Because a long ride is no easy feat, stretching is key to reap the benefits from miles of sweaty satisfaction. As soon as you hop off the bike, be sure to stretch your tired muscles, paying special attention to your legs and chest. If you're in rush, these five quick and effective stretches will prevent injury and make your next ride the best one yet!
Shin splints slowing you down? Freeze away the pain with an ice cup! An athletic DIY of sorts, ice cups are an easy and affordable way to treat common athlete woes like sprains and sore muscles. All you have to do is fill Dixie cups with water and freeze; once ready, peel back the paper to expose the ice. These beat bulky ice packs or a bag of peas because you can use them to pinpoint your trouble spots and massage the muscle. Keep a few stocked in your freezer so at a moment's notice you'll have your post-workout treatment ready. Be sure you don't follow up with heat for at least 48 hours, and once the pain diminishes, try these easy exercises to strengthen the tibialis anterior, the muscle that runs on the outside of the shin.
If you do have pain or shin splints often, consider visiting a physical therapist and checking in with your form and running shoes.
If you haven't already, learn to love lunges. They are the ultimate exercise; you can do them anywhere, anytime and see (bikini bottom) results fast. This compound exercise works your entire leg and is an easy addition to both your cardio and weight workouts. Once you've mastered the basic lunge, speed up the process to long, lean legs with the addition of a BOSU.
- Standing it front of the BOSU, engage your core. Keep your upper body straight with your shoulders back and relaxed.
- Similar to the position of a basic lunge, bring your right leg behind you, placing it on the BOSU.
- With control, lower your hips until both knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle. Make sure your front knee is directly above your ankle and your right knee doesn't touch the floor. Keep the weight in your heels as you push back up to the starting position. This completes one rep.
- Do two sets of 10 reps on each side.
Who knew Instagram, a social media obsession, offers a behind-the-scenes look at professional athletes? From workouts, recovery, and appearances, athletes like Gabby Douglas and Alex Morgan aren't shy when it comes to sharing. Since they're on Instagram, we're on Instagram, and you're on Instagram, it's time to get inspired and start following. Who knows? You might learn some new workout tips while you're at it!
There's a fine line when it comes to heating and icing an injury. While some injuries are acute (a sudden sprain or strain) and others chronic (often long-term as the result of overuse), there are specific ways to go about heating and icing for maximum recovery. If you aren't so sure when to grab the frozen peas or plug in the heating pad, use this guide during your rehab to keep you strong and performing at your best.
Heat is best when . . .
If you are stiff, sore, or have a chronic injury — bring on the heat! A heating pad or hot compress is ideal to relieve the aches and pains of overused muscles because it increases the elasticity of joint tissues and stimulates blood flow. About 20 minutes of heat also helps to loosen tissues and relax injured areas, meaning it's very beneficial before workouts that often irritate reoccurring injuries. One rule of thumb: do not heat a new injury! When an injury first occurs, swelling and inflammation are at their peak. Heat will only make this worse, causing the blood vessels to dilate. Only add heat once the injury has started to relax, which is usually after 48 hours.
Ice is best when . . .
Ice is best for immediate injuries and as a treatment in later rehabilitation. If you were just hurt in a workout, turn to ice to reduce the swelling and decrease the pain. Icing is also good for athletes with chronic injuries after a workout because it keeps inflammation at bay, preventing any overused muscles from acting up. If you're both icing and heating an injury, always end with ice. Since ice works to reduce the swelling, following it up with heat will counteract it, increasing blood flow and possible swelling. Don't ice for longer than 20 minutes (doing so can lead to frostbite), and never ice before a workout; this will only make your muscles stiff and vulnerable to injury.
For tight, toned legs, jump into your lunge! Although the basic lunge is a great starting point (and exercise to master), adding a jump will give you a bikini backside in no time. Often found in Tabata interval workouts, this lunge (also considered a jumping split lunge) is an intense move that increases the burn and tones your calves, too. Here's how you do it!
- To begin, start standing tall with your feet staggered, your left foot slightly in front of your right. Making sure you're not too stiff, keep your stance active with your knees bent in a slight but not full lunge.
