How to Make Free Time Productive

time for me concept clock closeup

Most of the time when we have free time to ourselves, we tend to use it to binge watch TV shows on Netflix or spend too much time aimlessly surfing the internet. So here are some productive ways to spend your leisure time.

1. Read a Book

2-10 Girl-Reading-Book

Usually reading is associated with school, but leisure reading is something that can be fun. Find a genre or author that you like and immerse yourself into that world. Make reading something you WANT to do. Need some suggestions to get you started? Create a free account at www.goodreads.com!

2. Exercise


Not only is exercise necessary for a healthy life, but it also helps you relieve stress and can help you sleep better at night. If traditional exercise does not appeal to you, try a physical activity that interests you. Ask friends to exercise with you and make it fun. Need an app to get you motivated? Download MyFitnessPal for free!

3. Volunteer in your Community

2-10 getty_rm_photo_of_group_of_volunteers

It is always a good feeling to give back to one’s community. It does not have to be a huge volunteer project, but anything that makes even a small difference matters.  Something small from picking up trash at your local beach to a bigger project like feeding the homeless really does make a difference. Find volunteer opportunities in your area at www.voluntermatch.org.

4. Make a List

2-10 to do list

If you have more than one thing to do during your free time, make a list planning out the details.  Be specific about the importance level for each task, along with details about where and when it will be completed. You will feel more productive about your day when you see everything check off the list.

4 Alternative Spring Break Ideas

With March just around the corner, Spring Break will be here before you know it. With more free time than usual, you may be tempted to spend the entire break watching cat videos but there are plenty of alternative Spring Break options to make the most of your time off.

1. Travel

Vacationing over spring break is an obvious and popular choice. Shake off your cabin fever from spending all winter indoors with a nice getaway. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or exotic (although it certainly wouldn’t hurt) to be an amazing vacation. For any traveling needs like finding out flight, hotel or car rental prices, Kayak.com is one of the leading search websites in doing so. World Map


2. Volunteer

Spending time helping others is always time well spent. Spring break is a fabulous time to help out around your community or in another city. Some colleges even offer programs to volunteer in communities abroad. Habitat for Humanity is a great organization to get involved in as a student, for more information, you can see if your college has a campus chapter at http://www.habitat.org.  

Habitat for Humanity


3. Get Organized

The middle of the semester is a good time to get organized. Clearing out old papers from last semester and cleaning up your living space will make a huge difference in your work ethic and stress level. When you are throwing all those papers away, remember to recycle. Its a great option to take when getting organized because not only are you cleaning up, you are doing something good for the environment, and if you would like to know more about recycling check out Earth911.

 Messy desk


4. Revamp and Refresh

With winter gone, a new fitness routine is in order. Spring break is the perfect time to trade in your treadmill run for a run in the park or on the beach. Fresh air and sunshine are sure-fire ways to motivate your workout (and let’s face it, summer is getting dangerously close). If you would like some work out encouragement, check out some of the videos on Fitness Magazines website that you can use during your routine.



Try out this list and you’ll feel refreshed and ready to take on the rest of the semester by the end of the break!

WARNING: By the end of your awesome spring break you may feel an urge to start a countdown to summer break. Side effects include procrastination, loss of motivation, and an urge to burn textbooks.

Your Weekly Exercise: Squats

What are squats? Squats are very beneficial for both males and females. Squats work out many different body parts at the same time. Squats, just like the bench press, are a powerhouse of a workout and if done correctly you can really gain some serious muscle and, or strength.

Instructions:  I would absolutely recommend a spotter or partner while doing this exercise. I say this because this tends to be a workout that without a spotter you can hurt yourself very easily. You may also use a squat rack if you do not have a spotter with you. You first want to get in position where you will put the barbell on your upper back. You then want to bend down with your buttocks sticking out as you go down. Your head should be slightly up as well. At this point you should have a tight grip, head slightly up, knees bent and buttocks out. Then you want to rise up, and continue the same sequence for as many as you desire.

Primary Muscles Worked: Hamstrings, Glutes, Quads.

Your Weekly Exercise: Skull Crushers

What are Skull Crushers? Although this may sound like some sort of heavy metal band, skull crushers are actually a triceps workout, a great one in fact. These can be done with either dumbbells or with a barbell. As you can see in the picture, they are called skull crushers because the motion you are making looks as if you are crushing your skull.

