Now that I have a pole at home again, I also have more motivation to work out without going to the gym, and I love using yoga as a warmup before getting on the pole. While I don’t mind creating my own practice, I love being told what to do, and so I decided to test the FitStar Yoga app.
The app is free, but you can purchase a premium upgrade if you want unlimited sessions and more customization. I would definitely recommend trying the free version first to see if you like it before committing to a membership, even if it’s only $29.99 for a whole year.
My first session was a Yoga Intro (17 minutes). This is intended as a test to determine your level, and the app will keep asking for your feedback (too hard, too easy, or just right) while you are practicing. I ignored the questions until after finishing, then went back and added my answers, since I felt like clicking away on my phone while in the poses is contradictory to what yoga should be.
Because the first session was a test, there was very little flow to connect the poses. I was also annoyed with how the video started a Vinyasa flow while I was in a downward dog, without any verbal cuing to tell me it was coming up. I think the minimum to be expected from a yoga app is decent verbal cuing, so that you don’t have to keep breaking form to look at the screen while practicing.
The second session was called Shoulders & Hips (23 minutes). The flow was slightly better than in the intro/test, but it was still awkward having to watch the screen to avoid missing the vinyasa flows. The video also sped through the poses much faster than I like – I much prefer holding Chair Pose / Utkatasana for 15-20 seconds to give me time to make all the small adjustments needed, instead of a quick 5 seconds then on to the next pose.
My third session was Inversions & Shoulders (20 minutes), but for some reason I could not get the sound to work (it worked fine on all my other apps), and doing it without any verbal cues whatsoever would not work, so I skipped it, and I haven’t tried again.
Pros and Cons
+ When you send feedback, you get a reply from a real person
+ It’s customizable and easy to set up
+ You can use the built-in music, play your own, or keep it quiet
+ The short sessions means I have no excuses
+ The level of your next session adjusts based on your feedback
– The built-in music is horrible for yoga
– The instructor voice is bland
– The cues are repetitive
– Some cues are missing
– Watching the screen makes proper alignment hard
– Most poses are not held for long enough
– The cut-and-paste video formula makes for poor flow
I really like the idea of a customizable yoga app that tailors the sessions to your level and experience, but unfortunately I’m not impressed enough with FitStar Yoga to keep using the app. The lack of flow and proper cuing made it hard to pretend like I was in a normal yoga class, and the whole experience was a bit too mechanic for my taste.
It’s Friday again, which means time for a new playlist! My favorite discovery this week is Pull Me Under by Adria; I have a feeling that I’ll be dancing a lot to this song in the coming weeks. I’ve also been seriously crushing on the soundtrack to Reign while binge-watching on Netflix, and finally found a playlist with all the music from season one. So if you’re into the type of music royalty would be listening to if they were 21st century hipsters, check out the Reign Soundtrack playlist as well.
If you have found any new songs to love this week do share in the comments so that I can check them out, and let me know if you end up loving any of the songs I shared in my playlist!
Ever since I got a home pole again last month I have been working out at home more than ever before. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in three years of pole, it’s that I need a solid warmup before getting started or I will injure myself. So I’ve been playing with different warmups, trying to get effective and use full-body exercises as much as possible. And with the limited space I have available, planks are my new favorite!
Before trying the following variations, make sure that you can hold a normal plank and a forearm plank with good form. I would say hold them comfortably, but let’s be honest – if you are working right in a plank it’s not supposed to be comfortable!
Two quick notes on form before I get to the exercises: I have notoriously naughty elbows that hyperextend every chance they get, so if you have the same problem try to keep a little micro bend in the elbow joint. I also have an anterior pelvis tilt (an involuntary booty tooch for my fellow ANTM watchers), so my plank is not as straight of a line as it could be.
Plank Hip Dips
Start in a forearm plank, and let your hips drop to one side. Try to get as low as you can without touching the floor (I know my butt totally touches, but by the time I noticed I was already curled up with my kitty writing this post), before coming back up through center and repeating on the other side. Nice and slow is the way to go with these, and take the time to pause in the center between each dip.
Start in a a standard plank, then slowly lower one arm down to your forearm, then bring your other arm down as well so that you are in a forearm plank. Place the hand that you first brought down on the floor and push yourself back up as your second hand follows. Keep your belly button pulled in and your core tight throughout the movement. Alternate which arm leads with every repetition. Start slow to minimize the rocking side to side, and when you are confident you can start to speed it up.
