The Importance of a Gym Buddy

You’ve joined a gym and for the first few weeks you are going regularly and enjoying it. You notice the weight is falling off and you’re looking and feeling much healthier. However, after a month or so what can often happen is you find it increasingly difficult to be motivated to go.

Even if you are motivated, things can become a little repetitive and can ultimately prevent you from progressing as much as you’d like. This is where your ‘guardian angel’ could come in to play and get you to push yourself a little harder. In this case, your guardian angel comes in the form of a gym buddy; someone who goes to the gym with you and works out with you – preferably of a similar ability.

There are a few reasons in particular why going to the gym with a friend will help:

Firstly, your gym buddy will provide a reason to go other than for your own benefit. You are more likely to do something when there is someone else involved for fear of letting them down. Not only this, there is a sense of camaraderie and even competition in some cases.

When you’re at the gym on your own, you have no one to beat, to compete with or to measure yourself against. With a gym buddy this changes. You feel the urge to go to the gym to beat (or keep up with) your buddy. The same will go for him/her too, they will feel the exact same.

Secondly, you can lift and do more. How? Well, you have someone to ‘spot’ you. Spotting is when you have someone looking out for you when you are lifting heavy weights. On your own you have to be careful because if you run out of steam half way through a rep, you don’t have many options. With a gym buddy looking over you, you are allowed to really push yourself, knowing that they will be there to help you if you run out of energy mid-lift. It keeps both of you focused too

Another useful thing that comes with going to the gym in a pair is the fact that rest periods between sets are almost automatically regulated. Technically you don’t stop (as you will be spotting your partner in between your own sets), but gone are the days when you need to constantly clock watch to know when to start your next set of lifts. By the time your gym buddy has finished his set, you can go again – it’s the perfect partnership.

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Finally, they increase the number of exercises you can actually perform. Some exercises can be modified and made more challenging once you introduce a gym buddy. Take abdominal crunches for example. Anyone can do crunches on their own, but bring in a gym buddy and not you can make them much more difficult by introducing a medicine. Now each time you hit the top of a crunch, they throw you the medicine ball which works your abdominal muscles that little bit harder. Things like this will make a huge impact to your progress in the long run.

Gym buddies are arguably the best piece of equipment you can have when it comes to getting the most out of your sessions at the gym. They are great for both parties equally, and ensure that neither off you press the ‘snooze’ button one too many times or look outside and decide against the early morning gym session. It adds the structure many people need in order to stay motivated and disciplined.

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If you don’t already have one, you should seriously think about getting a gym buddy as soon as possible. It could increase the number of visits you make to the gym, and also improve the effectiveness of each one. There are plenty of ways to find one too. You could simply ask a friend, or keep your eyes open at the gym for someone who works out to a similar level as you and ask them. They also provide companionship for those long cardio sessions that you may otherwise give up on.

Boosting Lung Power for Long Runs

One of the best things that runners can do for their performance is to increase their lung power. When going up hills or on long distance runs, lung power is needed to power the body and provide oxygen to the muscles. By pulling in extra air, it allows runners to surge up hill and keep a strong cadence. Far too often, runners only consider training their cardiovascular system and their legs. Although these are important aspects of running, better breathing power will allow for more oxygen and better endurance.


The diaphragm is a muscle that is beneath the lungs and separates the chest from the upper abdomen. When the diaphragm moves, it changes the pressure in the chest so air is sucked into the lungs like a vacuum. To exhale air, the diaphragm contracts and the vacuum-like pressure is removed. This entire action takes place continuously so that people can breath. Out of each breath, 80 percent of the work is actually performed by the diaphragm.