Instructions: To do skull crushers you must first find yourself a flat bench. Along with the flat bench you will also need a barbell, preferably an “E-Z” barbell so you have a better grip. Dumbbells may also be used for this exercise, but again, an “E-Z” bar as seen in the picture is preferred. Once the equipment is gathered you want to lie down with your back against the flat bench. This is a good exercise in which a partner can be used especially so they can hand you the barbell once you are lying down. With your elbows bent and the barbell gripped tight you want to lift straight up with your elbows tucked in close to your body. When you go straight up with the barbell, your arms and body should look as if you were doing the bench press. You then want to bend your elbows again and bring it down near your skull where it looks as if you are crushing your skull. Continue this exercise for how every many repetitions needed. Again, a partner is recommended for this workout so they can hand you the barbell, as well as grab it from you once you are done.

Primary Muscles Worked: Triceps.

Your Weekly Exercise:The Elliptical Machine, Cardio

What is the Elliptical Machine? The elliptical machine is a great alternative cardio wise to the treadmill, the bike, and the stair master. It is a great workout. Some people prefer the treadmill, or the bike, but for me I actually do prefer the elliptical.

Instructions: Be prepared as you would for any other workout, or cardio exercise you may be doing. Have your feet positioned correctly on the two grips they have for you to run on. The next thing you must do is set what speed you want to run. There are all types of programs you can use on elliptical such as high speed on a lower level, leaving it easier for you to pedal. You can even do lower speed while having it at a higher level. You can enter doing quick start as well. Other programs on many elliptical consist of exercises such as hills in which it gradually gets harder and easier as if you were running up and down a hill, or a mountain. There are fat loss programs in which will give you different levels, and different speeds as well. All these programs are for you to choose. You set your time, set your speed, set your level and be prepared to burn some major calories.

Primary Muscles Worked: This actually works a lot of muscles in different ways. It works the calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, and even arms when you use the side handles. 


Weekly Exercise: The Bench Press

What is the Bench Press? The bench press is one of the best workouts you can possibly do in the gym. This workout is great to build a strong, powerful chest. It consists of a flat bench and a piece mounted on so you can mount and dismount the barbell when ready. This is an excellent exercise you can do when starting your workout so you can exert most of your energy into it, especially since a lot of energy is needed.

Instructions: While lying underneath the barbell you want to dismount it from the rack. Remember to keep your feet positioned correctly on the ground. There are usually grips on the barbell giving you a precise read on where to place your hands. If not, you should grip a littler wider than shoulder width. Once you have it dismounted you want to bring it down towards your chest. Then you want to push it back up, lower it back down and continue to do this at a steady pace. It all depends on which type of workout you are doing or how many workouts you have done already but you should aim for about three to four sets compiling twelve repetitions per set.

Primary Muscles Worked: Chest

Secondary Muscles Worked: Triceps, and also shoulders.

Remember people, don’t ever do weight that you cannot handle. Also, make sure your form is as good as possible for you are risking injury. Attached is a picture giving instructions of what your form should look like.

Quick Shape Up in Time for Vacation!

Vacation is approaching fast and you want to look your best. Here’s how to shape up quickly and healthily before you depart.

Try cutting a few simple things out of your diet the week before you go for a quick slim down. Things to cut could include: sweets, soda, condiments, and chips. Sweets, chips and soda are obviously bad for you. Especially if you are a loyal soda drinker or candy lover, you will notice a difference right away by cutting them out. I cut condiments a lot of times because they are just extra calories. Eating dry food saves some calories. Mustard is okay because it doesn’t have any calories but if you can manage to cut mayo, jams and jellies, cream cheese, or sour cream, you’ll be saving a lot of extra calories.

Try adding fruits, veggies, and water. By adding a lot of fruits and veggies you’ll still be able to eat a lot and feel full, but they won’t stick on your stomach. Drinking a lot of water will help you to feel full and hydrated faster and it will save the calories from other beverages. I have heard that if you drink a glass of water before you eat, you are likely to eat less and feel full quicker.

Do a lot of cardio. Try running for short amounts of time or even walking. Sometimes even lightweight lifting can be considered cardio if you use light enough weight and do a lot of reps. Many people enjoy biking or swimming laps as well. Find something you enjoy that can get your heart rate up and do it every day for 30 minutes. Cardio combined with a slight altering of your diet will instantly shape you up.

Finally, work those abs! YouTube has a million ab videos to help you get started. A lot of times it’s easier to have someone telling you what to do and counting for you to keep you from moving too fast or rushing. One of my favorite videos is called “thin q fitness ten minute abs.” This video is literally just ten minutes and it always makes my abs feel awesome. I encourage you to try this one or find another video you enjoy with an instructor you like. Doing abs every other day is an important part of shaping up quickly.