- With your core engaged, push off the bottom of both feet into a jump, switching the position of your feet in midair, landing in a basic lunge with your right leg in front.
- Without rest, repeat this movement alternating which leg is in front. To prevent injury, make sure your back leg is bent directly underneath your body and your front leg is bent at 90 degrees at the knee and hip.
- Do three sets of 20 or modify the number specifically to your workout.
Ice baths are exactly how they sound — cold! But for many athletes, they are often a post-workout necessity used to recover, reducing inflammation and muscle soreness (think of them as one giant ice pack).
While not everyone is convinced on their effectiveness, studies have shown that ice baths are one of the most effective ways to offset the damage done on a run, because the cold temperatures help constrict blood cells and decrease metabolic activity. Try making your own; all you have to do is fill your tub with cold water, add a few bags of ice, and jump right in. It will be chilly, but a 10- to 15-minute soak will have your muscles thanking you. It's common practice for many elite athletes (especially those at the 2012 Olympic Games), but how about you? Take the poll and let us know if you're a fan of these not-so-relaxing recovery baths!
Finding the perfect running shoe isn't always an easy task but finding the right pair is important to help prevent injury. But where to start? Because there are several styles and options to choose from, we've created a go-to glossary to help you find your sole mate. Once you've determined your arch and gait type (a running store or your running partner can help) turn to this guide that explains the different styles of shoes available. From a barefoot fit to extra stability, it comes down to what works best for you and your workout.
- Barefoot: Barefoot running shoes have become increasingly popular over the last few years and are the closest you'll get to actually running barefoot. Most styles look like gloves for your feet, providing minimal protection and cushioning. Barefoot shoes, with a "zero drop" from heel to toe, encourage a more natural mid-foot strike. This style of sneakers is thought to engage all the muscles of the feet, encourage good posture, and help train you to land correctly. But, you shouldn't try these shoes blindly; it will take your body time to adjust to avoid injury. Prep yourself first with these tips, then consider our favorites.
- Minimalist: Minimalist running shoes are the happy medium between barefoot shoes and traditional kicks; they are also a great way to ease into barefoot running. Always lightweight, they have little to no arch support but still offer some cushion and flexibility. If you are used to tons of cushion, adjusting to minimalist shoes can take time.
See which shoes offer more stability and cushioning after the break!
Aside from making you look instantly thinner, posture is important to a healthy body. Before you get worried stiff that your slouching is irreversible, we found an app, sports bra, and handy belt to help. Because posture affects everything from digestion to achieving flat abs, consider one of these three helpful reminders for work or workout.
- LUMOback: The LUMOback ($149) is perfect for anyone who spends long hours at a desk. A small belt that you can wear anywhere, LUMOback will gently vibrate when you slouch from your lower back, reminding you to sit or stand straight. It then uses Bluetooth to track your progress and give you feedback over time. Not only will you start to feel better, reversing the negative effects of poor posture, but you'll look better too!
- IntelliSkin: When it comes to fitness, good posture can prevent injury and improve performance. IntelliSkin makes garments like tops and sports bras to cue your muscles to work together for better postural awareness. Many athletes, like surfers and volleyball players, use IntelliSkin during practice, but you can also wear them as undergarments at work. Could these possibly be considered an athletic version of Spanx?
- Upright: Yes, your smartphone can help you stand taller! Upright ($3) is an app that helps to improve your posture by alerting you every time you slouch. Once it's calibrated, keep your phone in your pocket, and you'll be altered every time you begin to hunch. You can even start with baby steps, configuring the time period and "slouch-sensitivity."
Letting go is hard to do, but it can really make the most of your time on the elliptical! Although the elliptical is a great way to work your arms and legs while getting your heart rate up, it can also be used to work your core and improve your balance. If this machine is a favorite of yours, then consider making the most of it by not using your hands — the benefits are many!
- Improves balance: Balance is key if you're looking for better posture, body awareness, and muscle control. Because the elliptical uses shifting pedals on an incline, stability is needed, especially without the handles. Little steps toward improving your balance not only make the workout challenging, but will also help other forms of fitness, like your yoga practice! The next time you are on the elliptical, spend part of the workout going hands-free; make sure to engage the core, which will stabilize you in this position.