By strengthening the diaphragm, runners can increase their endurance and reduce fatigue. Studies supporting this research was performed by researchers at the Center for Sports Medicine at Brunei University. They tracked fatigue levels among marathoners. Through this work, they managed to find a link between runners who had the most difficulties breathing and leg weakness. This led to the conclusion that respiratory muscles that had to work harder caused the legs to struggle more during the race. The best way to reduce fatigue during running is to learn how to breath more fully. There are air sacs within the lungs that hold air. If breathing is deeper, these air sacs are able to absorb more oxygen. This oxygen is then fed to the muscles. During a normal workout, runners should focus on taking slow and deep breaths. Over time, this will help to strengthen the diaphragm.  Many runners tend to breath with their chest instead of their stomach. To figure out if the runner is breathing correctly, they should run a mile at their normal pace. After the mile, they should put one hand on their stomach and one hand on their chest. Ideally, the lower hand should be the one moving. In most cases, the reverse happens because the runner is breathing with their chest. When someone uses their chest to breath, it causes their shoulders to move frequently and to become tense. This ends up being a lot of wasted energy that could otherwise be used for running.

  To break the habit, runners should start practicing belly-breathing whenever they are not running. Over time, they will be able to make this style of breathing a habit that they use during their regular running routine. Another method of encouraging the switch is to do Pilates. This workout was made to help rehabilitate soldiers and works to improve breathing techniques and core strength. Breathing Right Using the mouth to breath is the first step. Since it is larger than the nostrils, it is easier to take in more oxygen. With the mouth open, the face also becomes more relaxed so deeper breathing becomes easier. Runners can also try to breath in patterns. They can try a 2-2 pattern breath. With the first step left and right, they breath in. On their next left and right steps, they breath out. Gradually, they can increase this pattern to 3-3 breath and a 4-4 pattern. Learning from Pilates There are two different Pilates moves that runners can adopt for better breathing. They work to strengthen the diaphragm and improve the posture. Overall, this makes it easier to run longer distances with less effort. The first move is known as the Hundred. Individuals should lie on their back. The arms should be at the side, knees bent and the feet should be flat on the floor. Gradually, they should lift their neck, shoulders, arms and head from the ground. The knees should also be raised and extended until they are completely straight. At this point, the runner should take five short breaths in and out. While doing this, the arms should be moved slowly up and down. Overall, the runner should complete 10 sets of the exercise. With consistent work, this exercise will help control the breathing and make sure that inhales and exhales are in balance. As a side benefit, it also strengthens the stomach muscles.

  Another exercise that works well is the standing chest expansion. In a standing position, the runner should keep their arms at their sides and slightly bend their knees. On each inhale, they should rotate their arms upwards so the biceps are next to the ears and the palms are facing one another. On the exhale, the arms should be swept back to the sides. This exercise should be repeated four times.


10 Easy Yoga Stretches For Flexibility

Yoga is a great way to strengthen your body, and also is great for helping your body to become more flexible. The more times per week you practice the stretches below, the more flexible you will become and the better you will feel.

Along with stretching, make sure that you are eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, to help to clear out acids in the body that can contribute to aches, pains and stiffness.

Neck stretches

We accumulate stress in the neck and shoulders everyday as we sit at our desks, or work on our computers. Stress in the neck and shoulders can cause tension headaches, and relieving the stiffness can help us to have a clearer mind.

Left shoulder stretch – Stand comfortably in a natural position and take in 2 to 3 deep breaths, and on the third exhale, slowly tilt your head to the left. Breathe in and on your exhale, return your head to neutral. Repeat this exercise 3 more times.

Right shoulder stretch – After you have finished with the left side, move on to the right side. Breathe in and as you exhale, tilt your head to the right, allowing for a stretch in the left shoulder. On an exhale return to the neutral position, and repeat the exercise 2 to 3 times for the right side.

Front neck stretch – After completing the left and right side, move on to the front of the neck. Take in a deep breath, and while exhaling tilt your head backwards, enough to feel a stretch in the front throat area. On an exhale, return to the neutral position, and repeat this exercise 2 to 3 more times.

