31 Day Abs Challenge: Week 5 Plan & Notes

Ok, people!  Last week of my January 31 Day Ab Challenge.  How are you feeling?  Who is still with me at the end of five weeks?  Like Week 1, this is somewhat of a short week to wrap things up.  Let’s finish strong, yes?!

January 2013 31 Day Ab Challenge

Sunday 1/27:  Sunday Circuit

The Sunday Circuit usually plays off of my Saturday Core Strength Tip.  Yesterday’s tip was to push yourself and get out of your comfort zone.  That being said, this week’s Sunday Circuit will be just that.

Sunday Circuit Week 5

Jumping jacks until fatigue
To push yourself harder than a regular jumping jack, try crossing your feet one in front of the other as you jack , or jumping your feet out by bringing your knees up first.

15 pushups
To push yourself harder than you would in a regular pushup, try doing them with one leg lifted, with your elbows back, by bringing one knee to the side for a spiderman pushup, making a diamond with your hands, or staggering your arms.

Mountain climbers until fatigue
To push yourself harder, bring the knees in even faster or try driving the knees to the opposite shoulders instead of into the chest.

20 Full Situps
Because I’ve only had you doing crunches, crunch pulses, or butterfly situps so far.

Monday 1/28:  Monday Morning Ab Burner

Do the following moves when you get out of bed on Monday morning!

Monday Morning Ab Burner Week 5

For a reminder on how to do burpees, click here.

For a reminder on how to do your ab ladder, see the notes from Week 2!!

Ab Ladder Series 1

Ab Ladder Series 2

Tuesday 1/29:  Plank for Time

This will be your second to last timed plank!  Hold an elbow plank for as long as you can, trying to beat last week’s time.  Has anyone reached their goal yet??  If so, let’s start making it more difficult!  Try planking on a stability ball, bosu trainer, core board, or another unstable surface.  Otherwise, set a new goal and shoot for the new goal.  Don’t just stop once you’ve reached your first benchmark.  There are ALWAYS ways to improve.

Stability Ball Plank

Wednesday 1/30:  V-Sits Before Bed

For your pre-snooze core work on Wednesday, do as many V-Sits as you can until fatigue!  Start lying on the floor with your legs extended out in front of you and your arms either by your sides or extended overhead on the floor.  Lift yourself up so that you are either..

Here (beginner):

Beginner V-Ups

Here (Intermediate):

Intermediate V-Ups

or here (advanced):


Thursday 1/31:  Tabata Thursday AND Plank for Time

Today is the last day!  First, time one final elbow plank so you can see where you ended up at the end of the challenge in terms of your plank times.  Then finish strong with one last Tabata Thursday.  This Tabata is going to be a TRUE Tabata, where you do the same move for the four minutes.  That move is going to be plank jacks! plank jacks

Do these for 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off… 8 times… for that total of four minutes.  Note:  You don’t have to do your final timed plank AND the plank jacks immediately after another.

And there you have it!  Our last week.  🙂

Any questions, let me know.  Enjoy, and good luck!

Hip Hip Hooray

Last summer I went through a little rough patch with my hips.  My right hip was extremely tight, and it hurt during any type of exercise I would do.  Turns out I had a slight case of hip bursitis (I’d hate to know what a worse case feels like?), and basically without going into all the science behind it, I was experiencing a lot of pain and stiffness around my right hip joint.  I specifically remember the Tuesday night Kickboxing class I was in when I thought to myself “uh oh” because I could barely lift my knee to hip level.  For the next month or so, I had to really modify my workouts because I would feel pain in my hip flexor (front of the hip), down my IT band (side), and in my glutes (bum) too.  I ended up going to physical therapy a few times, and my physical therapist said that the bursitis could have been caused by strain from overuse, but that it also seemed like my gluteus medius was really weak and causing a slight imbalance as well.  The imbalance was then in turn causing my IT band to rub against the hip joint in ways it definitely shouldn’t have, which was causing my pain.

Sounds fun, right?!

my hips don't lie


Sidenote for anyone in the Boston area who ever needs a physical therapist:  Erin at Boston Sports Medicine in Allston is AMAZING.  She has corrected both my shoulder and hip imbalances over the last couple years.  She truly took the time to listen to my issues and never rushed me  through the exercises just to get to her next patient.  She also not only took the time to answer my questions, but put in the effort to answer them intelligently and with MY goals in mind.  Whenever I have to go to PT, I have a LOT of questions.  Most of them involve how I can still remain active (safely) while managing an injury.  Saying “you have to completely stop what you are doing” is just NOT an option for me.  I always appreciated the modifications and alternative suggestions Erin had for me.

