5 Lower Body Low Impact Exercises (That Won’t Hurt Your Knees)

Hello, my most dedicated readers! Oh, how I’ve missed you all. Last time I checked in, both our girls were sick. And last week I was sick! NOT COOL. Everyone knows, moms don’t have time to be sick. Yet, I was. So sick that I didn’t even workout. I did try a couple times, but I was super drained. Like for real. Ugh.

I’ll probably sound like a weeny when I say I just had a case of laryngitis, but I didn’t realize how crummy you can feel from an illness that generally just gets a lot of attention for taking someone’s voice away. While my throat still hurts a lot this week and I still have a dry, hacky cough, my voice is finally coming back (and I’m starting to exercise again), so hallelujah! I must be on the mend. Now back to real life and the important stuff.

A few weeks back, a friend and reader asked me to share some low impact lower body exercises and today, I’m excited to bring them to you. This friend has found her knees to be particularly temperamental after having her first baby a few months back. This is totally normal since the hormone relaxin can loosen our ligaments and joints leading up to labor and can take up to a year after stopping breastfeeding to return to “normal.” Who knew? Now you do 🙂

While I love jumping around like a total maniac and I don’t have a problem doing so, that isn’t the case for everyone and the good news is there are TONS of exercises you can still do to strengthen your lower body AND be kind to your knees.

Today I’m sharing my top 5 lower body exercises that are low impact and can help you strengthen your lower body, without hurting your knees because yes, it’s possible!

Most of these exercises will use the glutes as a primary mover, and all the other muscles in the legs will be secondary or tertiary movers/helpers.

The largest and what should be–strongest–muscle group in the body is the glutes (aka your butt muscles). I often tell my clients that your butt isn’t just about vanity or something sexy. Though it can be both of those things, your butt is also totally functional too. Meaning, your glutes–when engaged, strengthened, and used properly–can help support your hips and take work away from your smaller knee joints all while simultaneously strengthening all the muscles surrounding your knees too.

Every single person should be able to do a squat. It’s arguably the most functional movement you can ever do. Many think squats are just for your quads, that big muscle group on the top, front of the leg. However, squats are actually a glute exercise that your quads can help with.

We all sit down and get up from chairs and the toilet–that’s a squat.  We all pick things up from the ground–that should be a squat. So yes, one of the exercises I share will be a squat, but I’ll show you how to modify it to take some work away from your knees if a traditional body weight squat hurts for now.

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When doing these exercises, aim for anywhere between 8-15 reps, (per side where applicable) and 3-5 sets.

  1. Squats – Keep your weight in full foot and push up out of your heels. By keeping the work in the heels vs. the forefoot, you help your glutes do the work, not your knees. Modify on a wall or using a ball on the wall if needed.MNYE9697XZZS2597
  2. Hip Bridge – Strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, and calves. Lying on your back, place your heels on a chair, bench, stool, or any elevated and level surface. Push up from the floor by driving into your heels. Squeeze your glutes at the top and then slowly return to the ground.  NMAP9020
  3. Deadlifts – Single leg or double, it doesn’t matter–deadlifts are great for you (and your glutes and hamstrings)! Slightly bend your knees then while keeping your back flat, hinge from the hips towards the ground. Return to the top, squeezing your glutes when you get there. CGBK3879
  4. Side Lunges – Strengthen your glutes, adductors and abductors (those muscles on the insides and outsides of the legs). Start with both feet pointing straight ahead. Sinking into the heel on one foot, lift up the other foot and reach it to your side while sinking into the opposite heel. Return the foot to the center and keep your toes pointed straight ahead for the entire movementDILI3446
  5. Step Ups – These are awesome for the whole leg! Place one foot on a step, chair, or stool. Keeping your weight in the heel on the bench, “pull” your other leg up and onto the step. Slowly return your foot to the ground, putting as little weight into the bottom foot and repeat.

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What are your favorite lower body exercises? Share in the comments below! 

My 2018 = New Beginnings and Continued Progress

Happy 2018 everyone! I am shockingly pumped and motivated for the new year. Thinking about a word that will define my year, I can’t stop thinking, “excited!” I am definitely feeling more focused and excited about what this year will bring, both personally and professionally.

I am excited to keep growing Fitness Bites. My blog readership continues to grow (THANK YOU!). While on “maternity leave,” I registered my own business. I am officially flying solo as an entrepreneur. I am no longer working at a gym and I’m actually my own boss. HOLY CRAP! I am so thrilled to be able to say this and while I was feeling more fearful about this undertaking, I know I’m going to be successful. I’m excited to keep helping others in the fitness industry, but in my own way. I look forward to offering my own special brand of online training.

