August 2022

Nature As Your Own Gym

Has your workout routine left you in need of some fresh air? Try stepping outside! Read on to learn how to turn any outdoor space into your very own personal gym – open 24 hours and free of charge. All it requires is a touch of imagination, a sprinkle of will power, a dose of desire and a pinch of knowledge.

Let’s break down the key elements involved in creating a safe and effective outdoor workout. The first thing to do before creating your outdoor workout is to choose your workout “goal”. The goal of your workout will then help drive the design of the elements you include. Some possible goals for your workout might be

a) to burn fat – work aerobically
b) to train for power and speed – a sports specific workout
c) to reduce stress – a more meditative – stretch oriented workout
d) overall fitness – a bit of each of the above goals.

Once you have decided on your workout goal it is then important to assess what you have to work with in your given environment. A few general assumptions can always be applied no matter what your geography.

Fixed objects (defined for our purposes here as objects that will not come loose when pressure is applied) – such as trees, sturdy fences, telephone poles, picnic benches, lifeguard stations etc. can always serve as a fixed “anchor” for looping ropes, tying ropes and resistance bands etc. This will allow you to create a sort of cable, pulley type of exercise station. This will be the area where you can do exercises like cable rows, bicep curls, chest presses, wood chop and golf swing drills.
Flat and wide open non-cement surfaces – such as grass, sand, dirt. These surfaces are perfect for jogging, sprint drills, sports drills, plyometrics and lunging.

Flat hard surface – such as pavement, tennis court, cement area. This is a great surface for jumping rope, doing medicine ball drills and footwork drills.

Raised (at least 6” and not more than 18”) and fixed objects – such as benches, steps, picnic tables. Excellent for doing step ups, push ups – incline or decline, abdominal knee-ins, tricep dips.

A staggered line of repeated objects – such as light poles, trash cans, fence posts etc. Excellent to use for doing repeats of an exercise such as sprints, running drills, line drills and more. Two poles or trees in a line can be used to tie off a rope between the length that can be used for over/under drills – common in boxing training, sports training and more.

After you have assessed your area and made decisions about how you will use what you see, it is time to come up with the workout design. Here are the basic guidelines to use to create an effective and “out of the box” type workout. I find that a hybrid workout of the goals I mentioned at the beginning of this article creates the most effective routine. With that in mind, here are some ideas about what to combine for the most complete workout.

The workout should contain a warm up and cool down, five to ten minutes of each – followed by thirty to forty five minutes of your main workout.

Include some resistance exercises for strength and toning – rowing, push ups, bicep curls, tricep dips.

Include some aerobic activity in the workout, i.e., jump rope for three minutes in between a set of rows and push ups. Sprint one direction to a tree and then light jog back to starting point. Repeat several times.

Include some agility and leg/glute work, such as sprint repeats on a flight of outdoor stairs or take two stairs at a time all the way to the top. Walk back down – then repeat.

Include some power work using a hard surface for medicine ball “throw downs” or plyometric drills.

Include a stretching and flexibility element by adding some yoga poses. This can easily lead into your cool down.

Put all that together and you will have created a well rounded, fun and challenging “environmentally” based workout.

Rebecca Kordecki, aka the “Booty Guru”, is a fitness and lifestyle expert, media personality and creator of the hottest, new core and lower body workout, Booty Slide®. Rebecca and Booty Slide® have been featured on “The Today Show”, “EXTRA”, Channel 11 News and have been written up in such high end periodicals as Vogue, InStyle, Shape, TimeOut NY and Daily Candy amongst others.

Recently named “The Best Personal Trainer” in the Hamptons for 2009, a much coveted and hard to come by title, Rebecca has had a career in fitness for over 17 years. From the East coast to the West coast she has worked with celebrities, high profile executives, professional athletes and others from all walks of life. Her client roster includes such celebrities as Raquel Welch, Hunter Tylo (“The Bold and The Beautiful”), Oliver Stone, Elijah Wood, Rick Fox, Scott Wolf (ABC’s V and Party of Five), Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Kevin Bright (Executive Producer of ”Friends”) and Fortune 500 Company CEO’s and Executives.

