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4 ways to rescue your cardio from boredom

Mountain biking

Maybe you've already escaped the gym for an occasional walk around the neighborhood, a run or bike ride on the streets, or a swim in the pool. But you can get even further away from the gym—in mind, body and spirit—by spending some serious cardio time where the air is pure and unfiltered. More important, you'll blaze more calories, improve your overall strength and balance, and hang on to your sanity.

"The time goes by faster in a natural setting because your senses are bombarded by so much stimulation," says Denver-based Charlie Hugo, personal trainer at the Athletic Club at Denver Place.

Hugo knows a thing or two about the fitness perks of exercising outdoors, having completed two 100-mile mountain-bike races and countless trail runs in the Rockies while training for Ironman-distance triathlons. "One major benefit," he adds, "is that you burn more calories because of the increased muscle recruitment demanded by the varied terrain."

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We're not advocating a total cardio shakeup. We're suggesting only that you change venues, not activities:

- If you walk or run the treadmill, you can take a break from the machine and hike or run trails.
- If you climb simulated hills on a stationary bike, you can wheeze up real ones on a mountain bike.
- If you're a lap swimmer, you can stop counting and start stroking along the shoreline.

In each case, you'll enjoy sunshine, fresh air, and vistas far more interesting than the talking heads on CNN.

[RELATED2]

Mountain biking

Why outside? "The uphills and downhills of mountain biking—and the wind gusts that come at you from different directions—combine to enhance calorie burn, core strengthening and balance," says personal trainer Charlie Hugo. "Just think of all the muscles you use, for example, to shift your weight around a hairpin turn." Wouldn't you rather roll down a shady trail than pedal in place in a gym?

Muscles worked: Major: Hams, quads, calves, glutes, hip flexors. Minor: Abs, chest, delts, trapezius.

Calories burned: 410-550 per hour

Eqipment & apparel: Durable, off-road-ready mountain bikes with front suspension (to absorb shock) start at $300. A helmet, mountain-bike shoes, padded bike shorts and bike gloves total another $150 to $200. Take water, sunscreen, sunglasses, a trail map and a cell phone.

Best places: Many county, regional and state parks are laced with dirt roads and trails; call the park to request a trail map and ask if all trails are open to bikes. At vacation areas, rent a mountain bike and ask the shop proprietor where to ride. Or visit www.trails.com.

Practical tip: At home, practice riding around obstacles and over curbs so you'll be ready for tight turns and big rocks on the trail.

Just for kicks: Try a different trail route each time to keep your rides fresh and adventurous.

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Hiking

Why outside? Unlike treadmill walks, trail hikes feature ever-changing terrain and surfaces. The result is improved balance and greater fat burning than you'll get treadmill trudging. The scenery is a bonus.

Muscles worked: Major: Hams, quads, calves, glutes, hip flexors. Minor: Abs, chest, delts, trapezius.

Calories burned: 480-640 (2mph)

Eqipment & apparel: You'll need running shoes or hiking boots, water, sunscreen and a trail map. More good ideas: a day pack, snacks, hat, sunglasses, camera, cell phone, mosquito repellent, poncho.

Best places: The best trails offer variety in terrain, footing, flora, and fauna. You can probably find some fine day-hike paths in county, regional or state parks within an hour's drive of your home. Locally or in advance of a summer trip, contact visitor's bureaus or parks, or log on to www.trails.com.

Practical tip: To add chest and triceps work, hike with a pair of walking sticks (or a sturdy branch) and use them like ski poles. To add low-back work, even on short hikes, wear a packed backpack.

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Trail running

Why outside? The benefits of trail running, compared to treadmill or street running, include enhanced balance, coordination and core strength; increased fat and calorie burn; and an end to boredom.

Muscles worked: Major: Hams, quads, calves, glutes, hip flexors. Minor: Abs, low back.

Calories burned: 650-870 at 6 mph (10-minute-mile pace)

Eqipment & apparel: Wear a trail-running shoe, or any running shoe with high-traction soles. Apply sunscreen, wear sunglasses and carry water. Consider taking a cell phone if you'll be in an unfamiliar or remote area, and pop an energy bar and trail map into a fanny pack.

