Fitness Tips

Stretching Do's and Don'ts

Stretching Do's and Don'ts

Stretching as a warm-up before exercise has been taught in schools for generations. Today experts debate the effectiveness of stretching cold muscles. The VarCity cold truth? Stretching is helpful, but keep these basics in mind:

1.  Avoid Stretching a Cold Muscle

Only perform "static stretching” (stretch and hold) after a five to 10 minute warm-up.  A warmed-up muscle can stretch longer and endure more stretching and you may hurt yourself if you stretch cold muscles. 

2.  Use Dynamic or “Active” Stretching as a Warm-Up

Dynamic stretches mimic movements used in a sport or activity.  Warm-ups prepare the body for activity by helping to increase blood flow and muscle temperature.

If you're preparing to play tennis, for example, you’ll want to practice side and front lunges as part of your warm-up – movements you'll use to reach for the ball.

Light, gentle rhythmic movements work best for the average person.  Go through a shallow range of motion (e.g. a half-squat vs. a full squat) until you're thoroughly warmed up."

3.  Stretch at the End of your Workout

Stretching at the end of the cool-down phase (i.e. after exercise when your muscles are still warm) helps to maintain long-term flexibility benefits.

6 Reasons to Drink More Water

Drink More Water

1. Perform Better

Hydration is directly linked to athletic performance. So, if you’re looking to improve your time on the track or take your soccer game to the next level, make sure you’re drinking half of your body weight in ounces of water each day. Don’t forget 75% of our muscles are made of water. 

2. Eat Healthier

Often times when we’re in that after-school lull and we’re craving a slice of pizza or a quick burger, we can actually quench that craving with a few glasses of water. Making a conscious effort to drink a glass of water before you raid the pizza stand can help you avoid bad food choices before dinner.

3. Be Less Cranky

Dehydration can affect your entire day, especially because dehydration can cause you to feel sick. Drinking more water will help you think more clearly and even improve your mood!

4. Prevent Headaches

One of the most common symptoms of dehydration is a headache. Next time you have a headache, instead of reaching for the Advil, drink a couple of glasses of water and see how you feel. If you feel better without medicine, this is a good way to know that you can prevent at least some headaches by drinking water before turning to the medicine cabinet.

5. Naturally Cleanse

What if I told you that you don’t need to spend a fortune on a store-bought cleanse? That’s because water has naturally detoxifying benefits. Add a little lemon and you’re good to go! Bacteria and waste can live in our stomach and intestines and this is exactly why the digestive system needs water to function and clear you out.

6. Help Your Skin Glow

Water helps the skin rebuild cells more successfully. Not only does proper hydration make your skin more healthy; hydration can also make your skin glow. Skin is our largest organ, so isn’t it about time we take better care of it?

Summer Tips: Tips for Running at the Beach

Beach Running Tips

Running on sand—while it definitely has lots of benefits—can be tricky.  On the plus side, the unstable surface provides extra strength training for your lower leg muscles, which have to work harder to stabilize your feet.  And when you sink into the sand, it makes it even tougher for your body to lift up for each step, amping up the intensity of your run. 

Thicker sand exaggerates each step making you feel like you’re climbing, so your calves are working that much harder to propel you forward.

But like any new activity, using your muscles in that different way can leave you super sore. Follow the below tips to enjoy your surfside run—and still feel good the next day.

Pick the Right Pack
Tighter, more packed sand (or even better, wet sand) is preferable to a dry, looser surface.  It’ll still be soft, but you’ll sink in less and be less likely to overuse your muscles while trying to stable.

Keep it Short (and Less Frequent)
Even though your muscles are working extra hard, you might not feel the impact of an hour-long beach run until the next day…when you wake up achy and barely able to enjoy your vacation, let alone fit in another run.  Start with just 20 to 25 minutes at a time (or even less) to make sure you don’t overdo it.  And if you live near the ocean, don’t start doing all your runs at the beach.  Once a week would be ideal.

Go Barefoot (if You Want)
If you’re prone to injury or require a very supportive shoe, you might want to keep them on.  Not sure?  Try walking a mile on the beach.  If your calves hurt the next day, you probably shouldn’t run barefoot.

Go Flat—and Out and Back
Shorelines are sloped, which can mess with your form.  Run on the flattest part of the sand that you can, and make sure you run back on the beach the way you came to even out any imbalances.

Stay Safe!
Wear extra sunscreen, since water and sand reflect rays.  And check the tides so you don’t get stuck in a situation where you’re far from home and can’t run back.

What Time Is the Royal Wedding!?

Meghan and her mom leaving yoga.

Meghan and her mom leaving yoga.

With just one day left until Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s wedding, the big question isn’t “when is the royal wedding?” but what workouts is the bride-to-be doing to prepare for her royal internationally-televised wedding.  #nopressure

While Meghan was last seen leaving a gym in London last month, the 36-year-old has likely been sticking to one of her favorite workouts:  a pilates workout, which utilizes the Megaformer machine.

