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October Fitness Tips

Michelle Walker, base fitness specialist

Michelle Walker, the base fitness specialist with the 169th Force Support Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, August 28, 2019. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Caycee Watson)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --

Great Lower Ab Exercises

90-Degree Static Press

This lower-abs exercise is a great way to wake up your core at the beginning of your workout or as a stand-alone exercise any time you want to squeeze in some extra ab work.

How to do it: Lie faceup with knees and hips bent 90 degrees, feet flexed. Extend arms and press both palms on top of thighs. Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, brace abs in tight, pressing lower back against the floor as you push thighs into hands, pushing back against them (note: your legs should not move). Hold for 1 count and then release. Do up to 3 sets of 10 repetitions in a row.

Make it harder: As you exhale, lift your head and shoulders off the floor as you press thighs and palms together. Lower upper body back down to the floor as you inhale.

Mind your muscle tip: During the contraction, imagine you are "zipping" your muscles from your pelvic floor up to your belly button (drawing them in tight as if trying to squeeze into a pair of jeans).

Resisted Single-Leg Stretch

How to do it: Lie on back and bend both knees into your chest, feet flexed. Interlace fingers on top of right thigh and extend left leg out parallel to the floor. Lift head and shoulders off the floor, curling up over the top of ribcage and looking at legs. Press palms against right thigh while tipping pelvis to bring right knee in toward chest (your hands should add resistance to your leg). Switch legs and press palms against the left thigh as right leg extends parallel to the floor. That's 1 rep. Do up to 3 sets of 10 repetitions in a row.

Make it harder: Keep both legs straight, pressing against the top of thigh as one leg pulls in, and then perform a scissoring action to switch sides.

Mind your muscle tip: As you push against your thigh, imagine you are pulling your leg into your chest with your abs. Focus on feeling the extra resistance in the abs, not your thighs or hip flexors.

U-Boat

This may be a small movement, but it works your lower abdominals in a big way!

How to do it: Sit with knees bent, feet flat on the ground. Lean back to prop upper body up on elbows (your back should remain lifted), palms facing down. Brace abs in tight and lift legs into a 90-degree angle (knees should be touching), toes pointed. Slowly bring legs over to the left (both hips should remain on the ground). Keeping the 90-degree angle with legs, lower legs and then lift them up to the right, as if you were tracing a letter "U" with your knees. That's 1 rep. Do 20 reps total, alternating sides each time.

Make it harder: The longer the lever, the harder this gets, so if you want more of a challenge, try extending your legs out farther (even straightening them completely).

Mind your muscle tip: Use your breathing to help deepen the abs work: Inhale as you sweep your legs over to one side and down, and then as you come up to the other side, exhale and visualize your belly button pressing all the way back to your spine.

A Few Fall Picks to Add to your Lunch

Pumpkin

Pumpkin is full of fiber and beta-carotene, which provides a vibrant orange color. Beta-carotene converts into vitamin A in the body, which is great for your skin and eyes. To balance pumpkin’s sweetness, try adding savory herbs, such as sage and curry. 

Beets

Beets are edible from their leafy greens down to the bulbous root. The leaves are similar to spinach and are delicious sautéed. The grocery store most likely will carry red beets; your local farmers market may have more interesting varieties, such as golden or bull's blood, which has a bullseye pattern of rings. The red color in beets is caused by a phytochemical called betanin, making beet juice a natural alternative to red food coloring. Beets are rich in naturally occurring nitrates and may help to support healthy blood pressure. Roasting or steaming beets whole takes the fuss out of peeling — the skin easily slides off after cooking. They also are delicious raw, shredded and tossed in salads or thinly sliced and baked into chips.

Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes charge ahead of white potatoes in terms of fiber and vitamin A. Sweet potatoes also are an excellent source of potassium and vitamin C. Try them as a breakfast side dish, or serve them at any meal. 

Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash is a fun, kid-friendly vegetable that is a lower-calorie and gluten-free alternative to grain-based pasta. Cut it in half to reveal a pocket of seeds; scoop those out and pop the two halves into the microwave or oven and cook until tender. Scrape a fork into the flesh and spaghetti-like strands appear!  Toss with pesto or marinara sauce for a quick veggie side dish.

Kale

Kale — we can't get enough of this luscious leafy green and with good reason. Kale is a nutrient powerhouse. It tastes sweeter after a frost and can survive a snowstorm garden.  One cup of raw kale has only 8 calories and is loaded with vitamins A, C and K as well as manganese. Kale is great sautéed and cooked in soup, but also is excellent raw in salad; simply remove tough stems, slice into thin slivers and pair with something a bit sweet such as carrots or apples. One advantage of using kale for your leafy greens is that you can add your dressing ahead of time; the kale becomes more tender and delicious, not wilted.

Pears

When we can buy fruits year-round, we tend to forget they do have a season. However, pears are the most delicious in the fall when they're at their peak. Pears are unique in that they do not ripen on the tree; they will ripen at room temperature after they're picked. How do you know when they are ready to eat? Check the neck! If the fruit near the stem gives to a little pressure, it is ripe. There are a wide range of pear flavors and textures. And, just like apples, some are excellent eaten fresh while others are best cooked or canned for the winter. Try pears on the grill, tucked into a panini,or pureed into soup or a smoothie.  If you eat the peel too, one medium pear has 6 grams of fiber.

Okra

Around the world, chefs cherish the thickening properties of the seed pods in dishes from Louisiana gumbo to Indian curries and other stews. If you wish to minimize the thickening property, try okra briefly stir-fried. The pods are high in vitamins K and C, a good source of fiber and folate and low in calories. At the market, look for pods that are no longer than 4 inches and are bright green in color and firm to the touch.

Parsnips

Parsnips are cousins to carrots — they have the same root shape but with white flesh. They're typically eaten cooked, but also can be eaten raw. One-half cup of cooked parsnips is full of fiber (3 grams) and contains more than 10 percent of the daily values of vitamin C and folate. Try these pale beauties roasted, pureed into soup or mashed. You can even top a shepherd's pie with mashed parsnips instead of the traditional mashed potatoes!

Cranberries

Fall is the time to get to know these tart berries and their wealth of nutritional benefits. Cranberries may help protect from urinary tract infection. They contain a compound called proanthocyanidin which may prevent harmful bacteria from sticking to your bladder wall. Fresh and dried cranberries pair well with a variety of meats and poultry. Fresh cranberries can be eaten raw but often are cooked. Dried cranberries are delicious in grain and vegetable salads and make a healthy snack on the go.