Kettlebells. They are odd shaped, intriguing, and a mystery to many. They also happen to be my absolute favorite tool for fitness. The reasons for this are many, and we will dig into this in detail in hopes that you will also grow to appreciate this amazing fitness tool in your own life (if you don't already).
1) Easy access: Kettlebells are easily accessible, compact and portable. You don't need to have a gym membership to own your own kettlebell and use it anywhere you please. So there really is no excuse here for not being able to workout anywhere. Use it in your house, your backyard, or even take it on vacation with you. Totally doable. :)
2) Quick workouts: You can get a great workout in within a very short amount of time. It doesn't have to take long. Combining the right exercises with the right weight kettlebell for you can give you an amazing workout in even as little as 10-15 minutes. Swinging a kettlebell can burn up to 20 calories a minute - so that's 300 calories in only 15 minutes. This is awesome! Nurses don't have a lot of time to workout, so this is a huge plus. Get it done!
3) Combines cardio and strength: Kettlebells provide a great cardio workout along with strength building as well. You can get your heart rate sky high for a great cardio effect and also build lean muscle with controlling the weight during any given exercise. Killing two birds with one stone. That's what I'm talking about. Who has time for more? Also, the ballistic but nonimpact nature of kettlebell work can strengthen rather than damage joints that can happen with certain repetitive cardio workouts.
4) Uses your entire kinetic chain: With kettlebell work, you are using your entire kinetic chain which makes these workouts total body. When you are able to do this, you are making everyday activities easier for yourself. Kettlebell work uses fundamental movement patterns that will help you in every day life. Who doesn't want that? I want to move well, prevent injury, and make my life easier.
5) Recruit more stabilizer muscles: These workouts will recruit more stabilizer muscles than just using dumbbells with muscle isolation movements. This will better your balance and stability in your everyday movements. While muscle isolation alone can build muscle, your missing out on the added benefits of kettlebells if that's all you're doing. Just try some Turkish get ups and see what I'm talking about!
6) Flexibility and mobility: Kettlebell work is amazing for improving flexibility and mobility. It has been referred to by some as "yoga with weights"! You can greatly improve your flexibility with kettlebells without the need for holding any long poses. Hips tight? Shoulders tight? Certain kettlebell workouts can be amazing for improving overall mobility, especially in these areas.
7) Develop core strength: Your core is the foundation of all your movements. When you have a strong core, you will perform everything better (including lifting patients, equipment, or any movements necessary at work). Because of the unique shape of kettlebells where the center of gravity is not in the center, you need to work harder to keep it stable with using your core and glutes. This is a great way to get a strong core without ever doing one situp. Ever.
8) Help lower back pain: Low back pain is a very common problem for many, especially among nurses. Much of this, however, is due to a lack of core strength and poor posture (which kettlebells will greatly help!). That being said, kettlebells will NOT fix a back injury. If your back pain is from some kind of injury, you must be sure to check with your doctor first before doing any exercise.
9) Safe for any age: Some people think that kettlebells are not safe for older adults. This could not be further from the truth. If taught correctly, kettlebells are extremely safe and effective for people of any age. I would even say they are one of the BEST choices for older adults! All of us need to improve strength, get in some cardio, and improve our overall mobility.
10) Fun workouts without boredom! The possibilities are endless with kettlebell workouts. There are so many ways to combine execises and change things up on a daily basis, you can never be bored.
I hope this has at least gotten your attention and increased your interest in trying out kettlebells for yourself. Be sure you learn how to correctly use a kettlebell first, and start with basic exercises like the swing and Turkish get up to get your form down. Practice, practice, practice! Endless possibilities await you.
Eggs. Love 'em. Pretty much one of the most perfect foods you can eat. Easy to make, cheap, packed with protein and nutrients, portable, satisfying, and just plain delicious. And how sad that over the years they have suffered a horrible reputation for causing high cholesterol and heart attacks. Shame on wrongful blame!!! Causing people to fear eggs has brought more and more reasons for eating bagels, toast, cereals, muffins, and a whole host of other options much worse for you at breakfast time. This was certainly not helpful for anyone's health, in fact most likely added to heart disease and other issues. The research is plentiful, and quite clear in the fact that there is actually no reason to fear eggs whatsoever. I personally eat 2-3 eggs almost every morning, and I feel much better than I ever used to after eating all those supposed "low fat and low cholesterol" foods like bagels, etc, that just left me feeling bloated and with horrible brain fog half way through the day. Not to mention, my cholesterol profile is excellent.