Best places: The objective is a shaded, single-track trail—not too hilly or you'll wear out too soon. To find one, ask local runners or running-shop employees, or check www.trails.com, or the U.S. Trail Running Conference.

Practical tip: Pump up the effort of your trail run with "speed play." On smooth stretches of trail, pick a tree and accelerate until you get there. Jog a bit, then do it again. Even a few short spurts will increase calorie burn.

Just for kicks: Try to finish your run near a body of water. Afterward, dive in or immerse yourself groin-deep for a few minutes. It's invigorating, and like icing, it has an anti-inflammatory effect that dispels soreness.

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Open-water swimming

Why outside? Tired of sharing a narrow lane for endless laps? Sick of chlorine? End these annoyances by heading for open water. Lake and ocean swimming demand a higher, more vigorous stroke than pool swimming and engage more muscles to stabilize your stroke against buffeting waves.

Muscles worked: Triceps, lats, delts, trapezius.

Calories burned: 500-690

Eqipment & apparel: A swimsuit, a brightly colored swim cap and sunscreen are all you need. Goggles will help you see where you're going.

Best places: The best swimming venue is a small lake. The hazards of ocean swimming—currents, rip tides, even sharks—make the sea a higher-risk option. If possible, swim where lifeguards are present, and ask them about conditions before jumping in.

Practical tip: Periodically swim with your head up, looking forward, for up to 20 strokes. Called the "lifeguard swim," this will strengthen your trapezius, keep you on course, and ensure you won't collide with a sailboat.

Just for kicks: If possible, swim with a friend—it's safer and more fun. If you must go it alone, swim parallel and close to the shore.



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3 tips for strengthening your arms, chest, abs, hips, and shoulders

Chinup

As much as you tell people that you go to the gym to stay young, feel great, and keep your blood pressure in check, you're not kidding anybody-you want to get laid as much as is humanly possible, and you've noticed that guys who sport bodies carved out of granite do pretty well for themselves in that department. We've noticed, too. That's why we put together a master plan for pumping up all the trophy muscles you love to show off­ and the ladies love to look at. Use the following as a guide to bigger arms, a buff­er chest, chiseled abs, toned hips, and broader shoulders. Fortunately, taking our workout advice will also improve your health along the way, but it's your sex life that will be in the best shape ever.

[RELATED1]

Arms

Master the chinup: It's the best arm-building exercise there is, bar none. What's that about curls? Curl exercises have their place, but chinups allow you to lift more weight (think about it: a 40-pound dumbbell vs. your whole body)—and lifting more is the greatest contributor to muscle gains. To build bigger biceps, perform some variation of the chinup at least once per week. We like this one: Drape a towel over the bar and grab an end in each hand. Hang so that your palms face each other. Now pull yourself up as normal. The towel makes for a greater challenge to your gripping muscles, which will spur growth in your forearms as well as your biceps.

Tuck your elbows: When you bench press, take a narrow grip (so that your hands are about shoulder-width apart) and pull your elbows in close to your sides—as opposed to letting them point straight out away from your body. Keeping this tighter position will allow your triceps to take on more of the load, and that emphasis will make them grow. You'll also be in a biomechanically stronger position, which means you can lift more weight.

Keep constant tension: Everyone does lying triceps extensions to isolate the tris, but almost no one gets the full benefit from the exercise. Start with the bar directly over your forehead when your arms are extended, rather than directly over your chest as most lifters do. Maintain the position as you lower the bar behind your head for your reps. Keep your arms at this angle to your body to force your triceps to fully engage throughout the exercise; the other version allows the bones of your arms to bear the weight in the up position (denying your muscles their rightful load).

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Chest

Be eccentric: Most chest exercises emphasize only the concentric contraction of your pecs (when the muscles shorten, as in pushing up in a bench press). But you can achieve greater growth by focusing on the eccentric contraction (the point of a rep in which your muscles lengthen) combined with a powerful concentric action immediately afterward. Use the power pushup. Set up two aerobic steps and rest one hand on each. Get into pushup position. Quickly move your hands inside the steps before your body touches down and then immediately explode back upward, placing your hands on the steps again. That's one rep. Do five sets of three to eight reps, resting up to three minutes between sets. This much-intensified variation of the old-school clapping pushup works every muscle fiber in the chest, making it a foolproof strategy for growth.

