Busy Mom Fitness: The Playground Workout

How to workout while your kids play at the playground.

busy mom playground workout

If you’re like me, you’re spending many hours during the week at the playground. While it is a great fun-filled spot for your children, it can also be beneficial for you as well. So while your children swing from the monkey bars (*one comment as an orthopaedic surgeon, YIKES*) and cruise down the slides, you can sneak in a quick workout too.

READ MORE: MOTIVATION: Five Reasons to Get Amazing Abs

  1. Planks on the balance beam: Planks build strength in the core and glutes. Go down in a push-up position with your hands grasping the balance beam. Straighten your arms. Contract your abs and your glutes and hold yourself with a flat back for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times. Your body should be in a nice straight alignment as you are doing the exercise. MODIFICATION: If you are just starting out, a modification would be putting your knees on the ground as you hold yourself up.
  2. Chin-ups/Pull-ups/Hanging from the monkey bars: Use either the monkey bars or a high bar at the playground. Grab the bar with your palms facing you (chin-up) or facing away from you (pull-up) and engage your periscapular muscles (muscles surrounding your shoulder blades), squeeze your glutes and abs and pull your chin up over the bar. Try to do 6-10 for 3-5 sets. MODIFICATION: a) if you are still working on a full chin-up, hang from the bar for 30 seconds to start strengthening your upper body or b) do “negatives” where you jump up to the completed chin-up position where your chin is past the bar and the slowly lower yourself down.
  3. Pushing your children on the swing: As you start push your child on the swing, do 10 rows. Stand behind the child and swing. Engage your core and glutes and slowly pull your child closer to you as you flex your elbows and then slowly straighten out your elbows. Try to do three sets of these during swing time.
  4. Leg crunches on the slide: Take turns with your children going down the slide. As you are at the top of the slide, hold on to the rails and straighten your upper body to a 45 degree angle to the ground. Lift your legs slightly off the slide, keeping them straight. Bend your knees and hips and bring your knees toward your stomach. Try to do 15-20 at the top of the slide and if your children let you, 15-20 at the bottom of the slide.
  5. Step-Ups on a bench: Work on getting great glutes and hamstrings with the exercise and increased your power and balance.  Stand up straight and put one foot on the bench. Push off your top foot and step up onto the bench and bring your other leg to stand on the bench. Straighten out your whole body when you are fully standing on the bench. Step down with the same leg. Then alternate to the next leg. Try to do 20 total step-ups and repeat once.

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Fitness in Football Athletes: High Yield NFL Exercises

These fitness moves from the NFL are great for players, or anyone looking to get in shape.

football fitness exercises

There is a newer philosophy in the National Football League, shifting from packing on pounds of muscle to enhancing explosiveness and athleticism. Players need to report to training camp 100% healthy and stay injury-free for the full 16 game season. Players are training smarter not harder and sometimes the squat rack is thrown to the wayside and replaced by a speed ladder.

NFL Combine performance levels were compared between 1999-2001 to 2008-2010 and concluded that explosiveness and first-step quickness was an increasingly important factor. There was improvement in straight sprinting, 3-cone drill and the horizontal jump; from a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. NFL draft decision makers were focusing on acceleration as a key physical characteristic.

READ MORE: Five Common Running Injuries To Avoid

Certain exercises can emphasize explosiveness, acceleration and first-step quickness.

  1. Bounding: reinforces muscle synchronization, engages fast-twitch muscle fibers. Start by exaggerating your running and push off hard from the ground with each step, gliding as you move to the next foot (gazelle style). Engage your arms to enhance power.
  2. Dumbbell Push-Up-to Row: stabilizes the core and allows the body to stop and pivot instantaneously, avoiding defenders in the open field. Place dumbbells slightly wider than shoulder width apart, set yourself in a push-up position, lower your body to the floor, push-up to the start position and two the dumbbell in your right hand to the side of your torso; repeat the entire movement then using your left hand.
  3. Concentric Box Jump: creates a large amount of force from a static isometric position and increases your lower-body power. Stand with a box 12 inches in front of you; bring your body to a squat position and power-up, jumping up onto the box. Step down from the box and repeat. It is very important to STEP DOWN as jumping down puts the Achilles tendon at risk for rupturing.
  4. Agility Ladder Drills: improves foot speed, agility, coordination and overall quickness. Perform at the start of a session after the warm up with fresh muscles. Multiple different ladder drills exist: Ickey shuffle, carioca, in-out drill, tango drill; but, the keys are to push-off from the balls of your feet, pump your hands, maintain elbows at a 90 degree angle, keep your upper body relaxed and your head still.
  5. Bulgarian Split Squats: increases quad and gluten strength, improves balance and stability and eliminates lower-body strength imbalances. Stand in front of a bench; hold a pair of dumbbells at arm’s length at your sides. Place your left foot in front of your right and put your right foot instep on a bench 2-3 feet behind you. Keep your front knee slightly bent and engage your core. Bend at the knee to lower yourself until the rear knee lightly contacts t he floor, stand again pushing through the front heel and complete your reps then switch to the other leg.
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Flying with Kids: The Only Backpack You Need

