Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Skinny on Society

   Our society shapes so much of our lives that it's getting out of control. Everywhere you look, there is an ad or social media telling you how to look, how to dress, how to eat, how to live. The problem is, so much of this is created by marketing departments to sell you a product. They don't want to better your life. They want to make money. Everyone needs more, bigger, better. They need to be skinnier, have bigger boobs, and a thigh gap. Why? Because society tells you so. Because that is what's popular and pretty. WRONG! What should be promoted is being healthy. Even if you are not the healthiest, just making healthy choices is a step in the right direction. What should be promoted is real images and products-- no gimmicks.
   This blog has been a long time coming, but after the VS Fashion Show, and the onslaught of statuses and pictures of the models with captions "starting my Angel diet tomorrow!" I just became utterly disgusted. Those models are a size 0. For most people, that's not a healthy weight. For some, who are naturally just petite, that's one thing. Women who are 5'7 shouldn't weigh 110 pounds though. So just a reminder, for those who get caught up and forget, because these days it's so easy to believe what you see and read; pictures of models are photoshopped. Not to mention those people won the genetic lottery, but being pretty is their career. They have the time, and money, to spend on chefs who create special meals and the time and money to spend on personal trainers for hours on end each week. Then they have people contour and edit their looks, to make them more appealing. It's unrealistic. Yet people are striving for it, failing, and becoming frustrated. Last time I checked, no instagram filter is creating these effects. Stop beating yourself up over
something you can't possibly become; strive to be better than the person you were yesterday, no somebody else.
    There is truth in the phrase "Love Yourself". Everyone has flaws, but everyone is also unique in their own way. Don't stress over the flaws only you are seeing; embrace the uniqueness. Rock what you got!
   Be realistic. If you don't love what you see in the mirror every day, change it. But set small goals that you can reach. Remind yourself you are doing this for you, not so you can try to transform yourself into someone else. Me personally, I envy athletes. Especially now, while I'm on injury reserve and I can barely walk around. I don't envy their looks or their fame; I envy their dedication, self discipline, and raw talent. I watch sporting events like the Olympics in complete Awe, and it makes me want to set goals for myself. I know I'll never become an Olympic gymnast, but I can vow to stretch every day and try to push for those extra few minutes during my run. My point is, don't try to change and become something you aren't and can't be. Be a better version of yourself.
   Also, stop buying into everything you see. Ads these days have experts working behind the scenes to sell you that product. So the commercial with Beyonce drinking a Pepsi or Kate Upton and Paris Hilton eating cheeseburgers- do you really think those women do that? They don't. They endorse those companies because they are paid to. Marketing magic knows we idolize celebrities, and they buy them to sell you their product. Ever see a commercial that just get's your mouth watering, only to run out, buy the burger, and be sadly disappointed and with a stomach ache? More marketing magic. They beef up the beef (pun intended, I can be funny, too!) to make it look simply delectable. But any cheeseburger that costs a measly few dollars should make you wonder what kind of beef, and how much, they're really using. I've worked for many restaurants as a chef, and many real restaurants either hire professional photographers to photograph their food, or they don't use them on the menu. Want to know why? It's hard to capture food in an appetizing way sometimes. Nothing should come close to looking as good as the real deal. Look below; how they market their food, vs what it actually looks like when you get it in real life. Take a step back from the media, from society, and stop buying into their tricks. Research things, learn things. The more you know, the more prepared you are to be healthy, and happy.

How they market their food

Friday, December 5, 2014

Crossfit < Functional Multi-Purpose Exercises

   Everyone who does Crossfit, loves crossfit. It's all they talk about. Almost any exercise science professional, strength coach, personal trainer, or biomechanist will also have a strong opinion about it; it's dangerous. So you're torn and don't know what to do? I'm here to help.
   The basics of Crossfit are to lift as heavy as you can, as fast as you can. I personally don't see a need to complete a ton of 200 lb. deadlifts in a matter of moments. Your spine doesn't see a need for this either. While it does increase strength and overall fitness, it's also breaking down a lot too and the risk for injury is extremely high. Don't believe me? Look at your Crossfitting friends; covered in bruises or bloodied hands. Watch the Crossfit Games; everyone is wrapped in Kinesiotape. Kinesiotape is not a fashion statement. Look at their form; it's usually terrible. And my last argument against Crossfit; is anyone actually getting any better looking?! Let's be honest, most people exercise not only to be healthy, but because they like the way it makes them look and feel. I've seen many friends join the Crossfit craze, and if they're lucky enough to not become injured, I'm not noticing any weight loss. So you can lift 150 pounds over your head, awesome. But I still see that spare tire under your shirt. There's a lot to losing weight, more than just exercising, but if you're hitting the Crossfit gym every day, you should be seeing some weight loss. In my personal experience, coupled with what I've learned over the years being an exercise science major at Towson University, Crossfit is an injury waiting to happen. You also have to watch out for Rhabdomyolsis; which is where you break down your muscles to the point they start to poison you. I'm definitely not joking when I say Rhabdo can kill you.
   Now to be fair, not all Crossfit people are the devils. Most Crossfit gyms don't teach proper form first, and there lies the biggest problem. If you are an experienced exerciser, try it out, see if you like it. My guess is you might like the structure and the high calorie burn, but not much else.
The picture that inspired the blog. Exercise shouldn't cause this much damage.

