5 Fun Plank Variations​ To Challenge Your Core

Planks are one of my favorite exercises! 

I know you’re totally rolling your eyes right now, but it’s true. Planks are a great way to get a fullbody workout. They are perfect to help you build isometric muscles and can even improve your posture. Plus planks are so versatile that you won’t get bored. You can do planks on the floor, with weights, on a reformer, with a ball or even add in a little cardio. 😉 Just what you want right? I’m still kinda giggling from when I taught a circuit bootcamp class a few months ago and I taught an entire 7 minute circuit with all planks. I’m pretty sure everyone hated me during the circuit. 

Now even tho I’m obsessed with planks, I know not everyone is as in love or even knows how to properly plank. So I’m giving you a list of all my favorite plank variation to truly get a full-body workout within minutes. Before we get into some plank variations, I want to go over a few key tips for your form that you NEED to know. 

  1. Keep your shoulders right over your wrists or elbows if you’re in a forearm plank. This will activate those shoulders and help you get out of your wrists. 
  2. To protect your back by slightly tucking your tailbone, this will also help you from arching your back and dropping your belly down or deactivating your core.
  3. Keep your ears pulling up to the ceiling to help keep the back of your neck long

Now keeping those tips in mind, try these planks out! Attempt to do these for at least 30 seconds each, it should only take you 5 minutes. For the side plank 30 seconds each side.

Commandos:

Starting on your hands in a full plank, drop down to your right elbow then your left. Now you’re in a forearm plank, from their place your right hand back onto the floor then your left back into your full plank. Continues going down and up, but make sure you switch which arm is starting. The hard part is keeping your hips level and not moving then. The faster you go the more cardio this becomes. 

Carlie showing commandos.

Mountain Climbers

Most people know how to do these but they are such a great way to get a little cardio in while in a plank. While in a full plank you will draw one knee to your chest then step it back and switch legs. The faster you go the harder it is to do while keeping the correct form of your shoulders over wrist and your butt in line with your body. You can also add a little rotation to get into the obliques a little by drawing your knee to the opposite elbow. 

Side Plank:

Carlie holding a side plank. Wearing @Athleta pants and @ToeSox.

Start on your right side, you can either be on your right hand or on your forearm. The left hand can be on your hip or behind your head. Bring your top foot in front and lift your hips off the floor to get into your side plank. In this position you will hook your back toe under your front foot heel. You’re going to hold just a static plank for 30-60 seconds. 

If holding this plank is too challenging take your top leg and bend the knee to step your foot onto the floor in front of you. Now you can press down with your heel to help you keep your hips up. (I prefer this modification over going down onto your knees as I find it keeps your obliques more active.) If you need more of a challenge you can try stacking your legs giving you less stability and making your core work a little harder. Another option is to lift your top leg and hold it in the air. 😉 

Single leg balance:

While in your plank either on your hands or forearms you’re going to focus on keeping your upper body and hips completely still. Slowly start to lift your right leg off the floor about hip height and hold for 5 second then set your foot down and switch to your left leg. You can increase the challenge by reaching the opposite arm long in front of you as you lift your leg up.

Hip Dips Side-to-Side:

Holding a forearm or full plank, dip your right hip towards the floor then exhale and lift your hips back to center before dipping your left hip down. While doing this try to keep your shoulders stable and only move through the lower half really using your obliques to make the twist. 

Carlie doing hip dips side-to-side while in a forearm plank.

Planks are truly one of the best exercises for core conditioning, while also working your lower back, glutes, hamstrings and improving posture. All great reasons to hop into a plank right now. Try out these 5 planks and let me know how you feel. Can you do all of these plank variations for 30 seconds back to back without a break?

Why Don’t More Men do Pilates?

Usually, I’m the one who is writing the blog posts on here about my experiences and knowledge but Bryan and I have been talking about him doing a post for a little on his personal experience with Pilates and how it has affected him. So now that he has been doing Pilates for over a year here is his opinion on Pilates and the benifits he has seen.

