Burn Mega Fat With A Stability Ball

Stability ball…Swiss ball…Yoga ball…That big round blue ball…

You can find it in every fitness center, and you can buy one for around $15-$20.  It’s become a fitness staple because of its versatility and low cost (Work your core by sitting on it while you watch TV!).  Your kids will love it too (Just don’t let them pop it!).

Do you have one, but aren’t sure what to do with it?  Check out some of my favorite stability-ball moves.  Do these as a circuit, 2-3 times.  Do 10-18 reps per exercise.  Click on each photo for a demonstration.

1. Pec Fly With Bridge

Dumbbell-Chest-Flys-on-Ball

Bonus: Keep your glutes tight throughout these movements, lifting your butt off the ball so that your torso and thighs form a straight line (not demonstrated).

2. Ball Wall Squat With Bicep Curl

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Bicep Curl is not demonstrated.  Perform each curl as you squat, extending your arms and legs simultaneously as you return to standing.

3. One-Legged Static Lunge with Lat Raise

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There is no demonstration with this photo.  Keep your front knee behind the toe and you bend it.  Bonus: Add a lat raise (not pictured), lifting your extended arms laterally to shoulder level as you bend your knee.  Perform on both legs.

4.  Push-Up

Pushups-on-the-Ball

The closer the ball is to your feet, the harder the exercise.

5. Back Extension

Back-Extension-with-Ball

5. Side Plank

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This is great especially for those who find a regular side plank too challenging.  Hold in this position for 15-30 seconds, to start.

6. Dumbell Reverse Flys

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Begin this exercise by placing your body balanced on the Swiss ball at your core with legs straight and toes on the floor.

7.  Wheelbarrow Walk

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Keep your abs tight throughout this movement.

8. Swimming

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9. Hamstring Curl

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Begin this exercise by lying flat on your back with a Swiss ball under your heels. Place your arms straight out to your side for support.  Keep your feet flexed, digging your heels into the ball.  For more of a challenge, keep your butt off the floor.

10. Jack Knife

Jackknife-with-Ball

Demonstrations courtesy of SparkPeople.

The Perfect Guilt-Free Dessert To Make For Your Sweetheart (Or Yourself!)

valentines-day strawberries

Dark chocolate covered strawberries are a perfect way to top off a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner, especially if you or your significant other don’t want to splurge on sweets.  They’re decadent, fairly easy to make, and provide a perfect dose of flavonoid and antioxidant-rich chocolate.

The key to making your strawberries extra delicious and nutritious?  Find the ripest, freshest berries and a high-quality, low sugar, very dark melting chocolate.  Melt in the microwave for small increments of time at 50% power, or melt on low on your stove (usually the package will have melting instructions;  the key is not to burn the chocolate), dip, and let dry on parchment paper.  Sprinkle with your favorite chopped nuts, if you wish.

A large dark chocolate covered strawberry contains 115-145 calories, so this is a great way to feel like you’re indulging without actually doing so.  Actually, this dessert is quite nutritious.  Four extra large strawberries give you 3.81 grams of fiber, 44.82 IU of vitamin A and 94.12 mg of vitamin C.  Strawberries have more vitamin C per ounce than citrus fruits, according to the University of Illinois Extension.

Don’t have a sweetheart?  Who says Valentine’s Day is just for couples?  Make them for yourself, and enjoy every bite!

Trainer’s Tip #12: Use Apps To Hold Yourself Accountable

 

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Trainer’s Tip #12:  Use a fitness app to help you hold yourself accountable.

Have you kept your New Year’s Resolution to finally get fit and healthy, or are you losing motivation?  If you’re slipping back into old habits, you’re not alone, but it’s not too late to turn it around!  Maybe you just haven’t found strategies that have work for you in adapting, then keeping, healthier habits.

I often recommend apps like myfitnesspal to clients.  Apps like this make it easier for people to keep their goals by a) allowing them to detect what foods/habits are sabotaging their weight-loss efforts, and finding healthier foods that are satisfying to them  b) allowing them to track their progress and accomplishments, which helps keep them motivated and holds them accountable c) allowing them to be part of a supportive online community of people, just like them.

Here are my experiences with myfitnesspal.  As a personal trainer, it taught me some invaluable tips: My Experience with myfitnesspal. Did it Work?

Good luck!

