, Uncategorized, Well being, Work outs

A 10K for good night

No matter how sleepy you are, you don’t miss out on a lovely cool night run like this one. A comfortable 10K (6.4 miles) around Philadelphia to try out my new pink and neon green running monsters, with a stop to soak up the beauty of the night.

Not too shabby! Sweet dreams.


Beauty, Uncategorized, Well being, Work outs

Nature as your gym

I have pretty much never met someone who does not enjoy a beautiful sight, or sunshine, or a mild breeze. Most of us also love the outdoors if only because of the sense of space, lack of clutter, the calmness, the smell of fresh air.

Yet we often associate fitness and exercise with indoor gyms, stuffy, crowded spaces, and significant expenses. This alone creates obstacles to training: distance, cost, availability, are all added difficulties sufficient to make exercise aversive to many.

Well, one thing is for sure: a trail, a park, even your neighborhood street, will always be there. Going for a hike, jogging on a trail, yoga in your back yard–require nothing but getting out of your house–and exercise starts.

This article reviews all the wonderful benefits of making the great outdoors your free, ever present gym. Enjoy the sunshine, and get your heart rate up:


Uncategorized, Work outs

Stretching the Hamstrings: Beginners.

A great excerpt on a variety of stretches and stretching techniques, with some added comments by me for some research background.

Methods of Stretching Hamstrings

Much research has been dedicated to studying the best technique of stretching, optimum frequency, and duration to achieve the best gains in flexibility. The different stretching methods, ballistic stretching, static stretching, pnf stretches, have all been demonstrated as effective in increasing hamstring flexibility.

Many studies on flexibility tend to focus on hamstrings because they are often tight, it is relatively easy to stretch them, and easy to measure range of motion. Studies generally show that even a single stretch is beneficial for improving flexibility although results only last a few minutes. Exercises must be done over the long term to achieve long term results. You can liken stretching the hamstrings to stretching a rubber band. The rubber band will eventually bounce back to its original length unless stretched again. In that way there is a carry over from one hamstring stretch to the next.

Stretching Hamstrings Using Static Stretches

Hamstring tightness can be a limiting factor for the optimal performance of particular sports and an intrinsic risk factor for sports injuries. Static stretching has been consistently reported in the literature as an effective tool in preventing injuries related to lack of flexibility. The relative safety of this type of stretching makes it a good one for a healthy general population.

Standing Hamstring Stretch
The standing stretch is valid as an effective method of increasing hamstring flexibility, but depends on pelvic positioning. If you are able to maintain a straight lower back while performing this stretch it is significantly more effective.  To perform this stretch stand and face a chair or table. Keep your chest up and back straight. Bend forward at the hips until you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh.

Doorway Stretch
The stretch through the doorway has been validated, and is easier in terms of maintaining a stable pelvis. This stretch is performed by lying on the floor with one leg on the wall and the other flat on the floor through the doorway. Pull yourself closer to the wall as you feel a stretch. This hamstring stretching method has been shown to be just as effective as the standing hamstring stretch.

Table Stretch
Stand with one leg up on a bed or table. Try and keep the other hip neutral (keep the knee of the other leg pointing down toward the floor). Keep your chest up and maintain a curvature in your lower back as you lean forward. Do not allow the knee on the leg being stretched to bend up.

Floor Hamstring Stretch
The Seated hamstring stretch can be done on the floor. Sit with one knee bent and the bottom of your foot against the inside of the opposite thigh. Stretch out the other leg in front of you while scooting your butt back and lifting your chest up. Maintaining good pelvic alignment and keeping your chest up is important to prevent lower back injuries during this stretch and will maximize the stretch on the hamstrings.  Rotating your trunk toward the side of the stretched out leg will target the bicep femoris more. Rotating your trunk away from the side of the stretched out leg will target the semitendinosus and semimembranosus more so.

Stretching Hamstrings Using PNF Techniques

The PNF techniques use the development of tension in a muscle by contraction to facilitate the relaxation  and therefore stretch a muscle. By facilitating the relaxation of muscles we can improve circulation and improve extensibility of myofascial tissues.

PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) uses inhibition techniques to assist relaxation of the muscle being stretched. Contract-relax, hold relax, and contract-relax antagonist-contract are commonly used. Optimal length of contraction used in these techniques has been found to be 3 to 6 seconds.

1. To perform a self PNF stretch (hold-relax) for the hamstring in standing, stand behind a chair and place one heel on the chair. Straighten your elevated leg and relax into the “standing hamstring stretch” Push your heel actively down into the chair to contract the hamstrings and hold this for 3 to 6 seconds. Then relax and gently force yourself further forward. Repeat this 3 or 4 times.

2.  To perform a self PNF hamstring stretch (contract-relax antagonist-contract) using a strap to stretch the hamstrings in lying is another very effective method of stretching hamstrings. Lie on your back and loop the strap around the ball of your foot holding the ends of the strap with both hands. Be sure to keep your chin down and shoulders back. Exhale while pushing your heel up toward the ceiling. Hold this stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. Now push down with your heel into the strap toward the floor for 3 to 6 seconds. Then try and straighten your knee and actively push your foot up toward the ceiling contracting your quadriceps. Hold this for 3 to 6 seconds. Relax and hold your stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. You can add dimension to this hamstring stretch by bringing your heel to one side and then the other to target different parts of the hamstrings and posterior leg fascia.

Stretching Hamstrings Using Dynamic Stretching Techniques

Dynamic stretching should be done after the muscle is warmed up and can be done before a workout to improve hamstring flexibility without hindering performance in those sports that require strength and power.

1.  The straight leg toe touch is performed in standing. Start with good posture, chest up and shoulders back. Flex your shoulders such that your arms are straight in front of you at 90 degrees.  Try to maintain a tall posture throughout this stretch, tighten your abdominals and keep your back straight.  Swing your leg forward while straight to try and touch your toes to your fingers. Lower your leg and alternate with the other side.

2.  The one-leg bird stretch also requires balance and stability. Start with an upright posture, chest up, shoulders down and relaxed. Lift your straight left leg behind you as you slowly bend forward at the hips and try to touch your toes. You will look like the letter “T” with the leg being stretched being the one planted on the ground. Hold this position for 2 or 3 seconds. Remember to always maintain a neutral spine.

Using the foam roller to stretch hamstrings

To use the foam roller to assist in releasing hamstrings sit on the roller with the roller on the floor as illustrated with the foam roll under the bottom part of your hamstrings. Slowly roll back and forth and side to side working your way up toward the glutes. By bearing weight through one leg at a time you will increase pressure on the one side. Bearing weight through both thighs lightens the pressure.

Although depending on fitness lever, goals, and types of training, all these stretches can be beneficial to improve flexibility, studies have suggested greater efficacy of some methods for achieving muscle elongation after stretching regimens (see here but also here

Uncategorized, Work outs

What does it mean to stretch? Physiology of flexibility

Before I post some stretches of varying difficulty, I thought it would be helpful to first talk about what is involved in flexibility. I’m sure some of us have noticed that, regardless of weeks and months spent doing yoga in addition to other forms of training, some extensive movements are just to painful or difficult to perform. I suspect that at the core of such observations (barring injury) is an omission to understand the underlying mechanisms of stretching or what it means to perform a stretch, how this implicates an interconnected skeletomusclar system, what are the neural mechanisms of movement, contraction, elongation, inhibition, and how the different structural and anatomical qualities of muscles influence mobility, flexibility, or their inhibition.

It is important to understand that failure to reach a degree of greater flexibility in one area is likely causally related to the anatomical and neural connections between this group and others.

But to provide a fuller, yet very accessible and thorough understanding of what you are doing by stretching, I thought I’d share this MIT article on the physiology of stretching and flexibility.

Enjoy the read!

Uncategorized, Work outs

Balance and strength routine

Apart from weight/strength training that targets specific muscle groups, I like to diversify with exercises that challenge balance and stabilize, while still improving strength and elasticity of tendons, muscles, and ligaments. This is a brief sample of some exercises I do to that end. As always, it’s best to try these without weights first, and with assistance when needed, until you master the form and develop better awareness of body kinetics.

Single-Leg Dumbbell Straight-Leg Deadlift

  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells with an overhand grip, and hold them at arm’s length in front of your thighs. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Raise your right leg slightly off the floor behind you. Your right leg should stay in line with your body for the duration of the move.
  2. Without changing the bend in your knees, bend at your hips, and lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor. Pause, then raise your torso back the the starting position. Complete the prescribed number of repetitions with the same leg, then do the same number on your other leg. I do 3x 10 with each leg.


Single-Leg Dumbbell Straight-Leg DeadliftVariation

Assume the single legged deadlift position described above, one leg lifted behind you.

Hold this position and lift the weight in each hand toward the chest, bending to 90 degrees at the elbow, and lower again. repeat this 3×10 with each leg.

Single leg squats on a BOSU

Start by standing up tall on the round part of a Bosu on your left foot, with shoulders back, abs tight, arms by your sides, and left knee slightly bent.

Inhale as you squat back by bending at the knee and sticking your butt back as you lower. Keep your head and chest up, your eyes looking forward, and reach your right hand towards your left foot.

Be sure not to let your left knee go past your toes, and try to get your thigh parallel to the ground. Exhale as you press up through your heel to stand back up straight. Repeat all reps, then switch sides. I do 3×8 with each leg.


Lunges, back foot elevated, with a stability ball

Place one foot or shin on the stability ball behind you and jump your front leg forward enough so that when you lunge forward, your knee doesn’t pass to far in front of your toe.

Ball Lunge (Rear Foot on Stability Ball) Exercise - Step 1

Bend your front knee towards the ground and let your hip bone rotate in the socket. Keep your trunk upright and perpendicular to the floor so you don’t lean forward. Sink down as far as you can go, while allowing your rear leg to push the ball backwards- you should feel a big stretch in the back leg. Pressing through your heel of the front foot, extend your front knee to stand up again. Repeat this exercise for 3×8-12 repetitions.

Ball Lunge (Rear Foot on Stability Ball) Exercise - Step 2

Side plank with rotation
In a right-side plank position (A), brace your abs and reach your left hand toward the ceiling (B). Slowly tuck your left arm under your body and twist forward until your torso is almost parallel to the floor (C). Return to the side plank. That’s 1 rep. Do 2 or 3 sets of 5 to 10 reps on each side, resting for 1 minute between sets. I do a variation of these, holding a light dumbbell in my raised hand.
Finally, be sure to stretch well. Enjoy!
Uncategorized, Work outs

Leg routine

Hey guys, I was asked what my favorite leg workout routine was. And since I went light on the legs work out last time, I decided to describe a typical leg routine I do all at once.

First, be sure to stretch well. Hold each stretch for 30 sec-1 min. It’s important to take your time.

The routine

 Front box jump ups

  1. Begin with a box of an appropriate height (I usually use a knee-high box) 1-2 feet in front of you. Stand with your feet should width apart. This will be your starting position.
  2. Perform a short squat in preparation for jumping, swinging your arms behind you.
  3. Rebound out of this position, extending through the hips, knees, and ankles to jump as high as possible. Swing your arms forward and up.
  4. Land on the box with the knees bent, absorbing the impact through the legs. You can jump from the box back to the ground, or preferably step down one leg at a time.
  5. Repeat 3×10.

 Step ups with dumbbells

  1. Stand up straight while holding a dumbbell on each hand (palms facing the side of your legs).
  2. Place the right foot on the elevated platform. Step on the platform by extending the hip and the knee of your right leg. Use the heel mainly to lift the rest of your body up and place the foot of the left leg on the platform as well. Breathe out as you execute the force required to come up.
  3. Step down with the left leg by flexing the hip and knee of the right leg as you inhale. Return to the original standing position by placing the right foot of to next to the left foot on the initial position.
  4. Repeat with the right leg for the recommended amount of repetitions and then perform with the left leg.
  5. Complete 3×10 with each leg.

Note: This is a great exercise for people with lower back problems that are unable to do stiff legged deadlifts.

Variations: Just like lunges, this exercise can also be performed by alternating between the right and the left leg every time until all repetitions have been performed for both legs. Also, a barbell can be used for resistance. Beginners can start with only the bodyweight, especially if they have balance issues.

Dumbbell Step Ups

Click to enlarge

Rear foot elevated split squat, with dumbbells or a barbell (Bulgarian split quat)

Place the bar either on the front of your shoulders like a front squat or behind your neck. Place one foot well out in front of the other in a staggered position with your rear foot placed firmly on top of a bench or box no higher than 18 inches. Set your core and maintain an erect torso as you descend as deep as possible with your front heel firmly on the floor. You should feel a stretch in your rear leg’s hip flexor region as you descend. Drive upward and exhale as you pass the halfway point during the ascent. Complete all the repetitions with one leg, then switch to the other to complete the same number of reps. This is 1 set. I complete 3 sets of 8 with each leg.

Unlike the regular split squat where you attempt to push close to 50 percent of the load with the rear leg, the Bulgarian split squat uses the rear leg only for balance as the forward leg does the bulk of the work.

Bulgarian Split Squat A Bulgarian Split Squat B

Wall sits

This is the exercise from hell. Back flat against a wall, assume a sitting position, thighs parallel to the ground, knees 90 degrees bent. Your arms should be beside your body, not on your thighs.

Hold this position for 30 seconds to a minute. repeat 3 times. When you start feeling a terrible burn…endure it.


Squat jumps

  1. Assume a lunge stance position with one foot forward with the knee bent, and the rear knee nearly touching the ground.
  2. Ensure that the front knee is over the midline of the foot. Extending through both legs, jump as high as possible, swinging your arms to gain lift.
  3. As you jump as high as you can, switch the position of your legs, moving your front leg to the back and the rear leg to the front.
  4. As you land, absorb the impact through the legs by adopting the lunge position, and repeat.
  5. Do 3 sets of 10.

Kettlebell swings



Straddle kettlebell with feet slightly wider apart than shoulder width. Squat down with arm extended downward between legs and grasp kettlebell handle with overhand grip. Position shoulder over kettlebell with taut low back and trunk close to vertical.


Pull kettlebell up off floor, slightly forward, just above height of ankles. Immediately dip down slightly and swing kettlebell back under hips. Quickly swing kettlebell up by raising upper body upright and extending legs. Continue to swing kettlebell back down between legs and up higher on each swing until height just above head can be mantained.


Swing kettlebell back down between legs. Allow kettlebell to swing forward but do not extend hips and knees (as would be required to continue the swing). Slow kettlebell’s swing and place on floor between feet in original deadlift posture.
I do these with a 25-30lbs kettlebell, 3X12. I hold the kettlebell with both hands.

Squats–smith machine

  1. To begin, first set the bar on the height that best matches your height. Once the correct height is chosen and the bar is loaded, step under the bar and place the back of your shoulders (slightly below the neck) across it.
  2. Hold on to the bar using both arms at each side (palms facing forward), unlock it and lift it off the rack by first pushing with your legs and at the same time straightening your torso.
  3. Position your legs using a shoulder width medium stance with the toes slightly pointed out. Keep your head up at all times and also maintain a straight back. This will be your starting position. (Note: For the purposes of this discussion we will use the medium stance which targets overall development; however you can choose any of the three stances discussed in the foot stances section).
  4. Begin to slowly lower the bar by bending the knees as you maintain a straight posture with the head up. Continue down until the angle between the upper leg and the calves becomes slightly less than 90-degrees (which is the point in which the upper legs are below parallel to the floor). Inhale as you perform this portion of the movement. Tip: If you performed the exercise correctly, the front of the knees should make an imaginary straight line with the toes that is perpendicular to the front. If your knees are past that imaginary line (if they are past your toes) then you are placing undue stress on the knee and the exercise has been performed incorrectly.
  5. Begin to raise the bar as you exhale by pushing the floor with the heel of your foot as you straighten the legs again and go back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

Caution: This is not an exercise to be taken lightly. If you have back issues, substitute it with leg presses instead. If you have a healthy back, ensure perfect form and never slouch the back forward as this can cause back injury. Be cautious as well with the weight used; in case of doubt, use less weight rather than more. The squat is a very safe exercise but only if performed properly.

Variations: As previously mentioned, there are various stances that can be used depending on what you want to emphasize.

You can also place a small block under the heels to improve balance.

I do 3×12 of these with 130 pounds. Note that this weight is much more easily squatted when assisted than when using a free barbell. I would NOT be able to squat this weight without assistance.

Single leg squats

Stand with your arms extended out in front of your body. This helps counterbalance your weight as you squat. Lift your left foot off the floor. Squat as far as you can, holding your left leg extended in front of you, not allowing your foot to touch the floor. Press back up into a standing position. Although holding weights typically makes an exercise more challenging, holding light dumbbells with your arms extended provides counterbalance, making the movement easier for those who struggle to balance themselves.

I do these with a 10 pound weight in each hand, 3×8.
Read more:
Leg presses


  1. Using a leg press machine, sit down on the machine and place your legs on the platform directly in front of you at a medium (shoulder width) foot stance. (Note: For the purposes of this discussion we will use the medium stance described above which targets overall development; however you can choose any of the three stances described in the foot positioning section).
  2. Lower the safety bars holding the weighted platform in place and press the platform all the way up until your legs are fully extended in front of you. Tip: Make sure that you do not lock your knees. Your torso and the legs should make a perfect 90-degree angle. This will be your starting position.
  3. As you inhale, slowly lower the platform until your upper and lower legs make a 90-degree angle.
  4. Pushing mainly with the heels of your feet and using the quadriceps go back to the starting position as you exhale.
  5. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions and ensure to lock the safety pins properly once you are done. You do not want that platform falling on you fully loaded.