Back neck stretch – After stretching the front of your neck, the last stretch is for the back of the neck. In the neutral position, take a deep breath, and as you exhale, slowly tilt your head forward. You will feel the stretch in the back of your neck and shoulders. On an exhale, slowly come back to neutral. Repeat this exercise 2 to 3 times.

Back stretches

Back stretches are great for alleviating pain in back, and allowing you to become more flexible in your back. Twisting and stretching the muscles in the back also relieve built up stress

Right and left twist – Starting with the right side twist, begin by laying on the floor on your back with your legs straight out, bring your left knee as close to your chest as possible while keeping your right leg straight on the floor. With your left leg still bent, twist the left leg to the right side, keeping your back flat on the floor. You can use your right hand to hold your left leg close to the floor, and stretch your left arm straight out beside you while looking to the left. Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds, then release and go back to lying on the floor with both legs straight out. Repeat this for the left side.

Lower back stretch – lying on your back, bring both knees as close to your chest as possible, and hold there for 10 to 20 seconds breathing slowly, and deeply.

Spinal twists – Start off by sitting on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, pull your right knee to your chest, and with your right hand on the floor behind you, twist to the right while placing your left elbow to the outside of your right knee. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds. This is a great spinal twist to relieve stress. Repeat on the left side.

Hip stretches

Hip stretches are great if you sit in a car all day or at a desk all day. Our hips can become stiff, which will make the back stiff as well. Hip openers will help to alleviate back pain, and leg pain.

Pigeon pose – Pigeon pose is a great stretch for your hips. First sit on your knees, then take your right leg and bend it to an L-shape in front of you so that your right foot is pointing toward the left side of the room. Then take your left leg, and stretch it straight out behind you. Take a deep breath and as you breathe out, bend forward towards your right knee till your forehead is to the floor. You can stretch your arms straight out in front of you. Hold the stretch for 10 to 20 seconds, and the switch to the other side.

Butterfly knees bent stretch – In a seated position on the floor, bend your knees, and bring both of your feet toward your torso. Stretch your arms straight out in front of your body, and begin to bend forward, only bending to the point that is most comfortable for you. Relax here and breathe deeply, keeping the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.

Butterfly legs straight stretch – In a seated position, stretch your legs straight out in front of you into a wide V shape, and while breathing out begin to slowly bend forward towards the ground. Stay in this stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.

Remember to stretch daily, and to breathe deeply while you are stretching. Breathing deeply will help you to go deeper into your stretch, allowing you to alleviate even more tension and stress in the body.

How to Create a Home Gym

Having the ability to work out from home is a great way to save money and time.   However, creating a home gym can feel overwhelming.  With so many options for gym equipment, it’s hard to know what to buy and where to start.  Plus, no one wants extra gym equipment that will just collect dust and laundry in the corner.  This article will give you practical tips for creating a home gym without breaking the bank or need for extra space. 

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1.) Know Your Fitness Goal

Ultimately, the specifics of your home gym will depend on your personal fitness goal.  That’s why your first step in creating a home gym requires you to identify your goal.  A well-rounded physical fitness routine will include cardiovascular fitness, strength training, and flexibility.  However, you will likely have one of these as your main fitness goal.  Below we outline tips for structuring your home gym based on these general fitness types.

Cardiovascular Fitness

If you have a cardiovascular fitness goal that is based on a specific type of exercise, you might need to invest in some equipment to help with this goal.  For example, runners who can’t work out in the great outdoors may want to purchase a treadmill.  However, if you are just looking to increase your overall cardio fitness level and not training for a specific event, you don’t need any indoor cardio equipment.  Instead, we recommend you increase your heart rate outdoors when you can or without equipment indoors.

Jumping rope is one great way to work up a sweat and get your heart pumping that won’t require extra square footage.  Intervals with different cardiovascular exercises can also work.  Jumping jacks, running in place, and mountain climbers are among the many exercises you can alternate between to exercise your heart.  To see results you’ll want to get in an average of 30 minutes of cardiovascular fitness a day.  However, this can be broken up into 15 or even 10 minute intervals and still allow you to see results.