   So what should you do? Functional or multi purpose or neuromuscular training. They're all the same thing, just with multiple names. Functional exercises is working out for real life situations. So while your Crossfit friend can deadlift 200 pounds, do they even really need to be able to do that on a day to day basis? Think of it this way... have you ever tried to get a 25 pound toddler out of carseat from a two door car? It's a damn challenge. Functional training makes tasks like that, easier. Functional training teaches your muscles to work together rather than isolated, as you might train them in the gym. You can curl all day, but can you pick a box up and put it onto a high shelf without any trouble?
   In functional fitness, you're not using a machine to do any of the work for you. It's not bracing your back or core while you sit in a seat or creating a perfect lever-system world. It uses your own body weight a lot, and your balance. You'd be surprised how sometimes just your body weight is too much. For example, can you do a one-legged squat? If you're thinking you'll never be in that situation in real life, think again. While I hope none of you experience a lower extremity injury, I recently had ACL surgery (that I tore not doing anything exercise related! It was a complete freak accident involving a piggy back ride) and I can't tell you how many times I've had to do a one-legged squat motion because my left leg is all but dragging around uselessly.
   Another perk to functional exercises; they challenge the brain a lot more. The harder you work your brain, the healthier it stays. It's been medically proven. Form is of course important in functional exercises too, and while you don't do much high intensity and you don't train to fail, you still get a great workout. I started doing functional training last summer and not only did I burn 800+ calories in under an hour, but I got a full body workout. Everything was a little sore, but few times was I so sore that I couldn't function (pun intended!) or use that body part. Functional training has now been added into ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) as a recommendation to do at least twice a week. Does ACSM endorse Crossfit? Nope. I could go on for hours debating the two but none of us have time to exercise, let alone read that never-ending article.
   Before you start any exercise program, you should do your research, and talk to your doctor. Everyone has their own opinions so get as many as you can. Find what works best for you, and start down the lifestyle path to health in the best way possible.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Setbacks Happen

   Setbacks are inevitable. Unfortunate, but inevitable. You've finally gotten into your groove, and have been doing really great with eating healthy and exercising and then life comes up and throws a wrench in your plan. Whether it's a family emergency, a vacation, an injury, or work just gets crazy it causes you to have to stop and fall back. To me, it's not "falling off the wagon", life sparta-kicked you off that wagon! But you have to persevere and push through, not let it defeat you or all of your hard work. I recently sustained an injury to my left knee; torn meniscus and ACL which will both need reconstructive surgery. I spent the first few days after the injury being in denial, and then as doctors told me the seriousness of it, I hit anger. Now, I'm in acceptance because the fact of the matter is, I can only do so much about it. Do I miss running, squatting, lunging, hell even walking? Of course. But there's nothing I can do but continue to be healthy in other ways. I'm still working out, I'm just focusing more on my abs and upper body and keeping my right leg strong. This means I also had to seriously reevaluate my diet; I'm not burning upwards of 800 calories in a workout anymore so I don't need to eat as much to refuel. My point is, face your crisis, and take control.
   Life gets busy, and you may lose the time you did have for your workouts. Things to keep in mind:
1. Something is always better than nothing. This means that even if you only have time for a 10 minute walk or cardio session, take advantage of it! Burning 100 calories is better than burning 0, always. Refuse to miss your favorite TV show, do commercial break workouts. Running errands? Park far away, take the stairs. Chores around the house? Stand on one leg while you do the dishes or fold laundry to work your core and balance.
2. Health is Important. I know you think there isn't enough time in the day, but if you come down with a metabolic disease, those doctor appointments will need to be fitted into your schedule too. Schedule exercise just as you would any other appointment. People always say they're too busy; but then they log hours in front of the TV or computer, or their phone. For me, it's reading. I can sit down and read a book for hours so I'll usually allow myself 1-2 chapters and then I have to put the book down and do other productive things. My point is, not making the time to exercise and eat healthy is only going to cost you more time in the long run. So while McDonalds might be quick, spending those minutes making your lunch the night before could save you countless minutes down the road.
    There are also the times you really have no control over the situation; whether it be an injury or you have to take care of somebody but you cannot let it get you down. I know for a fact if you have ever worked out even once, then you have reaped the benefits of better sleep and an overall feel good vibe. Exercise for your own sanity, if nothing else. You don't have to burn 1000 calories to get the benefits so don't think the little that you can do, isn't good enough. [See my blog on the benefits of exercise!]
    Then there is the classic "I'm on vacation" excuse. Yes, you are on vacation to take a mental break from life and recharge, but that doesn't mean you get to eat fudge for breakfast every day and lay around like a lump. I mean, you can, but deconditioning happens fast. Just a mere week off from all exercise won't erase everything you've done, but it will be harder to go right back into your regular routine. All the unhealthy eating you're doing too? Don't be surprised when you start to crave all the junk food again, which you worked so hard to get out of your system. Go for a walk on the beach, take advantage of the free hotel gym, swim a couple laps. You don't have to go to extremes, but at least keep moving. And then take a nap, because you're on vacation!
   It would be unrealistic to think that nothing will ever get in between you and your health. It's going to happen, and then it's going to happen again and again so you might as well prepare as soon as you can for it. That way, when it does happen, you're ready and you won't become completely derailed from the health train!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Skinny on Cellulite

   Everyone knows what cellulite is, but few people know what causes it. Knowledge is half the battle, the half is hard work. And no, I don't mean in remembering to apply all those creams and serums as hard work. Cellulite is caused by subcutaneous fat that pokes and pushes through the connective tissue around your muscles. It's more common in women because of the muscle structure differences in men and women. Cellulite doesn't indicate excess weight or obesity and can be determined genetically. So unfortunately, if all the women in your family have it, you probably will too. Good news is, while you can't get rid of it without liposuction, you can minimize it's appearance!

 As you can see, the reasons cellulite forms is toxins in the body, enlarged fat cells, poor circulation, a lack of connective tissue, and water retention. While today's diets are full of toxins it's unrealistic to think you will simply get rid of all toxins in your body but eating clean, and even healthy will help. Not only will you feel better overall from a healthy diet, it will most likely help you lose weight. Losing weight will obviously shrink the enlarged fat cells. Guess what helps improve circulation... exercise! The more you exercise, the more capillaries your body creates to increase blood flow and oxygen consumption to the muscles. Oddly enough, garlic and onions also increase circulation so add them to some meals on a weekly basis... No one will want to kiss you, but your butt will look nice. Exercise and eating healthy also helps tighten your tissues (and tushy!) and will help with water retention. Don't dehydrate yourself! If you don't give your body water regularly, it will retain it's water stores so that you don't become dehydrated. So what you need to do is stay hydrated. Drink lots of water! Water also makes your complexion look better, your skin feel smoother, and has a hundred other great properties... your body is made of over 70% water and you need it. So just drink it. 
  If you are tan or have a darker complexion, the dimples will be less noticeable. Using a self tanner will not only give you a summer kissed glow without the damaging sun exposure, but will also disguise the dimples! I suggest this over the "cellulite creams" seeing as they haven't been proven at all to lessen it's appearance and it will not get rid of it. At least with a self tanner, you get the confidence boost from the tan too.