I am excited to focus on my personal fitness, to work on my strength and keep leaning my body out post baby. I certainly overindulged this holiday season, and while I don’t regret it, I am excited to kick the Christmas cookies to the curb and refocus my efforts. I can’t wait to see my progress at the end of the year.

To track my progress, I’m checking in with a “progress” post, complete with photos. I’m finally getting my eating and exercise habits back under control. These posts help hold me accountable. If I have to bare it all to you (literally!), I’m more apt to make healthy choices.

Being transparent like this also keeps me humble. I, like everyone else, am a work in progress. I’ve been petite my whole life. Couple that with my workout routine throughout pregnancy and people assume I just drop every bit of extra fat and nourishment my body took on to grow a baby. Not true. I still have fat in my stomach and this time I also have extra skin and some stretch marks that I’m not sure will be going away. Instead of getting down on myself about these changes, I’m looking at them as my permanent mama tattoos from my girls! Along with my c-section scar, they’re outward signs that my body grew life. Small etches of the changes my body has endured on the inside forever. Oh, the beautiful perspective I’ve gained since becoming a girl mom.

Reflecting on the last three months and comparing to my postpartum journey last year (just a short 6 months!), I remember struggling after Isla was born. I didn’t shed all of my pregnancy weight quickly. Most people assumed I had lost all of the weight after just a few weeks and the truth is, it took me almost 4 months to do so. This time is so different. I’m less concerned about what others are thinking about my body. And I’m even less concerned about a number on the scale. Despite gaining less weight with this pregnancy (25 pounds vs. 35 pounds last year), I’m still about 5 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight.

I mentioned in an earlier post that getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight isn’t my priority. I actually don’t mind if I stay 5 pounds up–I just want to keep leaning out and getting stronger. I want to know I’m doing the best I can to be the best I can. While I’m still weighing myself, I’m measuring my progress more with how my clothes fit and with photos. Seeing and feeling a difference on a more long term and permanent basis is a lot more gratifying than a number on a scale, which can change 4 of 5 pounds in just a day depending on what I eat. The reality is, I’m 100% more concerned with how I feel in this postpartum period. I want to feel good. I want to keep putting a positive message about body image into the world. I want to help other women feel positive and beautiful, because you are!

So here it is. This is my postpartum journey so far.

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[40+ weeks to 1 week postpartum]
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[1 week postpartum to 1 month postpartum]
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[1 month postpartum to 3 months postpartum]
As you reach out with your personal notes and messages, I love knowing that in some small way, by sharing my own fitness and life journey (my reality), I’m helping others–even if it’s just one person. I hope I can keep up this momentum, this positivity, and stay excited. I have so much to be grateful for and I look forward to continuing to reflect and grow in the year ahead.

 

Transformation Tuesday (32 Weeks Pregnant)

Being pregnant, I can’t help but reflect on my body and everything that’s transforming, inside and out! Some days I feel like a serious superwoman, toting my mini toddler and tackling every task the day throws at me–all while growing another person! Then other days (like today), I am literally waddling from place to place and relying on nap time for recovery. My pelvis aches and everything feels challenging.

On days like this, I’m grateful I have more good days than “bad” and that I’m even pregnant at all. Coming from years of infertility and multiple losses, I keep my chin up and try to smile as much as I can. Truthfully, most days are easier than not. This isn’t my permanent state. As I wind down through the last weeks of this pregnancy, I know my normal body should be back soon! Hallelujah! So in between moments of just wanting to be done, I’m also trying to enjoy feeling this little person grow. For the gift of being able to carry this baby in my body, and help it thrive–despite the wear and tear my body endures.

Thinking about being pregnant with Isla, and this time, I try not to compare the two. But that can be pretty hard. My pregnancy with Isla is still so fresh in my mind. And Isla and “new baby” are already both so different. How they move is different, how they lay in my belly is different, and I look different. This baby is much lower in my belly. I know–the wives tales say this must be a boy then! Who knows, though soon enough we’ll see.

Another way that I find myself comparing these two pregnancies is weight gain. While I don’t want to find myself perseverating on a number, loving or hating a scale, I try hard to keep my weight gain in a healthy range and so I stay aware of my number. This time around, I think I’m eating healthier overall, but I’m convinced my body is just going to do it’s thing–no matter what I shovel in my mouth. I gained about 35 pounds when I was pregnant with Isla, and I ate a lot of ice cream! At 32 weeks pregnant, I’ve gained about 25 so far. I’m on track to gain 35 again, even with a lot less ice cream trips (I love ice cream–I’m not giving it up).

Here I am, 6 months postpartum (and unknowingly 4 weeks pregnant–eek). And today, 32 weeks pregnant.

Looking back at myself 6 months postpartum my first thought is: I’m too hard on myself. My abs were coming back and even if they weren’t, I was working so hard! While I feel chunky as a 32 weeks pregnant woman, I also look at myself and feel strong.

