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Feeling Better About Your Body Could be a Workout Away

Not loving the way you feel in your favorite jeans? You’re not alone. A 2016 survey calls low confidence and appearance anxiety a “critical issue” and reports that 85% of women have opted out of important life activities such as joining a team or spending time with loved ones when they didn’t feel good about how they looked.

Hitting the gym could help. New research shows a single sweat session could buff up your body image.

A 2017 study published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise found that women who engaged in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for 30 minutes felt stronger and had better body image than those who were sedentary for the same period of time.

“We think that the feelings of strength and empowerment women achieve post exercise stimulate an improved internal dialogue. This in turn should generate positive thoughts and feelings about their bodies which may replace the all too common negative ones,” lead author Kathleen Martin Ginis, PhD, professor at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan School of Health and Exercise Sciences said in a statement.

Heather Hausenblas, PhD, associate dean for the School of Applied Health Sciences at Jacksonville University in Florida, believes body image could be a powerful motivator for exercise. “Perception is very powerful,” she says. “Exercise results in improvements in mood and self-esteem, which are related to body image.”

But Hausenblas notes that the effects of exercise on body image are transient. In the Psychology of Sport and Exercise study, the body image boost lasted for 20 minutes after a workout. A separate study found that active women who took a 72-hour break from exercise had higher levels of body dissatisfaction than those who maintained their workout routines. In other words, maximizing those feel-good vibes requires engaging in regular exercise — but that doesn’t necessarily mean working out to achieve weight loss or developing a chiseled chest or six-pack abs.


READ MORE > WHY PHYSICAL ACTIVITY ALONE WON’T GUARANTEE WEIGHT LOSS


In 2009, Hausenblas co-authored a study in the Journal of Health Psychology that found exercisers did not need to hit workout milestones like losing fat, gaining strength or even boosting cardiovascular fitness to feel good about their bodies. In fact, she believes, “Messages promoting exercise need to de-emphasize weight loss and appearance. The key to long-term exercise is finding deeper motivation than washboard abs. We need to set healthy and realistic exercise goals and stop focusing on what we think is wrong with our bodies [and] focus on becoming fit and healthy for life.”


GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT WORKOUT

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> Men’s Workout Pants
> Women’s Workout Tops
> Women’s Workout Pants


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Torch Calories With This Simple 30-Minute Swim Workout

Swimming is the perfect workout if you want to quickly burn a ton of calories. Need proof? Ask athletes from other sports who become exhausted after only a few lengths of the pool.

There are many reasons swimming is a great workout for the mind and body. For example, it’s the only cardiovascular exercise that works your entire body while putting little to no pressure on your joints.

Don’t worry if you can’t swim much yet. Beginners can still do a good pool workout that provides a lot of health benefits. You can build endurance and lose weight while giving your body the best workout it’s ever had in as little as 30 minutes a day.

Pro Tip: Before you start swimming for exercise, have a qualified coach look at your stroke to ensure proper technique, which prevents overuse injuries. As with all sports: If something is painful, stop.

WARMUP (5–10 MINUTES)

Start your workout slowly to give your muscles an opportunity to warm up. Focus on your technique: long, powerful strokes move you through the water at a steady pace. Depending on your swimming experience, you can either do a longer swim (400–500 yards) or break it up into shorter distances, with rest every few lengths. But make sure to start slow and build your pace throughout, which raises your heart rate and prepares you to swim fast.

KICK (5–7 MINUTES)

A good kick set helps you continue to warm up while also getting your heart rate up. Some swimmers use kickboards, but you can just extend your arms in a streamlined position or kick on your back.

Your kick should start at the hip, not the knees, which means you’re using your entire leg to provide propulsion. Keep your kick narrow and steady. A large up-and-down motion slows you down as it creates drag and reduces the power you generate.