   The best option though to reduce the appearance of cellulite is to exercise. Tightening the muscles and burning the fat will help reduce the cellulite you do have. While you can't necessarily target just one area, taking part in a full body resistance program and lots of cardio is the most beneficial. Since cellulite is fat, decreasing your overall fat is your best option, and increasing your muscles tone won't hurt your appearance at all either.
   So for those of you buying all the creams or looking into lipo, just hit the gym and the produce stand. You won't necessarily get rid of the cellulite but unfortunately if you have it, it's here to stay in some capacity. A healthy body and mind will also give you so many other benefits and boost your confidence that you won't even notice the lingering cellulite... and neither will anybody else!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Children and Obesity: A growing Epidemic

   The United States has two current epidemics: starvation, and obesity. How that makes any sense blows my mind. While both are extremely threatening to a persons health, I'm going to focus on childhood obesity. Children cannot make too many of their own choices when it comes to diet and nutrition; they can eat what is provided to them. This means it is the job of the parent to provide them with all of their nutritional needs. I am not a parent, but I see more and more obese children each day. Letting them have ice cream for dinner once in a while might be okay, but every day isn't. Letting them sit in front of the TV for hours or sit out in gym class isn't helping them either. They learn by example, which means the parents have to be active and eat healthy too which unfortunately seems to be on the decline. You might think the "baby weight" is okay or that they will grow out of it but you aren't doing them any favors, and the health risks are very high.
   Children who suffer from obesity have a much larger chance of it developing into type 2 diabetes. While children used to only be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (Juvenile diabetes), many more are now being diagnosed with type 2 which is a result of their diet. Obese children also suffer from numerous psychological issues including low self esteem. Today, 33% of children and adolescents are considered not just overweight, but obese, meaning they have a BMI of over 30. Obese children are also much more likely to have higher risk for cardiovascular disease and bone and joint problems from growing bones having to support the excess weight. These are all serious health problems that need to be changed.

   I'm sure some of you have heard in the news that some schools were starting to make changes in their nutrition plans and even sending some children home with a letter from the nurse if they had a BMI that classified them as overweight or obese, and parents became outraged. Why? Probably because it made them feel like a bad parent, because let's face it, the school nurse wasn't trying to be a bully, she was simply pointing out facts about your child's health. If you have an obese child, not all hope is lost but it is time to make changes.
   Educate your children on healthy choices, portion control, and general nutrition. Make sure they know how important it is to get outside or be active for at least 60 minutes a day. Start doing family walks or activities that promotes health. I'll never forget, when I was a server this family used to bring their 3 year old in and let him have soda, an entire small pizza, an order of french fries, and then ice cream. He was so overweight that his muscles couldn't support his weight and he had to be carried everywhere. But, as the family said, he was so happy and just loved pizza and ice cream. All I saw was a 3 year old who weighed around 100 pounds and couldn't even walk because his family let him have whatever he wanted. That isn't doing the child any favors! You are setting them up for a lifetime of problems, mentally and physically. It's disappointing but bullying is a very real problem these days and low self esteem can create a whole new world of problems, including depression. I go to the zoo and parks, and I see children who could easily walk being pushed in a stroller. I understand they might not walk as fast as you, but you are probably there for them anyways. You as a parent have to create the healthy environment and it will benefit the whole family.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Diet Does Matter

   I know every exercise professional says this, over and over and over again but we say it because it really is true. Research has backed it up, but most people aren't interested in research as much as true life proof. I have always eaten more on the healthy side. Don't get me wrong, I like cookies and going out to eat for a special occasion but I've always also been a fan of portion control and exercise too. Well, last week I got a thigh tattoo that goes from the top of my hip to the top third of my thigh and wearing pants was a struggle, let alone walking and running. I knew I would have to take a few days off from the gym to let it heal properly and I was ok with that; I had really pushed myself the week before and was looking forward to giving my body a few solid recovery days. Well, it ended up being over a week before I got back into the gym. I lost 2 pounds in that week. How?? Healthy eating! When I refer to the word "diet", I don't mean the most recent fad, I mean it as my eating habits as a whole. I didn't starve myself or live off celery, I just took into consideration that I didn't need as many calories as I usually would. I wasn't fueling any workouts or needing the extra protein to recover. I ate generally the same as I always have with just a bit more thinking when it came to choosing meals and snacks. If this isn't proof that diet matters, I don't know what does.
    A lot of people think I work out, I can eat what I want. NO! Eat to live, don't live to eat. Because you workout, you need to eat what your body needs to fuel and repair your body. I'm not saying deprive yourself, or be miserable, but be smart! I've already written blogs on food and diet and ideas of how to eat healthier and portion control and how to break a sugar addiction so I'm not going into all of that again, but it bears repeating that exercise isn't a fix all. You should exercise to stay healthy overall, not just "be skinny". Also, be conscientious of your calories and how many you burn at the gym or during your workout. Use a heart rate monitor to be sure of an accurate heart rate and calorie burn.... many foods have far more calories then you are going to be able to burn off. Remember, there are 3,500 calories in a pound, so you need a deficit of 500 calories a day to burn a pound a week. That deficit needs to come from calories burned at the gym but also avoiding empty calories.
   For those of you who may think healthy eating doesn't really matter, I hope you realize that it does. I've been in a plateau for around 6 months now, my body is perfectly content not losing any more weight unless I really want to train insane, but with just diet control, I managed to lose an extra 2 pounds in a week. Be smart, you need to eat slightly more on days you work out, but you aren't eating for two or anything that crazy. You don't want to let yourself get to starving, but be smart about what you put in your body. Many people are busy and can't spend over an hour in the gym, 5 days a week and that is where your eating habits are going to make you or break you! Stick to clean eating as much as you can and don't eat when you're bored, keep portions reasonable and you'll be golden!