Straighten your posture: If you've been doing bench presses, flyes, and pushups, congratulations! Chances are, you probably have a pretty good chest already. The problem is, it may not be getting you the credit you deserve because of your rounded shoulder posture. A weak upper back allows the shoulders to droop forward, giving even large pectorals a sunken appearance. The solution: Strengthen the upper back and make more room for the chest to show. Try the face pull. Set up as you would to do a seated row, but attach a rope handle to the cable. Keeping your torso straight, pull the handle to your face, stopping just before your chin, so that your upper arms are parallel to the floor and your shoulder blades are squeezed together. That's one rep. Do four sets of eight to 10 reps, resting 60 seconds between sets.

Plug in your chest flye: It's easy to learn good form on the chest flye exercise—just think of giving someone a bear hug. Well, we've got another mnemonic device that will help you remember how to do the flye more efficiently. Think of plugging two extension cords together. It's the same basic movement as a regular flye, but your palms are turned away from you, rather than facing each other, which activates more pectoral musculature.

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Abs

Go heavy and go over: Two of the best ways to build your abs are hopefully already second nature to you. Lifting heavy weights on any exercise forces your core to contract hard to keep your spine safe—so you're getting an automatic ab workout every time you go after a big lift. Also, core activation is even greater in any exercise that's done overhead, so shoulder presses (especially done standing) are an ab workout in and of themselves. Want to fire up the abs even more? Actively squeeze them throughout your sets. Picture yourself wringing all the fat out of your abdomen with every squeeze—the end result will be the same.

Burn calories: More than any other strategy, this is the one that is most responsible for revealing the tight abdominal wall beneath your layer of chub. To burn the most calories, you must work the greatest possible number of muscles. For a multiplied calorie-burning effect, try combining various exercises, such as lunges with an overhead press, or Romanian deadlifts with a bentover row.

Work your abs in reverse: You already know how to crunch, but reverse that motion by bringing your torso away from your body and you'll open up an entirely new avenue for growth. Try the reverse woodchop. Grab a medicine ball and stand with your feet at shoulder width, staggered heel to toe. Reach down with the ball to the front of your back knee (as if you'd just finished chopping into a log), and then quickly extend up and back to the opposite side, as if you were throwing the ball over your shoulder. Perform three sets of eight reps on both sides, resting 90 seconds between sets.

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Hips

Go sumo | Picture a sumo wrestler about to start a match (minus the silk diaper). Now try deadlifting in that position—your legs wider than shoulder-width apart and feet turned outward 45 degrees. Pull the weight as normal, but lean back a touch in the top position, trying to push your hips as far forward as possible. The sumo stance puts you in a position to lift substantially heavier weight, and it optimizes the activation of your glutes. Do five sets of five reps, resting two to three minutes between sets.

Build your hams | Get this: If you increase the size of your hamstrings, you'll create better separation between them and the lower portion of your butt (and the ladies really like that). To do it, use an exercise that works both the glutes and the hamstrings maximally, such as the Swiss-ball leg curl. Lie on your back and rest your heels on a Swiss ball. Drive your heels into the ball so that you "bridge" up off the floor and your body forms a roughly 45-degree angle to the floor. Keeping your hips elevated in this position, bend at the knees, rolling the ball toward you. Reverse the motion until your knees are straight again. That's one rep. Perform three sets of eight reps, resting 90 seconds between sets.

Run uphill | One of the glutes' main functions is to power you forward when you stride, so there's no more natural way to train them than to run. Find a fairly steep hill you can run up, and stand at the point where the top is about 100 yards away. Sprint to the top and then walk slowly back to where you started. That's one rep. Do three to eight reps.