The Blackwatch Polo team including world famous polo player and the face of Ralph Lauren’s Polo, Nacho Figueras, have hired Rebecca for two seasons in a row. Due to her strong athletic background, Rebecca’s knowledge and understanding of athletic conditioning and strengthening has been a tremendous asset. Rebecca’s clients think of her as their coach, confidant and have often referred to her as an inspiration.

Rebecca continues to train clients one on one, as a personal trainer, and while customizing her workout to suit each individual’s needs, she believes in providing a refined and targeted approach for the best results.

On a group fitness level, Rebecca’s newest creation, Booty Slide® originated out of her desire to create a quick total body workout for her celeb and VIP clients’ demanding schedules. Booty Slide® can be done almost anywhere and anytime without cumbersome equipment. Weighing under two ounces and fitting in your back pocket is the secret to the most effective, mobile workout in the world, Booty Slide® patented booties and the Booty Slide system! An intense, total body training “system” that focuses on building core strength, increasing cardiovascular fitness all while targeting problem areas; hips, buns and thighs.

Ms. Galaxy Title holder and Tri-Fitness finalist, Rebecca has been active in the industry as a fitness trainer, health & fitness Company Ambassador, commercial actress (national commercials), fitness model and spokesperson.

Pro Athletes, Celebs, high profile clients all have one thing in common and that is a trainer who provides discipline, results and a focused strategy for achieving their goals. There is a reason, Rebecca was awarded “The Best of The Best” personal trainer for 2009 in the Hamptons.

Rebecca has certifications from ACE, ACSM and AFAA.

There is More to Exercise Than Just Cardio!

As an exercise professional in the fitness industry for almost 30 years, I have seen a lot of fads, trends, and crazes regarding classes, programs, and equipment.  From high-impact to low-impact to step to spin; the constant focus on “cardio” has been and still is a very important component in the movement plan of many people. What’s easier than throwing on a pair of sneakers and going for a jog or a brisk walk?  The gratification of cardio exercise is almost instant as you work your heart and lungs, challenge your breathing, endurance, break a sweat, and build detoxifying heat. Plus, the activity helps you to reduce your stress and relax.

If you are one who craves a group class rather than the lonely road there are the ever-popular spin classes where you ride a bike with a small group of other determined spinners to see who can go the fastest, ride the hardest, breathe the heaviest, sweat the most, and do it in a club-type setting with great music and atmosphere. Plus, even the most uncoordinated, tight-hamstring, slightly soft male can get on a bike and compete. The ladies are happy because now they can get their guys to accompany them to an event both social and physical: A spin class.

As a teacher who has worked with thousands of students who are on a mission to change their bodies and lives, I can honestly tell you that there is more to fitness than cardio workouts.

Almost like the media scares us into thinking we need flu shots, the public is also greatly misinformed when it comes to types and styles of exercise.

Is there any real need to work our heart muscles to an extreme over a 45-minute period?  Does the heart muscle get stronger with such challenge? What are the systemic benefits of regular heart-muscle and cardio challenges like this? Am I healthier? Leaner? More fit? More flexible? Will I have a better chance of living longer because I do regular cardio exercise?

In most cases, the answer to all of these questions is either no, or not necessarily so.

Let’s take a look at what cardio exercise means:

Cardio is short for cardiovascular, which refers to the heart. Cardiovascular exercise, or “aerobics” as it was referred to in the ‘70s, is exercise that raises your heart rate and keeps it elevated for a period of time. The kinds of exercises that are associated with cardiovascular workouts are things like jogging, fast walking, spinning, and swimming, where there is no break in the routine. Exercises that emphasize stretch and strength, like pilates or yoga, are generally not considered cardio exercises, although both of these exercise systems can be performed with a “cardio effect” with the right pace and flow, and can certainly be combined with cardio workouts to great effect. There are more and more hybrid-style classes these days. At Exhale we teach our award-winning Core Fusion Cardio and Core Fusion Boot Camp classes, which combine cardio-type pace and flow with light weights and strengthening moves.