I hope these tips will help you to feel great in time for vacation. You’ll be sure to look amazing in you swim suit after applying each of them. Remember, you can’t just do one. A combination of diet, cardio, and muscle work is what it takes to really shape up quick. You can do it!


Water Exercises: Work Out While Beating the Heat

In the summer, finding the motivation to exercise can be impossible—especially when it’s 90 degrees out. Instead of hopping on the treadmill in a poorly air conditioned gym or sweating it out on the streets as a heat mirage dances before your eyes, get yourself out to the beach or a pool for some fun in the sun—and exercise too!

First of all, you should all realize what an intense cardio workout swimming can be! If you do some serious laps in the pool or propel yourself against the current of the ocean for a bit, you’re targeting your arms, legs and abs all in one powerful exercise. According to trainers, if you tread water in your pool or at the beach with all of your might, you can burn 11 calories each minute—so a whole afternoon in the water will lead to some serious weight loss potential.

Walking around the town won’t seem as fun once you spend time walking in the water. It might not seem like walking could be as effective as going for a run, but with the water resisting your motions, you’ll be working out like crazy! Walk in the shallow water with long, exaggerated strides. You can also walk on your tip toes in the deep end (if you’re not a good swimmer or don’t like deep water, don’t try this since you’ll most likely fall at some point) for a more concentrated effect on your calves. Add some arm motions under the water for added effect and more calorie burning action.

Simply floating—or floating with a twist—can help improve your abs and core muscles. While you’re lying on your back in the water, make a conscience effort to tighten your abs as you float. You can tighten and relax, tighten and relax, for short spurts of exercise that don’t distract you too much from the task at hand: not sinking. You can make this exercise even more intense on your abs by rolling your body in the water with very controlled motions. As you tighten your abs and hold onto a ball for support, roll over so your stomach is in the water (make sure you hold your breath or hold your head up to avoid sucking in water), and then flip back up.

For those of you who prefer the shallow end of the pool, you can sit back in the water to begin treading, remaining in an outstretched seated position with a bend at the waist—turning your body into a V. Move your hands in circles by your waist to hold yourself up and make your way through the pool. Oppositely, you can also go onto your stomach and try propelling yourself with just your legs, a fun challenge for yourself that will make those quads burn!

There are countless exercises you can easily do in the pool or at the beach, working up a sweat without feeling the effects—unless you’re in extremely warm water. So now you have no excuses to not spend at least part of your summer getting toned, while getting tan and splashing around with your friends. Happy swimming!

Desk-ercise: Stay Fit At Your Desk Job

Even with the summer here, it can be hard to find time to exercise—especially when you’re at a desk job (or internship) all day long. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t fit a little something in to help your muscles! There are lots of easy-to-do exercises you can complete at your desk—some more noticeable than others. Besides, who just wants to sit in front of a computer screen all day when you can squat or extend your legs in front of a computer screen all day?

The easiest move you can adhere to while working is improving your posture. Slouching at your desk totally counteracts all the crunches and ab moves from the day before. By keeping a straight back and a taught stomach, you’re reminding the stomach muscles to stay tight and flat—which, let’s face it, is something we all love to see. If you have an uncomfortable chair at work, bring in a pillow or two to make it more comfortable and easier to keep your spine straight during the long work day. You can further this position with an additional stretch to work both your abs and your arms. Sitting crossed legged on your chair, suck in your stomach and placing your arms on the seat or armrests (whatever is most stable…and only do this in general if you have a sturdy chair), raise yourself off the chair for 10 seconds. Repeat this move a couple times for stronger arms and abs, and better balance too.

The next suggested move requires a little equipment. Get an exercise band, which you can use for a number of arm exercises. You can pull your arms straight out to the side, then back to the front (you’ll feel resistance when pulling the band to your sides, which strengthens your triceps). Another move you can try with your band is bicep curls, by placing the band underneath your feet for resistance. Any other exercise you can think of with an exercise band can be done at the office—though you don’t want to break that much of a stress when you have 5 hours to go. Even easier are simple wrist stretches. Stretch your forearm by extending one arm with the palm facing outward, and using the other to gently pull back on the fingers. You can also place your palms together in front of your chest with the elbows sticking out, and move your wrists to the right and then the left—an excellent way to get your arms ready for a long day of typing.