Strength Training

Strength training refers to the type of physical fitness that focuses on your muscles.  To strengthen your muscles, you’ll need to provide them with some type of resistance to work against.  You can use your body weight, however, having other options is useful.  The two easiest items to bring into your home to complement bodyweight exercises are dumbbells and resistance bands. Both come in different levels.  However, you may also want to include a medicine ball or kettlebells for additional variety.

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To save yourself from buying too many pieces of equipment, you’ll need to identify the level of weight you’ll need.  This can be done easily by completing exercises with the equipment you’re interested in purchasing and noting the number of repetitions you’re able to perform. If you are looking to substantially increase your overall muscle mass and have been lifting weights for awhile, you’ll want a weight that you can lift between 5-8 times before needing a rest.  Looking for general strength training to increase your overall fitness? Find a weight that allows you to perform 10-15 repetiions without a break.  If you need to increase your muscle endurance, find a weight that allows you to complete over 20 repetitions without a break.


Flexibility refers to the fitness goal of increasing the range of motion around your joints.  Stretching exercises and fitness formats such as Pilates should be included in your fitness routine to help you reach a flexibility goal.  You won’t need much to increase your flexibility.  However, you should have a good mat to lie down on and you may want to purchase a Pilates strap and block to help you ease into more advanced positions.  A foam roller can help you work on your flexibility as well since this piece of equipment helps users work out muscle knots that otherwise decrease your range of motion.

Other useful items

In addition to fitness goal specific equipment, there are some other items that will be useful for your home gym.  A mirror is useful in ensuring you are completing the routine with proper form.  A stability or Swiss ball can be useful for strength training and many functional training exercises.  To ensure you are working out at the proper intensity and burning enough calories to reach a given weight loss goal, a heart rate monitor can be very useful. Finally, a good selection of music and some motivational quotes placed near your workout area can help keep you on the right track.  Access to on-line fitness videos is also useful to help you prevent boredom.

Working out at home is a great way to ensure that you stay on track with your fitness goals.  You won’t have to fight traffic to get to the gym.  In addition to preventing frustration, you’ll keep yourself from wasting time and money when you  eliminate your gym commute.  Tend to “forget” shoes, socks, or gym clothes in the morning rush? With your home gym you’ll banish these excuses because your gym bag will always be within reach.

Are Crunches Effective or The Spine’s Worst Enemy?

Visit any crossfit gym any time anywhere and you’re bound to see someone working on their crunches to ultimately work on their six-pack.  Is the crunch the most effective abdominal exercise? Or is it your spine’s worst enemy as some current articles have suggested? 

Maybe the truth lies somewhere in between these two extreme beliefs? This article will get to the bottom of the crunch debate and explore the facts about this exercise once and for all! Fact One: Crunches are NOT one of the most effective abdominal exercises.

Which abdominal exercises are the most effective? We’re so glad you asked! The American Council on Exercise completed a study to answer this very question.  Ranking abdominal exercises by the percentage of the muscle that they engaged, they found the following to be the top three abdominal manoeuvres:

  • 1. The Bicycle
  • 2. Captain’s Chair
  • 3. Exercise Ball Crunch

The crunch didn’t even medal in this ceremony and is not that effective at isolating the abdominal muscles.

Fact Two: Crunching (or ONLY completing any abdominal exercise) does not make a six pack.   

You can’t spot-reduce body fat in any area just by performing exercises that target that area. This applies to your abdominal muscles as much as it does to your triceps. Why should you do any strength training then? While working your abs won’t automatically give you a six-pack and completing dips won’t result in body fat vanishing from the underside of your arms, strength training does increase your metabolism (how many calories your body burns).  Burn more calories than you consume and you’ll lose weight.

