According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, "It is estimated that MORE THAN 75% of the American adult population does NOT engage in at least 30 minutes of low-to-moderate physical activity on most days of the week."
Wow. This is saying that, at most, only one out of every four American adults make the time to exercise regularly for a half an hour--the length of a sitcom. And we're just talking gentle exercise, such as brisk walking, not high intensity training.
Furthermore, "the risk of chronic disease INCREASES DRAMATICALLY in those individuals who are physically inactive or only meet the minimal standard of physical activity."
Chronic diseases include:
But beyond issues of chronic disease, research has confirmed that "an individual's cardiorespiratory fitness level is one of the strongest predictors of morbidity and mortality." In other words, your engagement in regular, sustained physical activity over your lifetime is "one of the most reliable predictors of death...Conversely, an improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness is related to a reduction in premature death from all causes." That's either REALLY positive news if you're an avid exerciser, or REALLY scary if you haven't made physical activity a part of your daily life.
I'm sure most readers can rattle off a few benefits of regular cardiorespiratory exercise, but let's review this comprehensive list in the hopes that it may provide additional motivation. And by the way, NASM points out that, "these benefits ACCRUE as a result of the numerous physiologic adaptations to cardiorespiratory training," which means it's never too late to start moving!
BENEFITS OF CARDIORESPIRATORY EXERCISE:
Could you use improvements in any of these areas? Silly question, right?!
So where do we go from here? If you're one of my beloved sedentary readers who can't recall the last time you became winded on purpose, how about starting with a 10 to 20 minute walk today. Move with a purposeful, steady pace, as if you were running late for an appointment. Continue that practice most days of the week, adding on time as your fitness improves. Once you've done that for at least one month, send me a message and I'll help you with next steps to continue your progress.
If you already walk or exercise regularly at a low-to-moderate level, it's time to kick it up a notch. Why? Because "low-intensity cardiorespiratory exercise will typically result in some improvements in health and well-being, but not necessarily any significant improvements in fitness as compared with higher training intensities." Incorporate intervals of faster paced movement with slower recovery periods, and perform strength training exercises (just use body weight to start). If you are inexperienced with resistance training, I highly recommend seeking assistance from a fitness expert who can assess your movement patterns to ensure that you execute exercises safely and correctly, and help you form a plan.
For those who are fearful of starting an exercise program due to past injury, a health issue, being deconditioned or some other negative experience, first seek the guidance of a medical professional to rule out any issues. Once you're cleared, keep this in mind: "Although there are risks associated with physical activity and exercise, primarily musculoskeletal injuries, the benefits of physical activity clearly outweigh the risks."
- Source: NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training, Fourth Edition Revised
The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which are based on scientific evidence, recommend adults engage in 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity (30 minutes 5 times a week) to help improved their overall health and fitness and reduce their risk for developing numerous chronic diseases. The guidelines also recommend that if adults exceed 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity or 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity, then they will gain even more health benefits. Exercise sessions may also be broken up into shorter increments, for example 10 minutes at a time, until 150 minutes per week is met.
There she is. The one I love to hate. The one with the perkier boobs, tighter butt and vivacious personality. She probably eats whatever she wants and still maintains a disgusting size two. Nevermind that she trains hard, has a positive attitude and is friendly to folks. She just has superior genetics, and my parents are fat. Thanks a lot, Mom and Dad. It's all your fault (as are all of my other issues). I know she's hiding flaws under that spandex. Heck, she's probably had cosmetic surgery. Ugh, she absolutely annoys me (and yet I want her body! her life! her very soul!).
Alright, ladies. Let's be honest. Have you ever been part of a conversation like that? Has that scenario ever played out in your head? I'm certain that women have been snarky to one another since the beginning of time. I'll even bet Eve and her girlfriends sat around the apple tree and gossiped about that woman they met at the well.
Which brings me to one of my favorite quotes: "Your candle burns no brighter by extinguishing someone else's." Why is it a favorite? Because it convicts me. Whenever my insecurities creep in and I catch myself coveting another person's assets, I repeat this quote to myself. And if the situation won't turn awkward, I make a point to approach the person and compliment her on the very thing that brought about my judgment. Doing so frees me from the negativity, and edifies us both through the positive interaction. Beyond that, it opens the door to a potential friendship, where I learn that this woman is a lot like me. She, too, struggles with her own fears, failures and imperfections, and that compliment I gave her made her day.
My point is, engaging in snide conversations, creating unnecessary comparisons and making excuses waste a ton of energy. Moreover, they indicate a weakness in character and a reflection of your self esteem. In all fairness, the impossible images and expectations that society puts upon females can bring out the worst in all of us, myself included. But I encourage you to find ways to overcome that, such as the example I gave of complimenting other women, offering a genuine smile and going out of your way to make someone's day a little better.