How to pack for a plane ride with children.

debeer gear backpack

As anyone with children knows, flying with children can be a taxing endeavor. The savvy mom has experience with this, and knows how to organize everything to suit any eventuality. My favorite accessory for flying with my kids is the Debeer Gear Backpack, an invaluable gift given to me by the US Lacrosse team. The pack retails for only $60 and has saved me on more than one occasion!

READ MORE: Tips on Traveling with Multiple Children

The important thing to know is where to put everything, so you are prepared for any surprises. Here is the breakdown of how I organize myself and my kids for a long plane ride:

1st small compartment: Passports, wallet, tickets, phone, charger.

2nd medium compartment: Snacks—apples, granola bars, goldfish, 3 lollipops (just in case mayhem ensues), squeeze apple sauce.

3rd large compartment: Earphones/iPads, and any other tech.

4th large compartment: Fun surprises for every hour of the plane trip—Ninja Turtle pencil cases with Ninja Turtle pencils or crayons(yes, I have 3 boys and a newborn girl!), Scooby Doo coloring books with stickers, paperback books—two for each child from the children’s section of Barnes and Noble or Scholastic books: usually one factual one (bugs, snakes, solar system) and one fictional one (Mo Willems has great ones), small Lego toy or small cars/trucks—THIS IS THE KEY TO SUCCESSFUL TRAVEL WITH THE WEE ONES!!!

5th largest compartment: Diapers, etc: changing pad (Kushies), wipes, size 6 diapers, size 1 diapers, face wipes, extra onesie for baby and extra shorts for boys (some size in the middle so if anything happens any of them could use it).

The modern mom has to plan for everything, and be prepared in any situation, especially on a plane. This backpack is a lifesaver in that regard.

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Tips on Traveling with Multiple Children

The importance of packing for a trip with multiple children.

traveling with multiple children

On a recent trip to Orlando—(ahh yes, every child’s dream, and every parents’ nightmare), I was observing the difference between traveling with four children versus traveling with just one. Traveling with one child feels like you have a ticking time bomb on your hands, versus traveling with four has more of a “You don’t own me” mentality. With four kids, you have so much experience that you know you’re the boss and can handle any situation. And with four kids, trust me, there are ALWAYS situations.

I watch the one-child parents schlep pack n’ plays, travel cribs, car seats, sometimes multiple strollers, all kinds of diapers you could ever need (nighttime, swimmy, daytime, organic), 1,000 snacks and five different hand sanitizers, seat covers (anything to protect the wee one from the travel germs). I shake my head and think: There are much easier ways to do this.

With four kids, safety and infection control (vaccinate your children) is on my mind, but efficiency and realizing there are stores and online ordering possibilities at my final destination eases the packing burden. ORGANIZATION AND EFFICIENCY have become my middle names (well—as a surgeon—some would say that may also be my first and last name).

Packing for Orlando included doing a little online research as to what a Nutmegger (Connecticut resident) might need in a HOT climate…ahhhhh finally. Also knowing that if one child destroys a shirt, PJS, underwear—they can certainly use another child’s (sure with some resistance…but whatevs).

A couple key suggestions, in the name of organization and efficiency:

  1. Use the crib at your hotel.
  2. Ask for an infant car seat with your rental car.
  3. Try Toddler Bubble Bum car seats (cool blow-up ones that fold up into a small bag).
  4. Bring ONE small toy/book for every hour of travel for each child.
  5. If you are a tech-mom, iPads (might as well just wear a big APPLE on my head with the investments over the years) can suffice in the place of actual toys.
  6. Bring a large travel Osprey Sojourn suitcase, Champion Sports travel duffel bag (huge—given when traveling with US Lacrosse—awesome!), and KEY ESSENTIAL a mega backpack with at least five compartments (DeBeer Gear Backpack—again nice gift of US Lacrosse).
  7. A nice order from Amazon.com or Diapers.com prior to arrival works well, and can be delivered wherever you are staying. If you order all the disposable stuff you will need, such as diapers, sunscreen, travel wipes, apple sauce and snack, and extra socks and underwear you can save a lot of space in your luggage and just dispose of or recycle everything else.