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Genetic Breakdown

   It's that time of year again... bathing suit shopping! So you get the Victoria Secret and Venus catalogs in the mail, or are you peruse all the cute new styles online and tag your favorites ones. You think, this is my year, I've been working really hard and I'm going to rock this bikini! It arrives in the mail... and you don't look like the model in the picture. Before you get discouraged and down on yourself or you really ramp up your training program and diet, take a breather. First, are you 5 foot 9 inches? Is your full time job modeling? Do you have a personal trainer and nutritionist at your beck and call 24/7? Do you have someone to photoshop and airbrush your pictures? ...Probably not. Because you are a real person, not a model who is created to look perfect. Now, be honest with yourself; has your training started to slack or have you fallen off the wagon a little bit with your healthy eating habits? It's ok if you have, everyone does at some point, it's part of life. You just always have to pick yourself up, tell you that you can do it, and get back on track. Another reason you may not look like that model; genetics.

   Genetics play a huge role in body type. I'm not saying that you should use genetics as an excuse, but it does deserve some understanding. Genetics decide where you hold onto fat, how quickly you burn it, if you have long and lean muscles or short and thicker ones, if you are great at running or if you can squat your body weight with ease. Genetics are the one part of your routine you cannot modify, but you can work with what you have and the first step to that is accepting it. You should never bash your body image... if you are unhappy with what you see in the mirror, change it! Genetics is the reason that you may shed excess fat in certain places quickly while other times it might not seem to budge as well as why you may build muscles or be able to run farther and faster than a friend. Don't forget; genetics for the most part decide your bone structure and your muscles attach to the bones, and fat sits on top of muscles. Wide hips bones or shoulders can't be whittled down just as a short person can't pilates their way into being tall. And what I mean by "for the most part"; there are always exceptions such as bone malformations, breaks, sprains, aging, etc.
The different body type breakdowns

   Here are a few examples of how genetics works; I am 5'2 and weigh around 140 pounds. I can't wear some t shirts because the arm holes are too small, and shopping for jeans is a nightmare because I have a small waist, a booty, and thunder thighs (not to mention the short legs!). My mom is a few inches taller, a few pounds heavier but she has very lean legs; she carries her excess weight in her stomach while I tend to carry it in my thigh area. Then there is my cousin... the girl runs miles on end, and I can barely run a 5K without wanting to die but while she can keep up with me in the weight room just fine, my biceps look huge compared to hers. We have distinctly different muscle types so while we have similar training schedules and both eat very healthy, she is more lean and I am more muscular looking. My point is, unless you are identical twins, it is not fair of you to compare yourself to others.

   As much as you may want to be a size 0 model that's tall with lean muscles, if it isn't in your genetic makeup, it isn't going to happen so learn to love what you have! I used to try everything to be able to get back into a size 2-3 jeans, but between my hips (which are bone, and not budging!!) and thick thighs, it just wasn't going to happen and once I came to accept this, I also became much happier with myself. I'm also an awful runner and while I know I may never run a marathon, that doesn't mean I don't set goals for myself to drop my mile time or run farther. I will never have a "thigh gap" but I can squat 3x my body weight and have some nice looking legs that are toned and strong. I will never have a 6 pack due to a scar across my stomach, but I have banging obliques. My point here is that to love your body, you need to focus more on the positive than the negative. You need to create realistic and healthy goals for yourself, and do what is best for you, not necessarily what is best for someone else.
The different body types imagery example

   Strong is the new skinny, and healthy is beautiful. Exercise won't only benefit your looks but your whole body. Never take for granted the results you can't see; exercise will help you sleep better and give you more energy so even if you have reached a point where your body may not change much more, never stop setting realistic and attainable goals for yourself. Exercise benefits your heart, brain, and internal organs as well as helps to flush out toxins and keep your skin glowing. As you can see in the above picture, none are exactly fat, just vary in shape. Each body is unique in the way it functions. Focus on the good, not on the bad.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Super Foods!

   Who hasn't heard the buzz about "super foods"? You might have started thinking, here we go, because following the food pyramid and my plate and counting calories and getting all my fruits, veggies, and protein needs wasn't enough, now I have to work super foods into my diet too that already has to be carefully varied to get the optimum level of nutrition. Well, I'm here to break it all down for you. Luckily, most super foods are fruits and veggies and come in lots of exciting colors so you may now breathe a little easier.

   Super foods are named that because they have a ton of benefits; they combine the most beneficial of vitamins and minerals so that ideally, you shouldn't need vitamins or supplements and still feel great. They build bones, they fight free radicals (which cause you to age faster... skin, hair, nails, etc.), they fight off cancer causing toxins, they flush your body, and they keep your eyesight sharp. They are nutritional powerhouses! There are lots of super foods (another great benefit!); the list goes on so I will only touch on a few and let you free to do your own healthy lifestyle research. One thing I want you to remember: EVERYTHING IN MODERATION! I don't want you to read this and then eat 5 avocados for lunch or oatmeal with every meal. I want you to work these into your diet in a reasonable way.