- Works the core: Because you're challenging your sense of balance, you're working your core, too! Once you let go of the handles, just make sure not to sway from side to side. Place your hands on your hips to monitor your posture, and keep your abs engaged throughout the entire workout.
- Strengthens legs: It's simple — by not using your arms, you let your legs do all the work. Try directing the focus to your feet. Pressing more with your heels will work your hamstrings and butt, while pressing more with your toes will tone your quads on the front of your thighs. Crank up the incline and resistance and feel the burn!
We know it's taboo to embrace the midnight munchies, but there are some foods that can help you sleep better at night. If you're having trouble hitting the hay, foods like cherries and dairy can be great company to a healthy bedtime routine. What makes these foods after-hours worthy is that they have or help to produce melatonin, a hormone necessary for a healthy sleep cycle. So, although sleep aids can be a quick fix (it's OK, admit it), consider these healthy bites before you turn down the sheets tonight.
- Cherries: Finish each night with a cherry on top! Several studies have shown that cherry juice can help you sleep. Because cherries contain the magic of melatonin, participants in one study saved an average of 17 minutes of wake time after going to sleep when drinking cherry juice daily. If you're not a fan of tart cherry juice, fresh and dried cherries will have a similar effect.
- Oats: Truth is, about 20 bowls of oatmeal contain enough melatonin as a supplement, but that doesn't mean a little won't help. Between the melatonin and the rise in blood sugar, which in turn triggers insulin production, having a (healthy) oatmeal cookie won't hurt. Wash it down with a glass of milk (we'll soon explain why), and you should be on your way to sweet dreams.
- Dairy products: Speaking of milk, dairy products contain high amounts of tryptophan that produce melatonin and calcium that helps that process take place. Have a cup of yogurt or sip on a warm glass of milk before bed to help you unwind and get a good night's sleep.
- Rice: Rice is bedtime gold because it contains both melatonin and tryptophan. Try eating a meal that includes rice like a stir-fry or casserole, but don't overindulge too close before bed, as a heavy meal could interfere with sleep.
You've heard about, witnessed, or maybe even watched remarkable athletes, but have you read about them? Searching for an inspiring story, we found three memoirs that have to be shared. From coach Pat Summitt's perspective on life to Olympian Amanda Beard's journey to find herself, it's clear that the podium is just a small piece of the overall journey. These books are honest and open accounts of three women who have fought their way to the top and will motivate you well beyond your next workout!
A Life Without Limits: A World Champion's Journey
A must read for anyone passionate about triathlons, A Life Without Limits ($15) is the firsthand account of Chrissie Wellington. In 2007, Chrissie won the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii — as a newcomer. But there's more to her than shaking up the sport and shocking the press. In this book, she opens up about a journey that has taken her around the world and the challenges she had to overcome, like anorexia and near-drowning. Bonus material: Chrissie includes a few diet, training, and motivational techniques that have helped fuel her through one of the world's most grueling events.
Sum It Up: 1,098 Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective
Simply put, Pat Summitt can handle anything that comes her way; after reading Sum It Up ($28), you'll know why. The all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history, Pat opens up about her victories and challenges, the biggest being early-onset Alzheimer's disease. Despite her devastating diagnosis in 2011, she continues to turn setbacks into success — all with a sense of humor!
In the Water They Can't See You Cry: A Memoir
Amanda Beard is more than the little girl holding her teddy bear at the 1996 Olympic Games. Not only did she go on to compete in three more Olympic games, winning a total of seven medals, but she also has an incredible story to go along with it. Beyond her smile, success, and cover spreads, she is honest about her struggles with depression, an eating disorder, and unhealthy relationships. Her story is real and inspiring. After all, In the Water They Can't See You Cry ($16).
We hate to say it, but mom was right . . . It's time to start loving leeks. In season until the end of May, this green veggie is a diet dream. Not only is it low in calories (about 50 calories per cup) and packed with fiber, it's a good source of vitamin A and C. With a similar taste and texture to onions, leeks are a great addition to dishes like quiche, hash, or soup. Pick from one of these six healthy recipes and start preparing dinner with these steps — you only have until the end of May to do so!
