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Monday, February 16, 2009

#16: Watch TV Get Fit

Watch TV Get Fit Do this workout three times a week for six weeks and you'll drop a dress size (without missing a single episode of CSI or The Ellen Show!). By Mars N Venus... Actually.

Sounds too good to be true, but it works! We got a workout that enables you to tone your body to perfection in the comfort of your own living room. And because watching your favorite program is an important part of this workout, you'll be distracted from any of the usual exercise discomfort. So now you can be slim and sexy (not to mention healthy!) without missing any of your favorite shows - this won't work if you scoff packets of chocolate biscuits in between, of course.

The Preparation Kit
Carefully study the TV guide for a 30-minute program you like. Just before it's about to start, put on some comfortable, loose clothes that you can move around in easily. Clear a space on the floor. Push the sofa away from the wall so that you can get behind it, and keep a pile of cushions nearby.

The Warm-Up Bit
When the TV show's intro music kicks in, start warming up. March briskly on the spot for 30 seconds.

The Stretching Bit
Stretch 1
In a standing position, take a deep breath and stretch up towards the ceiling with both arms, then exhale as you relax your arms down again. Repeat four times.

Stretch 2
Reach up towards the ceiling with one arm and slowly bend over sideways towards the side of the resting arm, until you feel a stretch through the side of your body. Repeat twice on each side.

Stretch 3
While keeping your upper body facing forward so you can see the screen, and your arms outstretched, walk your feet round to the right so the side faces the screen and you are twisting at the waist. Repeat four times, to the right and left.

Stretch 4
Keeping your legs straight, rise up and down on your toes, lifting your heels off the floor. Repeat 12 times.

Stretch 5
Circle your shoulders four times forwards and four times backwards. Do the same with your arms, windmilling them four times forwards and four times backwards.

The Work It, Work It, Work It Bit
You can follow this sequence of simple exercises and work your muscles without missing a dramatic twist or hilarious punchline. Try to do 20 repetitions of each exercise. If you can't imagine 20 when you first start doing these routines, do as many as you can and build up by one or two each time you do the workout. If you get carried away with the show's plot and forget to count, stop when your muscles ache or when two minutes have passed. As you get faster, try to do a circuit of these exercises before the ad break, then repeat them in the second half.

Slow Squats
Stand just in front of the sofa, legs slightly apart and feet pointing towards the TV and very slowly sit until your bottom just touches the seat (but before you put any weight on the cushion), the slowly stand up. Make sure your knees bend in line with your feet.

Bunny Hops
Start in the same position as for the push-ups. While pushing away from the sofa back, straighten your arms and jump, keeping hold of the sofa. As you land, bend both knees. Try to stay in the air as long as possible and land quietly.

Side bends
Lie on the floor on your side. Stretch your bottom out on the floor in front of you at a right angle to your body, and bend the underneath leg so it's at a right angle to your body, with your knee forward. Keep your top leg straight and put your top hand to your temple like a salute. Take a deep breath and, as you exhale, pull your tummy in, press down on the floor with the lower arm and curl up sideways at the waist, just a little. Breathe in and relax onto the floor. Remember to do the other side.

The Bit During The Ads
Grab a drink of water, stretch out a little and, if you're feeling energetic, run upstairs or jog on the spot. Stay moving and resist the temptation to flop on the couch.

The Bit Where You Go For The Burn
Do 10-1 repetitions of these moves.

Directory squat lifts
Start in a squat position (knees bent, back straight, leaning forward as if you're lowering yourself onto a chair). Hold two directories out in front of you. As you breathe out, stand up straight and raise the books over your head with straight arms. Try to make it all one smooth movement, so that everything happens together and the body feels stretched all the way from your toes up to your fingers. Caution: don't let your lower back arch as you straighten up. Breathe in and return to the beginning squat position.

Pelvic tilts
Lie down on the floor on your back, with a few cushions propped under your head so that you can still keep watching the TV. Take a deep breath and, as you exhale, pull the lower stomach towards the floor and tilt the pelvis (as if it is a bowl and you're tipping it towards your stomach). Hold for 10 seconds before you release.

The winding-down bit
Stretch out
As the credit rolls, streeeetch. Repeat the stretches from the start of the workout, holding each for 20 seconds, then add these stretches (remembering to do both legs).