Anyways, along with the exercises from this post that helped strengthen my gluteus medius back up, Erin introduced me to a TON of hip stretches that I wasn’t doing on a regular basis.  She had me go through them on both sides of my body, and then again an extra time on the right in attempts to “even things out.”  And I quickly found that they really worked.  Now I make hip stretching (along with foam rolling) a priority, so I can take all necessary steps to prevent my hip from acting up again.  And sometimes it feels tight, but when that happens I stretch a little extra, and usually I’m all set.

I remember when I was going through my hip issues I would get a lot of questions from people on what they could do for tight hips.  If that was you, here you go!  I wanted to share some of my favorite hip stretches with you guys!  Some of you may recognize this series as part of my typical cool down in my classes.

My Favorite Hip Stretches

Note – When stretching, you want to feel only a mild discomfort, never pain!  Hold for somewhere between 10-30 seconds.  The pictures below show the stretches on the right side only, make sure to reverse and do on the left to keep balanced.

Lying Hamstring Stretch
– Lying flat on the floor, place one foot flat on the ground.
– Pull the opposite leg in toward you until you feel a stretch down the back of your leg. 

Hamstring Hip Stretch


Knee and Foot Pull In
– Take the leg that was just in the hamstring stretch, and bend at the knee.  Keep the opposite foot flat on the floor still.
– Gently press the knee forward with your hand as you gently pull the foot in toward you.

Knee & Foot Pull In Stretch


Lying Figure 4 Stretch
– Take the foot that was flat on the floor in the previous exercise, and pull it in toward you so it meets the opposite ankle.
– Gently pull
your thigh in until you feel the stretch in the opposite glute.  This one can also be done seated, by crossing the legs in the same way and leaning forward.

Lying Figure Four Stretch


Lying Crossover IT Band Stretch
– Still lying on the ground, extend one leg flat on the floor.
– Gently grab the opposite leg (the one you’ve been stretching through the previous exercises).  Make sure you grab onto the outside of the leg somewhere that isn’t too difficult for you to reach.
– Gently pull the leg so it crosses your body, but don’t cross it all the way over.  This is a great one for your IT band, and you should feel the stretch down the side of your thigh.

Lying Crossover IT Band Stretch


Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
– Start kneeling on two knees, then place one foot flat on the floor in front of you.
– Lean forward so that you are pressing the top of your thigh (of the leg on the floor) forward.  You should feel a gentle stretch in the front of your kneeling leg.  That is your hip flexor.  Make sure not to extend the front knee over the toe, keep it over the ankle.

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch


Butterfly Stretch
– From a seated position, bring your feet together so the insides of your feet touch.
– Lean forward so you feel a slight stretch in your inner thighs.  You can use your elbows to press down gently on your knees.

Butterfly Stretch


Pigeon Pose
– Start by having your hands and feet on the ground with your hips in the air. 
– Slide your foot forward so it is in between your hands, then inch your foot toward the other direction.  So if it is your right foot, inch it toward the left so your right knee falls to your right.
– Extend your other leg behind you so your shin and top of the foot are on the ground.  Keep your shoulders square.  You can either stay as I am in the picture below, or lift your chest so your sternum is looking up to the ceiling.
– Note this is a more advanced stretch.  You can modify by doing the same on a raised surface, such as a bed or table top that lines up well with your hip.

Pigeon Pose

Some other hip stretches/openers that I love but don’t do regularly are wide squat, happy baby, standing IT band stretch, and seated glute stretch.

Disclaimer:  While I am a certified personal trainer and fitness instructor, please make sure you check with a doctor before starting any kind of new exercise or stretching program. 

Have any of you had any hip problems before?  Or get tight hips during or after certain kinds of exercise?  What’s your favorite way to stretch your hips?

PS.  Hope you’ve kept up with this week’s ab challenge!  Did you do your obliques last night before bed?  Don’t forget that today is Tabata Thursday!

Week 3 Tabata Thursday

Catch you later!

31 Day Abs Challenge: Week 2 Plan & Notes

For all you ab-tastic followers, here you go!  Links to the week’s various exercises and instructions are below.  They won’t be posted again throughout the week (just the reminders) so you’ll have to come back to this post if you need to reference any of the notes again.

January 2013 31 Day Ab Challenge

Sunday 1/6:  Sunday Circuit

The first Sunday Circuit of the series!  These will take a little longer than the other challenges have, but they are good, and don’t need any equipment.

31 Day Abs Challenge Sunday Circuit Week 2


1.  Side Lunge to Knee Lift – After bringing your body down into a side lunge (keep knees and toes forward), take the leg that’s extended out and lift that knee up in front of you.  This is a good exercise for working on balance, which you need core strength for.  If you have dumbbells, you could hold them if you want, but doing without is fine for the challenge.

