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Your Guide to Building a Home Gym on Any Budget [INFOGRAPHIC]

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While the cost of some gym memberships can be more expensive than your rent, creating a workout space or gym at home is easier and more affordable than you might think. Contrary to what you might believe, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to create a comfortable and effective environment to get your sweat on. By combining a small investment with a little creativity, you can easily transform a home space into a functional gym with numerous benefits.

For starters, you have wonderful amenities at home that you may not experience at a gym, such as a clean, private shower you don’t have to wait in line for. Secondly, you will save the money otherwise spent on monthly membership fees as well as the initiation fees just for signing a contract. That money could easily be invested over time to create the home gym you have always wanted.

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At Ally, we don’t just care about your finances — we care about you. That’s why we’ve dug deeper into what it means to be financially fit. Just like physical fitness, there are different ways to be financially fit. Your training program depends on what you want to accomplish, and you should approach your financial routine the same way. Find out what kind of financially fit you are with our financial fitness quiz.

Lastly, time is a precious commodity these days. Many of us don’t have the time it takes to commute to and from the gym, plus do the workout. Your 30-minute workout could easily morph into 90 minutes, and that can impact your schedule so much that you forgo the workout. By making your gym more accessible, you increase your ability to get in a quick workout when time is tight. Here are some ideas that will fit any budget as you create your own gym at home. This list also shows you how, over time, you can invest in larger pieces of equipment or more specialized items.

KEY EQUIPMENT UNDER $ 25

  • Resistance bands ($ 9) are versatile pieces of equipment that take up very little space. You can use them to add resistance to exercises such as bicep curls, overhead tricep extensions, standing rows and squats.
  • A jump rope ($ 5–$ 6) is an inexpensive way to get a great cardiorespiratory workout in a short period of time. It can be easily incorporated into any workout by adding one-minute bursts of jumping rope to increase your heart rate.
  • A yoga mat ($ 10) is a multiuse and functional addition to any home gym. You can use it for stretching, yoga or body-weight exercises, such as planks, supermans and pushups.

ADD THIS KEY EQUIPMENT TO SPEND $ 200 OR LESS

  • Dumbbells ($ 10-$ 100) are great for strength exercises and are very versatile, allowing you to work most muscle groups. Get a lower-body workout by doing exercises such as weighted squats, lunges, deadlifts or step-ups. Target your arms and upper body with bicep curls, tricep extensions, chest presses, bent-over rows, overhead presses and reverse flyes. We recommend getting two pairs to start out: a lighter set for upper body and a heavier set for lower-body exercises.
  • A stability ball ($ 26.95) adds an element of instability and can be used for core, balance and strength exercises. Intensify classic exercises like chest presses, planks and crunches by doing them on a stability ball.
  • Your workout is only as effective as your recovery, and using a foam roller ($ 14) can help you care for your muscles pre- and post-workout. The foam roller is used for self-myofascial release and is a popular method used by athletes to aid recovery.  

ADD THIS EQUIPMENT TO SPEND $ 500 OR LESS

  • A suspension trainer, such as the TRX system ($ 129), can be attached to a door or other anchor point to add endless body-weight exercises. You can work on core stability, strength and power, and it comes with an easy-to-follow brochure and DVD.
  • Add instability and balance training to your workout by incorporating a balance trainer, such as the BOSU ($ 119). The half-dome BOSU can be used for cardio and power exercises as well as balance and core work.  
  • Depending on your space, medicine balls can add another dimension to your workouts: throwing, tossing, slamming and rotating (but watch out for the windows!). With nine weight options, Dynamax Balls ($ 80–$ 125) are a fun, functional way to develop strength and power. Try medicine ball slams, situp throws, chest throws and side-to-side slams.

KEY EQUIPMENT TO SPEND $ 1,000 OR LESS

  • Adding a stationary bike is a space-saving way to add a cardiorespiratory element to your workout. You can choose an option with a console for digital feedback, like this Schwinn Bike ($ 325), or a spin bike ($ 360) similar to options you’ll find at a gym.
  • Ramp up your workout with plyo (short for plyometrics) boxes, which can be used for strength and power exercises. Foam Rogue plyo boxes ($ 225-$ 400) are best for jumping, while Power Systems Plyo Boxes ($ 150–$ 330) have anti-slip surfaces and are good for both stepping and jumping. A few plyo box exercises include weighted step-ups, single leg step-ups and box jumps.

