Laura Doss/Fitness MagazineBy Melissa Daly
Expert solutions for nagging fitness obstacles so you can finally get fitter, faster, stronger.
Related: How to Do a Yoga Headstand, a Pull-Up and More
How to Choose and Anchor a Resistance Band
A piece of stretchy rubber seems like simple enough equipment. But then, how stretchy is too stretchy? And where in your house are you supposed to tie the thing? Kit Rich, a Los Angeles-based celebrity Pilates instructor, clears up the confusion: If you're new to exercise, choose the lightest band to start, usually the equivalent of a three-pound dumbbell. If you already work out, go with the next level, five to seven pounds of resistance. (Bands are typically color coded. Try the GoFit Power Loops kit to get three levels of resistance; $15, gofit.com.) "To increase the resistance of any band, just shorten it, by holding it closer to where it's anchored," Rich adds. Depending on the exercise, you can anchor the band under your feet or tie it around a doorknob, a sofa leg, or a bedpost. Center the band before tying it to create two ends; tie it closer to one end for a single strap. Avoid placing it beneath a heavy object or closing it in the door itself, where it could slip or rip, Rich says, unless you are using a door anchor made for this purpose, like the Thera-Band Door Anchor ($5, amazon.com).
How to Use the Split Function on Your Sports Watch
If you haven't learned just yet what all those buttons on your new toy do, this is one you'll want to get acquainted with. "Splits can help a runner maintain an even effort, which is usually the most successful race tactic," says Ian Torrence, head coach of ultrarunning for the McMillan Running Company in Flagstaff, Arizona. The term simply refers to the time it takes you to run a certain portion of your total distance. On your next outing, break your route into four equal parts; start the stopwatch as usual, then hit the "split" button. When you reach each quarter mark, press the button again; the watch will record the time elapsed between presses. If your last two splits are slower than your first two, rather than equal to or faster than, you'll know to take it easier at the beginning next time out.
Related: Get Fitter, Firmer, Faster! 18 Fitness Shortcuts
How to Put On a Swim Cap Without Pulling Your Hair
It's a double-edged sword: By trying to protect your locks from chlorine, you end up yanking out a strand or two each time you suit up. There is a method that will keep your mane intact and not looking like an abnormal growth under your cap, says Kathleen Donoghue, product manager for Speedo swim caps. First, sweep long hair back into a low, loose ponytail at the nape of your neck. It can be wet, dry, or coated in conditioner -- whatever your personal preference -- but the cap should be dry, Donoghue advises. Put both hands into the cap and spread your fingers as if you were playing cat's cradle. Bring the cap up to your face, catch the front edge on your forehead just above your eyebrows, and pull the cap up over your head. Slide your hands out and adjust the cap so it's smooth and where you want it. Make sure the seam of the cap runs down the center of your head from front to back. Then split your ponytail into two sections and tuck them up under the cap on either side of your head, distributing the hair as evenly as you can to prevent lumps. Voila! To peel the cap off, grip it on both sides by your ears and pull up with both hands at the same time.
How to Pop a Running Blister
Feeling the burn can be a good thing, but not so much when it's on your feet. "Adding mileage often brings on blisters," says Megan Leahy, a podiatrist at the Illinois Bone & Joint Institute in Chicago. "If they're not affecting your walk or run, leave them alone. Otherwise, so long as you don't have any health or circulation problems, drain them." Sterilize a needle with rubbing alcohol; then hold it horizontally at the side of the blister and make one or two holes in the skin. "Coming in from the side is less likely to injure the underlying tissue, and leaving the roof of the blister intact speeds healing," Leahy says. Press on it lightly to empty the fluid. Wash the area with water infused with Epsom salts (one cup for a footbath of lukewarm water; two cups for a whole bathtub): This helps the blister drain even more. Next, let it air-dry before applying antibiotic ointment and a fabric bandage, which will breathe better than a plastic one. Don't let the adhesive touch the open areas of the blister. For extra padding during a run, use bandages made especially for blisters, such as Band-Aid Advanced Healing Blister bandages ($5, cvs.com), and air the blister out for a few hours post-run to help it dry up.
How to Wear Spandex Without a Muffin Top
Stretchy pants are the ultimate frenemy: so comfy and accommodating that you never want to take them off -- until you realize they're stabbing you in the back fat. FITNESS fashion director Argy Koutsothanasis offers these tips for making them more wearable.
Check labels. Pants material with just 2 percent spandex is the most flattering, since it's not quite as snug as those that are more stretchable.
Go wide. "Thin waistbands can cut into your belly, making you look like a cinched sack," Koutsothanasis says. Choose a wider one that sits an inch or two below your natural waist and an inch above your hip bone. Try Nux Textured capris ($43, nuxusa.com).
Top it off. Hide any lumpiness where the pants end by wearing a tank that's formfitting in the bust and has an A-line shape or Empire waist that makes it flow out from the body. Draw the eye up with a pop of contrasting colors in your tank and sports bra. We like Champion's Seamless Empire Long Top ($36, championusa.com). "Avoid the oversize tee at all costs!" Koutsothanasis says. "It adds bulk, not camouflage!"
Related: No Sweats: Cute Workout Clothes for Every Body Type
How to Get Rid of a Side Stitch
What causes that sudden sensation mid-run, as though you'd been jabbed in the gut? "I'm about 99 percent sure that stitches are caused by friction between your organs and the membrane separating them from the abdominal muscles," says Darren Morton, PhD, a physiologist at Avondale College in Australia, who's conducted extensive research on the topic. "Since the trigger is just now being nailed down, studies have yet to focus on treatment, so aim for prevention." Dehydration or a full stomach makes internal friction more likely, so drink plenty of H2O in the hours leading up to a workout, less just before, and smaller amounts regularly during long sessions, Morton advises. If you're struck by a stitch nonetheless, try one of these kitchen-science tricks until a proven cure is concocted:
1. Slow down, bend forward at the waist, and gently press inward and upward on the painful spot with your hand.
2. Exhale through pursed lips.
3. Clench your abs as though you were about to be hit.
4. Switch up your breathing pattern so that you're inhaling and exhaling on different feet than before.
5. If it's too painful to go on, stop and stretch that side of your abs by bending to the opposite side.
More from FITNESS Magazine:
5 Crunch-Free Ab Exercises
8 Guilt-Free Pie Recipes for Fall
10 Strategies to Keep Fat Off for Good
Laura Doss/Fitness MagazineBy Melissa Daly