“Pilates Platinum is hands down the best thing you could do for your body,” Meghan told Women’s Health U.K. in 2017, referencing the fitness studio in Santa Monica where she used to take classes. “The results are incredible.  Your body changes immediately.  Give it two classes and you will see a difference.”

Pilates is a high-intensity, low impact class, which prioritizes constant, but slow movement, to really help you feel the burn.  During the classes, which can include 30 straight minutes of sliding split squats, participants typically burn 800 to 1,000 calories — and the calorie burn continues for several more hours.

The reason why — it’s so slow, and you’re using every single muscle.  While your slow-twitch muscle fibers repair, your body is using energy, calories and stored sugar so you honestly become a fat-burning machine.

One of the Pilates studios where the former Suits star has been sighted going for her Megaformer fix is Studio Lagree, which has locations in her old and new hometowns of Toronto and London.

Meghan is also friends with Pilates Platinum instructor Heather Dorak, who has documented her friend’s flexibility on social media.

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“Happy Happy Birthday to @meghanmarkle 💞. Thank you @pilatesplatinum for bringing this beautiful soul in to my life 10yrs ago. Can’t wait to celebrate with you 👙🌴,” the fitness expert wrote alongside a photo of the pair working their cores by the pool.

The former Suits star has also frequently been photographed out and about with her yoga mat.

Additionally, her mother Doria Ragland (pictured above), who arrived in London ahead of her daughter’s nuptials on Wednesday, works as a yoga therapist.  

Oh and if you’re still wondering “what time is the royal wedding?” — the big event starts at 7am NYT.  

VarCity Lifehacks: Make Running with AirPods Easy

AirPod Life hacks

Caroline V already gave us her take on running with AirPods.  The big takeaway was that while AirPods boast superior design, the smartest charging case and great Bluetooth hardware, the sound quality can suffer when the smooth plastic tips inevitably lose the noise isolating seal in your ears.  And while Caroline gave us suggestions for add-ons that help our AirPods stay in place, taking these parts on and off every time we want to charge isn't ideal.  

So VarCity scoured the internet and discovered our favorite lifehack for keeping AirPods sealed in your ears.  Using a hole punch and a roll of Nexcare Absolute Waterproof Tape, which is cushioned and grippy, you can strategically place tiny dots on your AirPods so they stick in your ears without slipping.  Best of all, the AirPods still fit in the case, so they can be charged without having to remove any tips.  And while it looks a little different, as you can see in the photo above, the tape is completely hidden inside your ear while you’re using the AirPods, so it’s obviously not a big deal.  Let us know how this hack works for you in the comments section below and be entered to win a free pair of AirPods!





Five Easy Ways to Drink More Water Throughout the Day

Drink More Water

We all know we need water to be healthy; however, remembering to drink it isn't always easy.  How you drink water can be just as important as how much water you drink, so gradually drinking water throughout the day is important too, especially as the temperatures start to rise.

Below are VarCity’s top 5 ways to drink water consistently throughout the day.

1.  Get a bigger bottle.  I used to keep a little 12-ounce bottle of water on my desk, and I would drink it all, but then I would never get around to refilling it. Now, I keep a large 1 liter bottle on my desk with a goal to drink all of it by the time the work day is over. I like it because it's a little goal I can set each day and easily see my progress as the hours go by.

2.  Set an alarm.  If you get so focused that you forget that bottle is on your desk, you may want to try setting an alarm on your phone or computer to go off every couple of hours or so to remind you to take a few swigs of water. I like to use this time to stand up and stretch, too!

3.  Drink a glass before each meal.  If it's just not convenient for you to drink water throughout the day, try setting a goal to drink at least one cup of water before each meal.  Not only does this help you to stay hydrated, studies show that drinking a glass of water before a meal can help you feel full faster!

4.  Track what you drink.  A small glass here and there in your busy day may have you unsure about how much water you consumed at the end of the day. So try tracking your fluid intake just like you would when you record meals and snacks in a food journal.

5.  Don’t live on water alone.  You can meet up to 20% of your daily fluid needs by consuming fluid-rich foods such as fruits and veggies, which are 80-90% water!

And remember, if you are working out regularly, especially in the heat, you will need more fluids.  For every pound lost during a workout (due to sweating), consume an additional 16 ounces of fluid. 

Your Best Hang to Help Back Pain

Back Pain

Everyday school activities can place a lot of stress and compression on your back. Sitting in hundred year old desk chairs, carrying a backpack and playing any sports that involve jumping or weightlifting can put compression on your spine. Your spine needs decompression to keep it from becoming too tight. Excess compression can lead to back pain. Fortunately, the most well-known way to decompress can be done anywhere and is relatively easy to do.

Simply hanging from a pull-up bar may become your favorite new stretch.  Grab the pull-up bar and let your body hang. Try to touch the ground while you are on the pull-up bar (If you are on one that is taller than you.)  Your spine stretches out as a result.  Keep your head forward and tighten up your core while performing this decompression stretch.  Hang for as long as is comfortable.  The tightness in your back is being released.