You can also target your legs while at work. You can easily forgo the elevator for the stairs, which you can take two at a time for an added bonus. But you can also strengthen those muscles by doing some simple moves at your desk. While you sit up straight, rest your hands on your chair and extend one leg out in front of you; hold for 5 seconds and then release. Do at least ten reps for each leg, and voila, easy as pie.

Have some fat on your inner thighs you want to banish? Grab a sweater or something you can place between your thighs. Again, sitting up straight and tall with your stomach sucked in, squeeze the object for a good 5-10 seconds before relaxing. Do three sets of 20 and you’ll have an amazing thigh workout on your hands! Another great one for the legs is squats…with your chair! Lift your butt out of your chair so you’re hovering over it (do not use your arms for support), hold for a few seconds and lower. For some variety, you can also try quick pulses (going up and down on a 1-2 count) to get more impact at a faster rate. If you feel like really challenging your legs, you can try the one legged-squat. Place one foot firmly on the ground, and lower and lift your body with some support from your hands on the chair—remember to switch between legs after 10-15 reps.

Remember, you don’t have to do anything to crazy to squeeze some exercise in. Simple stretches will even help your body stay in better shape. Give some discrete desk poses a try. Take a walk around the block during lunch hour. Park in the way back of the lot so you have a nice long walk to get into the building. Instead of going home and plopping down on the couch after work, go for a bike ride or a jog or any activity other than sitting—you’ve been sitting all day, give your butt a break! Exercise doesn’t have to take a ton of time or be insanely difficult. Do it where you can, when you can and you’re on your way to a healthier you.


The Laptop Fitness Plan

These days, time and money is an issue for everyone. As college students, that problem is often multiplied. With a busy class schedule, who has time to go to the gym? Even summer doesn’t give us a break, since we need to make money to prepare for the upcoming college semesters or an internship instead of classes takes over all our free time. Maybe you just don’t feel comfortable working out in the gym. Perhaps you need some extra encouragement, but your friends can’t put in the effort. An online fitness community might be the right choice for you.

Whether you want to lose weight or tone up, there are lots of options online to target your needs on a personal level while you also engage with a community working towards similar goals.  People seek fitness help online more often than ever before. The Pew Internet & American Life Project found 80% of people online are searching for health related issues, with 52% looking specifically for information on exercise  or fitness. Ted Vickey, a PhD researcher studying the connection of social media and exercise at the National University of Ireland, believes social media could change the health industry forever.

“I believe that social media can be one of most important pillars to fighting the global obesity problem,” he said. “Report after report suggests that the number one reason people don’t exercise is time. Now that technology has given us more time, what if we could create a tool that could persuasively assist a person in finding the time and motivating them to exercise? That would be a great step in the right direction.”

Communities like Blogilates (I personall recommend this as a popster myself), founded by Cassey Ho in 2009, have video workout routines available. Ranging in length fro 10 to 30 minutes, and in targeted zones of the body, you’ll have the opportunity to change your body gradually with a little effort each day. The videos are easy access, posted on YouTube and Ho can be found constantly on Twitter and Facebook, posting workout commands, updates and inspirational quotes to keep you going. The other popsters are also on Facebook often, posting about their success and asking each other questions.

Katy Widrick, another popster, started #FitBlog Twitter chats in 2010. Every week, there’s a new topic, a new discussion leader (usually a health or fitness professional) getting the conversation flowing, and hundreds of participants interacting with one another. If you prefer to blog about your struggles and interact in a more private forum, Roni Noone’s BlogToLose might be the motivator you’ve been searching for. Noone started the platform after she found blogging about her fitness journey in 2005 helped hold her accountable and ultimately got her into shape faster—the community gave her the support she needed and kept her on task with her fitness goals.

Even though this all sounds dandy and fun, you have to be weary of the sites you turn to for help. Anyone online can post about whatever they want to, whether they’re an expert or not. Some people will take it to far, to an extreme of being unhealthy; avoid looking at images of super skinny models as a weight loss goal or blogs focused on thinspiration. Also steer clear of any negative comments. If people come into the online community talking smack about being overweight or unhealthy—especially anonymous comments—you have to keep in mind these people feel good by putting others down.

Ultimately, being online is a balance of the good and the bad. You have to inform yourself and keep on top of the legitimate sources. The best aspect of online fitness is accessibility, time management, and the community, but there’s also some harsh commenting and bad imagery out there. So use your best judgment, put on your sleuthing hat if necessary, and have fun while you get fit.

Happy exercising, friends!

-Toony Toon