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Shoulders

Bring up the rear: The missing piece in most guys' shoulder development is the rear delt, which is almost always underdeveloped relative to the front and side portions of the muscle. To bring it into balance, cut back on the amount of pressing exercises you do, and try this drop set of the reverse cable fly. Attach a rope handle to the cable and grab it with one hand. Bend at the hips until your torso is almost parallel to the floor and raise your arm out to the side until it's level with the floor. That's one rep. Perform 15 reps on both sides, and then rest 30 seconds. Perform another 10 reps, and rest 60 seconds. Finally, complete five more reps. While it's a lot of work for a small muscle group, it should be just enough to shock the long-neglected rear delts into growing.

Work the whole muscle: The lateral raise doesn't get difficult until your arms are nearly straight, leaving a lot of space in the range of motion in which there is little tension on the deltoids. But you can counteract that with lateral raises on an incline bench. Grab a dumbbell, set the incline to 45 degrees, and rest one side of your body against it. Perform a lateral raise as normal, stopping when your arm is slightly above parallel to the floor. You'll feel the tension on your deltoids the entire time, not just in the last few inches.

Train one at a time: The shoulders like heavy weights. The trouble is, to train heavy, you need a barbell, but then you risk the stronger side taking over for the weaker one and shortchanging it on muscle gains. Instead, use one dumbbell for your shoulder presses and hold on to something for support with your free hand. This takes the balancing act out of dumbbell work, allowing you to focus only on lifting heavy with one arm—maximizing the work of that shoulder.



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8 ways to have more and better sex in the new year

New Year's Sex

The new year season has become synonymous with improvement—whether it's deciding to get that ripped six pack you've always wanted or promising you won't indulge in Big Macs anymore. So why not apply that philosophy to the bedroom?[RELATED1]We've lined up eight ways to satisfy both yourself and your partner in the coming year. Don't worry, you can thank us later.



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Men's Fitness spirit awards 2017: The year's best whiskey, tequila, liqueur, cognac, and gin

Best New Spirits 2017

There's nothing like New Year's celebrations to make you feel like reflecting on what you've accomplished in the past 12 months. Getting down to 7% body fat, achieving that abdominal V, finally asking out the girl of your dreams—you get the idea.

But you know what? Even if you haven't sculpted that rippling six-pack (yet!), you've probably accomplished plenty that deserves a toast. And that's the other best part of New Year's: drinking high-quality spirits and celebrating the people who produce them.

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So if you're going to drink, you might as well drink the good stuff. But what makes a delicious spirit? Some are perfect soloists, playing all the right notes with nothing more than a nice block of ice and cool glass. Others are ensemble players—the cheery friends that round out a great party. And a few defy categorization, carving out new places on our bar carts where we didn't think we'd ever see a spirit dare to venture.

This is what's making its way onto our glasses in 2017—and, hopefully, yours. Cheers to your impeccable taste.



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Unsurprisingly, women think strong guys are hotter

Deadlift

We've come a long way from the days during which damsels were perpetually in distress and women didn't hit the weight room just as hard as the boys. But the seemingly outdated "find a big, strong guy to protect you" mentality might still influence which men women find attractive, according to a new study from Griffith University in Australia.

When researchers asked women to rate photos of men's shirtless or tank top-clad upper bodies based upon either strength or attractiveness, the women tended to rate the strongest men as the most attractive. Of the 150 women who took part in the study, none of them preferred weaker men. This could have to do with the fact that deep down, women look for a man with the ability to provide for his future family, according to Aaron Sell, Ph.D., one of the study's authors. Or maybe muscular physiques are just seen as hot in Australia. Who knows?

Physical strength turned out to be the best way to predict a guy's attractiveness to women, but being tall and lean definitely helps too, the findings suggest. (Again: shocking.) Researchers also found that people were pretty good at gauging the strangers' actual strength levels, which just goes to show that you can't fake gains.

[RELATED1]

Also notable: Both the men being rated and the raters were students at either Oklahoma State University or Griffith University; that might skew the results slightly, because college students' desired characteristics may not necessarily line up with what other adults look for in a potential partner. The men's faces were also blurred, so this study strictly looked at body type. That's actually pretty good news for any gym rat, if you ask us.

And, as any bodybuilder knows, genetics are a huge part of how easily you get shredded. Apparently, the perception that a guy's got good genes might also play a part, says Sell. "Among our ancestors, one variable that predicted both a man's genetic quality and his ability to invest was the man's formidability," he told Griffith News. "Therefore, modern women should still have mate choice mechanisms that respond to cues of a man's fighting ability."