Hang from a pull-up bar during your warm-up, cool-down, and after every heavy weight exercise that compresses your back (e.g. squats or deadlifts). Hanging on the pull-up bar is one of the simplest, yet most effective stretches you can do.  Your back will thank you and your shoulders would not mind the stretch either.  Enjoy your newly decompressed back!

Trending at VarCity: Alo Leggings

Alo Yoga Moto

VarCity’s always looking to highlight the latest in fitness trends, so for 2018 we decided to get basic and highlight every girl’s favorite clothing staple: the legging.  Whether you’re Gigi Hadid, Kylie Jenner or just a girl trying to make it through today’s English class, leggings are essential for workouts, running errands, lounging around the house and so much more.  But with so many athleisure brands already out there and more hitting the streets everyday, VarCity decided to scour the internet for the latest in leggings to keep you looking great.  

After searching through countless street style images, we found that Alo Yoga Moto Leggings were a huge staple in the closets of stylish celebs. Why? The details on the leggings add a modern, chic twist and the comfort can’t be beat.  Want to look like your favorite celeb?  Style your Alo Yoga Moto’s with a leather jacket and some hot new casual footwear.  Tag us in a photo of you wearing Alo’s because we’re giving one of our followers a second pair for free!

5 Things You Can Do Today to Improve Your Family’s Fitness

Family Fitness

You know why exercise is important for you:  it lowers health risks, helps you maintain a healthy body mass, and improves performance in school.  But fitness isn’t only good for you, it’s also great for the rest of your family.  Whether it’s helping your little brother develop healthy habits early or keeping your grandma active, everyone benefits when we focus on family fitness.  

But don't expect your family to understand the benefits of exercise right away.  Your can help  them start by making them see that moving more is fun.  When exercise feels like a fun group activity, your whole family will enjoy it more and be more likely to stick with it.

Here are five ideas for family fitness that can get you all moving.

1. Make Time

Set aside 30 minutes three times a week to do fun exercises. Make it a part of your after-school or after-dinner routine. Kick a soccer ball around or shoot hoops with the family.  Also, plan at least one family activity every weekend.  It can be as simple as taking little ones to the playground -- or as challenging as an all-day hike with your teenager.

A key to getting kids moving is to plan time for physical activities. You can find that time by turning off the TV, for starters. Then offer a variety of family activities, both competitive and noncompetitive. When kids explore different ways to move their bodies, they can find exercises they enjoy and want to stick with for the long run.

2. Walk or Bike Everywhere You Can

Use muscle power: Bike or walk to the grocery store, library, or to your school or sports events.  Go for a 30-minute family walk after dinner instead of heading right for the television. Track everyone's steps with a pedometer, and try to add more distance every week. Use a family exercise log to make it a friendly competition.  Put your log or chart on the refrigerator as a reminder to keep up the good effort together.

3. Plan Active Family Gatherings

At family or holiday gatherings, turn off the TV and take a walk around the neighborhood or go for a short hike at a local park.  Or get everyone outside for a game of catch or basketball.

4. Give Your Meal Routine A Makeover

This isn’t necessarily a fitness tip, but it’s definitely worth mentioning: families that eat healthier also tend to have other healthy habits, such as regular physical activity.  Get your entire family involved in meal preparation and you’re more likely to succeed. Take your little brother  to the farmers' market, let them pick their own fruits and vegetables, and involve them in the food preparation.  They’re much more likely to enjoy their meals—and to clean their plates.

5. Make Yard Work Less of a Chore

Enjoy seasonal yard work together.  Help grandma or grandpa plant and tend a garden.  Ask your little brother or sister to rake leaves into a pile -- and then jump in it.  Make snow shoveling fun by building a snow fort or creating an epic family snowball fight.

Your New Favorite Running Buddy


So it’s officially 2018.  Caroline let us know that we can run with AirPods and hopefully you’re sticking to your 2018 New Year’s Resolution.  Something we’ve always believed at VarCity is that working out with a buddy is a great way to stick to your workout routine.  And if you’re still looking for that perfect running partner, try your local animal shelter.

No matter what your running pace, you can find a pup who's exactly your speed.  Some of the younger dogs can be boundless bundles of energy, while some of the larger or older dogs -- who own a few more years experience -- can have a slower steady stride.  Ziggy (shown above) is a Puerto Rican rescue who gets so excited to run he can hardly contain himself!

Across the country a growing number of animal shelters are broadening their volunteer base by appealing to runners while giving higher-energy dogs companionship and a healthy, calming outlet as they await adoption.

“I really do think we’re part of the reason dogs are getting adopted,” said Adria Eichner, who helps coordinate the Delco Dog Trotters program and provides training for volunteers.  “We’re giving dogs another skill they might not have had, and it makes them more marketable.”

If you’ve been thinking about adopting a new running buddy or just want a new way to volunteer with animals, ask if your local SPCA or animal shelter has its own program.