So, the next time you run into that woman, or any female who exhibits a trait(s) you admire, rather than blowing out her candle, say something nice. And with that, both candles will burn brighter, making this world a warmer, kinder place.
Let's take a little fitness quiz, shall we? Fill in the blanks using each of these three words one time:
____________ CONTROLS weight
____________ CONDITIONS your organs
____________ CHANGES your shape
The answers are:
How'd you do? And why does it matter anyway? Because while each component--diet, cardio and resistance training--is important in its own right, a balanced combination of the three is required for long-term weight management. Most of us are usually decent at one or two of these at one time, but the remaining component(s) may be elusive to us--and therein lies why fitness goals fail to be reached.
Now, let's delve into the quiz statements a little deeper:
Just as fitness grants you freedom to move a little easier, walk a little taller and hug a little tighter, Independence Day celebrates the freedoms granted to us through the Declaration of Independence drafted in 1776. In honor of July 4th, that day of declaration 238 years ago, how about we display some patriotism with a little fitness challenge?!
PATRIOTIC PUSH-UP/SQUAT CHALLENGE:
FITNESS IS FREEDOM BONUS 2.3.8 CHALLENGE:
"BABY, YOU'RE A FIREWORK" FINISHER:
Still want more? Since Independence Day takes place on the 4th day of the 7th month, perform 47 alternating machine gun punches, followed by 47 alternating front kicks.
Alright, who's in?!? Leave a comment with your results!
My family just returned from a week of vacation in the Florida Keys. As is the case with most vacations, we ate a ton (Key Lime pie!!), drank too much and donned a bathing suit most of the time. Not an ideal combination. So, how did we avoid packing on extra vacay weight? Exercise! That's right--for this family, exercise is a lifestyle, so even when we're taking time away, we never take time off from fitness.
In fact, when we pack up the car to start any journey, it always includes these essentials: resistance bands, a jump rope and a kettlebell. Even though most resorts/hotels include fitness centers of some sort, I prefer to bring what I need rather than waste time adapting to a new facility or equipment.
Incorporating movement helps us normalize to our temporary surroundings, keeps us regular, and helps balance out all that extra caloric intake.
When we arrived at our villa in the Keys, I knew immediately where I would perform my quick interval routines. The upstairs covered deck overlooking the crystal blue ocean and lush native flora would be inspiring (see photos).
Now, before you get the idea that I enjoyed my own personal fitness retreat surrounded by billowing palms and azure water, allow me to inject a dose of reality: my reluctant workout partner was my seven-year-old son who'd rather watch a documentary on the iPad about the catastrophic repercussions of extruding all of the oil from below the earth's crust than do squats and push-ups with me. Seriously. His most encouraging words were, "Mom, you sweat a lot." Thanks, hun.
And yes, I do sweat a lot, especially in the hotter-than-lava Keys. Needless to say, my 32 ounce water bottle was always at my side, and constantly being refilled.
To that end, here is the workout that I performed every other day while on vacation, preceeded by a basic warm-up of squats, pushups, lunges, rotations and dynamic stretches.
A. BODY WEIGHT COMBO (courtesy of Craig Ballantyne)
B. RESISTANCE COMBO (equipment: kettlebell (KB) and resistance band(s). If you don't have a KB or want to simplify, the following exercises can all be done with just resistance bands.)
Perform three rounds of A and B for a hotter-than-lava 25-minute workout! If you have less time or zero equipment, just perform two to three rounds of A.
On other days, we'd incorporate physical activities offered by the resort, such as paddle boarding (my first time!) and kayaking. I also went for a mind-clearing jog around the island. What?!? Molly went for a run? I know, I know, steady-state cardio isn't my thing and definitely not the most effective way to stay lean and muscular, but when we're away from home, I enjoy the opportunity to explore our surroundings by foot...and get a break from the boys!!
Are you planning for an upcoming getaway? Don't forget your basic equipment, athletic shoes and most importantly, a plan! Already have an idea when you'll exercise on your vacation (morning is best, and keep it quick and effective with metabolic workouts like the one above), work through barriers in advance that might thwart your good intentions (i.e., kids, limited space, etc), and aim to stick to your healthy diet 80 percent of the time.
More than half--36.7 billion (with a b!)--of these are overweight. And nearly 60 percent--43.2 billion--of these are overweight.*
Any idea what these are? Did you guess men and women? Boys and girls? Office workers and stay-at-home moms? Would you believe the answers are dogs and cats?!
When pet obesity is at epidemic proportions, that really says something about the human population, don't you think?
This reminds me of an anonymous quote I had in my office a few years ago: "If your dog is fat, you're not getting enough exercise." (The irony in this is that my dog is, in fact, fat! But I attribute that to his breed--a squatty French bulldog, his bad back, short snout, constant treats from my mother, and the fact that the poor ol' guy only has one eye! Uh-oh. Did I just make excuses for why he's not exercising?!)