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The Best (and Worst) Moves For Awesome Abs

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Everyone pines for a six-pack.  People love to work their abs, and that’s good.  Your core is the foundation from where all your power originates.  Keep in mind that the core includes not only the abdominal muscles, but those of the back, glutes, spine, and hips (pelvic floor).  Keeping all of your core muscles strong also helps to prevent injury in athletes.

Before I continue, let me first say that you cannot spot reduce body fat on your waist, or anywhere else, for that matter.  You can strengthen your ab muscles with all of the exercises in the world, but without getting your heart-rate up through cardiovascular exercise, you won’t be able burn off the fat needed to see those strong abs you worked for.  So do your cardio!

People who want that flat tummy often gravitate toward crunches, because that’s the most well-known ab move.  However, research has shown that crunches are one of the worst ab moves in terms of how hard the obliques and rectus abdominus are worked.  The crunch only works a small part of the core, repeatedly bends the spine, and burns few calories.

The plank, a stabilizing move, works your whole core, as well as the transverse abdominus and your upper body.  It’s one of the best ab moves you can do.  What’s more, the possibilities with plank variations are endless!  Let’s first start with how to do a simple plank, because form is key:

With your forearms and toes on the floor:

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  • Keep your torso straight and rigid and your body in a straight line from ears to toes with no sagging or bending.
  • Your head is relaxed and you should be looking at the floor.
  • Hold this position for 10 seconds to start.
  • Over time work up to 30, 45 or 60 seconds.  Don’t forget to breathe!

You can also do a plank with your arms fully extended, which works more of the upper body:

ICP

 

If you are a planking pro and can hold the pose for more than a couple of minutes, the simple plank is really no longer very effective for you.  It’s time to ramp it up a little!  Aside from the regular push-up, which is a great move, try one of these other variations below.  Happy planking!

Dolphin

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Plank Reach

plank reach

 

Single-Legged

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Reach & Raise

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Lateral Walking Plank

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  • Simultaneously cross your right hand toward the left as you step your left foot out to the left. Then simultaneously step your left hand and right foot to the left, returning to the plank position. Your hands move together as your feet step apart. Take two more steps in this direction, keeping your abs pulled toward your spine and your pelvis level. This completes one rep.
  • Reverse directions, taking three steps the right.

 

Plank Up-Downs

plank up downs

 

Plank on Bosu Ball

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Side Plank

side plank

 

Plank Rows

plank rows

Sliding Plank

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Plank Walk-Out

 plank walkout

 

Oblique Crunch Plank

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Bonus: Jack Knife on Stability Ball

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Meatloaf? Sure! Trainer’s Tip #11: Make Your Meals Hearty

turkey chili

 

Trainer’s Tip #11:  Make your meals hearty.

Yes.  Eat REAL FOOD, food that satisfies, and enjoy it.  Create hearty, filling meals using healthy, quality ingredients, and lose weight.

Why?  Because…

A.)  Calories are NOT created equal.  Your body wants and needs nutrient-dense foods like nuts, legumes, whole grains, avocados, lean meat, healthy oils, etc., to fuel your workouts.  Eating these foods will promote a better metabolism and better fat-burn, and you’ll feel way better.  Don’t be afraid of calorie-rich food that is packed with good-for-you-fat.  Just watch your portions and listen to your body’s signals, and don’t forget to give veggies and fruit a starring role in your meals.

B.)  In order to stick with a healthy diet long-term, you must enjoy the food you eat, and you must feel full.  Satiety is key with clean eating, and this has been illustrated through studies.  Why do you think people yo-yo diet so much?  They try to lose weight using short-term solutions that too severely restrict calorie consumption and eliminate complete food groups that contain vital nutrients.  Rather than flip-flopping endlessly between states of deprivation and bingeing–fill your meals with whole, natural, nutrient and fiber-rich ingredients.

Here’s a super-easy “Mini Meat Loaves” recipe that even kids will love:

Combine 1 egg, 1/2 cup of (lower sugar) marinara sauce, 1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs, 1/4 tsp salt, 1lb lean organic ground beef or turkey, and 1/2 cup of shredded part-skim mozzarella in a bowl.  Divide mixture into 4 equal portions and shape into ovals.  Place on a foil-lined baking pan.  Spoon a dollop of marinara sauce on top, and sprinkle lightly with a little more cheese.  Bake 15 minutes at 450 degrees.  Pair meat loaves with your favorite vegetable.