Caution: Always check to make sure that when you re-rack the weight the platform is securely locked.

I do 3×10 with 40 pounds added weight.

Leg Press

Click to enlarge
Leg Press

Click to enlarge
Sprint a little and STRETCH!
Uncategorized, Work outs

A little bit of legs :)

If you like long distance running, like I do, you know that you need strong, fast legs, but you also know that being light makes endurance runs easier and more forgiving on the joints. In my training experience, I have tried to focus on strength while not adding too much mass.


Here are some of the typical exercises I do on a leg training day:

Bulgarian split squats:

You can do these with or without weights. I prefer holding 2  15-17 lbs dumbbells, one in each hand.

  1. stand in split stance with your back leg elevated on something like a step or a bench. It is recommended not to elevate your foot much more than about three feet. While in this position, shift your weight slightly forward so your front leg does all the work.
  2. Keep your front foot flat on the ground and lower your body until your knee touches or comes very close to the floor.
  3. Push yourself back up to the starting position with all of the force being generated through your front leg. All the work should be done by the front leg.


Place right foot in the middle of step and step up as you balance your body for 1-2 seconds on the right leg. Your left leg should be behind your body to help stabilize your weight as it is shifting. Step down with your left leg first and continue on down with your right. Try for 2 sets of 10-12 repetitions for each leg.



I like to do a variation of these, holding 12 lbs weights in each hand, lifting the free leg to a full knee lift, thigh parallel to the ground and in a 90 degree angle with the shin, arms moving beside the body, imitating a running motion. I repeat this routine 3×8 with each leg.

Lunge jumps:

  1. Assume a lunge stance position with one foot forward with the knee bent, and the rear knee nearly touching the ground.
  2. Ensure that the front knee is over the midline of the foot. Extending through both legs, jump as high as possible, swinging your arms to gain lift.
  3. As you jump as high as you can, switch the position of your legs, moving your front leg to the back and the rear leg to the front.
  4. As you land, absorb the impact through the legs by adopting the lunge position, and repeat.
  5. I like to do those with small weights for added difficulty.



My favorite is running a short sprint after these–it really challenges me to dog for extra strength.


Uncategorized, Work outs

More obliques: deeper layers

I thought it’s time to take it up a notch–to really engage the deeper layers of the obliques and get them to burn a little. The exercises discussed below will engage the internal obliques, the transversus abdominis, and the musculature  forming the border of the lower ribs.


1. Kick ups-The Vegan Glutton version

position your body so that the arms and torso are firmly stabilized, legs hanging in the air. position a small dumbbell between your feet–“”hold” the weight with your feet and ankles. List the legs up slowly, shins and thighs at 90 degrees, until thighs are parallel to the ground. Rotate at the hips to the left and right, holding for 10-15 seconds at each rotation. lower your legs. Repeat 20 times.


Side planks:

Positioning– Lie on your right side on an exercise mat with your legs straight and the left leg stacked directly on top of the right. Bend the right elbow and place is directly under your shoulder. Align your head with your spine and keep your hips and right knee in contact with the exercise mat.

Exhale, keep the abdominals engaged to brace your spine. Lift your hips and knees off the mat. The side of your right foot stays in contact with the mat. Keep your head aligned with your spine and your right elbow positioned directly under your shoulder. Hold this position for 1.5 minutes, then switch sides. Repeat 6 times with each side.


Wood chops:

You can do these with a cable, or with free weights. I prefer the latter. Grab a 15-pound dumbbell (in my case; or simple grab one that’s not too heavy, but feels uncomfortable), plant your feet steadily on the ground, hips locked above the feet. Hold the dumbbell with both hands, on the right hip side. lift diagonally above your left shoulder, and slowly return to original position. Do 3×8 on each side. Enjoy the pain!


Uncategorized, Work outs

Core 102: Latissimus dorsi, rectus abdominis, serratus anterior


Here I am sitting on an exercise ball. And those are great, but use them for support and add a little difficulty.

What I usually do is grab a 20-22 lbs dumbbell and hold it behind my head, instead of just locking hands to support my neck. Sit on the ball so that your butt is actually barely on it, with mostly your back and core supporting your balance. These crunches involve short movement forward, until yo feel a burning sensation in your upper abs and obliques. I usually do about 100 of those and feel the burn. The more, the merrier. You will get your abs to pop quite fast with these.