Anyway, now that we know how many fat furry friends we have, let's take a look at the human statistics, courtesy of the National Academy of Sports Medicine:
As you might expect, both humans and animals suffer similar consequences from being overweight and obese: joint pain, diabetes, respiratory and cardiovascular disease, some types of cancer, shortened life expectancy and decreased quality of life.
So, what do we do about it? Use those beloved pets as motivation! Listen, I've got some friends who adore their fur-babies as much (or more?!) than I love my own children, so for the love of Fido and Fifi, get moving and eat the right stuff (clean, lean and green!)!
Try these exercises you can do with your pet, courtesy of Hillspet.com/weight-management:
*2012 Pet Study for the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention
BUSINESS PLUG: If you're in the greater Raleigh/Cary/Garner area of North Carolina, the best health center for your pet is Carolina Ranch Animal Hospital and Resort (http://www.carolinaranchpets.com/). They'll get plenty of exercise during the daily "Buckaroo Roundup"!
Q: What is your opinion on Clif Bars? Supreme Bars? Protein bars in general?
-- Nicole D
A: Useful questions, Nicole, as I'm sure a number of my readers consume these. You know, I used to eat protein bars pretty regularly years ago, but have cut them out completely. It's not that there aren't some decent ones out there, but they're really most appropriate for those who won't/don't make time to plan their meals, and who would choose fast food otherwise. They're a convenience food, and certainly a better alternative than most drive-through.
That said, many are filled with sugar, chemicals and additives that I just don't want. Instead, if I'm in a hurry and need to grab-n-go, I choose KIND bars. I like the Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate, which contains the brand's highest protein content--7 grams. It's not as much as I'd like, but I'm willing to sacrifice protein for non-gmo, nutrient-dense, natural ingredients that I can pronounce. That's really my focus now--real, natural food that my body can process.
I also like KIND's line of Healthy Grains snacks, which use "5 super grains". I give them to my boys, rather than those artificial granola bars. And I like to remind my fellow parents of kids with nut allergies that the Healthy Grains line is nut free.
Keep a few of these convenience foods around when you're in a pinch, but otherwise, plan your meals ahead so you're never tempted to drive through and super size it!
Q. What is your favorite type of protein powder? What is the best type of smoothie for after a workout? -- Heather S.
A. Thanks for asking, Heather! I'd like to start with an answer to your second question regarding the best type of smoothie after a workout, because I don't think most exercisers realize the impact of a post-recovery shake. Recent studies have shown that consuming a shake made up of a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein within 30 minutes of a workout will offset muscle damage and facilitate greater training adaptations. The value of this snack should not be underestimated, and it rivals breakfast as the most important meal of the day.
In fact, I've worked with clients who, simply by regularly incorporating a recovery shake into their postworkout ritual, accelerated their fitness results. Eating immediately after working out may seem counterintuitive, but timing is everything.
The ideal recovery shake consists of around 20 grams of protein--whey, ideally, because it contains the amino acids your body needs to build and repair muscle--mixed with whole fruit or some other carbohydrate (60-80 grams). Some fitness experts even suggest consuming your shake during and postworkout. The sooner the better. (Click here for one of my post workout recovery shake recipes.)
Why a shake at all? Because you want to get nutrients to those muscles as quickly as possible, and liquids metabolize faster than solids. If a shake isn't available, have milk, eggs, yogurt or something similar that delivers protein to muscles fast.
"You must replace what you've depleted," says Rachel Cosgrove, fitness expert, author and co-owner of one of the nation's top rated gyms. "Do not dillydally; instead, have your shake ready to go for immediate replenishment. You won't get everything out of your workout if you skip this step."
Furthermore, don't skimp on the protein: "The simple act of eating more protein increases the amount of protein in your muscles. Why? Because that's pretty much the only place your body can store it," says Lou Shuler, fitness journalist, author and a certified strength and conditioning specialist. "Your body breaks down and builds up muscle tissue at an accelerated rate when you work out with weights. In fact, if you don't supply your muscles with fresh protein after you lift, you'll end up with a net loss of muscle protein in the hours immediately following your workout."
Now, on to the first question about protein powder. My favorite powder for the last few years has been PFC's Performance Bio-Whey. It uses simple, high quality ingredients (the vanilla, for instance, only contains 100% cold filtered whey protein isolate, ultra-filtered whey, fructose, natural gum, natural flavoring, digestive enzyme blend and stevia.). One level scoop is 110 calories and 20 grams of protein. It blends really well, can easily be added to baked goods for extra fortification, and tastes awesome. It used to only be available in health clubs, but is now available online in a variety of flavors. I stick with Creamy Vanilla and Rich Chocolate.