For the recipe on the above chili, click here.

5 Strategies For Reaching Your Weight-Loss Goals

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You make ’em…..Then you break ’em.  They begin with the best intentions, but then real life gets in the way and sabotages them.

Does that describe your experience with New Year’s resolutions?  Especially ones involving weight loss?

It doesn’t have to be that way.  But, it does take work, and a bit of planning on your part.  If you’ve resolved to get back in shape, or get in better shape, you’re not alone.  In fact, I’m right there with you.  The crazy holidays and a two-week illness last month really set me back fitness-wise, so I have a few goals of my own.  No, trainers are not perfect, by any means.  We have to work hard, too!  I’ll be using techniques like the following to keep my mental focus and get me back on track.  You may find them useful too…

1.  Who do you want to be six months from now?  Visualize that person.  Dig deep to recognize your internal motivations for getting healthier.  Sure, you want to fit into those skinny jeans.  But what else?  Do you want to be able to play sports with your kids without getting winded?  Remind yourself of these motivations regularly.

2.  Schedule your workouts into your calendar, like appointments.  Figure out ahead of time how much time per week you can devote to exercise, and stick to your schedule–Even if this means you have to wake up an hour earlier.  You may even start looking forward to this quiet time to yourself.  It will take a month or so to get used to your new schedule, and hopefully will become more of a habit.

3.  Use short-term nutrition goals.  Pick 2 goals for yourself (For example, eat breakfast everyday, cut out excess sugar).  Give yourself one or two weeks to adjust.  Once you’ve mastered them, be proud of  yourself, choose two more, and so on.

4.  Give yourself attainable, specific, concrete fitness goals, and make a contract with yourself to reach them.  For example, sign up for a 5k or another sports event with a friend.  If you’ve committed to it, you’re less likely to skip training.  Some people find that fitness apps like myfitnesspal really help to track their progress and keep their motivation up.

5.  Start a food log.  Write down everything you eat, and when you eat it.  For some people, this can be very helpful because it can help you detect what foods/behaviors may be sabotaging your diet.  Too much grazing?  “Problem” foods you didn’t detect before?  A food log can bring them to light.  Just be very specific, and brutally honest with yourself.  Also, you may wish to share your log with a registered dietician and ask for recommendations.

“Motivation is what gets you started.  Habit is what keeps you going.”

                                                         –Jum Ryun, former world-class runner

Trainer’s Tip #10: Snack Smartly At Holiday Parties

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Trainer’s Tip #10: Snack smartly at parties.

Tis the season for throwing healthy eating out the window at holiday parties.  But it doesn’t have to be that way!  Just be smart, and use moderation.  Here are a few tips:

~Eat something before you arrive.  You may think you need to save your calories for the party, but doing it that way will likely set you up for a bit of a binge.

~Bring your own healthier appetizer to share.  That ensures there will at least be ONE healthy option there.

~Don’t sit next to the food table.  Get a plate, move away, and eat slowly.

~Portion control, people!  If you’re drooling over the peppermint fudge, have one piece and really enjoy it.  Then move on.

~Limit alcohol.  It clouds your healthy-eating judgment.  Studies show that after a third drink, people are way more likely to abandon their healthy-eating goals.  Go for light beer and wine.  Stay away from sugary punches and mixed drinks.  Bonus:  No hangovers!

~Finally, opt for fresher choices that aren’t processed or fried.  One of the better choices? Shrimp cocktail!

Happy Holidays!

Trainer’s Tip #9: Use Short, Effective Workouts Through the Holidays

holiday-stress

Trainer’s Tip #9: The holidays…so much to do, so little time.  However, if you have 10 to 20 minutes you can still fit a good workout in–But don’t do just any workout.  Do interval training and compound moves for the best results.

Remember: Every minute adds up.  A 20 minute workout, if done correctly, will help you maintain through the holiday hustle and bustle.  Don’t even have 20 minutes?  Break it into two 10 minute workouts.

Here are two examples of effective, but quick, workouts:

6 Moves, One Full-Body, Fat-Torching Workout

20 Minute Get-You-Through-The Holidays Workout

Bonus:  Most of these moves are travel-friendly!

Trainer’s Tip #8: Take a Daily Dose of Gratitude.