READ MORE > 6 EXERCISES THAT BURN CALORIES IN OVERDRIVE


MAIN SET (10–15 MINUTES)

This is the focus of your workout. The set should allow you to maintain a high heart rate over an extended time, which allows you to burn maximum calories. (Compare it to the fat-burning qualities of high-intensity interval training, or HIIT)

Here’s a possible structure to follow:

  • Swim two lengths of the pool at a quick pace
  • Rest for 5–10 seconds
  • Repeat

Let’s say you can do a 50 (two lengths of a standard, 25-yard pool) in 45 seconds. Your interval would be 50–55 seconds, meaning you should get about 10–15 repeats in.

Once you build endurance, you can increase the distance or decrease the interval.


READ MORE > STRETCHES FOR SWIMMERS | 5-POSE YOGA FIX


COOL-DOWN (5 MINUTES)

Swim an easy 300 yards, broken up by 50s or 100s. This step is important because your body needs a chance to recover from the main set. Your pace should be like what you did in the warmup, and you should focus on good technique so your body can repeat it more easily when it’s tired.

Want more workouts? U.S. Masters Swimming members have access to daily workouts designed especially for a range of swimmers by a USMS-certified coach.

Want to learn more? Check out USMS’ Masters Swimming 101 article series.

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How to Wash Your Workout Gear

Remember the iconic scenes from the “Rocky” movies when Sylvester Stallone runs up the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, pumping his fists in triumph as he reaches the top? Now, do you remember what he was wearing? Allow me to jog your memory: a full cotton sweat suit. While Rocky remains an inspiring character, when you consider the advances made in the materials used to construct workout wear, his choice of ensemble would be questionable at best in today’s world.

In 2015, you’d be hard-pressed to find any serious workout gear made from the same fabrics Rocky relied upon. To be sure, there’s a saying in the fitness industry, “Cotton is rotten.” This is a result of the fact that cotton absorbs and holds sweat during (and long after) workouts, making you feel heavy, hot and wet during exercise and then chilly when you stop moving.

The newest class of workout gear made from “technical” fibers will wick sweat away from your body and control temperature close to your skin. This means you’ll be more comfortable while working out, rather than lugging around heavy, sweat-soaked cotton. You’ll pay more for the performance wear, of course, but once you switch, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

Just because today’s workout wear is high tech, however, doesn’t mean it’s stink-free. Some brands tout special antimicrobial properties, but, in most cases, a single workout will leave your duds rank and in need of washing.


Your detergent should be as powerful as you are. Shop Sweat X now.


Since tech fibers can be more delicate than those of Rocky’s famous sweat suits, there are some general rules you should follow when washing them if you hope to preserve them. If you’ve ever washed your workout clothes only to find that they still stink after the fact, you’ve probably already come to this conclusion. Not only can washing them the wrong way mean they don’t get clean, but it can also degrade the fibers and shorten the lifespan of some very expensive exercise ensembles.

Here are the do’s and don’ts of washing your workout gear:

1. DON’T USE FABRIC SOFTENER

Fabric softener can often be blamed for keeping workout clothes from getting totally clean when they are in the wash cycle. Since it tends to coat these types of fibers, fabric softener prevents them from being able to absorb the water when being washed.

2. DON’T USE TOO MUCH DETERGENT

In the same way that fabric softener can keep water in the wash cycle from penetrating fabrics, so can detergent. Use slightly less than you would for your regular clothes, and this should limit the viscosity enough to do the job.

3. DO USE SPORT-SPECIFIC DETERGENT

There are a number of special detergents on the market formulated for washing workout clothes. If you find your duds are particularly stinky, this is a good thing to try.

4. DON’T LET YOUR GEAR SIT AROUND

Mold and mildew can begin to grow on workout gear that is left in a gym bag or laundry basket. Be sure to get those items in the washing machine sooner rather than later to prevent the buildup of nasty stenches.

5. DO SOAK STINKY ITEMS

By soaking the worst-smelling garments in a nontoxic sport-specific detergent and cold water, you can often eliminate anything that’s particularly pesky when it comes to odors. Throw them in a bucket or sink for a half hour prior to washing.

6. DO USE COLD WATER

Since technical fibers are generally on the delicate side, in most cases it’s best to use cold water to wash them. This will help maintain any special performance properties for many workouts to come.