Another option that you may find more convenient (albeit more expensive), is to buy pre-made protein shakes from your grocer. Because I often teach fitness classes back-to-back and need ready-made replenishment, I sometimes drink the Protein Plus shakes by Bolthouse Farms. They include 210 calories and 16 grams of protein per serving (I sometimes have two servings at once), plus 21 vitamins and minerals. I admit that the sugar content is higher than I'd like, but remember that sugar is best consumed postworkout. Beyond that, I like that this brand uses no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, and no genetically modified ingredients. A money-saving trick with these is to buy several when they're on sale, then freeze them since they're perishable. Put one in the fridge the day before to let it thaw.
Ok, now's the time to start planning for your next workout. Do you need to acquire some protein powder or other forms of high quality protein to have on hand? Preparation is key! As Cosgrove said, you won't maximize your efforts if you skip this step!!
So there I was, cruising down Race Track Road in St. Johns, Fla, late one afternoon. And I may have been slightly exceeding the speed limit (if you're going to name a road 'Race Track' for Heaven's sake, expect people to drive fast!). As I casually glanced at my rearview mirror, there it was. A police car. Not just behind me, but right behind me. My stomach sank the way it does when we immediately feel guilty, whether we've done something wrong or not.
Of course I ease off the gas pedal, apply lip gloss, then put my hands at two and ten on the wheel (because the most competent drivers have shiny lips, right?!). Please don't pull me over, please don't pull me over, please don't pull me over. The officer continued to tail me, even though he had room in the neighboring lane to pass. I decided to make a move to determine his intentions. I signaled with my blinker and steadily moved into the right hand lane. Was he going to stay behind me? Please don't stay behind me. I don't have time to be pulled over. I'll be late for work!
Vroom! The officer flew past me. Whew! He was clearly in a hurry, but without his lights flashing, I assumed he wasn't responding to an emergency. Now, I don't know about you, but when I see a police cruiser exceeding the limit without its lights on, I may interpret that as license to keep up with it. So I did. I trailed it for a couple of miles, until I found myself directly behind it...turning into the same destination as I was heading.
One guess where that was. Yep, the gym. I was on my way there to lead a group training session, while he was arriving, with his young child in the back (yes, where they seat criminals), to work out. I have to admit that when I realized he was simply headed to the gym, I was miffed. How dare he ride my tail and make me break into a cold sweat, just so that he could speed to the club (like I was doing :-)?!
But then, I had another train of thought--this dude really wanted to work out. He had prioritized this time to exercise, and he wasn't going to let me and my Honda get in his way. He was even willing to bring his son along for the ride, because Daddy needs to be strong and healthy. Beyond that, as a police officer, he needs to be fit enough to subdue bad guys, a service for which I am eternally grateful.
As my brain kept churning on this, I wondered just how many of my readers are as adamant about making time to exercise. Oh, that's right. You don't have time. You can't afford a gym membership. You're too busy with kids, work, chores, etc. Or you're too tired. Too old. It's too hot. It's too cold. You hate spandex. You hate to sweat. You don't know how to get started or what to do.
Have I covered all of the obvious excuses?
Here's the thing--exercise can be done incrementally. Don't approach it as an arduous, multi-hour event. Got 10 minutes? Alternate every 30 seconds between squats, pushups and jumping jacks or run in place. Build in movement where it seems unlikely (this is a key aspect to the Metabolic Profile action plans I design), such as performing lunges while drying your hair in the morning. Buy yourself a resistance band or two, a jump rope, stability ball or TRX, a couple of pairs of dumbbells and/or a kettlebell, and you've got yourself a home gym that takes up very little space.
Some days, my workouts are done in my driveway while I keep an eye on the kids. Or in the playroom, which also doubles as my exercise studio, where we all get to 'play.' As Theodore Roosevelt so simply stated, "We have to do the best we can, where we are, with what we have."
I'm going to leave you with a challenge: Time how long you spend on social media each day (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), and devote at least that same amount of time to exercise. When you realize how much better you feel, increase the duration and/or intensity of your session!
When was the last time you did crunches or sit-ups? Today? This week? Last month? Within the last year?
Whenever it was, I have some good news for you: Unless you are an MMA fighter, soldier, football player, or anyone else involved in fighting or contact sports, you are hereby exempt from performing crunches or sit-ups ever again.
Why? Because they cause more harm than good, and aren't effective for developing overall core stability since they only address the abdominal portion of the core.
According to Stuart McGill, Ph.D.,who is recognized as the world's top spinal researcher, "Enough sit-ups will cause damage in most people." As reported by the University of Waterloo where he is a professor, he discovered that, "crunches and traditional sit-ups place 3,300 newtons (the equivalent of roughly 750 lbs!) of compressive force on the spine when bent in flexion. These forces can squeeze a bent disc’s nucleus to the point that it bulges – pressing on nerves and causing back pain, and potentially leading to a herniated disc."