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Trainer’s Tip #8:  Count your blessings instead of your hardships.

Not just tomorrow when you carve the turkey, but every day.  Too simplistic, you say?  Studies show that doing so will improve your level of happiness and your health.  They show that people who keep a gratitude journal exercise more regularly, take better care of themselves and are more optimistic about life.  Gratitude is a stress-buster and helps the immune system.

When your eyes open in the morning, or before they close at night, write down something you’re grateful for.  Or just think it in your head.  What do you take for granted?  What do you love about yourself?  Create positive mantras, and repeat them in your head while you work out.  “I’m strong.  I’m empowered.”

Try it.  You may be grateful you did.

 

Trainer’s Tip #7: Try the Assisted Pull-Up

assisted pull up

Trainer’s Tip of the Day #7:  Try the Assisted Pull-Up

If you like machines, but are pressed for time, don’t think you have to fit in every single one to get a full-body workout.  Focus on the machines that target large muscle groups of the upper and lower body.  These machines work the most muscles at once, giving you the most bang for your buck.  The assisted pull-up is of my favorite gym machines because it does just that.

This machine allows people who can’t lift their body weight (ie, most people) to recieve the benefits of the pull-up, which actively engages roughly 20 muscles.  Stabilizing muscles, such as those in your core, are also engaged.  I like to do a wide-grip pull-up on this machine, but you can also reverse your grip, with your palms facing toward you.

Trainer’s Tip of the Day #6: Ditch the Trendy Diet

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Trainer’s Tip #6:  Ditch diets that cut out whole food groups.

I love this article, written by a registered dietitian, which expresses the downside of the Whole30 diet perfectly.  My favorite line:  “Any diet that bans nutritious whole grains like quinoa and millet, but allows you to survive exclusively off of bacon and Larabars, should make you question the legitimacy of its health claims.”

I know there’s disagreement here.  I know that some of these diets have helped people lose weight, and if they educate people about the health risks of eating too much sugar and processed foods, that’s all good.  But research shows that they are not the best way to get in shape, and stay in shape for the long haul.  Let’s look at the facts:

1.) Many of the pounds lost on fad diets are made of water.   Dehydrating yourself is not sustainable for the long term.

2) Weight lost is the result of drastic calorie reduction, not the elimination of so-called bad foods.  Furthermore, usually muscle is broken down and burned, not fat.  Less muscle=lower metabolism.

3)  When off the diet, studies show the weight comes back easily because people are unable to stick to the drastic eating regimen for the rest of their lives.  Hence, a lifetime of yo-yo dieting.

4) Many of these diets do not place importance on physical activity, which is necessary in maintaining a healthy weight and body composition.

5) Many of these diets are created by unqualified people who publish books that have little scientific weight to stand on.  Someone who has passed a test in nutrition is not a registered dietician.   What do the creators of the Paleo diet think about this bit of knowledge?  I’d be interested to know.

 

 

I hereby commit to posting extremely brief tidbits of useful wisdom, termed “Trainers Tips,” on a regular basis.  You may ponder, ignore, or do as you wish with them as you go about your day.

Info about what?  Well…fitness.  Exercise tips, motivational tips, nutrition tips, health and well-being tips.  Maybe mind-blowing, maybe obvious but perhaps overlooked.  Tips to help you in your quest to become the happiest, healthiest you ever, one day at a time.

How often?  Most days.  Okay, I may get super busy or lazy one day.  Or two.  Don’t hold it against me.

Where?  Here.  On this site.  And my Facebook page and google+ page.

Why?  Because they’re short and sweet and force me to post to my blog regularly.  And because I love helping my readers in any small way I can, of course.

 

Trainer’s Tip of the Day #5: Stand Up!

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Trainer’s Tip #5: Stand up! (as opposed to sitting)

This one may seem a little obvious, but hear me out.  Sitting for long periods over the course of a day is hazardous to your health, even if you exercise regularly.  According to research, too much sitting likely increases your risk for metabolic syndrome and your risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.

If you have a desk job, take frequent walk breaks.  Sit on a stability ball or push for a standing desk.  When you’re on the phone or eating lunch, stand up.  Pick the farthest parking spot on purpose.  Walk wherever you can.  Be more active in general.  Every little minute counts, and this cumulative effect can make a profound difference in your health and well-being.

 

Trainer’s Tip of The Day #4: Beware the “All or Nothing” Trap

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Tip #4:  Forgo the “all or nothing” mindset.

By this, I mean, don’t obsess over calories consumed and calories burned when you’re trying to get in shape.  A continual state of anxiety over exercise and food is no way to live.  This doesn’t mean don’t pay attention at all to this.  But if you screw up and eat a cookie, don’t give up on it all.  One cookie is not going to derail the healthy lifestyle you’re trying to build.

And that, after all, is what matters most:  What you’re building in the long-term.  Not the cookie you ate today.  Too often when we screw up, we think “I messed up so I might as well eat this pizza too.  I’ll try again next time.”  But then next time keeps getting postponed, week after week, year after year.  My advice:  Follow the 80/20 rule.  Try to eat clean at least 80 percent of the time.  Studies show that if we feel too deprived when we’re trying to eat healthy, we don’t stick to it.  If you really want a cookie one day, eat the damn cookie.  Savor it.  And then move on.

I hereby commit to posting extremely brief tidbits of useful wisdom, termed “Trainers Tips,” on a regular basis.  You may ponder, ignore, or do as you wish with them as you go about your day.

Info about what?  Well…fitness.  Exercise tips, motivational tips, nutrition tips, health and well-being tips.  Maybe mind-blowing, maybe obvious but perhaps overlooked.  Tips to help you in your quest to become the happiest, healthiest you ever, one day at a time.

How often?  Most days.  Okay, I may get super busy or lazy one day.  Or two.  Don’t hold it against me.

Where?  Here.  On this site.  And my Facebook page and google+ page.

Why?  Because they’re short and sweet and force me to post to my blog regularly.  And because I love helping my readers in any small way I can, of course.

Trainer’s Tip of the Day #3: Give HIIT a Shot

HIIT

Tip #3:  Try HIIT (high intensity interval training)

I’m not necessarily recommending that you kill yourself every day with Shaun T. and his Insanity workouts.  Those definitely aren’t for everyone.  But try adding intervals to your runs or strength workouts a couple of times a week.  It could be just the jolt you need to get better results.

HIIT is really hot right now in the fitness world.  And it’s one trend I actually do recommend trying.  Why?  There’s positive research to back it up.  Alternating heartrate-elevating intervals with recovery intervals burns fat faster, and helps you keep burning fat even after your workout.  You can add intervals to most types of exercise to fit your taste.

Learn more about it here.  Happy HIITing!

A 6 Minute Anywhere-Workout to do With Your Kids!

Busy moms and dads, listen up!  Can’t fit in your workout today?  Finding it hard to get the kiddos away from their screens?

Help your kids reach their recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous daily activity, and get your workout in too.  Do this short workout one, two, three times in one day.  Every minute adds up!

Remember to keep it light-hearted and fun.  Shut off the TV, move your couch (or step outside), and get moving!

Trainer’s Tip of The Day #2

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Tip #2:  Eat a nice, big breakfast.

Recent studies show that making breakfast your biggest meal of the day promotes weight loss and reduces your risk for diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease.

I’m not giving you a license to pile on the syrupy pancakes and greasy sausage (sorry!).  Choose unprocessed foods like oatmeal, whole grains, eggs, lean meat, nuts, seeds, and of course, fruits and veggies.  A good low-sugar mix of protein, fiber and complex carbs will keep you full, and energized, longer.

A couple examples: two eggs with whole grain toast and avocado slices; low-sugar oatmeal or cereal with milk and fruit; a smoothie including things like plain yogurt, a banana, flax/chia seeds, kale…get creative!

I hereby commit to posting extremely brief tidbits of useful wisdom, termed “Trainers Tips,” on a regular basis.  You may ponder, ignore, or do as you wish with them as you go about your day.

Info about what?  Well…fitness.  Exercise tips, motivational tips, nutrition tips, health and well-being tips.  Maybe mind-blowing, maybe obvious but perhaps overlooked.  Tips to help you in your quest to become the happiest, healthiest you ever, one day at a time.

How often?  Most days.  Okay, I may get super busy or lazy one day.  Or two.  Don’t hold it against me.

Where?  Here.  On this site.  And my Facebook page and google+ page.

Why?  Because they’re short and sweet and force me to post to my blog regularly.  And because I love helping my readers in any small way I can, of course.

Trainer’s Tip of the Day #1

Young woman lifting weights, side view

Tip #1:

Lift heavy.

There’s your very first tip.  Try lifting heavy instead of light weights.  It doesn’t have to be part of every single workout.  But if you are a mostly cardio or light-weights kind of person, you need to try this.  You could see major results….a) because it will increase your metabolism and burn more fat, even after your workout…b) because it will increase your strength and improve your muscle composition, giving you a firm, lean look.  It will improve your overall health and well-being.  Go as heavy as you can for 8-12 reps.  If, after 12 reps, you feel you can go longer, try increasing the weight a bit more.  And ladies, you won’t bulk up.  You just won’t.  Bonus:  With less reps, your workouts will be shorter!

Today I hereby commit to posting extremely brief tidbits of useful wisdom, termed “Trainers Tips,” on a regular basis.  You may ponder, ignore, or do as you wish with them as you go about your day.

Info about what?  Well…fitness.  Exercise tips, motivational tips, nutrition tips, health and well-being tips.  Maybe mind-blowing, maybe obvious but perhaps overlooked.  Tips to help you in your quest to become the happiest, healthiest you ever, one day at a time.

How often?  Most days.  Okay, I may get super busy or lazy one day.  Or two.  Don’t hold it against me.

Where?  Here.  On this site.  And my Facebook page and google+ page.

Why?  Because they’re short and sweet and force me to post to my blog regularly.  And because I love helping my readers in any small way I can, of course.

Two Common Strength-Training Mistakes

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A buddy tells you that during her last workout, she performed 100 crunches and 75 bent over dumbbell rows, in record time.  Impressive?  Well yes, you have to admire this person’s mental and physical stamina.

At the gym, you notice a guy going 100 miles an hour on the leg extension machine.  But is this the best way to train?

There’s good reason to say that the answer is no.

Performing 100 crunches may add strength to your abs, but I can think of many other core moves that are way more effective with way fewer reps, and target your total core, including your back.  And here’s a bonus:  Less reps mean less time working out.

If your goal is to burn fat and increase cardiovascular fitness, it’s very important to get the heart rate up, and there are plenty of good workouts that achieve this.  However, performing quick, excessive repetitions  greatly increases the likelihood that you’re sacrificing form and relying too much on momentum.  And if your form isn’t correct, not only isn’t the exercise very effective, it also isn’t real safe.  There must be good form, above all else.

Should you never lift to failure?  Well, I didn’t say that….Instead, try incorporating heavier resistance for fewer reps.  For instance, lift as much as you can for 8 to 10 reps with good form.   And perform those reps at a pace where you can focus on the muscles you’re working, making a mind-body connection. (Ladies, you won’t bulk up!)  If you’re a beginner at strength training, you may want to begin with a more moderate weight load for 15 reps, to start.

To sum up:  It’s great to want to ramp up the effectiveness and intensity of your workouts, but excessive reps aren’t necessary.  In fact, they are less effective and less safe.  Also, make sure your speed isn’t compromising good form.

No time to make dinner for the family? Start here.

roasted sweet potatoes

According to a new study from the CDC, one third of all children eat fast food, every day.

Parents, let’s change this statistic for the better.  Let’s make getting healthy, delicious food on the table for our kids a priority.  Cooking at home is possible, even when our lives our crazy.  Have them help you prepare it.  It just takes a little advance planning.  They are worth it, and so are you, by the way.

Do your kids swear they hate veggies?  They can taste delicious, it’s all in how you cook them.  Keep experimenting, and don’t give in.  The earlier you start them on healthy eating habits, the easier the whole process is.  So don’t wait another minute.

Take advantage of fall’s wonderful, colorful, nutritious root vegetables while they are still in season–Try oven-roasting root veggies.  Dice them up, add a few ingredients, and throw them in the oven, and that’s it!  You’ll be amazed at how good they taste!

Start out with sweet potatoes!  And, you won’t need butter, brown sugar or syrup to get that sweet, melt-in-your-mouth flavor.  Here’s my favorite way to do them:

Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Peel and dice 2-3 sweet potatoes or yams (this, seriously, is the hardest part!).  Arrange in a single layer on baking sheet.  Drizzle with a couple tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and turn to coat.  Drizzle with a small amount of honey or agave nectar.  Sprinkle liberally with cinnamon.  Roast until edges are browned, turning over half way through.