   *Black Beans: They pack a ton of protein, without the saturated fat or cholesterol in animal source proteins.  Have a cup with dinner or substitute beans for your usual meat source 1-3 times a week.
   *Oats: Full of fiber, they help keep you full longer, and as a complex carbohydrate they supply your body with long lasting and necessary energy to get through the day. Toss with berries and a bit of honey for breakfast on busy days for long lasting energy.
   *Avocados: Healthy fats are the best fats. Every body needs fats (they coat neurons!! Among other things, but that's a separate blog I have already written!) and avocados pack a punch of healthy fats called oleic acid which has been shown to keep you full longer. Avocados also pack protein and fiber into a serving and have a creamy texture; substitute a few slices of this for mayo on a sandwich or just eat half of an avocado plain every few days.
   *Blueberries: Anti-aging, anyone? Blueberries are full of antioxidants, and an entire cup is only around 80 calories, with the benefit of fiber and a sweet flavor for those with a sweet tooth. Toss into some yogurt or eat plain every few days.
   *Broccoli: Anti-carcinogenic properties and fiber... talk about a win win. Cooked or raw, this is a low calorie food you should add to lunch or dinner.
    *Green Tea: Not only will it hydrate you, it is full of anti-oxidants that help fight fat and boost your metabolism. It's also a mild enough taste that you shouldn't have to add sugar or honey. It is also caffeine free so drink a mug before bed to relax and fight fat.

   Are you seeing a trend here? Fruits, veggies, whole grains, and some fish are listed as "superfoods". Again, please take this with an everything in moderation approach. For a perfect example, Red wine can be very beneficial to heart health, IF you have a glass with dinner occasionally. NOT if you drink the entire bottle every night. Can't think of snacks or looking to try a new recipe? Try a super food. The research is still in the works for many super foods, but one thing that's for sure is all of the foods are healthy none the less. They pack a variety of vitamins and minerals needed by the body for optimum happiness.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Importance of Stretching

   I hear it all the time; "I forget to stretch", "I don't like to stretch", or "I don't see the point of stretching". You all are some kind of crazy... stretching is my favorite part of my workout! I get to relax, bring my heart rate back down from the rate similar to a speeding train and it feels great! If I'm really lucky, I can get a good back crack or a hip to pop out of it too. Stretching also though has it's benefits. The biggest one: Injury Prevention. Think of it... you just lifted weights or ran, or both, you went until the burn was too much and you started to cramp. Your muscles did all of those moves by tightening up and tearing. Think of a piece of spring, all coiled tight- that is your muscles after a workout. You need to stretch them so you can regain function! Muscles work by attaching to bones to allow movement and humans are built for force and range of motion, but if your muscles are too tight then you lose range of motion and something usually overcompensates and potentially gets injured. No one needs an injury when they're really starting to see results, let alone because they didn't stretch. And let me tell you, pulling a muscle, ligament, or tendon is not a fun feeling at all.
   Stretching also helps improve a muscles elasticity and your overall flexibility. So, what kind of stretching is best and when? I'm going to break it all down for you! There are four types of stretching:
 1. Ballistic: rapid bouncing where you are using momentum to get the maximum stretch. The muscle contracts to protect itself.
 2. Static: holding a stretch with no bouncing or movement for 30 seconds with gentle tension.
 3. Dynamic: a movement stretch that is slow and controlled.
 4. Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facillitation (PNF): targets a specific muscle for the job it does. You use a partner mostly, and resist against the stretch and then relax, allowing for a deeper stretch.
Some common stretches I do for hips, legs, and back!

   Many people also argue over if stretching is appropriate before exercise; the answer is yes, but only if they are dynamic stretches. Ballistic stretching is almost always dangerous so I never recommend it. Static stretching is great as part of an exercise cool down. PNF stretching though is my favorite. It allows for the greatest range of motion. You don't want to stretch too much before exercise because you don't want the muscle fibers overstretched. A warm up such as walking or biking will usually suffice for getting the muscles ready to work.

   Other benefits of stretching include increasing blood flow. Increased blood flow leads to the production of synovial fluids (the fluid that encases your joints and keeps them lubricated- very important!) and the prevention of arteries hardening. You want nice flexible arteries so blood can flow freely and easily through them! Stretching also prevents arthritis (in part by producing synovial fluid) and helps stabilize the body's natural posture. Posture is extremely important and keeping muscles stretched helps reduce tight muscles keeping you almost folded in on yourself. Regular stretching also helps protect your joints and makes you more aware of how they attach and how your joints feel. Not to mention, it feels great! Who doesn't love a good stretch?!
Stretching with a foam roller

You never want to "over stretch" aka as stretching to the point of pain. You should feel slight tension, but it shouldn't be causing you physical pain. Feeling sore from your workout the day before? Stretch!

Don't know how to stretch? Google it. Common stretches are as simple as touching your toes while keeping your knees straight or hugging yourself tight. Stretching can get much more scientific and complicated, but you are always welcome to ask me, or a fitness professional for tips on stretching. I like to pair stretching with foam rolling, which is an active kind of stretch and a whole topic in itself. Here are a few to get you started though!

Friday, April 4, 2014

HIIT vs. Cardio

   I'm sure you've heard that the new buzz word, HIIT, which is High Intensity Interval Training, is better than cardio exercise. This depends on a few things. First, what do you consider cardio? If you are one of  the people who walk at 3.0 mph on a 0% incline (pretty easy, fairly slow) for an hour, then yes, HIIT is much better. If thoughts of running and huffing and puffing come to mind during your cardio session, HIIT won't hurt your workouts.
   The idea behind HIIT being better is that it ramps up your heart rate quickly, keeps it there, and doesn't take as much time to burn the same amount of calories as cardio. Unfortunately, I'm a sucker for research, especially because the fitness and health world are constantly evolving but that doesn't always mean in the right direction. Helping people get healthy is my passion, so I always want to give you the best and most truthful information, as well as make sure you don't get yourselves injured. There are millions of research papers and studies done on the effects of cardiovascular exercise where there are on a only handful of a couple hundred studies done on HIIT. HIIT is still so relatively new that there are many variations on how you can do it, what you can do, etc. while "cardio" is slightly more defined as walking, running, biking, swimming, rowing, or aerobics. HIIT seems to be able to incorporate a little bit of everything and goes with a sort of Tabata set up in style. Tabata is a HIIT variation where you go full out for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and then do the next exercise for 20 seconds and so on for 20 minutes. What I do like about HIIT and tabata is the opportunity to work the entire body and the muscles while traditional cardio offers little to add to strength training... yes you can ramp up the resistance and I suggest you do every now and then, but HIIT and tabata keep you moving so you are also less likely to get bored or distracted. As always, variety is key!
    I have used all styles in my own training and while training others and here's how I feel about them all;