Until about a year ago, I never fathomed the possibility of ever taking a group fitness class. I was your typical former high-school athlete, way less limber and flexible than I was a decade ago in my glory days. My typical workout routine consisted of stationary weight lifting, with a few bouts of cardio throughout the week, occasionally mixing in a run or hike. This type of working out was a way for me to ‘maintain’ my muscle, stay fairly trim and still feel like I was putting in the time and work to my physical fitness.

Who knew that some of the best and most elite male athletes utilize Pilates as a way to master their craft? Steelers All-Pro receive Antonio Brown and Phillies pitcher Jake Arietta are two star-studded athletes just to name a few. Both of these athletes employ Pilates as a way to maintain both physical and mental well-being. Perhaps this can help remove the ‘stigmas’ that surround Pilates and its efficacy.

Fast forward to today… I am 10 years post back surgery. In 2009, I had a minimally invasive back surgery consisting of a lumbar discectomy, which in layman’s terms essentially meant I had two herniated disks in my lower back (L4, L5, S1) that were pressing on my sciatic nerve. I used to make excuses about not being able to run, my inflexibility and lack or core strength to support my back. Enter Pilates. I had never taken Pilates before, let alone even really understand the basic principles and concepts. Add in the fact that my workouts, like most, got stale over time. My body was used to the same movements, even if I switched up exercises, and I knew it was time for something new. I also had no need to keep the bulky upper body muscle that I once used in sports. What started out as a simple date idea with my current girlfriend, turned into a lifestyle alteration.

Over this past year, what I once thought was a workout meant for ‘woman’, has turned out to have more benefits than I could have imagined. Sure, the majority of my mat and reformer classes have been female-dominated, but I now have a new appreciation for the art of functional movements, flexibility, and core strength. I have developed a real affinity for the different types of Pilates I have been able to experience recently. Maybe Men just do not like being told what to do…

In my opinion, Mat Pilates is probably the most underrated form of Pilates. It requires balance, body awareness and the ability to utilize your own body weight. Most folks think you need a ‘machine’ in order to work out, but truth be told, I personally think Mat can be more of a balance challenge. The core principal relay on core strength (no pun intended), where basically every move requires some type of abdominal engagement. This engagement has been particularly useful to someone like myself, who would rather find different ways to work my core (to support my back) in ways other than your standard sit-up, which can cause back pain. The movements of Pilates are very mindful and the flows are meant to limit compromising positions and allow for modifications if need be. It isn’t just about having abs and a six-pack, but rather a strong core to support my upper body strength and back needs.

Mixing in one or two Pilates classes a week has really helped out in many aspects of my life, both mentally and physically. There are the obvious benefits, such as increased hamstring flexibility, a stronger core, as well as more toned legs. The intangible benefits for me have been less daily back pain, and the ability to run and sprint at places such as Barry’s Bootcamp (11.5! what what). Though, I still try and steer clear of intense jumping movements, I’m able to jump squat, do jumping jacks and jack squats no issue! I have been able to perform more HIIT-focused workouts, helping build more lean muscle and provide valuable fat loss.

The other major benefit for me has come in the form of snowboarding. Snowboarding has long been my favorite athletic activity. I began skiing when I was 3 years old and have been skiing/snowboarding consistently ever since, including living in Colorado for 5 years where I racked up over 100 days. The 2009 winter was the first and only winter I had missed due to injury. This was a major blow to me, as my surgery recovery spanned about 7 months from Sept- April of that year. Post-surgery. I was limited to only being able to go one day and not feeling up to going a second day in a row due to back pain. However, Pilates has changed that and allowed me to shred back to back days, without the effects I used to feel after a hard day.

Having a strong grasp of these basic Pilates principals allows me to practice flows anywhere I have a mat and some time, even without professional instruction or a studio. Hopefully, I have inspired some of the men out there or at least informed their significant others that there are amazing benefits for your male counterpart. Remember, it’s not just about the physical result, there is a strong mental component to Pilates. Whether working on your breathing, letting go of real-world stresses or just needing to ‘sweat it out’, exercising in general is a great release and way to keep you strong mentally. Pilates is a great form of exercise, something I will continue to do as I get older, plus it is a great way to get a couples workout in. You know what they say, “Couples who work out together, stay together”. My regular workouts now consist of gym workouts (3-4 times), with Pilates and HIIT workouts weaved in once a week, keeping things fun and interesting for myself.