If you are working out and fuelling your body correctly (NOT trying the latest fad diet), you’ll lose fat.  When you decrease your overall body fat percentage, you’ll increase the visibility of your body’s muscles.  A low enough overall body fat percentage gets you that much closer to a six-pack. Moral of the story? Do strength train, do incorporate cardiovascular (heart-pumping) workouts, and do watch what you eat to get that six-pack.

Don’t challenge your buddy to get into the Guinness Book of World Records for the number of crunches you can complete in 24 hrs.  There are better exercises than a crunch to make that six pack a reality.

Are Crunches Effective


Fact Three: Crunches are not very efficient.

While proper crunch form can have a positive impact on the appearance of your abdominal muscles, it’s not the most efficient way to achieve this goal. Instead, you should focus on exercises that are functional (imitate movements you would perform in daily life) and work multiple muscle groups. Ab crunches on the floor or, even worse, on a weight machine are not similar to movements required by daily life and the latter can be pretty dangerous (at least the way that we see most gym-goers perform them).

Believe it or not, many exercises that focus on other muscles also require your abs.  The push-up and lunge are two exercises that require the abdominal muscles for stability. More advanced push-up and lunge moves like the walking push-up, walking lunge, and lunge with rotation require additional abdominal muscle engagement. Plus, these moves strengthen large muscles that will in turn up your metabolic rate (and calorie burn) even more! It’s a win-win-win!

If you want to be in the gym all day, try the crunch. However, if you want a more efficient workout, move on!

Fact Four: Crunches done with proper form are not inherently dangerous to the general population. 

While there may be better ways to work your abs or get a six-pack that isn’t made of beer or diet coke, a crunch is hardly the enemy of the general population. In fact, look at the top three most effective ab-focused exercises and you’ll see the cousin of the traditional crunch, the exercise ball crunch taking the bronze!

However, some recent studies have shown that completing thousands of crunches a day can cause harm to your spine.  What gives? For one, the research was completed on pig cadavers, not on humans.  While we can see how studying the spines of pig cadavers might be easier and, of course, far better than harming humans if crunches truly were dangerous, the studies themselves aren’t comparing apples to apples.  Should we totally discredit these studies? We’d prefer you take them with a grain of salt.  Admittedly, many people do not perform crunches properly and there are some cases where you would not want to crunch even if you had all day.

Even with proper form, crunches performed after waking up or after sitting for a long time aren’t great for the discs in your spine which will be less tolerant of the stress caused by the bending motion.  Have a herniated disc or other medically diagnosed spinal issue? Crunches won’t be part of your (Exercise) X (prescription)!  However, if you are a healthy part of the general population, crunches are not inherently dangerous.


Fact Five: Traditional crunches, unlike exercise ball crunches, recruit your iliopsoas aka hip flexors as well as your abs. Wouldn’t this make them more effective for your body in general? Not so fast! Your hip flexors get involved during a crunch because their job is to allow flexion at your hip (hence this common name of your iliopsoas).  Know what else flexes or shortens your hips? Sitting.  Why is this relevant? If you are sitting all day, keeping your hip flexors flexed and then do a bunch of traditional crunches, which also cause hip flexion, you’ll make these muscles tighter. This can cause discomfort in your lower back and if you’ve been sitting all day your low back is likely already not feeling so great.  Whatever can you do? Try out the plank! This exercise and its variations recruit all of the layers of your abdominal muscles and help strengthen your lower back.  All the more reason to ditch the crunch.

Well, there you have it. The crunch, while not inherently dangerous to the general public, can be dangerous to some, bother your back, and is just not all that effective.  We know you and the traditional crunch have been through a lot together (sports seasons, prom, wedding planning…) so if you’re not ready to totally let it go, try the exercise ball crunch. 

So do you think about crunches are they effective Outright dangerous? Have some other thoughts or feel the need to write an obituary for this exercise? Share your comments in the space below: