Ever bailed on going to a yoga session because you were afraid your body wasn’t slim enough to pull off downward dog? The stereotypical yoga person may be slender, but this body positive Instagrammer demolishes the idea that only thin people are good at getting bendy.
Dolly Singh, 34, is a Mumbai-based yogi whose Instagram feed is all the inspo you need to roll out your mat no matter what your BMI is. The difference between her and the other Insta-famous yoga influencers? Singh is plus-sized. Yet that hasn't stopped her from mastering some impressively complex moves.
Singh got into yoga three years ago when she was advised to lose weight after an ankle injury. After getting bored with running, she signed up for a yoga class—and was instantly hooked.
Scroll through her Instagram account to see her progress. Each photo features Singh twisting and turning in all sorts of beautiful contortions. From crow pose to headstands, she looks strong and powerful, all while flaunting her figure in brightly colored leggings and sports bras.
"I'm not aiming to have this thin figure,” Singh told international news agency AFP. “ But I am aiming to have a beautiful flow and make my body strong through yoga.”
Crossfit may have just been one-upped as the most intense workout of all time. The new pain-inducing fitness trend? Taking hits straight to the abdomen.
Earlier this week, Joe Jonas shared an Instagram video of the workout he's doing while on tour in Tokyo. In the clip, Jonas does a series of leg lifts beside a personal trainer wearing boxing gloves. At the end of each rep, she clocks him right in the gut. (Ouch, right?)
The DNCE frontman isn't the only celeb getting punched as part of a training tactic. Mia Kang, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model and pro Muy Thai fighter, also posted a video of herself being socked in the stomach: every time she extends her legs while doing squats, fighters on each side of her kick her in the belly.
What's the point of voluntarily taking a beating? Here's one payoff: Boxers, MMA fighters, and other martial arts athletes do it during training because getting walloped is part of their job, and they need to practice absorbing the blow, says exercise physiologist and personal trainer Tom Holland.
That explains why Kang was enduring those kicks. As for Jonas, he might simply be trying to strengthen his abs. While an external hit to muscle won't make it tighter or stronger ("if this worked, we'd punch our biceps and our leg muscles," Holland says), contracting your abs just before a punch or kick hits the stomach can create stronger muscle fibers.
RELATED: Firm Your Belly Ab Routine
"When I used to teach, I would cue clients by telling them to imagine that their child is getting ready to hit them in the stomach," says Holland. "It teaches people to better engage in ab exercises and use the core muscles throughout." The internal muscle contraction, not the outer trauma of a punch, is what helps create an enviable six-pack.
Of course, a blow to this sensitive area can be seriously harmful for average Joes (that includes you, Joe Jonas). Since this area of the body contains many vital organs, a punch or kick can result in bruising and internal damage, adds Holland.
RELATED: 4 Muscles You Should Never Ignore
Regular gym-goers can take advantage of this (while avoiding a trip to the ER) by having a partner perform the punch or kick motion and stop short; you'll reflexively tighten your core as you see it coming. Or during crunches, start each crunch by visualizing someone about to punch your midsection or drop a medicine ball on your abs, recommends Holland. Your natural reaction will be to pull in your ab muscles as you complete a rep.
Holland also suggests breathing through your ab exercises for the best results. "It's a real challenge, but breathing while doing pretty much any ab exercise engages the core even further," he says.
Just get through mile one. This is what I tell myself whenever I head off on a run and feel tempted to turn right back around. The Jedi mind trick of it all is that after the first mile, I’ve found my groove and will just keep going. But as winter settled into New England last year, I noticed my little mantra was becoming an everyday necessity.
That’s when opportunity knocked, in the form of an invite to Jamaica’s Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K. It came from a publicist friend who was working with the island’s tourist board and knew that I often write about running. "Come for the run, stay for the fun," read the tagline. How could I worry about Mile One when surrounded by sun, sand, and surf?
Plus, this was my chance to experience a "runcation" (a vacay built around a race). The travel trend, which lets you simultaneously check a destination off your bucket list and fulfill a personal goal by crossing the finish line, has been growing steadily in recent years. And women in particular are embracing this double-duty getaway. The turnout at Destination Races—a series of half marathons held in wine regions in the U.S. and Canada—is "70 to 75 percent female," reports Matt Dockstader, the president of the organization. More than half the runners headed to the Reggae Marathon were women, too.[brightcove:4874670933001 default]
Girl power getaway
A runcation is a way to take your girls’ weekend to the next level, explains Sarah Bowen Shea, cofounder of the popular online community Another Mother Runner. "If I want to meet up with my sorority sisters or the moms from my birthing class who now live in different parts of the country, it can be a challenge," she says. But when you organize your meet-up around a race, it becomes more doable.