While this may be old news to some of you, I'm blogging about it because I was approached just recently by two women in my fitness class who wanted me to reiterate the dangers of crunches and sit-ups to their husbands. At the risk of creating marital friction and plenty of spousal, "I told you so's," I explained McGill's findings to the gentlemen who were more receptive than I expected.
I was ready for the obligatory follow-up question, which went something like this: "But if we can't do our beloved crunches and sit-ups that we've been doing since watching Rocky I, what are we to do to strengthen our abs?" First, let's stop obsessing about just the abs and take a big picture approach. How 'bout we perform movements that strengthen the entire core--all the muscles (29 sets!) that attach to the hips, pelvis and lower back.
Those movements include:
This is just the tip of the iceberg on this topic, but it's a good start for now.
If you'd like more information on core-centric strength training, I highly recommend one of my favorite resources: The New Rules of Lifting for Abs by Lou Shuler and Alwyn Cosgrove. It revolutionized how I personally train, and eradicated my lower back pain. Once you order it, let me know if you'd like help with a similar, personalized program.
Today, time yourself holding a front plank for as long as you can. Stop timing when your form collapses (or differs from the depiction above). Write down the length of time held. Continue to practice this daily until you can hold a front plank for at least two minutes. Don't rush this. It may take several weeks or more to build up to this, but don't give up. Report back when you've accomplished this feat!
DID YOU KNOW? According to Men's Health, it takes 22,000 crunches to burn one pound of fat. And for a woman to see her abs, she needs to be down to about 16-18% body fat, while men should be down to 10-12%.
I'm always fascinated by reports about 'fittest,' 'healthiest,' or 'most active' cities because, well, I'm competitive. I want my city to 'represent,' so to speak. I'm pleased that three cities I call home--Charlotte and Raleigh, NC, and Jacksonville, Fl--all made the American College of Sports Medicine's (ACSM) top 50 fittest metropolitan areas for 2014.
According to ACSM, with support from the WellPoint Foundation, the data report, "reflects a composite of preventive health behaviors, levels of chronic disease conditions, and community resources and policies that support physical activity."
Now that I'm currently in Jacksonville, let's see if we can earn a higher spot next year! Where do we start? With the "preventive health behaviors" that we can control: move more, eat well, and live freely with a positive attitude!
Here are the rankings:
Rank/Metropolitan Area/2014 Score
1. Washington, D.C. 77.3
2. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn. 73.5
3. Portland, Ore. 72.1
4. Denver, Colo. 71.7
5. San Francisco, Calif. 71.0
6. San Jose, Calif. 69.4
7. Seattle, Wash. 69.3
8. San Diego, Calif. 69.2
9. Boston, Mass. 69.1
10. Sacramento, Calif. 66.9
11. Salt Lake City, Utah 65.7
12. Hartford, Conn. 63.8
13. Raleigh, N.C. 61.5
14. Austin, Texas 60.6
15. Chicago, Ill. 56.6
16. Atlanta, Ga. 56.0
17. Pittsburgh, Pa. 54.8
18. Cincinnati, Ohio 54.5
19. Los Angeles, Calif. 53.4
20. Philadelphia, Pa. 52.9
21. Richmond, Va. 52.3
22. Virginia Beach, Va. 52.0
23. Providence, R.I. 51.6
24. New York, N.Y. 51.5
25. Baltimore, Md. 50.8
26. Miami, Fla. 49.0
27. Charlotte, N.C. 48.1
28. Riverside, Calif. 47.5
29. Buffalo, N.Y. 47.2
30. Jacksonville, Fla. 46.6
31. Tampa, Fla. 46.0
32. Milwaukee, Wis. 45.7
33. Cleveland, Ohio 45.4
34. Kansas City, Mo. 45.1
35. Houston, Texas 44.0*
36. Phoenix, Ariz. 44.0*
37. Las Vegas, Nev. 43.7
38. Dallas, Texas 42.6
39. New Orleans, La. 42.4
40. Columbus, Ohio 41.3*
41. St. Louis, Mo. 41.3*
42. Orlando, Fla. 40.8
43. Detroit, Mich. 37.3
44. Birmingham, Ala. 35.9
45. San Antonio, Texas 35.6
46. Nashville, Tenn. 32.5
47. Indianapolis, Ind. 32.3
48. Oklahoma City, Okla. 31.6
49. Louisville, Ky. 25.7
50. Memphis, Tenn. 24.8
*Scores have been rounded to the nearest tenth of a point, resulting in some apparent ties; however, the rankings are based on the full, calculated scores that were not equal in those cases.