The benefits of cardio workouts

There is a hefty list of health benefits associated with doing cardio exercise. Here are some top reasons to include cardio in your workout routine:

  • It strengthens the heart
  • It strengthens the lungs and increases lung capacity
  • It boosts the metabolism for the hour and helps you burns calories and lose weight
  • It helps reduce stress
  • It increases energy
  • It promotes restful sleep

A true cardio workout is when you are working at around 60 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate for a minimum of 20 minutes. Simply stated, you should be able to talk while you are working out.  If you are too winded to speak comfortably, your heart rate is probably too high and you need to slow down. The fat-burning cycle needs a very specific heart-rate zone, otherwise you won’t burn fat calories and will switch to an anaerobic energy cycle, which is more intramuscular energy supply and results in a different effect.

For the average American, walking is the exercise of choice, and if the walk is brisk and purposeful over time, a person can get the required cardio benefits needed to maximize his or her health. The need to push to extremes with intense cardio does not necessarily give you proportionately greater cardiovascular results in the end.  It is the spirit of fun and competition that drives the hard-core runner, spinner, cardio junkie. They love the cardio high from exploring and challenging their limits, but in the end, their net results are no greater than the purposeful power walker who is choosing an activity that is much less stressful on the joints than running or jogging. Eventually, the knee, hip, and ankle joints of the runner could suffer from the pounding effect of the activity. Other forms of cardio exercise, like swimming, begin to make more sense.

What’s important to remember when choosing a movement plan is that the single most important component in fitness to maximize results and create life-enhancing changes is strength training.  With a resistance-training program, such as weight lifting, pilates, some forms of yoga, our Core Fusion® classes at Exhale, and other techniques, a person has the potential to increase lean muscle mass. As one ages, the three deficits that grow annually are muscle density, bone density, and muscle elasticity, which reduce our range of motion.

A program that incorporates resistance training will increase muscle density, lean muscle mass, and, most importantly, it will raise your resting metabolic rate, or RMR. This is the rate at which you burn calories round the clock, 24/7, not just the one hour that you are on the bike or going for a run.

By having a body with a high percentage of lean muscle mass, all of your other exercise choices including cardio will be more effective and safer. Muscles support joints, so if muscles are stronger, the joints have more integrity. By incorporating flexibility exercises into your strengthening work, you are promoting suppleness in the body, which is especially important for the muscles that line the spine. As Joseph Pilates once said, “A supple spine is a youthful body,” and in the end, isn’t that why we exercise, to stay youthful, energetic, and vibrant?

You would be wise to make exercise choices that will enhance your lifestyle and make these exercises a part of your lifestyle. Do the exercises that you need to do that will pay off a year from now and should be looked at as an investment. I am talking about the exercises that you know that you need, not necessarily the exercises that you look good doing.

I have trouble getting the competitive male to sometimes take Core Fusion® classes simply because he cannot get into the positions. Hamstrings are too tight, stomach a little too soft, back too tight, but the biggest problem is usually the ego being too big. If there is a will, and humility, a person can start building a physical foundation that simply improves over time. There is not much instant gratification sometimes, but with patience, perseverance, and consistency, it is possible to be in better shape in your 50s than you were in your 20s.

Lifestyle exercise that reduces stress, shapes your muscles, and builds strength and flexibility, all while simultaneously giving you the needed cardio benefits, will go a long way in enhancing your life.

Fred DeVito, Health & Fitness Contributing Editor
For over 30 years, Fred DeVito has taught New Yorkers to live healthier, leading fitness classes at the acclaimed Lotte Berk Method Studios, and more recently, at Exhale Spa, where he serves as Executive Vice President of Mind Body Training. With his wife and partner, Elisabeth Halfpapp . . . Read more about Fred DeVito