I look forward to my postpartum journey this time. For once I seriously don’t care about the scale. A pound of fat is much larger than a pound of muscle and I love when I look lean and strong. I can be lean and weigh more than I did when I started this pregnancy. I honestly hope that’s what happens too. And ultimately, it doesn’t matter what the scale says. My weight is much less significant than how I feel. I can’t wait to see how my composition has changed throughout pregnancy and how my progress can continue postpartum. That’s the journey I look forward to. How much muscle am I building in these 40 weeks? With Isla I gained about 5 pounds of muscle. How much can I maintain? Postpartum last year, I struggled with that. I needed to eat more than I thought (working out and breastfeeding require a lot more calories than we sometimes think).

These side by side photos and the thoughts they evoke help me realize this baby hasn’t been the only thing growing in the last 8 months. My mind and body have been too, and in the best ways. I am healthy, strong, more confident, and open to embracing everything the next several months has in store. Bring it on!

How have you transformed this year? Share in the comments below! 

Cardio Upgrade: Don’t Just Walk, Strength Train Too!

Today’s post is all about a quick workout I put together to do on a family walk, run or hike, turning a bonafide cardio workout into an opportunity to strength train. My favorite! We completed this workout on our local bike path, but you can do this workout anywhere and with or without the walk.

Staying active as a family is important to me. I think it’s important we’re healthy parents for our kids. I want to do everything I can to stick around for as long as I can. I tell Chris that when we are grandparents, I hope we can be out hiking with our grandkids. And that vision starts now; with lots of training while we’re parents!

I also love that we are setting an example for our children every time they see us working out–and that Isla is already creating this habit of being active. Isla is one of those babies who rarely sits still (just like her mama). She is always busy and into something. She wanted to skip crawling and hop to walking, and though that didn’t happen, she is now walking and trying to run away from us (and into trouble) as fast as she can. This new growing baby is getting a head start too. When mom’s active, baby is active! No wonder this kid is trying to bust open my belly with some serious ninja kicks and jabs.

As an added bonus, I love being an active woman. I love that I’m showing my daughter that she can be active, through every stage of her life, including pregnancy if she chooses to have a family. I feel strongly that Isla is as healthy as she is because I made the choice to stay active and healthy during my pregnancy. I feel lucky that I had the opportunity to make this choice too, but the human body (and in particular here, female body) is pretty amazing. Clearly Isla’s not taking all of these intricacies in right now, but these are the lessons I look forward to teaching her in the years ahead as she’ll be able to look back on photos and videos.

So, the workout. I’ll preface this by saying: clearly, I’m pregnant. Like really pregnant. 31 weeks pregnant actually. I have been exercising before and throughout this entire pregnancy. That being said, if you’re pregnant and just starting exercise, I wouldn’t recommend you start with all of these exercises. Particularly those where you’d find yourself in a plank position. Like the push ups and plank arm pulls. If you include them, here are some tips.

If you are pregnant and doing the plank-based exercises, consider starting from your knees and always make sure you’re wrapping your abs together! Our abdominal wall naturally separates when we’re pregnant and this prone position puts extra pressure on our abs. Do your part to hold them together by squeezing your abs together, like you’re wearing a corset. If you see your belly “pointing” out, stop the exercise. That’s literally your belly muscles split apart. If you take a peek at your belly, it should still be rounded. This is something I actually couldn’t do when I was pregnant with Isla and I’m proud to say I’ve built even better function of my abdominal muscles between these two pregnancies and can keep my belly round this time–even after a c-section. Just do what is right for you and your baby and do what you can. If these two exercises aren’t possible, lots of others are–I promise!

For the general population, all of these exercises are a fun way to mix up your workout routine or intensify a walk or hike. I used a jogging stroller for a couple exercises, but you could easily just use hand and foot reach/taps instead.

As far as putting all of the exercises together, here are a couple ways to structure this workout:

Option 1:

  1. Walk for 2 minutes
  2. Complete 15 reps of one exercise
  3. Walk for another 2 minutes
  4. Complete 15 reps of another exercise
  5. Repeat

Option 2:

  1. Walk for 5-10 minutes
  2. Complete 15 reps of all exercises in a circuit
  3. Repeat

I would do 2-4 sets of each exercise depending on how much time I have. If you can’t do 2-4 sets, just do what you can. Something is better than nothing!

Walk/Hike Full Body Strength Circuit

  1. Squat (15 reps)squat.jpg2. Lunges (15 reps each side)lunge3. Side lunges (15 reps each side) – without a stroller, just reach and tap your foot to the sideside lunge4. Push ups (15 reps)push up5. Single arm plank pulls (15 reps each side) – without a stroller, just reach and tap your hand to the frontarm pull stroller

What is one of your favorite ways to mix up your walk or workout? Share in the comments!