1. Cardio: Get your heart rate up! Yes walking at a comfortable pace is better than sitting on the couch but it's also not providing you all of the benefits it could be. You may go slow for the first 5-10 minutes to warm up, and last 5-10 minutes to cool down but otherwise challenge yourself! Increase your speed or grade and try new things. Swimming is an excellent form of cardio that is easier on your joints, but will still have you huffing and puffing. Bicycling, whether outside or on the stationary bike is a good non weight bearing form if you have restrictions. The elliptical and arc trainers are more similar to a running motion but decrease the impact on your joints. The rower integrates arm and upper body muscles  so that they aren't left out. The stair stepper just kills! Think all cardio is boring, try a class... a step class, Zumba, or a dance class will all get your heart rate up and may be more fun to you than just logging the miles and minutes on a machine.

2. HIIT: This is great if you don't have a lot of time but you still want to torch some calories, and can be done in your own house or even hotel room. So the idea is that you pick x amount of high intensity exercises and do them for a set amount of time before taking a small break and switching.
An example HIIT workout:
    Squat jumps for 1 minute
    Jumping jacks for 30 seconds
    RECOVER 30 seconds
    Split lunges for 1 minute
    High knees for 30 seconds
That is just a very small example, you would usually do around 15-20 different exercises. The great thing about HIIT is you can customize it. I take advantage of this so that my recovery can include something like calf raises, where my heart can calm down but I'm still working. The downside of HIIT is if you are not conditioned or just starting out, you may not know proper form and you may hurt yourself. It is HIGH INTENSITY after all so I don't recommend it for beginners or those who are a little older. You want to have steady balance and coordination before you start jumping all over the place, and some aerobic training definitely wouldn't hurt.

3. Tabata: I love tabata because I can customize it to fit anyone young or old, new or experienced. Like I said before, you do an exercise for 20 seconds, take a 10 second break, and continue in that 20/10 fashion throughout a 20 minute workout. You can do all cardio style tabata or you can incorporate strength training into it too. You can do all body weight exercises or you can have equipment involved. You can create a complete mix also... the possibilities are endless.
An example of a Tabata workout:
    Squats 20 seconds
    10 second rest
    Inchworms 20 seconds
    10 second rest 
    Push ups 20 seconds
    10 second rest 
    Star jumps 20 seconds
    10 second rest 
    Calf raises 20 seconds
    10 second rest
    bicep curls 20 seconds
Don't let it fool you, this becomes hard quickly if you are doing it right. I usually try to group body parts together so that by the time that set is done and the body part is failing, we move onto the next one. This allows you to hit failure and recover while getting a total body workout in a matter of a half hour. Of course you can customize an only upper body or lower body tabata sequence too, it doesn't always have to be full body.

4. The number method. This can be fun, and also a quick way to kill your entire body. Pick a number between 10 and 50, usually in increments of 5. Now for each number, assign an exercise. Do everything, and repeat another set.
An example: 5 exercises
5 squats
4 push ups
3 lunges
2 sit ups
1 minute plank
Now think on a much larger scale than 5... think 20, 30, or even 50. Try to keep recovery breaks in between under 20 seconds so that you keep the heart rate up, and try to vary the workouts. Suck at push ups? Challenge yourself and assign them to a higher number. Creating this workout is harder than it seems but can be fun... keep the lower numbers to easier tasks or in a minute form (like the plank), you are only cheating yourself if you chose to do 50 of something you find easy and 1 of something you find hard. This is also another way to mix it up and customize it; you can do all body weight activities in a confined space with no equipment, or you can integrate things like a jump rope, hand weights, ankle weights, machines, a step, and a medicine ball.

Get creative! Don't be afraid to try new things... some will work, some may not. I also always say give something a few chances before giving up, you may come to like it. Things like Zumba take time to learn all the steps and you may get blisters from rowing at first (get gloves!) but rather than beating yourself up for not doing it well, reward yourself for simply doing it. You may end up enjoying it. Exercise doesn't have to be torture, you can enjoy it and still burn the calories. Find what works for you and don't be afraid to try new things! Now get out there and kill it!!
Love the Burn! 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Gadgets and Gizmos Galore!

   So you made your New Years Resolution to get healthy; you're going to eat better and exercise more. And then life picked back up, you got a little busy, and started falling off the wagon. I know it happens, because I experience it too, and I legitimately enjoy being healthy and exercising. What is my solution? Keep it fun! How? Rewards! We've already gone over this, but what I do is reward myself with new training toys which got me thinking that maybe you've heard of them, but don't really know the scoop. So, I decided to take a slightly different approach to do a review of sorts. Who doesn't have a smart phone these days? Even my mom got on the smart phone train. Who doesn't love apps? Well move over flappy bird, I have apps you can use to increase your knowledge and help  you stay on track. Technology can be a great thing, but it can also hinder. Don't spend all day looking on pinterest at recipes and motivational workout pictures-- get up and do it! I've been trying out new apps and pieces of equipment for a few weeks now and here's what I think about each:

1. My fitness pal ****/5
   I love this app. Absolutely love it. It's user friendly and quick which are two huge advantages when you are busy, like most people. It saves common foods which makes entering common meals or snacks even quicker, and has a scan option to find products. It even has homemade options you can search for, or you can add the recipe and it will give you the nutritional breakdown. AWESOME! It tracks your weight loss and you can put in how active you are, what you want to weigh and lose each week, and it creates a calorie goal for you. It also tracks exercise and makes graphs and charts. At the end of the day when you complete your entry, it gives you a "If everyday were like today, you would weigh X lbs in 5 weeks". If you are eating too little, it also tells you. You can add friends to see what they're doing (a great way for a trainer to keep an eye on clients!) but it also holds you accountable to yourself. Can you lie? Of course. Who are you really hurting? Only yourself. I've given up many a food because of this app (pop tarts, hot pockets, dunkin donuts, etc.) because not only does it calculate calories, but fat, carbs, proteins, and the major nutritional information like cholesterol, sodium, sugar, and vitamins/minerals. You can look at your nutrient intake per food, and for the whole day and the week.
   The only cons I have with this app is sugar is usually low; many people eat way too much sugar (see my previous blog; The Downlow on Sugar) but if you eat a lot of fruit you will blow your sugar allowance out of the water. So just be mindful of that... I'm okay with you seeing red in the sugar column because you had the recommended serving of fruits that day. It sometimes also shoots people into super low calorie ranges. Luckily you can change this in the settings manually. It sucks to see you coming up in the negative every day, it gets discouraging. If you are new to the diet and exercise thing, start slow. Even if it only recommends 1200 calories a day, change it to something 200-300 calories less than you would normally eat. I recommend logging meals for 3-5 days as you would usually eat to see what your average daily calorie consumption is. Also, you don't want to lose more than 1-2 pounds a week, it's unhealthy to lose more that quickly and if you are exercising, you need the calories to sustain your energy. Be realistic, and use it as a tool not an all or nothing. You can also use my fitness pal on a computer or tablet.

2. Nike Apps *****/5
   I love the Nike apps; I'm currently using Nike Training Club and Nike Running. Nike Running tracks your runs, your mile time, and gives you trophies. Who doesn't love trophies?! I've decreased my mile time by over a minute using Nike Running. They also have a new setting called "Coach" that helps you prepare for a 5K, 10K, or half marathon. You can add friends and create challenges also to keep it interesting. You can also use it outdoors or inside on a treadmill.
   Nike Training Club is a bunch of exercises and 3 programs that you can chose from. I'm currently doing the "Get Lean" program and let me tell you, it's vigorous but it's working. The workouts are created by professionals and talk you through the movements, as well as provide videos. You can chose workouts anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes in length if you need to switch up your workouts.
Nike Running Screen Shot
Nike Training Club Screen Shot

 3. PumaTrac */5
   Maybe I was doing something wrong, but I'm pretty tech savvy, and this app didn't work. It claims to tell you when you run fastest; to a certain music or weather and keep track of all your statistics, indoor or outdoor. Well I ran a mile and it didn't log anything, but it played the music when I hit "Run". I was not happy! I'm willing to give it another shot, because it's a cool concept, but I think it might have a bug or so to fix. 

4. Fooducate ***/5
   The fooducate app is fun, especially if you are having trouble finding healthy snacks. You can also use this app to log calories, but I prefer my fitness pal for that. Fooducate allows you to search for a food, and then it gives it a grade. The grade is based on how healthy it is for you. It also gives you alternatives, which I love...a try this, not that kind of scenario. It also backs up it's grade with facts about the food. Education is your best tool, get all the education you can!

1. Polar HR Monitor *****/5
   I LOVE MY HR MONITOR. I used to think "I don't want to spend that much on a sports watch." Now I think "I don't want to spend less than x amount on my sports watch." and it's for a good reason. More often that not, a more expensive product is a better product. That's not to say you have to drop a ton of money though, it just depends on what you're looking for. My first two sports watches had nothing to do with hr, just time so I could watch the seconds go by on my planks. My third sports watch (sportline brand) had a HR monitor that you used with your finger, no strap. It was fairly accurate, but way over guessed how many calories I had burned and was sometimes difficult to use while running. Finally I invested in the Polar FT4 HR monitor with strap (the strap has electrodes and goes across your chest, and connects to a small hr monitor) and I love it. It tells me my Target HR zone, if I'm in it, my calorie burn, duration, and how long I was in my zone for. The calorie burn is much more accurate and the strap isn't even noticeable or uncomfortable. All HR monitors have the downside of being able to pick up other signals close by, but I haven't had this happen yet. Unless you are going to run around with a portable EKG strapped on though, it's a possibility.

2. Armband *****/5
   This might seem silly, but invest in an arm band for your phone. Mine can hold a key also, which has come in handy. Go to marshalls or five below and get a cheap one. Trying to run while holding your phone is a pain, and putting it in your pants or sport bra isn't safe for the phone and then it gets sweaty (yuck!). I don't suggest leaving your phone at home either, you never know if you might get hurt (or lost, it's happened to me!) and you need your phone to call for help or use the GPS. Plus that way you can have your tunes!

3. Running Shoes vs. Sneakers *****/5
   If you are going to run, your need running shoes. I can't stress this enough. Running shoes should be recycled too, every 3 months or 500 ish miles. (Nike Running can track your shoes too!) You need proper support and I recommend going to a legitimate running shoe store and having an associate help you. All girls love shoes, but while some friends have boots and heels and cute flats, I have around 8 pairs of sneakers. I use "retired" sneakers for when I work on the farm, and then I have other retired shoes that aren't completely beat for working in. I have current running shoes (Under Armour) that get carried into and out of the gym. I have shoes I strength train in, and shoes I kickbox in. There have been days I decide to run and have the wrong shoes, and it's usually awful. Running shoes should be flexible, light, and give your foot support. Strength training shoes should be comfortable and supportive. Don't try and save money on the shoes!

4. Exercise Clothing ***/5
   I could care less how I look when I exercise. I usually wear shorts or yoga pants, a sports bra, and an old shirt. I'm there to get sweaty, not look cute. I do have some cold gear pants and hot gear tanks that I do love, but for the most part you don't need the high dollar stuff to train better. It makes it fun, and if making it fun makes you more likely to do it, by all means, splurge! Sports bras, like shoes, should be thrown out after they've done their time. I also have different sports bras for different activities (more supportive ones for running days!) but after they start to lose elasticity they get retired or thrown out. The gym is not a beauty contest, and I know this message has evaded many people, but you should be there to kill it, and your workout doesn't care what you're wearing as long as you are comfortable, safe (don't run in the summer in sweat pants or in the winter in shorts!), and can move!