ADD THIS KEY EQUIPMENT TO SPEND $ 1,000 OR MORE

  • Kettlebells ($ 12–$ 80) have been around for a long time, yet they are still unfamiliar to many people. Kettlebells are used for dynamic, explosive movements to yield improvements in strength and power. Proper technique is paramount, but once mastered, kettlebells will enhance your workout with efficient conditioning. Try adding kettlebell swings, cleans and Turkish getups.
  • Depending on your space, a multiuse pulley or cable system can be a great tool for strength and resistance exercises. It can take the place of multiple pieces of equipment and reduce clutter in your home gym. A functional trainer ($ 3,000) is a total-body gym, or if you want to focus more on a pulley system, try the dual cable cross ($ 4,000).
  • If space permits, add a treadmill ($ 1,300) with incline capability to your home gym. Jogging or lower impact walking (with or without incline) can create diverse cardiorespiratory workouts to improve your heart health.
  • A multifunction rack ($ 2,800) can support heavy resistance and weight-training workouts that require weight plates and bars. This piece of equipment is best-suited for traditional strength training, such as squats, cleans, deadlifts, chest press and pullups. The rack would need to be accompanied with the accessories below.
    • You’ll need a barbell of some sort to perform most exercises on the multifunction rack. An Olympic bar ($ 165) is standard for lifting, but a short Olympic bar ($ 120) may be better if you have a small space at home.
    • Weight plates ($ 30-$ 200) are another must for the rack and can be purchased based on how light or heavy you intend to lift.

Written by Shane Barnard, a NASM-, ACE-, AFAA- and USATF-certified trainer and the founder of the Urbankick format and instructor certifications. She is also the co-founder of Urbanplay, a non-profit health and fitness education program for youth.


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5 Healthy Habit-Forming Gifts to Give Yourself

When I was 10, my grandmother told me, “Don’t buy anything for yourself around Christmas. You never know what Santa will bring you…” Strangely enough, this set me up for disappointment because Santa didn’t seem to know that what I wanted more than anything was a real lightsaber. Maybe Darth Vader was intercepting the mail between LaFayette, Georgia, and the North Pole.

Much like a Jedi must make their own lightsaber in order to become a master, there are some gifts you just have to give yourself. This is especially true when you’re looking to form new health habits. Here’s a list:

1. AWARENESS

You can’t get to where you’re going without knowing where you are. Calorie and workout tracking are simply a means to the end of awareness. By using them diligently until new habits are formed, we begin to learn when behaviors we want (and don’t want) are being triggered and rewarded. Most of the habits I teach clients are simply habits of awareness. “To become different from what we are, we must have some awareness of what we are.” – Eric Hoffer

2. FORGIVENESS

Ask anyone in recovery how many times they tried to quit and I bet they know the number. I personally quit smoking 4 times before it stuck, and each time was a little bit easier. In order to get to our goals, it is absolutely essential we learn that failure is a part of the story of our success–not an end to that story. “Forgiveness does not change the past but it does enlarge the future.” – Paul Lewis Boese

3. FOCUS

I rarely see failures of willpower, but I have seen thousands of people fail to stay focused. New habits take effort, but that effort is wasted if you are scattering it across too many desired behaviors. Want to run a marathon and lose weight? Too much. Want to change your diet and start going to the gym? Too much. My clients work on one habit at a time until they master it. That’s it. But man, do they add up… “The goal is to keep the goal the goal.” – Dan John

4. PATIENCE

Moving one habit at a time takes focus and patience, but something all my successful clients learn is that patience is not passive. It’s an active process of learning what works, and what doesn’t. What thoughts inspire us to keep going and what thoughts make us look for cookies. They learn how to plan for what they can control and to roll with what they cannot. “Most people overestimate how much they can get done in a day and underestimate how much they can do in a year.” – Bill Gates

5. COMMUNITY

This is the most important gift you can put under your tree. It’s the batteries that power all the other gifts you need to give yourself. The people around you are not there by accident. You choose who to spend your time with and you have a say in what activities you do with them. Picking the right people to spend time with can make all the difference between hoping for a change, and making a change. So give yourself the gift of not taking this journey alone. “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” – Jim Rohn

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10 Lighter Holiday Cocktails Under 160 Calories

The holidays are a time for great food, fabulous company, and even better drinks. While creamy eggnog and sugary libations may not be the most calorie-friendly beverages of choice, there are plenty of crave-worthy drinks that won’t break the calorie bank. Sip on one of these 10 lighter holiday cocktails at your next holiday party!