Between traveling and toning, our favorite celebrity trainers are always up to something; this week was no different! From weekend detoxes to positive affirmations, they gave us plenty of Instagram inspiration. Take a look at our favorite social snaps of the week, and don't forget to follow POPSUGAR Fitness on Instagram too!
Dental hygiene seems simple, but research shows that brushing and flossing goes well beyond your pearly whites. When you're brushing your teeth, you're not only freshening your breath and promoting gum health, but also taking steps to prevent having a heart attack.
Studies show that poor oral health can increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke because it releases plaque-causing bacteria into your bloodstream. Building upon previous findings that dental health affects overall health, this research goes to show that it really only takes two minutes to reach a healthier you. All you need are your handy toothbrush, minty paste, and a wheel of floss!
Between social media, email, and texting, it's easy to go without actually talking to your closest friends. If you find yourself stressed out during your day, whether it be work-, family-, or life-related, there's no reason you have to deal with it on your own. Picking up the phone and reaching out to someone you trust is one of the easiest and most effective ways to make you feel better. The next time you're stressed, take a few minutes to call a friend or family member with a caring ear. Talking therapy with someone close will ease your mind and can prevent you from turning to stress-induced habits like overeating. Although turning to our loved ones in a time of need can make all the difference, it's also great to connect and laugh with friends even on days when you're feeling happy and relaxed.
'Tis the season to fall in love with radishes! Between their nice crispy texture and a tangy bitterness, they make a great addition to sides and salads. Aside from their taste, they are loaded with healthy benefits like fiber, iron, and calcium. A Spring favorite, here are five recipes that take full advantage of this bright little veggie.
Not just ordinary leggings, compression tights are believed to help athletes recover and remain at their best. Using the power of compression, these garments are designed to provide the body with circulatory benefits for more oxygen delivery and reduced lactic acid buildup. Using a special knit (e.g. the warp knit or circular knit), this fitted material applies pressure to specific muscles to prevent swelling and other posttraining effects.
The results are debatable. Some studies show a reduction in VO2 values and an increase anaerobic threshold, while other studies claim no real lactic-acid-clearing effect. Although they do feel good (I've even tried them myself), the benefits seem small compared to price. Often around $100, they aren't necessarily magic. But, many athletes use tights to recover, leading us to wonder: do you? Vote in the poll and tell us your thoughts below!
The typical nightcap has just been given a (healthy) makeover. That's right, insomniacs, it's time to trade in your sleep-disrupting cocktail for a healthier sip — cherry juice! Not given enough credit in the fruit-juice world, studies show that a glass of cherry juice can significantly help you sleep better.
Cherries contain melatonin, a natural antioxidant that helps to regulate your sleep cycle. Participants in the study saved an average of 17 minutes of wake time after going to sleep when drinking cherry juice daily. Although this may not seem like much, between a busy schedule and late-night computer time, we'll take anything we can get. So, rather than counting sheep, sip up with a cherry on top. And if that doesn't do it, we have 25 tips that just might . . .
Being happy may just be the single most important thing you can do for your health, making it just as important as diet and physical activity. If you aren't feeling like yourself lately, not to worry. Knowing that times are stressful and the unexpected often occurs, here are ways to help you get back to happiness almost instantly.
- Play a game (not on your phone): Get your family together, invite some friends over, and have a game night. Not only will you be surrounded by good company, friendly competition usually guarantees a good time and a good laugh.
- Smile: When in doubt, smile! Not only is it contagious, smiling helps relieve stress, boost your mood, and release endorphins.
- Go for a walk: If something isn't going well at work or home, step outside and take a walk. It doesn't have to be long, but a quick stroll will help you get fresh air and clear your mind.
- Call a friend: Don't text, dial! Calling a close friend is a great way to talk over your worries and get advice from someone you trust.
- Try something new: Stop your rut by switching things up. Try a new gym class, restaurant, or take a new route to work in the morning.
For more happy ideas, read more