Stretch 1
Stand, holding on to a stationary object for support, then grasp the ankle of one leg and bend the knee back, keeping the other leg bent slightly. Draw your heel towards your bum while keeping your hips forward - you will feel the thigh stretch.

Stretch 2
Sit down on the sofa and stretch one leg out straight in front of you. Stick your bottom out so your back arches, then lean forward until you feel the back of the leg stretching. Slowly flex the foot to take the stretch down to the calf.

Stretch 3
Stand up and link your hands behind you and pull them up to lift your chest up. Then bring your arms in front of you, link your hands and reach forward, rounding the upper back and dropping the head. Now grab a drink of water and relax - you deserve it!

Note: Push Ups
Make sure the sofa can't move if pushed, then stand behind it and rest your hands on the back, shoulder-width apart. Keep your arms straight. Take a step back, lift your heels off the floor and lean forwards so that your body weight is supported through your arms. While keeping your back perfectly straight and still, breathe in and bend your elbows to lower your chest towards the sofa back. Exhale as you straighten your arms and push yourself away.

Note: Crunches
You need to be near a coffee table or a foot rest for this one. Lie on your back and place the balls of your feet gently on the low surface, bending your knees slightly. With your arms reaching forwards, breathe out and curl your head and shoulders off the floor keeping a good grip on the coffee table or foot rest. Make sure you draw your chin into the chest as you curl up.

Monday, February 2, 2009

#15: Spa Style

Spa There's nothing more heavenly after a hard day than to lie back while expert, caring hands knead you into a deep slumber. Welcome to beauty's favourite new oasis: the spa.

Spa is a word that conjures many different images. To some, the word inspires visions of a medicinal spring. The more geographically-inclined probably think of a particular town in Belgium. Others consider it a posh way of saying "beauty salon". While party animals imagine a frothing tub filled with giggling, bikini-clad girls... To set the record straight, a spa - in the modern sense of the word - is a wellness centre that offers treatments and, often, feel-good facilities to clients. Treatments include the holistic (massages, body wraps, essential oils, hydrotherapy) as well as the aesthetic (beautifying treats like hair services, facials, pedicures, weight-loss procedures). Facilities may include Swiss showers, heated jacuzzis, luxurious steam baths. Feeling all tensed up at work? Book yourself into a spa and get yourself pampered into a relaxed puddle by expert hands. Trust me. There's nothing quite like it. There's no denying the growing appeal of spas worldwide. Southeast Asia, in particular, is getting the hang of it. Sure, it's an indulgence, and most of us have bills to pay. But with the increasing level of work stress, and the wide choice of treatment centers peppered around, "spa-ing" is set to become a way of life for us. No clue what it's all about? We cut through the jargon to tell you all you need to know about spas before you embark on your first visit.

Day spa or destination spa?
A destination spa is one that's located in a resort or hotel, where you can get away for a short retreat and focus on pampering and rejuvenation. A day spa provides an urban escape for those who can only spare a few hours. Plan a vacation around a destination spa like the Banyan Tree in the Maldives, or The Chedi in Bali for an all-out, full-on blissful retreat. Whereas day spas can be incorporated into your day-to-day lifestyle. Pick a date every month or two as your pampering day, and check yourself into a day spa. You'll emerge fresh and recharged, ready to face the world for the next few months.

Wind up, wind down
Don't just zip in and out of the spa for your treatments. Relax in the tranquil surroundings. Some spas offer free use of their facilities for clients. Other charge a nominal fee. My advice? If they charge, pay up and get the full spa experience. You'll be twice as recharged than if you just had treatments alone. Check in an hour before your schedule appointment, hit the shower, get changed (bring your swimming cozzie) and head towards the hot jacuzzi. Relax there as long as you want (20 minutes is about enough), then head to the steam room. Spas are starting to incorporate essential oils in their steam baths. They smell great, and are fab for your skin too. But if you have sensitive skin, or any other allergies, do check with your therapist about what oils are pumped in with the steam. Hit the showers again to splash away the sweat from your steam bath (it's a room full of steam that includes sweat, not a real bath-type, mind). Wrap up nice and toasty in the bathrobe provided, and unwind in the relaxation lounge while you wait for the therapist to come for you.