(View the full report at: http://www.stonehearthnewsletters.com/acsms-top-50-fittest-metropolitan-areas-index/exercise/#sthash.MdjY81IS.dpuf)
Let's play a little game, shall we? I'd like for you to imagine exercise personified. In fact, let's make it a proper name and capitalize it: Exercise. For the sake of this article, Exercise is male. So far so good?
Now, describe your relationship with Exercise to me. Was he a part of your past--one you think fondly of but never expect to meet again? Was his a short-lived romance, leaving you tingly, sweaty and satisfyingly sore, but bored after a couple of weeks? Did you love him, but the lackluster results of your relationship left you feeling unrequited? Maybe you enjoyed each other equally, but you got too busy and stopped making time for him. Is he someone you see here and there, hoping for more frequent interactions, but are too insecure to make a commitment? Does he hurt you every time he sees you, making you unsure of yourself? Or perhaps you're still waiting to meet him, hoping that life will magically motivate you to seek him. Conversely, maybe you're addicted to him, leaving you insecure, exhausted and desperate.
Did any of those scenarios describe your relationship with Exercise? Do you love him and hate him at the same time? Do you want to break-up and make-up all in the same day (the answer's always yes if you've just done burpees!)? Guess what? Even fitness fanatics are occasionally tempted to trade Exercise for the next best thing (like flirty Mr. Fast n' Cleanse, rich Dr. Injectable or endearing Diet Pill).
But perhaps the better question to ask is, "How would you describe your relationship with your body?" Because when you consider that, the issue is much less about whether you love or hate Exercise, and much more about whether you love or hate your body. When you hate your body, you're likely going to dislike Exercise, because it makes you very aware of yourself, and your perceived limitations and flaws. Or it may make you obsessed with Exercise, as you seek to run from the body you've been given.
However, when you love your body--imperfections and all--your relationship with Exercise becomes healthy, supportive and nurturing. It brings out the best in you. It makes you want to go on double dates with Good Nutrition and Rest.
Within the next 24 hours, what's one thing you can do to start restoring your love for your body again? Get more sleep tonight? Eat a healthy breakfast? Make time for a little exercise? Avoid snacking on junk food? If you're feeling particularly amorous, pick two!
Perform as many burpees or squat thrusts (squat thrusts are burpees without the jump at the top) as you can in 20 secs. Rest for 10 secs. Repeat for 8 rounds. (Challenge option 1: Add a pushup at the bottom of the burpee. Option 2: hold a low squat during each 10 sec rest.)
In my previous blog, "When you know better," I talk about voting with your groceries. Every time you place an item in your cart, you're casting a vote for the kinds of products you want to see carried in that store.
Well, let's talk about where more votes are cast than probably any grocer in the country--Walmart. And I happen to cast A LOT of votes at my local Walmart Neighborhood Market. Do I enjoy the experience? Not particularly, but because I, like most fitness professionals, don't earn Gillian Michaels' salary, and because food is my largest monthly purchase, I go where I can save. I also shop at other mass grocers, and occasionally at Whole Foods and a natural foods market when I feel like splurging and wasting a lot of time driving. But by and large, Walmart it is, because I'm frugal, because it's on the way home, and because I've learned to find healthy options there.
I realize that each Walmart (superstores and neighborhood markets) offers a slightly different assortment of products, so some of the items I highlight may not yet have reached your store. But use these finds as a guide, and don't be afraid to ask a manager to stock similar items.
As you take a look at these products and read the captions, I'd like to remind everyone that locally-sourced, fresh, unprocessed, homemade food is best. We're all on the same page with that, right? Good. But I'm a realist and don't take an elitist attitude about my food or its source. I'm a busy mom with two kids and a husband with a demanding job, so I do what works best for my life. The point of this blog is simply to show you that healthy options are available, even at Walmart, and if we want to keep seeing more good stuff, we have to buy the good stuff.
Do all of these items cost more than other options in the store? Yes. Are they worth it? To my family, absolutely. If we are what we eat--down to a cellular level--how can I accept less than quality food? And we have made adjustments in our budget to afford these items. As such, we only consume bison or grass fed beef once every 7-10 days, chicken once or twice a week, salmon (I buy the wild caught frozen filets from either Wal-Mart or Target) once a week and tuna once or twice a week. Other days, we have a vegetarian or bean-based meal, and every Sunday, we consume a family ritual of popcorn, cheese and fruit for dinner. And we rarely eat fast food, or eat out for that matter.
If the idea of incorporating more organic, high quality--and thus, more expensive--foods into your diet seems daunting, start small. Little by little, start swapping bad stuff for good, and good stuff for better. And make the healthier stuff go farther. For instance, I buy organic milk, which is stupid expensive, so I only allow my boys to consume it at breakfast and dinner. To bulk up a pound of ground bison, I add cooked quinoa, brown rice or black beans. To turn organic vegetable soups into a heftier, protein enhanced meal, I blend in cottage cheese (or tofu, which I haven't found at Walmart). You get the idea (and if not, leave a comment and I'll help you out!).