It’s impressive how nutritious this dish is.  A medium sized sweet potato contains more than your daily requirement of vitamin A, nearly a third the vitamin C you need, almost 15 percent of your daily dietary fiber intake and 10 percent of the necessary potassium.  Not to mention, sweet potatoes contain an abundance of antioxidants and anti-imflammatory properties.  Plus, studies show that cinnamon and honey provide a variety of health benefits from insulin regulation (cinnamon) to disease prevention (honey).

For other healthy recipes to try with the whole family, check out these other posts:

http://equilibriumfitness.me/2013/04/24/healthy-quick-dinners-the-whole-family-will-eat/

http://equilibriumfitness.me/2015/03/26/a-super-quick-homemade-dinner-for-a-crazy-weekday-night/

http://equilibriumfitness.me/2013/10/21/healthy-sweet-potato-stew/

http://equilibriumfitness.me/2013/03/21/easy-healthy-turkey-chili/

Why Cardio Just Isn’t Enough!

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So, you run?  Or maybe you walk, swim, bike, use the elliptical machine, or go to fitness classes every chance you get?  That’s awesome!  You make exercise a priority in your life.  Cardiovascular activity is a great foundation for helping you stay healthy and attaining/maintaining your optimal weight.  And, when it’s an activity you enjoy, it can truly feed your soul!

But if you think it’s enough, think again.  I’m not talking just in terms of your overall health, but also in terms of weight loss.  Yep, strength training, paired with cardio, will get you where you really want to be.  If you want to look better, feel better, do more, live longer, and live independently into old age, strength training is where it’s at.

Adults lose between five and seven pounds of muscle every decade after age 20.  Strength training helps prevent this muscle loss, and rebuilds what you may have lost.  So by the time you’re 60, 70, or 80, still having this muscle can help you maintain your quality of life, keep you active, and ward off disease.  In other words, you’ll feel years younger than you are.  It improves your balance and coordination, and can reduce your risk of falling by as much as 40 percent, which is huge as you get older.

In my experience, the most typical negative responses to the idea of strength training are:

A.  I’m not the “weight-lifting” type.  I’ve never lifted weights and I’ve done just fine.  Why start now?

B.  I don’t want to bulk up.  When I lift weights I bulk up. (What were you eating during the time you lifted these weights?)

C.  I don’t care about muscles.  I just want to be thinner.

Okay, I get it.  In fact, I used to be one of these people.  The idea of strength training immediately brought to mind visions of mammoth, grunting meat-heads bench pressing a gazillion pounds.  Just the idea is enough to send someone new away screaming.  The good news:  This is not what I’m recommending for you!

The other good news:  Ladies, you don’t have enough testosterone in your body to become one of these people, no matter how much you bench!  In fact, don’t bench at all if that’s not your thing.  Two or three times a week, do some push-ups, chair dips, squats, lunges…whatever suits you.  Tailor your routine to your taste.  Just make sure you’re working every major muscle group, and give each muscle group at least a day to rest in between workouts.

Here’s another biggie:  Adding a simple strength routine a few times a week increases your basal metabolic rate, or the amount of calories your body burns at rest.  It can boost your metabolism by as much as 15 percent.  The more muscle you have, the easier your body is able to burn the fat off on top of that muscle because you’re burning more calories, all the time.  Having an engine composed of more muscle as opposed to more fat requires more calories per day to just live.

Cardio exercise is great for burning calories, but won’t give you the body composition needed to make you a fat-burning machine.  Cardio doesn’t do much to build lean muscle at all, and too much cardio can sometimes cause muscle break down.  In addition, strength training helps keep the weight off for good, according to studies.

Don’t assume that just because someone is thin, he or she is healthy.  Thin people who have bodies composed of less muscle and more fat can be at increased risk for disease.  Studies have proven the many wellness benefits of strength training.  It can help with arthritis pain, increase bone density, improve glucose control among those with type 2 diabetes (in addition to a balanced diet), and so much more.  Besides, wouldn’t you rather be tight, toned and slim, rather than thin and floppy?

It’s win-win, all around.  Just 2-3 sets, 8-15 repetitions, 3 times per week, can reap major rewards for your well-being and physique, for the rest of your life.  So the question should be, perhaps, Why not start now?