Extend the spa experience
Many spas use their own brand of skincare, bodycare and cosmetics. One way to prolong the soothing effects of your spa visit is to buy the products that were used on you (your personal therapist will be more than happy to help you pick these out) and do your own homecare. If you've had a facial and like how the products feel on your skin, buy the complete range of skincare (cleanser, toner, moisturizer, mask). If it was an aromatic message, get the body lotion version of the oils used in your treatment. Burning the essential oils in your room would also bring about a similar sense of euphoria as you experienced in the spa. Spas like Angsana Spa, Estheva and St Gregory all offer home-care versions of their products for purchase at their spa shops.

A dummy's guide to spa treatments
Besides the essential massage, try the other skin-pampering treats that will have you positively floating out of there with velvety-smooth skin and a detoxed body. Start with a body glow; a full-bodied scrub where the therapist slathers your shoulders to the soles of your feet with your choice of scrubs (anything from a sea-salt to mint-tinted granules to yummy smelling strawberry) and gives you the ultimate rub-down. This prepares the skin for a nourishing body wrap (seaweed and mud are popular for their moisturizing properties, ginger ups circulation, while crushed grapeseed detoxifies and has rich anti-oxidants). Hydrotherapy sounds intimidating, but it's just a name for water jets that help in blood circulation and slimming. Ask away during your consultation session, and the spa staff will be happy to recommend the right treatments for you.

Before the spa
Forget about cramming in that plate of spaghetti before rushing off for your appointment or you'll feet uncomfortably bloated throughout your session. But don't arrive hungry either, unless you want your therapist to hear your growling tummy throughout. Have something to eat at least an hour before your treatment. And keep it light, such as a fresh salad or tuna sandwich. If you're having an exfoliating body scrub, avoid scuffing yourself for the few days leading to your appointment. If it's a massage you're having, skip the body moisturizer before leaving the house. It's common spa etiquette to have a shower at home first, if all you're having is a massage. Most spas don't factor in time for you to shower there and then, so go squeaky clean.

The highlight of any spa trip, massages can be invigorating, relaxing, anti-stress and soothing (for tired muscles). The most common schools of massage are the Swedish, Shiatsu, Aromatic, Lomi Lomi, Indonesian and Thai. Every spa usually has their own unique signature massage. Try that out if it's your first visit. It's usually the best.

Swedish: Light, yet deep strokes are used to improve blood circulation, reduce tension and soothe sore muscles. This highly relaxing massage often lulls you into a state of peaceful slumber.

Shiatsu: The release of trapped energy in the 14 body meridians (a belief subscribed to by the school of shiatsu medicine) and the restoration of balance and well-being are achieved with finger-thumb pressure. This is a cross between acupuncture and massage.

Aromatic: Different essential oils are blended to the specific needs of clients, to induce different therapeutic benefits. Ylang ylang to balance raging hormones, citrus oils to energize, lavender and chamomile to soothe.

Lomi Lomi: A sensual Hawaiian massage that involves rhythmic kneading and sliding strokes to relax. Fingertips are used to knead, while the entire lower arm slides soothingly across the back and legs.

Spa etiquette
Show up at least 15 to 20 minutes early for your appointment. There's nothing worse than being late, it causes later clients to have to wait because your treatment ends later than planned. Also, you'll need the extra time to change out of your clothes, rinse under the showers, warm up in the sauna or steam room, or anything to clear your head before the treatment.

» Give yourself ample time to enjoy the benefits of your spa visit. Forget about planning something else right after your visit. You'll need some winding down time, as well as time to perhaps shower, have some time and even try out the jacuzzi or sauna facilities.

» You're expected to remove your shoes and wear the slippers, provided. It's simply rude not to wear them.

» If there's something you want to know or if you're uncomfortable with something at any time that you're on the premises, ask! It never hurts to find out if you can get an outdoor massage pavilion, or if you could use the sauna before your treatment.

» Remember that trained spa therapists see hundreds or even thousands of body types and sizes. Be prepared to relax au naturel. You'll never enjoy the full relaxing effects of a spa if you're feeling so self-conscious.

» Do tip therapists at destination spas in countries like Indonesia and Thailand. It'a always a nice gesture, and you'll be sure to get even better service for your next treatment.

» Leave your cell phone and pager behind. The purpose of a trip to the spa is to relax and rejuvenate, not to get a massage while you think about tomorrow's presentation.


Made by Grumpy Cow