Melanie Douglass: Build Functional Strength, Manage Stress, and Spark Motivation
Welcome to the ProForm Panel. Today we are thrilled to get to know Melanie Douglass, our in-house fitness accessory expert. She is a part of every step from concept development to production to messaging—bringing you foundational favorites like the Xfinity Fitness Band, Ruthless, and SculptTonic. Author of two best-sellers “Losing it! 5 Keys to Successful Weight Loss that Work” and “Tip-a-Day Guide for Healthy Living,” Melanie is an incredible asset to the fitness industry.
Melanie, what exactly are fitness accessories and what are the benefits of incorporating them into our daily workouts?
A Slice of Variety
Fitness accessories like hand weights, resistance tubes, medicine balls, exercise mats, and stability balls, are a convenient and affordable workout option. Plus they add variety to your workout. You want variety because as you train you build strength in many directions and levels. This comprehensive training helps to really balance out your muscles. When you avoid the same repetitive movements, you are also preventing muscular imbalances and injuries. And as you challenge your muscles in new ways, you are making them work harder to adapt. Variety also keeps your workouts intriguing and helps you stay motivated.
Think of the Possibilities
If you think about it, you’ll realize that fitness accessories provide an infinite number of workout possibilities. There’s always something new you can do. There are thousands of exercises you can do with a ball; thousands of workouts you can do with a tube; thousands of programs you can do with weights. You put those things together—even if you only had those three pieces of equipment—and you could do something different every day for a year.
“Accessories work your whole body…as you change one thing about the exercise, it becomes a new experience.”
A WHOLE-BODY SOLUTION
Also, accessories are really good at working your whole body. You can start by simply sitting on a stability ball or kneeling on a soft medicine ball. From your head to your toes you are working to stay balanced. Fitness accessories like the stability ball integrate core functional strength. Your workout is always challenging because as you change one thing about the exercise, it becomes a new experience.
Melanie, what if I want to work on flexibility or stress management? How would I use fitness accessories to help me relax? And how much time should I set aside?
There are three foundations of fitness: 1) cardio, 2) strength/weight training, and 3) stretching and recovery.
The stretching and recovery foundation is also known as mind-body health. Relieving stress is something we all need to work on. Even just 15 minutes before you go to bed can be beneficial. Go hard during your morning workout, then before bed do some stretching, foam rolling, meditation, or deep breathing. This is your chance to decompress so you get a good night’s rest.
Between cardio, weight training, and mind-body, people may feel overwhelmed. You don’t have to do it all every day. But if you shake it up a bit and incorporate all three a couple of times a week—that is a well-balanced fitness program.
Fit It in Anywhere
Keep in mind that accessory training doesn’t have to be a big hour-long commitment. Pick up a resistance tube and with just five minutes of bicep curls you will be sore the next day. You’ve done some good. You may not feel five minutes of running, but you’ll feel five minutes of resisted bicep curls.
So, we all know that treadmills are the most popular fitness equipment. They burn the most calories in the least amount of time. What do (smaller and more affordable) fitness accessories bring to the table comparatively?
Long vs. Short Term Investment
I like to think of large fitness equipment (like treadmills or exercise bikes) as your short-term investment. You immediately burn a lot of calories. And for the next 24 hours you get that benefit.
Fitness accessories bring the long-term benefit by introducing the strength and weight training aspect. Over time your muscles become stronger and more toned, your bones become denser, your cholesterol comes down, your blood pressure improves, and your risk of osteoporosis is reduced. These are things that come with weight training and resistance. They take time. They don’t happen over night. It’s like any other investment in life. We have short-term and long-term investments with our time. And fitness is exactly the same way.
A Smart Investment
This short-term fitness accessory investment is also a very affordable option. When you purchase a fitness accessory it is likely to last a long time simply because of the variety of workouts available and the amount of time you need to increase your workout intensity.
Plus, you don’t have to buy every accessory right now. They are affordable enough that you can add one or two to your workout toolbox regularly.
I can tell you are passionate about making health and fitness accessible to everyone. What are some products you would recommend for those of us just getting started?
Some classic accessories I have invested in and definitely recommend include:
Make sure you get one that is heavy—for you. If you are a beginner, that might mean getting a light tube. If you are advanced, select a heavy resistance tube.
At first it can be difficult to move through the many exercises and positions. Your elbows, knees, or back can start to feel sore or uncomfortable as you go from a kneeling position to Downward Facing Dog to crunches. I recommend a comfortable, thick foam exercise mat.
I love the soft-weight medicine balls. You can slam them on the ground or the wall, you can sit or kneel on them, or you can hold them during weighted exercises.
Fitness Ball or Stability Ball
It’s a great way to start whole-body functional training. Just sit on the ball and perform your weight exercises like a shoulder press or bicep curl.
This can include a kettlebell, dumbbell, or barbell. You want about 20 pounds of weight. A 10-pound dumbbell for each hand or a 20-pound kettlebell are both fine. You need weight to effectively work your arms, your back, your shoulders, and other areas.
What About the Guys?
Men naturally have more muscle mass and testosterone than women; so, they should lift heavier weights. If men are going to start training with a resistance tube, they should go heavy whereas women should start with a lighter tube. If men are going to start with a kettlebell they should start with 30 to 35 pounds, where a woman would start with 15 to 20 pounds. The big difference is in the weight of the equipment piece and the intensity of the exercises.
Thanks, Melanie. Readers, look forward to future ProForm Panel interviews. If you have a question for Melanie, post it in the comments. We’ll have Melanie answer your question and include it in a future article.
Check out our full ProForm fitness accessory collection at proform.com.
Melanie Douglass Full Bio
Melanie Douglass is a Registered Dietitian, NASM-certified personal trainer, and AFAA-certified fitness instructor. She has traveled internationally as a fitness presenter, nutrition lecturer, and motivational speaker.
Melanie is the author of “Tip-a-Day Guide for Healthy Living” and the best-selling, “Losing it! 5 Keys to Successful Weight Loss that Work.” She created and produced numerous successful workout programs, including: DanceTonic, Re:Mix, Xfinity Band, and Ruthless. In 2005, she was recognized by the American Dietetic Association as an “Industry Mover” for her work in developing innovative fitness and nutrition programs for the consumer market.
Melanie loves crafting up new programs, meals plans, and workouts that motivate people to improve their health and has worked with various companies. She currently works for the largest fitness equipment company in the world: ICON Health & Fitness, teaches group fitness classes at a local sports club, and enjoys every second with her three children.