Single Leg Plank
Start in a standard plank, and lift one leg straight up behind you. Come back through center, and repeat on the other side, and once again take it slow to really feel the burn. Try to keep a straight line from your supporting leg all the way up your spine – I fail a bit at this because the poler in me wants to cheat a bit so I can lift the leg higher…
Body Wave Plank
I don’t know if these have an official name, but they remind me of body waves so that’s what I’m calling them. Start in downward dog, then undulate forward into plank. Bend your knees, push back through a tabletop position where your knees are hovering off the floor, straighten out your arms and back, then straighten your legs and lift your booty to end back in downward dog. Start slowly to make sure you hit each part of this movement before speeding it up.
Downward Dog and Dolphin Pose
Any time you get tired from planks and need a break, come into Downward Dog if you were in a standard plank, or Dolphin pose if you were in a forearm plank. These are great shoulder openers, and I love pushing into one of these for a little breather in between plank variations! Just make sure that you are pushing into your palms or forearms, draw your belly button in towards your spine, and keep tilting your booty up to the ceiling.
Do you workout at home? What are your favorite warmup exercises?
I don’t often get so angry at a politician’s stupidity that I rant about it online, but when a possible future presidential candidate makes derogatory statements about “stripper poles” and Beyonce, I want to call attention to it.
Last night, Mike Huckabee was a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and while discussing his new book the former Governor made the following statement:
“…the thing that disturbs me, let’s say about when you see Beyonce, who is a role model to young girls, young girls who work to be like her. Do you know any parent who has a daughter that says, “Honey, if you make really good grades, some day when you’re 12 or 13, we’ll get you your own stripper pole.” I mean, come on Jon, we don’t do that in our culture.”
Just let that sink in for a minute.
First, Huckabee is suggesting that Beyonce is a bad role model for young girls. We are talking about the highest paid black musician in history, a woman who has been named the world’s most powerful celebrity, and because she is comfortable with her sexuality we should not encourage young girls to look up to her? But it’s okay for Ted Nugent to sing “Well, I make the pussy purr with the stroke of my hand | They know they gettin’ it from me” because he’s not from a big city bubble and that makes him more “real”?
And I am getting so tired of rich old guys who believe there is no lower place to sink than working a “stripper pole” and continue to use it as an insult to make women ashamed of being sexual and sensual. Insinuating that you can’t both get good grades and be a stripper is such an outdated stereotype. Mike Huckabee clearly doesn’t understand the culture we live in if he believes he can win over women voters while continuing to insult us all.
Because I am not a stripper, but I am personally insulted that a man who sees himself fit for running a country with over 150 million women can say something so prejudiced on the record – on Martin Luther King day of all days!
I am so ready for change.
You can watch the full segment on YouTube, where it’s been very aptly named “Jon Stewart Tears into Mike Huckabee.”
And I would love to hear your thoughts on the whole controversy! Do you think there is anything we can do to change these types of narrow-minded people to see our side? Am I overreacting, or should we be getting more outraged about this double standard?
On Saturday I went cross-country skiing for the first time in almost six years! I had bought a Groupon for a trail pass and equipment rental that could be redeemed at one of four places up in the mountains, and since my husband and I were going up to Frisco for the weekend with some friends I decided to check out the Frisco Nordic Center.
It was a sunny 30 degree day, and I got equipped and out on the trails in minutes. I decided to start “easy” with a 7.5km (~4.5 miles) Intermediate trail, and it went surprisingly well considering how long it had been since my last time. I also never do cardio unless I’m freestyling on pole, so 40 minutes of skiing at 9,000ft elevation was a killer workout!
Growing up in Norway I skied every winter, but more often than not our family trips were off-trail and uphill: not the best combination for a good time. The difference in skiing on perfectly groomed trails was huge, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed myself. I didn’t even fall once in the hilly parts, which was always my biggest problem as a kid. I think it might have something to do with how I’m much less afraid of both speed and falling these days – thanks pole & aerial!
The next day I was so sore that I could hardly lift my leg up bent to a 90 degree angle – a good sign that I had been working muscles that I don’t normally get to! I’m highly considering taking up skiing again more regularly, but since I left all of my equipment behind in Norway it might have to wait until the next time I go back to visit.
Have you tried cross country skiing? What’s your favorite winter workout?