Our takeaway? Maybe get started on that new workout program today instead of next Monday.

[RELATED2]



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Honey- and whiskey-roasted pecans

Honey Whiskey Roasted Pecans

Looking for a quick and healthy snack? These pecans have four ingredients and are done in just 20 minutes—the oven does three-quarters of the work.

Recipe and photo by Kara Lydon, R.D., L.D.N, R.Y.T., nutritionist and blogger at The Foodie Dietitian.

8
Ingredients 
2 cups raw pecans
1/4 cup Jack Daniel's Honey Whiskey (can substitute with any whiskey variety)
1/3 cup raw honey
1/2 tsp salt
How to make it 

Preheat the oven to 300°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Bring whiskey and honey to a boil. Add pecans, and stir to coat. Let simmer for about 5 minutes, and then remove from heat and drain liquid.

Transfer pecans to the baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes, turning pecans over once halfway through baking time.

Let cool to room temperature prior to serving.

Cook Time: 
15
Prep Time: 
5


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Mongolian chicken

Mongolian Chicken

Would you believe this chicken dish has only 250 calories and 5g of fat per serving? To come in so low on the calorie count, this lightened-up recipe uses small amounts of flavorful ingredients for both the marinade and sauce.

Recipe and photo by Min Kwon, M.S., R.D., of MJ and Hungryman.

4
Ingredients 
For the marinade:
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast (2 chicken breasts)
½ tsp rice wine
½ tsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp grated ginger
¼ tsp brown sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
For the sauce:
2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp brown sugar
½ tsp sesame oil
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup water
1 tsp sambal or chili paste with garlic (optional)
Red bell pepper, sugar snap peas, green onion, or veggies of choice
How to make it 

In a bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce. Set aside.

Slice the chicken into bite-size pieces (best if slightly frozen) and add to a large bowl. Mix all the ingredients (except the cornstarch) together and pour over the chicken. Let it marinate (at least 15 minutes) while you prepare the other ingredients. When ready to cook, add the cornstarch and mix until all the chicken strips are coated.

Heat 1 Tbsp of canola oil in a wok over medium-high heat, and then add the chicken—being sure to shake off excess cornstarch. Pour in the sauce, and mix well. Add the veggies, and cook until softened but still crisp.

Top with chopped green onions, and serve over rice.

Cook Time: 
10
Prep Time: 
20


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Frozen Snickers bars

Frozen Snickers Bars

Sometimes you just want to indulge in a chocolate, peanut butter, and marshmallow dessert. Although not all these ingredients are particularly healthy, this is a case-in-point where size matters (portion size, that is). For fewer than 200 calories per bar, you can enjoy this sweet treat every once in a while.

Recipe and photo by Jessa Nowak, M.S., R.D.N., of In Wealth and Health.

16
Ingredients 
Chocolate layers (split into 2):
2 cups dark chocolate chunks or chips
2 tsp coconut oil
Nougat layer:
7 oz marshmallow fluff
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-1¼ cup roasted and salted peanuts
Caramel layer:
9 oz caramel candy chews
1/3 cup whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
How to make it 

 Line an 8x8" pan with parchment paper. Make sure the paper is large enough to go up past the sides of the pan.

For chocolate layer No.1: In a microwave bowl, heat 1 cup of chocolate and 1 tsp coconut oil for about 45 seconds. Stir well. Do not overcook. If there are crumbles on the sides of the bowl, you've cooked it too long.

Pour into bottom of pan, and tilt to allow chocolate to evenly cover the bottom. This creates the bottom chocolate layer. Place in freezer.

In medium-size bowl, add marshmallow fluff, sugar, peanut butter, and vanilla. Stir until fully incorporated.

Remove chocolate layer from freezer, and drop nougat onto frozen chocolate.

Oil your fingers with nonstick cooking oil spray or a nonflavored oil. Press nougat evenly to edge of pan to fully cover chocolate layer.

Pour peanuts over nougat. Press evenly deep into layer. Return to freezer.