I'd like to leave you with a simple challenge: take a look in your refrigerator, freezer and cupboard and determine one item in each that you will replace with something healthier the next time you shop. That's just three small changes...and a great start!
I admit it. I was scared to watch it. I was afraid I would suddenly find revolting all the things that taste good. That depictions of inhumane treatment of cows, pigs and chickens would turn me against consuming animal protein. That I would be left with the powerless feeling of, "I know this is happening, but I can't do anything about it." But you know what? I watched it this week, and none of that happened. I actually walked away feeling enlightened and empowered. And good thing, because this girl likes a burger.
The film to which I'm referring is 'Food, Inc.' Many of you have probably seen it a time or two already since it's been out for six years. As I said, I've been reluctant to watch it, knowing it might force me to change, because as Maya Angelou said, "When you know better, you do better.' And how might doing better disrupt the diet with which I've grown accustomed? I shuddered at the thought.
This probably seems counterintuitive that I would respond this way, but food is a highly personal thing, and I like what I like. Here's the good news: I like healthy stuff. That wasn't always the case. But as I've become educated over the years on the power of what we eat, particularly as it relates to our performance, I already (mostly) eat clean, lean and green. And the difference in how you feel, look and function when you eat what your body needs is nothing short of significant.
But even if our dietary intentions are pure, how are we to avoid the deceptive practices of food producers pointed out in the documentary? Ideally, we'd grow our own produce, buy meats from a local farmer, knead our own bread (check out this easy einkorn bread recipe on my 'Favorite Recipes' page), and make all meals from scratch. Yeah, um, not happening, at least not all of them at once. One guy in the documentary drove five hours to purchase meat from a featured farmer. More power (and fuel) to him, but I prefer quick, close and cheap!
The most meaningful takeaway for me in the film came, appropriately, at the end. The guy who runs Stonyfield Organic, which is now owned by multinational food giant Danone (its line of YoKids yogurt is in my fridge as I type this), reminded viewers that every time we purchase a product, we're casting a vote. That vote determines what continues to be supplied in stores, or what gets discontinued. At the end of the day, food stores just want to carry what sells. It means little to them if it's healthy or unhealthy.
So the next time you're at the grocery store and about to place an item in your basket, ask yourself, 'What am I voting for, and how does this impact my health?'
More on how to choose healthier options at discount grocers in an upcoming blog!
1. Tap Squats 20x (With a stable surface, such as a chair or bench, behind you, lower your backside to the surface without releasing your body weight, then immediately rise to standing)
2. Up-Down Plank 10x (Start in a high plank on your hands and toes. Drop down to your elbows, then rise to your hands again. The pattern is 'elbow-elbow-hand-hand,' or 'down-down-up-up'. Perform on your knees to reduce the challenge.)
REPEAT 3 times!
"Raise your hand if you had breakfast this morning."
It's a poll I regularly take in my morning fitness classes. Invariably, there are attendees whose hands remain at their sides. They still haven't grasped the importance of the first meal of the day.
They'll say, "I'm just not hungry in the morning," or, "The morning is too rushed for breakfast,", or the worst one, "I'm skipping meals to lose weight."
The funny thing is, they're often the same people who complain of not being able to lose weight, of a slow metabolism, of results unrealized. Don't get me wrong--eating breakfast won't solve every weight loss woe, but it's an important part of healthy lifestyle that contributes to sustained weight management, among other benefits.
And while experts argue over whether eating breakfast affects body composition, or by what degree it impacts metabolism, research overwhelming supports that those who regularly eat breakfast demonstrate a decreased risk for obesity and heart disease, and better cognitive function. Beyond that, those who regularly eat breakfast tend to be leaner than those who don't.
According to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health:
And if you're one of those who regularly skips meals, understand that restricting calories slows your metabolism--the thing you need to keep revving to burn calories. "Skipping meals increases your likelihood for metabolic syndrome, which includes decreasing your good cholesterol, increasing your blood pressure, and worst of all increasing your belly fat," says Rachel Cosgrove, renowned women's fitness expert and author.
Furthermore, randomized controlled trials have shown the metabolisms of people on starvation or crash diets slow down to conserve energy, which means their basal metabolic rate (BMR) can drop by up to about 15 percent. BMR is the amount of kilojoules (or energy) your body burns to maintain functioning at rest. This accounts for 50 to 80 per cent of your overall energy requirements.