It’s also a perfect activity for friends who share a passion for running, says Gina Imperato, who helps put on the Montclair Bread Co.’s 5K Doughnut Run and Baker’s Dozen 13.1 in New Jersey (and takes an annual runcation with her high school buddies). "Women get their strength from leveraging their community," she says. "Sure, we can race alone, but why, when it’s so much more fun in a group?"
And it’s not just the long weekend you get to spend with your homegirls—you also experience weeks or months of bonding while training. "You can use apps like Strava, Dailymile, or even Facebook to encourage each other remotely," says Shea. It’s about having a shared goal, one that could strengthen the connection you already have.
Or, in my case, creating a brand-new connection. During the winding, nearly two-hour van ride from Sangster International Airport to the Cliff Hotel in Negril, I started chatting with a fellow journalist from Toronto. We kept the confab going through the entire trip, bonding over everything from our favorite Sean Paul song to dealing with the rigors of running outdoors year-round. I even told her about my Mile One mantra and the rut I feared I was slipping into, and her knowing nods felt instantly reassuring.
RELATED: How to Train Yourself to Run Faster
When race day arrived, I actually sprang out of bed, raring to go, despite my 3:30 a.m. wake-up call and the oppressive humidity that hit my face like a brick in the predawn darkness. And not once did I mutter anything about getting through the first mile as I gathered with the more than 2,300 other runners behind the starting line or when we all took off down the flat road. I was focused on running my own race.
As I passed the 10K course’s midway point, I started to tune in to my surroundings and told myself to take it easy. There were Bob Marley songs blaring from giant speakers and onlookers cheering from the sidelines. Members of running teams, wearing matching shirts, tried to keep one another’s spirits high. We were all feeling the steaminess of the weather, but also the camaraderie.
When I looked around at the thinned-out crowd of runners nearby, it was heartening to see such a range of people pounding the pavement (and sweating profusely) alongside me. Women, men, young high school track stars, older folks just keeping their own pace—everyone set on getting to the finish line.
All three of the races ended at the oatmeal-colored sands of Seven Mile Beach. When I finally made it, I kicked off my running shoes, peeled off my socks, and plopped down by the shore, soaking up every detail of the blissful moment. When I caught my breath, I found my new running-writer friend, and we hung out, dancing to the music from the main stage and toasting our finish with coconut water sipped straight from its freshly chopped source.
The trip boosted not only my running spirit but also my mood. I felt lighter and at ease, ready to step back into my life at home refreshed. The sun, the sea, the runcation experience in a vibrant country—it all helped me run my way out of a rut and discover a new way of seeing the world, one race at a time. My next destination: a half marathon in Nova Scotia this fall.
This article originally appeared on Time.com.
A jump rope feels decidedly old-school: something you played with as a kid but that most adults, except for boxers, leave behind.
That’s a shame, because jumping rope offers a combination of benefits to bone, balance and muscles that most types of exercise can’t match.
“If you’ve done it lately, you know how much it can get your heart pumping,” says Tim Church, a professor at Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center. “But one of the nice things about it is the intensity can really be as high as you want it to be.”
While slow-paced rope jumping is a great warm-up exercise, rapid jumping or “double-unders”—where the rope passes under your feet twice before you land—will leave you panting after just a minute or two.
The whole-body synchronization required to successfully jump rope is another major selling point. “Boxers do it because the precise timing it requires between the feet and hands helps connect the upper and lower body with the brain,” Church explains.
Like a group of musicians unaccustomed to playing with one another, your brain and major muscle groups can struggle to stay in sync—especially as you age. Jumping rope helps them perform in concert, which can lower your risk for slips and awkward falls.
“When I teach kids who are struggling with coordination or complex movements, I have them jump rope,” Church says. One study of young soccer players found that compared to kids who only practiced their soccer drills, those who incorporated a jump-rope routine better improved their balance and motor coordination.
Surprisingly, jumping rope is also a good way to activate and sculpt your upper body. “It can seem like all the rope spinning is coming from the wrists and hands, but there’s actually an amazing amount of work required from your upper arms and shoulders and back to control and stabilize the rope,” says Michele Olson, an adjunct professor of sports science at Huntingdon College. “Especially compared to running or other forms of cardio, it’s moreso a total-body workout.”
Those benefits extend to your bones. “Anything that has some impact to it or that places a load on your bones will increase their density,” Olson says. “Jumping rope certainly has that aspect to it.” A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that young women who jumped as high as they could just 10 times, three times a week for six months, increased bone mineral density in their legs and the lower half of their spines.[brightcove:5219249234001 default]
“The other nice thing is the impact goes through the ball of the foot instead of the heel, which is what causes so many problems in runners,” Olson says.