My goal is to help break down stigmas and educate my male counterparts on this unique type of fitness platform. Young, old, short, or tall, there is some type of mindful movement for everyone.


Things to Know for all Barre Newbies

As someone who has been taking and teaching barre for years, it amazes me when I meet someone who has never taken a barre class. It seems like a lot of people are mainly just scared about trying something new, trust me I know that the unknown is scary. I’m someone who usually sticks to a routine and hates changes.

But the reason for this post is to give you some insight on what you can expect for your first barre class, so you can feel comfortable to get your booty into a class asap. I love barre classes especially at MNTSTUDIO, I always leave feeling like I got a full body and well-rounded workout. As someone who was a dancer from a young age, I love the aspect of using the music for the movement and staying on the beat. However don’t be intimated if you’ve never danced before, my boyfriend who has no rhythm(Sorry Bryan) loves these classes too.

Barre classes are focused on strength, balance, and flexibility making them great for cross-training. Within a few minutes of class, you will find yourself shaking and using muscles you’ve never used before. Generally, when we work out on our own we work on the things we’re good at and like to do. So these classes are great to work on those areas that you’re not focusing on otherwise and it will make you stronger overall and less prone to injuries.

Wear Appropriate Attire

You should wear tight-fitted clothing so your instructor can see your form, to ensure you’re doing the movement correctly and avoid injury. I recommend wearing full-length pants or capris because you might be doing some movements where you hold a ball with your leg so the bare skin would make it slippery. Also, wear grippy socks to your class, these will help you from slipping and give you traction when making sudden movements. Even if the studio you’re going to doesn’t require them I recommend having them. Think about all of the germs on the studio floor from people sweating and all the barefeet everywhere. For socks my favorite brand is ToeSox,  they are great for when you’re moving quickly during barre classes because with each individual toe separated they stay on your feet and don’t move around like other brands. 

Show Up Early

Usually, when you’re attending a studio for the first time, you should arrive at least 10 minutes early. They might need to have you sign a waiver and also may give you a tour of the studio. Showing up early is also a good idea so you can get set up with any props you may need for the class, or change into your workout clothes without feeling rushed. You should also try to get set up near the instructor, this will help when you need to see what movements you’re supposed to do. This is also very important if you have an injury. Your instructor needs to know what is going on with your body and how they can help keep you safe and get the best out of your workout.

Embrace Those Shakes

For your first class, you may not be the most graceful person, but this isn’t a dance class so don’t let that get to you. Everyone will be struggling just the same even if they come every week, so they won’t be paying attention even if you’re going the opposite direction. Most people in their first class see the weights and usually go for the heaviest ones. However, don’t be fooled! Those little 2 lbs and 3 lb weights get very heavy during class. A lot of exercises in barre are small isometric movements that work your muscles in a targeted area. So your muscles will burn and you might even be shaking uncontrollably during the class. However, always be sure to listen to your body and take breaks whenever needed. All instructors should be able to give you any modifications you may need to help with any injuries you have.

HAVE FUN!

Don’t get discouraged during your first few barre classes, it might take a few classes to get the moves down. No matter if it is your first or hundredth class, it’s going to be a great workout so just try to enjoy the class and music. Even as an instructor I still have to come out of some exercises during a class because my legs and butt are burning! I’m someone that is motivated by music so I like to sing the songs to myself a little while taking a class maybe do a little wiggly dance. 😉

I hope this helps to give you a little insight on how to prepare and feel ready for your first barre class. 

If you have any tips to share please comment below! I would love to hear from you.

3 Ways to Keep Rolling

By now foam rolling is something we’ve all seen or have heard of at least once, but not everyone knows how to use one. Foam rolling is such an amazing way to help ease muscle tensions, improve flexibility and range of motion in your entire body. This should only take 10 to 15 minutes — you could do it every day but I recommend at least once or twice a week. Ready? Let’s get rolling.