Side Lunge and Knee Lift

2.  Plank with leg lifts — Do these as a straight-arm plank instead of elbow.  Take turn lifting each foot off the ground for a few seconds at a time, again trying to work on balance.

Plank with leg lift

3.  Lunge with rotation – Step forward into a lunge, twist your torso toward the direction of whichever leg is in front, bring yourself back to center, and step back to starting position.  If you have a dumbbell for these, feel free to hold.

lunge and rotation

4.  Side Planks — Beginners, keep your knee down.  Intermediate, balance on your feet.  Advanced, balance on one foot.  Your choice here — either hold for as long as you can on each side (keep bottom of hip lifted!) OR do the prescribed reps of hip raises (drop hip down and lift back up) on each side.  Wherever you are, the hand on the ground should be directly beneath your shoulder.

Side Planks

5.  Glute Bridge March – Bring body into a bridge, and take turns “marching” each knee toward you – while keeping your hips lifted.

glute march

6.  Finally, finish with reverse crunches – a very small crunch (lifting up) as you lay face down, for your lower back.  These you can’t do on “each side” so just do 10, 12, or 15 in the center.  Careful not to jerk your back as you raise yourself up.

Reverse Crunch

Monday 1/7:  Morning Ab Burner

Get yourself energized for the day and the week ahead with the first Monday Morning Ab Burner.  Five minutes or less!!

Monday Morning Ab Burner Week 2


  • Jumping jacks:  Do as many jumping jacks as you can in 60 seconds.  If you need a lower impact option, just tap one heel out to the side at a time instead of doing the full jumping jack.  You can still count how many taps you do.
  • Bicycle crunches:  Do 3 sets of 10 reps.  Note that 1 rep equals right knee then left knee in <— that’s not two reps.
  • Timed 6 inch hold:  See how long you can hold yourself in the position I’m holding below.  You can place your hands under your butt, then lift your upper back off the floor.  Lift your feet no more than 6 inches off the ground (legs shouldn’t be high at all) and then look at your feet and breathe as you hold yourself there.

6 inch hold

Tuesday 1/8:  Plank for Time

Timed Elbow Plank

Hold an elbow plank for as long as you can, trying to beat last week’s time!

Wednesday 1/9:  Ab Ladder Before Bed

Do an Ab Ladder series before you go to bed on Wednesday night:

Ab Ladder Series 1

Ab Ladder Series 2

  1. Start lying on your back, legs extended out straight in front of you with feet flexed.  If you prefer to keep your elbows in for this exercise only, that is okay.  Otherwise, keep your elbows out.  Lift your upper back off the floor and look at your feet.  This is your low point.  Do 20 mini crunch pulses in this position.  Note that this is a small movement, NOT a full crunch.  You never bring your back down to the ground with this one.
  2.  After 20 mini crunch pulses with legs extended on the ground, bring your feet flat on the floor and do 20 more mini crunch pulses.
  3. After 20 mini crunch pulses with feet flat on the floor, lift your feet off the ground, keeping your knees over your hips.  Do 20 mini crunch pulses here.
  4. Then straighten your knees so feet are over your hips and legs are straight.  Do 20 mini crunch pulses here.  This is the top of your ladder.
  5. Start working your way back down!  Bend the knees – 20 more mini crunch pulses.
  6. Feet flat on the ground again – 20 more mini crunch pulses.
  7. Finish strong with the last 20 mini crunch pulses with legs out, just like you started with.

A lot of directions, but it shouldn’t be hard to follow.  If you don’t feel your abs hurting by the end, do it again.  😉

Thursday 1/10:  Tabata Thursday

Four minutes!  This week we will only do two moves as opposed to the four from last week’s.

Week 2 Tabata Thursday


  • Plank jacks:  A jumping jack, but in a plank position.  Modification – tap your feet out to the side one at a time instead of doing the full jack.
  • Butterfly Situp:  If this move bothers your tailbone, modify with a regular situp instead.

Friday 1/11:  Focus On Chest

On Friday I want you to take a break from focusing on your abs, and do an exercise that focuses on your chest instead.  We’re doing pushups, people!  All you have to do is take one minute out of your day, and do as many pushups as you can in 60 seconds.  These can be done on either your feet or your knees, but stay consistent in whichever you pick.  Please rest as needed during the minute (you will need to!), but make sure to count all pushups you are able to complete with good form.

Saturday 1/12:  Rest and Read 

Stay tuned for my second core strength tip, and rest up those abs for week #3.

Have you been enjoying the 31 Days of Abs Challenge so far?  Are you feeling more motivated?  Feedback welcome!  Don’t forget to “check in” on the blog or on my Facebook page to get your entries into a prize drawing at the end of the challenge.

Keep on rocking!