Remember the barefoot running craze? A lot of its benefits boil down to the way it forces a shorter stride and fore- or mid-foot takeoffs and landings, as opposed to the heel-jarring longer strides made possible by padded running shoes. Like barefoot running, jumping rope is mostly done on your toes and the balls of your feet, so it may be less likely to cause the knee and hip injuries associated with some other forms of impact cardio.
Be warned. Though it may look easy, it can be a tough workout. “Depending on how intensely you’re doing it, it can be on the vigorous end of the exercise spectrum,” Olson says. “If you’re 50 pounds overweight and haven’t been exercising, this isn’t how I’d start,” Church adds.
But if you’re in decent shape and not carrying a lot of extra weight, Church recommends adding a short jump rope portion—maybe five minutes—to your usual workout routine. “You could theoretically do 30 minutes of it a few times a week, and have that be your cardio, but it’s probably better to work it into your regimen,” he says. “A little goes a long way.”
Photo: Ryan Kelly / DB10
With 10 minutes on the clock, holding plank after plank can feel like a lifetime. But this ab-blasting plank series from Daily Burn’s new DB10 program is designed to distract your body and mind. Think: creative combinations like the push-up to plank punch, or plyometric variations like plank jacks and plank-ups.
“The idea behind these combo moves is to pair dynamic movement with traditional planks to offer core strengthening with cardio benefits,” says Dara Theodore, one of the lead trainers for the DB10 program.
Borrowing moves from Theodore and CeCe Marizu’s 10-minute DB10 workouts, these ab exercises work every angle of your core — from your obliques to your traverse abdominis to your lower lats. (And they won’t skimp on your shoulders, arms and legs, either!)
Whether you’re running miles or doing deadlifts, engaging your core is the foundation for most workouts, after all. “Your core provides balance, stability and power in any workout as well as in daily activity,” Theodore says. Do these planks in one continuous flow, and you’ve got yourself a true ab burner that’ll also make you break a sweat. “Being aware of proper plank form and building core strength will allow you to reap the benefits of the dynamic movement, as you will be able to move faster and more fluidly,” Theodore adds.
TRY IT NOW: Daily Burn’s DB10 Program
5 Plank Exercises for a 10-Minute Ab Workout
As with all of our DB10 workouts, aim to complete as many rounds as possible of the following exercises/reps in 10 minutes. When you move continuously through each exercise at a quickened pace, you’ll ramp up your heart rate and burn more calories. For the ultimate core finisher, we hold a side plank for 30 seconds.
1. Plank to Push-Up to Inchworm
How to: Get into a high plank position with your hands shoulder-distance apart and your shoulders directly in line with your hands beneath them. Engage your abdominals to avoid arching your back and lowering your hips (a). Perform two push-ups, letting your elbows flare slightly out to your sides at about 45 degrees. Squeeze your glutes and core throughout the entire movement, and maintain a straight line from head to toes (b). Walk your hands back towards your feet and come up to stand (c). Hop your feet forward and then hop them back out to a high plank. This is one rep (d). Do five reps.
2. Push-Up to Plank Jack
How to: Get into a push-up position with your hands shoulder-distance apart and your shoulders directly in line with your hands. Squeezing your glutes and core, lower your body down to the ground and press it back up. This is one push-up. Do one more (a). Next, bring your feet together and do four plank jacks, jumping your feet wide to each side and then hopping them back together. Avoid raising your butt (d). Do six reps.
3. Plank-Up with Diagonal Hops
How to: From the high plank position, bring your right elbow down to the floor and then your left elbow down to the floor for a forearm plank (a). Get back into a high plank by lifting your right forearm up and then your left forearm (b). Next, bring your feet together in a high plank and hop them diagonally to your right side. Hop them back out to high plank before hopping them diagonally to your left side (c). Do five reps.
GIVE ME ACCESS: Daily Burn’s DB10 Program
4. Push-Up to Plank Punch
How to: Get into a push-up position with your hands shoulder-distance apart and your shoulders directly in line with your hands. You can keep your feet a little wider apart to help you stabilize when doing the plank punch (a). Lower your body down to the ground, keeping your body in alignment and your elbows flaring slightly out to your sides (b). As you press back up, make a fist with your right hand and punch it out in front of you (c). Perform another push-up before making a fist with your left hand and punching it out (d). Do six reps.
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5. Side Planks
How to: Lie on your right side and place your right forearm on the ground. Engaging your core, raise your body up into a side plank, creating a straight line from your head to your toes (a). If you can, raise your left hand up towards the ceiling, gazing toward your hand. If you can’t, keep your left hand resting on your left hip (b). Hold the plank for 40 seconds and rest 20 seconds before switching sides.