And for anyone out there who is throwing away the yolks and just eating egg whites to be "healthier", STOP! The yolk actually holds almost all the vitamins and minerals in the egg, while the egg whites alone are basically just protein. Don't miss out on all that good stuff! Many people do not get enough choline in their diet (important for brain function, nerve function, muscle movement and maintaining a healthy metabolism), and egg yolks are one of the best sources of this macronutrient. Along with vitamins A, D, E, B6, B12 and many more nutrients, egg yolks also contain antioxidants like carotenoids, which give the yolks their yellow color. Eggs from free range chickens will have a lot more carotenoids than factory farm eggs because of their ability to forage outside, and this is why the yolks of free range eggs have such a richer, deeper color to them. We actually have our own backyard chickens that we let roam around our yard every day, and I will say honestly that you just can't beat the taste, freshness and quality of those eggs. Whenever possible, get farm fresh eggs, or maybe you want to get your own chickens! You won't be disappointed.
So next time you're wondering what to eat for breakfast, "egg" yourself on to the best way to start your day. Fry 'em, scramble 'em, make an omelette, sunny side up, over easy, poached, hard boiled... and the options never end, so you can't possibly get bored. Enjoy!
Nurses are strong people. We work hard, give until we have no more, and most always put others first. We take a lot on a daily basis, and try not to let it beat us down. Us "caretaker" types are all about making sure everyone else's needs come before our own. STOP! While it's great to be caring, you actually matter too. Sometimes it is hard to see and realize this when life is busy and there's just so much to be done. Caring for those at home, and caring for patients at work. But what happens when we put our own needs and well being on the back burner ALL the time? We become no good... to anyone. Little by little, day by day, we fall apart physically and emotionally until there is nothing left to give. This is a dangerous trap to fall into, and it's time to stop the vicious cycle.
Take a moment to think of what it would feel like to invest in your own health and well being in a way that would make you feel great, value yourself, and maybe even encourage those around you to do the same. Might you have a little more stamina to tackle life every day? What if it could be better? If you are one of those people always leaving yourself last, it can be better. Much better. Let's face it, as nurses we see sick people every day. We see sad scenarios, preventable diseases, and painful situations all the time. We care for these people, and it's great that we do. But if we're not doing anything to help prevent these situations from becoming a reality in our own lives, then we are doing ourselves a huge disservice. If we allow our bodies to be beat down, overweight, stressed out and unhealthy, we will sooner rather than later be of no help to anyone, including ourselves. Not to mention, we could possibly even end up IN the hospital bed rather than beside it. You deserve better.
Do you want to rely on healthcare to "fix" you when things go wrong? Or would you rather stay out of the whole mess by taking care of yourself in ways that you know can prevent so many problems in the first place? We know what goes on. We know what's involved in healthcare. I don't know about you, but I would rather stay far away from it in every way possible by living a life that will help me avoid all of that. Of course unforeseen things can occur in anyone's life, but I am talking about living a healthy lifestyle to avoid the things that we KNOW are preventable. There is so much that can be avoided.... and I'm all for that. Let's enjoy a well lived life and feel good while we're at it. Then we can care for others with a whole new perspective!
Nurses move a lot, and sometimes in ways that are not always comfortable or easy. So when it comes to exercise, it is so important to do things that will help your overall movements in every day life so that you can continue to move well and prevent injury, especially on the job. While it's great to have all kinds of goals, like lose 10 pounds, fit into a certain dress, build muscle, etc... we need to make sure we are not compromising our everyday movements by the ways in which we try to attain these goals. With the retirement age getting older and older, we need to make sure we can continue in our jobs for as long as we need to! By only using isolation machines at the gym, sticking to the same cardio routine every day (example: only using the elliptical or running 7 days per week), or by ignoring basic movements that are necessary to help prevent injury, we can set ourselves up for disaster. That being said, the exercises we choose to do need to be safe and effective, not risky or making us prone to long term pain, tightness, or injury. And yes, you can still reach your goals!
By including the basic primal movements into our exercise routines, we can make sure we are not ignoring important exercises that will help maintain our overall functional fitness. These movements include exercises that involve squats, lunges, pushing, pulling, twisting and bending. Nurses do a lot of that stuff! These can be done using body weight alone, or eventually with added resistance. By practicing these movements safely in a controlled way while building up strength, endurance, and flexibility in these movements, we are helping prolong our ability to safely do our job (and enjoy living our lives!). I don't know about you, but I sure know that I have been caught in many situations at work when you have to move fast to catch a patient who may be falling, twisting while lifting and moving heavy equipment, squatting down to measure some kind of drainage output, pushing a stretcher or bed, and the list goes on. Working out in a way that helps strengthen and better you in these movements is key. It will make everything so much easier!
Terri Wentzell is a registered nurse with more than 20 years of experience. She is also a certified personal trainer, wellness coach, fitness nutrition coach, and sport yoga instructor.