7. DON’T COOK YOUR CLOTHES

Consider hanging your gear on a clothes rack to dry, or try line-drying outside. These approaches prevent you from drying out spandex, Lycra and other similar fibers.

8. DON’T SUBMERGE YOUR KICKS

Unless you’re ready to turn your workout footwear into lawn-mowing shoes, don’t put them in the washing machine. You can degrade the midsole cushioning and render them less protective when it comes to pavement pounding and other active endeavors. Instead, use a sports odor spray to neutralize odors. For best results, remove the insoles and spray both sides and the bottom of the shoes.

9. DO READ THE LABEL

Performance fabrics often require special care beyond these do’s and don’ts. Always check the label to ensure you’re maintaining the integrity of the performance fibers and any special attributes, like UPF, anti-odor or compression.

Written by Mackenzie Havey, a freelance journalist and coach based in Minneapolis. She holds a master’s degree in Kinesiology from the University of Minnesota and is a USA Track and Field certified coach. When she’s not writing, she’s out biking, running and cross-country skiing around the city lakes with her dog.

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Is It Bad If I Don’t Feel Sore After a Workout?

It’s the morning after a tough workout and, as you step out of bed — %#*&! Everything hurts … So. Freaking. Good.

For a lot of exercisers, it’s hard to feel like you really got in a good workout if you don’t feel sore. We get it, but can you have a great workout without being sore? What does the soreness really mean?

THE INS AND OUTS OF DOMS

The muscle soreness you feel 24–72 hours after a tough workout, called delayed onset muscle soreness (or DOMS), is a sign your muscles are changing at a cellular level. “In order for muscles to get larger, a process called hypertrophy, there needs to be muscular damage, mechanical tension and metabolic stress placed on the body, explains Rain Burkeen, a personal trainer with the Trainerize online training app. “It’s as a result of our bodies recovering from this muscular damage — adapting to prevent further injury when you perform the same movement again — that hypertrophy occurs.”

But while DOMS is often associated with muscle growth, that doesn’t mean DOMS always equals muscle growth, according to one research review published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal. Researchers note that DOMS is influenced not just by how hard you push your body, but also your hormonal state, individual nervous system, the exact muscles worked (some are more prone to soreness than others) and pain perceptions.

What’s more, there’s way more to get out of your workouts than hypertrophy alone. For instance, a steady-state cardio workout might not stimulate a lot of muscular damage and, thus, DOMS, but it will improve your cardiovascular health and burn fat. Meanwhile, lifting near your 1RM (the max amount of weight for one rep), will cause less DOMS compared to hypertrophy workouts (which generally involve performing sets of 6–12 reps), but they can lead to crazy strength gains.

WHEN TOO MUCH IS TOO MUCH

Perhaps even more important to remember is that, sometimes, DOMS can actually be counterproductive. After all, if you try to run five miles on already super-sore legs, it’s not going to be pretty. The run is going to be painful, and, since your exercise performance is guaranteed to be sub-par when you’re sore, you also stand to get fewer fitness gains from that run, Burkeen says.

Meanwhile, if you work out five or six days a week, and you experience DOMS after every single sweat session, you could be pushing yourself too hard. According to research published in Sports Health, extreme muscle soreness can be a sign of overreaching and overtraining syndrome — especially if coupled with other symptoms including reduced exercise performances, fatigue and depressed moods. While there’s no one rule for how often you should or shouldn’t feel DOMS, by listening to your body and watching out for those other signs, you can make sure that any DOMS works in your favor.


READ MORE > HOW TO TELL IF YOU’RE OVERTRAINING OR JUST SORE


Remember, DOMS is a sign of muscle damage and, to see real results, you have to allow your body time to recover from that damage, Burkeen says. That’s where recovery workouts, which help to relieve rather than cause DOMS, such as low-intensity cardio and yoga, come in.

The Bottom Line: DOMS is one of many signs you had a good workout, especially if your goals include muscle growth. But it’s not the only one. So, if you experience DOMS from time to time, that’s great. If you don’t, don’t sweat it.


GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT WORKOUT

> Men’s Workout Tops
> Men’s Workout Pants
> Women’s Workout Tops
> Women’s Workout Pants


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