 

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Five Common Running Injuries To Avoid

How to avoid these five common running injuries.

running injuries

When you’re a runner, you get used to your legs hurting. Whether you’re striding up a hill as lactic acid besieges your quads and calves, or carefully walking down stairs sideways for a few days because of post-workout muscle soreness, there’s a level of discomfort that runners learn to live with. But just as important as the determination it takes to push through the pain to the top of the hill, is being able to recognize when the pain that’s been lingering in your legs is not just tired muscles but maybe something more serious, perhaps even requiring the attention of your doctor. From shin splints to chronic exertional compartment syndrome, there’s a bunch of ways running can take a toll on your legs. And since the majority of the issues runners face are overuse injuries, it’s best to get out in front of these things. Here are five common running injuries, and the info you need to identify and avoid them.

Shin Splints
Medial tibial stress syndrome, or “shin splints,” occurs when the tissue surrounding the tibia becomes inflamed as a result of excessive stress on the inside of the shinbone.  The pain—a dull but persistent ache—is usually felt in the middle of the shin. It’s relatively common in runners—especially those who overpronate—and often stems from changes in running surface, footwear, or intensity. Fortunately, recovery can be as simple as taking a few days off running. And cross-training activities like cycling, swimming, aquajogging, and using the elliptical can actually help speed recovery. To help prevent shin splints in the future, make increases in your training gradual and realistic, keep the muscles on the outside of your legs strong with therapeutic band exercises, stretch your calves regularly, and consider talking to your podiatrist about orthotics.

IT Band Syndrome
The most common location of overuse injuries in runners is the knee, and the most common cause of lateral knee pain is iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS). Often the result of increased mileage or hill training, ITBS is caused by friction in the long band of soft tissue, or “fascia,” between the IT band and the outside of the knee. It’s best described as a sharp pain on the outside of the knee that worsens with going down hills or stairs and will in most cases bench a runner entirely. To remedy the condition, IT band stretching exercises are recommended, as is rubbing ice cups on the area. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications can help, and in cases where pain does not go away after six to eight weeks, a cortisone shot may be prescribed. To prevent ITBS, your best bet would be to strengthen the gluteal and abductor muscles (the muscles around your butt) and improve hip alignment with exercises like walking lunges, wall squats, leg presses, and step-ups.

Stress Fracture
Here’s your worst-case scenario. The most concerning injury in the lower-leg region is a stress fracture. The most recognizable symptom, a sharp pain localized to the front of the shin, initially comes in toward the end of runs, but soon starts to occur earlier and continues with regular walking and possibly also at rest or at night. Rest is key to recovery from a stress fracture. Crutches and a walking boot may be needed to fully rest the area, and in some cases surgery is required. One thing to avoid if you think you might have a stress fracture is the early use of anti-inflammatory medications as it could decrease bone healing. In terms of prevention, your best bet is regular strengthening and stretching of the calf muscle, as less calf muscularity has been attributed to increasing the risk of a tibial stress fracture.

Functional Popliteal Artery Entrapment Syndrome 
Here’s one you may not have even heard of. Functional Popliteal Artery Entrapment Syndrome (FPAES) is where the calf muscles—the gastrocnemius-soleus complex—activate and cause compression on the popliteal artery, which is located behind the knee and is responsible for supplying blood flow to the calves. The result: cramping and pain in the calves, and possibly coldness and numbness in the feet. The pain initially resolves when your run is over, but it can worsen over time and eventually last for hours. To treat FPAES, your doctor may recommend surgery, or use a guided botulinum injection to paralyze the area of the muscle compressing the artery. Since FPAES originates with the calf muscles, symptoms can be alleviated or avoided by less-explosive running, training on a flatter surface, and avoiding calf-intensive workouts involving hills or stairs.

Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome
If you routinely feel an aching or burning pain in the front or sides of your lower legs (usually both legs) that increases with activity and dissipates with rest, or even numbness or burning in your feet, chronic exertional compartment syndrome (CECS) could be to blame. To understand CECS, first understand that our muscles are encased in a thick film, or “fascia.” Muscles expand during a workout as blood supply increases to them, but fascia is inelastic tissue and cannot always expand to meet the muscle capacity. If the fascia does not expand along with the muscle during exercise, the muscle can become constricted and unable to receive its full oxygen supply. The result is pain and a decrease in performance. CECS is diagnosed by taking pressure measurements in the muscle “compartments” after exercise. Treatment includes avoiding running on hard surfaces, changing up footwear, icing, myofascial release, and improving running form. However, surgery in the form of releasing the compartments is the definitive treatment. To help prevent CECS, cross-training with cycling and swimming is encouraged, as is icing post-exercise. Appropriate arch supports and running-shoe fit is recommended, too, along with running on grass or trails instead of pavement or cement whenever possible.

This article was prepared for NBC Universal.

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Stress Relief: The Reason I Have SIX Strollers

Every mother with a surplus of children can understand why I hoard strollers.

stroller hoarding

One of the questions my husband and any other person who ventures into my garage asks is “DO YOU REALLY NEED SIX STROLLERS?”  Yeah, sure when preparing for my first child, I may have overstocked on baby products as WHO KNOWS what this new little being would need and if it somehow stopped him from crying then YES, totally worth it.  BUT strollers are where it’s at–whether it’s away to FREE yourself from the confines of your house, start an exercise program, entertain another child while soothing your newborn, or to avoid carrying the car seat on your arm everywhere (whew…build those biceps).  As a mother of four children, YES, I DO USE EACH AND EVERY ONE OF MY SIX STROLLERS…and did not even buy the TRIPLE stroller; however contemplated it, but reviews were mediocre.  Plus, I was not running a daycare center.

I have now come to realize that strollers really do decrease the insanity that is new motherhood.  The larger wheeled, comfy double stroller (Bumbleride Indie Double) and single jogger (Bob Jogger) have allowed me to meet my neighbors around town and start working out post pregnancy.  Fresh air has certainly been a stress reliever and meeting and chatting briefly with neighbors allows me to use more words then…”Wheels on the Bus” and “Itsy Bitsy Spider”.  The frame strollers that hold a car seat are perfect for keeping in the cars–just pop that car seat in there and you can run through your errands, go to a doctor’s appointment, do a quick grocery run and store items underneath.  LASTLY–FOLDABLE strollers.  Another option to keep in the car once children are out of the infant car seat.  Travel through airports, go on an impromptu trip to a museum, and rescue a drowsy child from falling after a long walk through the zoo.

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MOTIVATION: Five Reasons to Get Amazing Abs

 

If great abs seem to elude you, maybe all you need is to understand why they are important.

amazing abs

 

Reason number 1: Abdominal muscles are the “trunk of the tree”.   They help to support your upper and lower extremities, your “branches”. The stronger they are, the more power they can distribute to the rest of your body.   They are made up of four main muscles groups, the deepest being the transversus abdominus, the rectus abdominus or the “six pack”, the external obliques and the internal obliques which help with twisting movements.

Reason number 2: Abdominal muscles decrease injury. If your muscles are unable to reposition your body during athletic endeavors in a strong and timely fashion, then you are at higher risk for knee ligament injuries. Core stability training can help to decrease lower leg injuries in twisting and cutting sports. Core strength can diminish risk of hamstring injuries and ankle sprains as well. For runners, training your abs can help to avoid ilioitibial band friction syndrome, a common cause of pain on the outside of the knee. Stronger abs can also balance the force going through your lower back and taking pressure of an area easily injured.

Reason number 3: Abdominal muscles improve pitch velocity. You may want to add in extra abdominal training as you prepare for summer softball and baseball seasons.   Certain training programs in throwing athletes that focused on abdominal and core strength have been shown to significantly improve maximal throwing velocity. Plank related exercises and dynamic crunches were specifically noted to improve pitching velocity. Abs can help to improve momentum generation during throwing.

Reason number 4: Abdominal muscles improve endurance and agility. Athletes who work on abdominal and core strength and stability training tend to display greater power, better reaction times, and more efficient use of the arms and legs. It is important to enhance these effects by performing core exercises on unstable surfaces and conditions where balance is incorporated.

Reason number 5: Abdominal fat increases medical problems. Deep abdominal fat has been implicated as a contributor to diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. An “apple-shaped” individual who stores fat around the core internal organs can decrease the risk of medical illnesses through diet and exercise. Through many studies, belly fat, has been shown to be a worrisome area when it comes to fighting off heart disease and high blood pressure. Belly fat has been linked to higher incidences of colon cancer and sleep apnea.

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