1. CRANBERRY SAUCE BOURBON COCKTAIL THE ROASTED ROOT

The holiday season is all about repurposing leftovers. Take those leftover cranberry sauce out of the fridge and transform it into a tasty bourbon beverage! If you prefer a smoothie beverage, try blending the mixture for more of a daiquiri texture. Recipe makes 1 serving.

Nutrition (per serving):  Calories: 156; Total Fat: 0g; Saturated Fat: 0g; Monounsaturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 81mg; Sodium: 244mg; Carbohydrate: 17g; Dietary Fiber: 1g;  Sugar: 12g; Protein: 0g

2. EARL GRAY HOT TODDY | CALIFORNIA GIRL COOKS

This easy and totally customizable drink is a great one for crowds. Invite over a few good friends, and enjoy it from a big pitcher! It’s equally delicious with grated ginger and cinnamon. No lemons? Swap in fresh orange juice and your favorite flavor of tea. Recipe makes 1 serving.

Nutrition (per serving):  Calories: 117; Total Fat: 0g; Saturated Fat: 0g; Monounsaturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 5mg; Carbohydrate: 20g; Dietary Fiber:0g;  Sugar: 18g; Protein: 0g

3. APPLE SPICED MIMOSAS | THE HEALTHY MAVEN

This festive cocktail is perfect for a New Year’s get-together or a simple brunch with friends. It’s made with no-sugar-added apple juice so you won’t be bogged down with the same sugar rush you’d get from other holiday treats. Add a dash of nutmeg, and serve in champagne flutes for an extra festive flair! Nutrition calculated without the sugar rim. Recipe makes 4 servings.

Nutrition (per serving):  Calories: 113; Total Fat: 0g; Saturated Fat: 0g; Monounsaturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 11mg; Carbohydrate: 10g; Dietary Fiber: 0g;  Sugar: 9g; Protein: 0g

4. CHAMPAGNE POMEGRANATE COCKTAIL | COOKING LIGHT

An addicting combination of bubbly champagne and sweet pomegranate juice is what makes this libation a crowd pleaser. As a nutritional bonus, it’s also packed with antioxidants! Garnish with fresh pomegranate seeds or a pop of color. Recipe makes 8 servings.

Nutrition (per serving):  Calories: 125; Total Fat: 0g; Saturated Fat: 0g; Monounsaturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium:9mg; Carbohydrate: 12g; Dietary Fiber: 0g; Sugar: 10g; Protein: 0g

5. SPICED HOT CIDER | EATING WELL

Cozy up with an adult version of the classic autumn drink! Apple cider packs an extra flavor kick when garnished with lots of cinnamon powder, cinnamon sticks and crisp apple slices. Recipe makes 6 servings at 3/4 cup each.

Nutrition (per serving):  Calories: 155; Total Fat: 0g; Saturated Fat: 0g; Monounsaturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 42mg; Carbohydrate: 23g; Dietary Fiber: 0g;  Sugar: 22g; Protein: 0g

6. GINGER GRAPEFRUIT COCKTAIL | DIETITIAN DEBBIE DISHES

This pretty-in-pink grapefruit cocktail is a warm and refreshing drink. Grapefruits reach their peak during the holiday season so take advantage by incorporating this zingy fruit into your wintry celebrations. For optimal flavor, use fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice rather than store-bought. Recipe makes 2 servings.

Nutrition (per serving):  Calories: 143; Total Fat: 0g; Saturated Fat:0 g; Monounsaturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 13mg; Carbohydrate: 12g; Dietary Fiber: 0g;  Sugar: 5g; Protein: 60g

7. BLOOD ORANGE SANGRIA | COOKING LIGHT
Blood oranges come into season around December, so be sure to whip up this gorgeous cocktail over the holidays! If blood oranges aren’t available, e navel oranges will do in a pinch. Choose a good quality, fruity red wine for the best flavor. Recipe makes 16 servings at 1 cup each.

Nutrition (per serving):  Calories: 157; Total Fat: 0g; Saturated Fat: 0g; Monounsaturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 7mg; Carbohydrate: 21g; Dietary Fiber: 1g;  Sugar: 21g; Protein: 0g

8. POMEGRANATE SPITZERS | MAKING THYME FOR HEALTH

Healthy, fizzy, and delicious, this drink is as easy as combining soda water with bright pomegranate juice and a splash of lime. You can also experiment with replacing the soda water with champagne. Recipe makes 8 servings at 1 cup each.