Glutes/Piriformis

Your glutes are such a big muscle but so many people forget to stretch them. Unfortunately, tight glutes and a piriformis can cause, back pain, runners knee, and IT band syndrome.

  • Sitting on the roller horizontally under your body
  • Cross left ankle over your right knee
  • Lean onto your left glute
  • Roll back and forth, and draw circles on your glute using the roller
  • Try a static hold on specific tight areas by holding still for five seconds
  • Roll out right glutes for 30 to 60 second, then switch to the other side

Lower Back

Lower back pain is very common especially with our culture of sitting at desks for long hours every day. Even active people find they have back pain or sensitive lower backs from running or lifting with poor form. Rolling out your back can even help with mobility and flexibility in your glutes.  

  • Sit on the ground, lift your hips up and place your lower back on the foam roller
  • With both feet firmly on the ground, lean over to the right side
  • Roll up and down the length of your lower back. Be mindful of your spine!
  • Roll out right glutes for 30 to 60 second, then switch to the other side

IT band

The IT band is a thick strand of fascia that runs the length of your thigh; when it gets tight, it can pull the knee out of alignment. This band is vital for stability in your knee especially during running, so, if you have a tight IT band you’re risking the knee to track out of alignment. 

  • Lying on your side, almost in a side plank, place your roller on the side of your thigh right below your hip
  • Roll the length of your thigh, and stopping just above the knee. Go slowly, and be sure to not roll over the knee joint.
  • Keep your top leg stacked, or place the foot onto the floor to give you less pressure
  • If you find an especially tender point, try rolling forward and back to release the spot
  • Roll for 30-60 seconds, then switch sides
  • This one might be painful, which means you really need to do this!

Good luck rolling out, be sure to move slowly at first as it can be painful! Have questions? Feel free to contact me. 🙂

xx, Carlie

Quick Full Body Glider Workout

I know sometimes getting into your favorite class just isn’t in the cards. Maybe you had a meeting run late, family emergency or you’re traveling. Well, I’m giving you 3 moves you basically can do anywhere, all you need are two gilders but honestly even hand towels would work.

I encourage you to stay active and try to find a regular exercise routine, even if you’re busy. Working out is incredibly important to your health and happiness in any way! I find that I get very stressed and anxious when I miss a workout. Even a mini 10-minute workout like this helps me stay healthy and mentally balanced in my everyday life. OK, now on to the workout!

Here’s The Glider Workout:

  • Reverse Lunge
  • Plank to Pike
  • Sliding Tricep Pushup

Do three 45-second sets of each move.

Equipment Needed: Gliders or towels, a smooth floor, and a positive attitude! 

Learn the moves with these lovely GIF’s I worked so hard on!

1. Reverse Lunge

Begin standing with toes in the middle of your gliders. Start to bend into your right leg and slide your left foot back into a low lunge. Then return to the starting position.

Then hold your lunge getting as low as you can, begin pulsing down in your standing front leg. Keeping your back leg straight.

Now that you feel the burn try to hold it down a little bit longer. Keep your right leg bend and start sliding your back leg in and out not letting the rest of your body move.

Repeat on the other side.

Make it easier: Remove glider from under the front foot that is not sliding back so you have more stability.

2. Plank to Pike

Start in high plank with both feet in the middle of your gliders. Keeping your shoulders over your wrist, begin engaging your core as you pike hips toward the ceiling, sliding feet in toward hands. Drop your head between your arms and keep your heels lifted. Slide your feet back to return to your position and repeat for 45 seconds.

3. Sliding Tricep Pushup

Start in a kneeling plank position with your gliders under both hands. Start to slide your right hand forward several inches, as your left elbow bends in toward your waist. Press up and away using your left arm and slide your right arm back in. Continue alternating sides for 45 seconds.

Make it harder: Perform the exercise in a high plank position. 

I hope you enjoy this workout and get a good sweat!