Ok, now that you're convinced to start your day with breakfast, what should you eat? Those who say they aren't hungry in the morning can start with something small, like a piece of fruit with a scoop of nut butter, an easy-to-drink protein-fruit smoothie, yogurt or pre-made bag of granola with nuts/seeds. Heck, you could even combine your coffee with a protein shake (vanilla or chocolate) to have an all-in-one kickstart to your morning. If yours is a time issue, get up 15 minutes earlier! That, or prepare your breakfast the night before so that you can just grab and go.
Whenever I enter the breakfast discussion with folks, the question always comes up, "What do you eat for breakfast?" Well, I'll tell you. I'm a creature of habit, so when I find something I like, I stick with it. Each morning, within 30 minutes of rising, I eat a bowl of Nature's Path Organic Pumpkin Flax Granola with skim milk and blueberries, and one mug of Starbucks coffee with stevia, honey, cinnamon and organic plain soymilk. This has been my breakfast ritual for a few years now, and it just works for me. It's also safe to eat for my son with a peanut allergy. I don't recommend most cereals, which are laden with sugar and void of nutrients, but this one is nutrient dense with 5g of fiber, 6g of protein (not including the skim milk), 31g of whole grain and 0.7g of ALA Omega 3. This combo of rolled oats, pumpkin and flax seeds, and brown rice flour sustains me during the classes I teach, tiding me over until my late morning, post-workout recovery shake. I literally order it by the case from Amazon because it's either out of stock at the local store or is grossly overpriced.
Now, the only question that remains is, what are you having for breakfast tomorrow?
1. Alternating reverse lunges 10x/leg (from standing, step one foot back into a lunge, then step feet together again. Repeat other side.)
2. Quadruped with opposite arm/leg raises 10x/pair (on hands and knees, slowly lift and lower left arm and right leg. Repeat with right arm and left leg)
REPEAT 3-5 times!
When I told my husband that I came up with a concept called The R.E.A.R. View, guess where his mind went? Yep, to my backside. I can't blame him. After all, part of my job as a fitness coach is to help make rear ends high-and-tight. In fact, no workout is complete without a round of squats and lunges to target those gorgeous glutes!
The rear view also reminded me of an instructor's visual perspective when leading fitness classes. Before the advent of Les Mill and Body Training Systems, programs requiring instructors to face their participants, instructors faced the mirror. The reflection in the mirror--the instructor's rear view--is how we keep an eye on our participants. Building on the idea of that rear view, where we continually monitor and coach the participants who faithfully follow the instructor, I came up with an acronym for R.E.A.R. representing four key concepts that create a best experience for my clients. Every time I teach, train, or advise, I keep these concepts in mind to deliver what clients want:
With The R.E.A.R. View--my reader's best interest--always in sight, I hope to provide you with just the right message to encourage you to move a little more, eat a little better, and love yourself a little deeper each day.
1. Hip bridges 20x (Lie on your back, bend your knees with feet on the floor. Lift/lower hips, squeezing glutes at the top)
2. Push-ups 10x
Repeat 3-5 times!
I want to be a ninja. Not in the violent, mercenary sort of way, but in the "excels in a particular skill or activity" kind of way. And I want to be a ninja in EVERYTHING--fitness, parenting, housekeeping, cooking, you name it. The reality is, I'm not even close. In fact, I consider myself your run-of-the-mill generalist: good at lots of things, but great at very few things.
Here's the deal with becoming a ninja--it takes practice. Excelling in something--anything--requires daily, disciplined, planned repetition of the action you wish to command. And if I am committed to be a ninja, I should read books about them, such as, 'How to Become a Ninja in 90 Days,' 'The Ninja's Diet Guide,' 'How to Live Like a Ninja,' 'The Ninja Exercise Plan,' 'The Ninja Dress Code,' etc. (No, these aren't real books.) I would also want to investigate where ninjas hang out (dark alleys? roof tops? libraries?), then assimilate with them. Perhaps I could develop a ninja mentor to guide me through this process. My very best chance at becoming a true ninja is to embrace it as a lifestyle. To fully immerse myself in it so that it becomes second nature.
Now, since becoming a ninja is my dream, what's yours? Re-read the paragraph above, substituting your goal with the word 'ninja'. If that's to be a stronger, fitter, healthier, happier version of yourself (an awesome goal for anyone!), the same rules apply. Determine your goal, commit to it, make small, steady strides daily toward it, educate yourself about it, surround yourself with people who share your goal, and ask for help from experts who can get you to your goal faster.
Well, what are you waiting for?
1. Squat (as deep as you can) with alternating front kicks 10x (5/side)
2. Mountain climbers, any style 20x (10/side)
Repeat 3-5 times!
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I am not a registered dietitian, nor a medical professional. My blog is a representation of my views and experiences, which are not intended as medical advice. While I am a certified personal trainer, descriptions of things I eat and exercises I perform may not be suitable for everyone. Please speak with a medical professional before making any changes to your current routine.