Nutrition (per serving):  Calories: 146; Total Fat: 0g; Saturated Fat: 0g; Monounsaturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 10mg; Carbohydrate: 21g; Dietary Fiber: 0g;  Sugar: 16g; Protein: 0g

9. ROSEMARY POMEGRANATE MIMOSAS | FEASTING NOT FASTING

Looking for a fun and festive twist on the classic mimosa? Churn out this rosemary pomegranate version by combining fresh pomegranate juice, pomegranate seeds, fizzy champagne and aromatic rosemary. Freeze extra pomegranate rosemary ice cubes to spice up your water the next day! Recipe makes 8 servings

Nutrition (per serving):  Calories: 120; Total Fat: 0g; Saturated Fat: 0g; Monounsaturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 21mg; Carbohydrate: 16g; Dietary Fiber: 1g;  Sugar: 12g; Protein: 1g

10. NOT SO NAUGHTY EGGNOG MYFITNESSPAL’S ORIGINAL RECIPES

There’s no denying that eggnog is an irresistible addition to the holiday table. This recipe swaps out cream for low-fat milk, which not only cuts down on major fat and calories, but also doubles the protein content. Winning! Recipe makes 8 servings at 1/2 cup each.

Nutrition (per serving):  Calories: 129; Total Fat: 3g; Saturated Fat: 2g; Monounsaturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 62mg; Sodium: 100mg; Carbohydrate: 13g; Dietary Fiber: 0g;  Sugar: 13g; Protein: 5g

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The One Mindset Change You’ll Need for Weight-Loss Success

Food is not a reward, and exercise is not a punishment.

On its face, that seems like a simple idea. It’s also one that has the potential to completely remake your relationship with nutrition, exercise, your body — and, ultimately, your results.

But it’s not as easy in practice. Think about how many times you’ve said, “I’ve been so good this week, I deserve a treat.” or “I’ve completely gorged myself today. I need to get to the gym to work it off.”

This is a self-defeating cycle, in which two things that should both nurture and fuel our bodies — food and exercise — erode our self-esteem and put us down, explains Michelle May, MD, founder of Am I Hungry? mindful-eating programs.

Exercise becomes a way of fixing perceived shortcomings. And food, depending on its calorie content, either becomes a treat or a tool for self-deprivation, says Susan Albers, a clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic who specializes in body image and weight loss.

When you think about it like that, no wonder most people hate healthy eating and exercise — and often have a tough time sticking with either.

“When people learn to get away from this learned mindset, and treat both food and exercise as ways to fuel and care for their bodies, they are more likely to find mind and body balance,” May says. “They are more likely to sustain healthy behaviors over the long term.”

5 WAYS TO FLIP THE “REWARD VS. PUNISHMENT” SCRIPT

1. FIND NEW REWARDS

“When you hear yourself say, ‘I deserve a reward,’ make the reward fit the action,” Albers says. “So, if you worked hard all day, it’s likely that, what will truly be rewarding, is a minibreak.”

Have some ideas on-hand and ready to go. Spend five minutes brainstorming five things that you find soothing to your body, five things that can give you a minibreak during the day and five things that are fun. Post this list in an easy-to-see location for whenever the need-to-reward urge strikes.

2. REMINISCE ABOUT A FUN WORKOUT

Think back to when you had a really fun time working out, maybe you were participating in a bucket-list run, playing soccer with your friends or going on a relaxing hike in nature. Whatever it is, thinking about that memory may help you look forward to future workouts, suggests 2015 research from the University of New Hampshire.

3. HIT “PAUSE”

When you hear yourself trying to rationalize a food choice, stop yourself right there. Take three deep breaths and remind yourself that your behaviors don’t determine what you can and can’t eat, Albers says. Then, decide if you really want that food and, if so, why. For instance, you might say, “I want chocolate, because it tastes good — not because I do or don’t deserve it.”  

4. TRY A NEW WORKOUT

If your workout doesn’t make you feel good, it’s time to change it, she says. If you usually run on the treadmill, try lifting weights for a change. If you usually go cycling, try swimming. There’s no limit to the options.

5. GET CREATIVE

Oftentimes, junk foods feel indulgent simply because we don’t know how to create healthy meals that are also tasty. Try one new healthy recipe each week that’s full of flavor and makes you feel good — before you know it, you’ll have a healthy-cooking arsenal at your fingertips.

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