To make the caramel: Over a double boiler, slowly melt caramel, cream, vanilla, and salt together. Stir often until fully liquefied.

Pour over peanut layer, and tilt to evenly spread over nuts. Return to freezer for 10 minutes.

Chocolate layer No.2: In a microwave bowl, heat remaining 1 cup of chocolate like explained in steps 2 and 3.

Pour over mostly firm caramel layer. Place in freezer for a minimum of 2 hours before slicing.

To remove from pan, grab two opposing ends of parchment paper. It should easily lift out. Peel paper from bars. On a cutting board using a very large knife, cut into 16 bars. Be sure to rinse and wipe your knife after every pass to make clean cuts.

Cook Time: 
2
Prep Time: 
30


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NBA Week 9 preview: 5 games, players, and storylines you absolutely can’t miss

LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors

After two months of basketball, the 2017-18 NBA season is starting to take shape.

The Boston Celtics remain the top team in the league on the strength of an earlier 16-game winning streak, but LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers have stormed back in the standings.

[RELATED1]

Over in the West, the Houston Rockets hold a slim lead over the Golden State Warriors in the standings, while the San Antonio Spurs are knocking on the door—even after playing the first two months of the year without karate-chopping star Kawhi Leonard.

Christmas Day is just around the corner, and teams will be trying to shore things up as the calendar turns to 2018.

[RELATED2]

Here's a look at the top games, players, and storylines for Week 9.

(All stats, records, and results are as of games through Tuesday, December 12)

[RELATED3]



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Photos: 11 secret celebrity cameos to find in ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’

Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Tom Hardy cameo

It might take place in a galaxy far, far away, but expect to see some familiar faces in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. If you can find them, that is.

Like Star Wars: The Force Awakens before it, director Rian Johnson has followed the lead of J.J. Abrams, sprinkling cameos all over The Last Jedi.

[RELATED1]

In The Force Awakens, the 2015 smash hit, there were a number of high-profile cameos, including from James Bond himself, Daniel Craig, who had a memorable scene playing a Stormtrooper guarding the imprisoned Rey (Daisy Ridley). Listen closely and you can definitely tell it's Craig's voice, even if you can't see his face.

Simon Pegg appeared as the CGI character Unkar Plutt. Warwick Davis and Judah Friedlander popped up as patrons in a bar. Both Ben Schwartz and Bill Hader gave voice to everyone's favorite new droid, BB-8.

[RELATED2]

Johnson took The Last Jedi cameos to another level, bringing in some royalty along with some of his actor and director buddies.

[RELATED3]

Here's a look at all the secret, awesome cameos in The Last Jedi. And a note: While this gallery is technically spoiler-free, those wishing to see The Last Jedi without a clue of what they'll see might just want to watch the TV teaser one more time.



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Exercise and Meditation Can Help You Beat Depression

Jumping Jacks on the Beach
JAG IMAGES / Getty

A recent study published by Translational Psychiatry is further proving that there is a strong connection between the mind and body—exercising and meditating can reduce the symptoms of depression

The study consisted of a group of men and women over an eight-week period from Rutgers University. 22 participants suffered from depression and 30 were mentally healthy participants. Researchers had each participant start with 30 minutes of meditation followed by 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. Participants were also told that if their thoughts drifted to past events during the workout, they should refocus their breathing. This technique allows those with depression to accept "moment-to-moment changes in attention."

"Scientists have known for a while that both of these activities alone can help with depression," Tracey Shors of the Department of Psychology and Center for Collaborative Neuroscience says, "but this study suggests that when done together, there is a striking improvement in depressive symptoms along with increases in synchronized brain activity." 

[RELATED1]

In the end, participants in the study who suffered from depression had a 40 percent reduction in depression-related symptoms.

Depression can be debilitating, affecting one in five Americans at one point during their life. Common treatments for depression have been medications that regulate brain chemicals and cognitive behavioral therapy. Ultimately, the goal of the study is to demonstrate that new coping skills can be acquired by individuals to better control stressful life events.

"By learning to focus their attention and exercise," Shors says, "people who are fighting depression can acquire new cognitive skills that can help them process information and reduce the overwhelming recollection of memories from the past."

[RELATED2]



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