5 Items To Always Keep In Your Gym Bag

Getting to the gym is already hard work, don’t make it harder on yourself by being unprepared. Since I actually work at a gym I like to think I know what I’m talking about on this topic. I find myself jumping into classes at the spur of the moment all of the time and unfortunately sometimes unprepared. So I’ve created a list of 5 items that I now keep in my gym bag at all times…. I just need to remember my gym bag!

 

Water Bottle

Being hydrated is so essential for working out. I can attest to this from a personal experience a few years back. But now staying hydrated is so easy with this super cute bottle from BKR. I love having the glass bottle because I’m able to see it’s actually clean. Also, the silicone sleeve makes it easier to grip while working out and sweating.

 

Headphones

Since I danced most of my life, I find myself motivated by music a lot. My favorite part about working out in a gym is actually being able to blast my music and just zone out. Honestly if it was socially acceptable to sing while in the gym I totally would. I love using spotify, they have some great playlists for working out but I can also make my own so I stay upbeat and motivated.

 

Protein/Snack Bar

Keeping your body fueled is just as important as staying hydrated. My favorite protein bar to snack on for a workout  is a RXBAR. I love how transparent and honest they are with what is in their bars, you can literally see the ingredients printed on the packaging. Working out requires a lot of energy and if your body isn’t nourished you could get seriously injured. I’ve seen a lot of people nearly pass out from not eating before working out.

 

Face wipes

No one likes to look like a raccoon or worse “the star of a horror film!” Having face wipes is the perfect way to not only protect your skin but also your reputation for when you see that super cute boy running next to you. Make sure you clean off your face before a workout because your pores will absorb all of the dirt and makeup from the day during your workout. Then again after to clear away any sweat, grease or dirt from the equipment you used.

 

Hair Ties

Of course these are needed! I don’t know what it is about hair ties but I can’t ever seem to hold onto them, they are always disappearing or breaking. It’s a seriously struggle as a girl. Also, now with my hair short  I’ve found I wear it down more often and have no way to put my hair up for a workout class. Cue hair sticky to my sweaty forehead and neck…GROSS! I have really liked using these elastic  hair ties as they don’t crease my hair so I can take my hair down after working out and it still looks halfway decent for photos with some friends.

 

What are your gym bag essentials?

Fashionable Fitness Trackers You’ll Never Take Off

Say goodbye to your bulky, unappealing black plastic smartwatches and HELLO to sleek, stylish and 18k gold! You no longer have to sacrifice your fashion for your health. These 7 fitness trackers will help you stay on top of your daily goals this summer.

Tory Burch X Fitbit
This super chic leather double wrap design from Tory Burch for Fitbit, is perfect for your evening outs. You get all the benefits of the Fitbit Flex hidden by the sleek maze that’s Tory Burch signature. Track your steps taken, distance covered, calories burned—even how much you’ve slept, while not losing any street cred….
This gorgeous gold bangle is able to track your fitness activity, send vibration notifications from your phone, and even alert the police if you’re in trouble. The bracelets distress messaging sends your location to a list of preset emergency contacts.
Misfit Ray
One of the most versatile and stylish wearable trackers. Have the freedom of tracking Running, Swimming, Cycling, Yoga, Tennis, and even Dancing while wearing this as a bracelet or necklace. With this sleek design no one will even know that is can do all of that!
Ringly Aries Activity Tracker & Smart Ring
The best blend of fashion and fitness. You can get a wearable ring or bracelet that matches any outfit in 18k gold with emeralds, sapphires or obsidian. You can get discreet notifications with different vibrations. This Ringly ring accurately tracks activity, steps taken and calories burned.

Jawbone UP3 
This super chic fitness tracker can monitor your sleep patterns, Calories burned, heart rate and or your step during a night out on the town. With this piece you also won’t need your wallet, American Express card holders can link their account to this bracelet and charge that morning after macchiato with a simple swipe

This sleek Michael Kors design features crystal accents and a shining engraved face. Keep your health on track and look great while doing it. Get this step and sleep tracker, in gold, silver or rose-gold.

Designed specifically for women The Leaf tracks stress levels, steps, calories burned, sleep and menstrual cycles. This will be the only piece of techwear you’ll ever need to get an overall view on your health physically  and mentally.