Take home message: try new things! Don't be afraid to find what works for you. I only just touched on a few things, but I hope this helps! I will keep trying new things to keep the fitness world updated!
Love the Burn!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Downlow on Sugar

   Who doesn't have a sweet tooth or at least get a craving once in a while? Usually it's for chocolate, which has a high sugar content but some people just enjoy candy in general. Sugar can become addictive, and you have to make a conscious effort to break the habit and the addiction. Here is the problem with sugar; it releases chemicals into your brain that make you feel happy (dopamine) and your brain reacts to sugar quite the same as it does to drugs. A little visual aid to help you understand how sugar works on the body:

   Sugar is not supposed to account for a large chunk of your diet and you would be surprised how much sugar is in what you're eating or even drinking. Sugar content of soda, juices, and even sports drinks is extremely high. Sugar is also found in fruits and vegetables, as glucose or sucrose. We will come back to that topic though. Sugar, as in the table variety, can add up quick in a day if you aren't monitoring it. Are you putting it in your tea or coffee? Did you know that any kind of carbohydrate will have a sugar content. Just because a food doesn't taste sweet, doesn't mean it doesn't have sugar... read your nutrition labels and be aware! If you are keeping a food journal, start keeping a closer eye on your sugar content. Many people see this, and see how much sugar is in fruits and vegetables, and say well no more for me. WRONG!
Sugar content in fruits and veggies

Sugar content in common junk foods

The Sugar found in fruits and veggies is NOT nearly as high as the sugar in junk food... not to mention that fruits and vegetables have a ton of other benefits for your body; they are packed full of vitamins and minerals, have anti-oxidant and cancer fighting properties, and a high water content. Do I recommend you eat 3 bananas in one day? No. But do I suggest eating a handful of grapes instead of a candy bar... absolutely. This comes back to the "Everything in Moderation" theory I've told you about before. Stick to reasonable and realistic serving sizes of the good stuff and you can't go wrong. What's going to be more satisfying, 4 oreos or a peach? Ok so maybe the oreos but are you really going to stop at 4? Probably not. But are you going to eat double the sugar content by eating 2 whole peaches? Probably not. Another thing to keep in mind, the sugar in nature grown foods is NATURAL. It's not made by chemicals in a processing plant. The body is excellent at breaking it down, using it, and not getting addicted to it. The fake stuff on the other hand is harder on the body and does create for an addictive environment.
   Think that one little can of soda isn't hurting you that badly or making that much of an impact? Think again. Drinking diet or 0 calorie... you're still wrong. The reason those drinks are 0 calorie and diet is because they are made with chemicals the body can't even digest, let alone absorb, so they are going right through your body. I would much rather you drink a glass of chocolate milk or juice and get the vitamins and minerals and a sweet fix over a soda. Need the caffeine, start trying a stronger coffee or have black tea with a little bit of honey. Again, honey is a nature made form of sugar and is considered a staple in the paleo diet!

   Nutritionists know for a fact that sugar consumption has led a helping hand to the nations obesity epidemic; be mindful and educated on what you are putting in your body and make smart decisions. Junk food is something you should be avoiding, not fruits and vegetables. Last time I checked, you aren't going to get anything of value from a snickers bar or mcdonalds sweet tea. Don't believe me still, research it... but in case you are too lazy I have included more visual aids for you!

Take home message here: EAT YOUR FRUITS AND VEGGIES! They'll never do you wrong or do you harm. Always be willing to try new ones too, don't just stick to the same arsenal of healthy foods when the more variety you include, the more vitamins, minerals, and benefits you consume. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Muscular Fitness & Aging

   I was recently asked "is it harder to build muscle when you're older". The answer: Yes. Impossible? Of course not. As people age there are lots of things that happen in the body that makes everything a little bit harder and here is the breakdown. Unfortunately, as you age your muscles start to atrophy (shrink) and lose the ability to hypertrophy (get bigger) and the cause of this is not too well understood as far as researchers are concerned. What they do know, is that around 50 your strength begins to decrease by a certain percentage each year and this is inevitable, even if you've been lifting weights most of your life. The main reason muscles begin to atrophy is protein degradation; the proteins in your body are just not rebuilding and repairing muscle tissue as fast as they once were. As people age, they also have a harder time fighting the common cold or may come down with more serious ailments that cause them to be bed ridden for any amount of time and that will also greatly affect the ability to build muscle. Now for those of you who aren't yet out of your prime, it's never too late to start so don't feel like it will all be for wasted effort. Will you look like a VS model? No, because not only are they on crazy diets and air brushed, they are younger and looking like that is their career. Will you have more energy and feel better? Absolutely.
   Now, everyone knows muscle burns more fat at rest, so even if you can't see the muscles you have, they are there, and they are doing something and you should work to build them, but at a safe and moderate pace. Also, never take cardio for granted! The heart is a muscle and working that even just a little can do wonders for anyone's health, young or old.
   1. Nerves slow down.Your nerve endings and fibers start to fire more slowly as you begin to age. This means it might take you a second longer to think about how to do something because the neural pathway is no longer active. Muscle does have memory, but it's not immediate! A bicep curl or squat might not be second nature, even after a few weeks of exercising you might not have perfect form but exercising works those nerves and the brain, as well as the muscles. 
   2. Collagen levels decrease. Collagen is what keeps things looking smooth and tight. This is why anti-wrinkle creams have collagen in them. Collagen is found in the skin, and once lost there is only so much you can do to restore it. Start taking care of your skin NOW... avoid sunburns, use moisturizer, keep your muscles toned. Excess fat stretches the skin, and as you age your skin has less elasticity to bounce back after weight loss.
   3. Muscle proteins decrease. The body just doesn't put as much work into building the muscle as much as simply repairing it. Still, repairing the small tears you create from strength training will help to hypertrophy the muscles a bit.
   The bottom line is, building muscles takes a large commitment and aging is inevitable. But if you have realistic goals, there is no reason to not start, just know it might take a little more "sweat, blood and tears" motivation to get the results you want. Every body has a genetic "set point"; a weight and size it prefers to be. Of course the set point can be modified through diet and exercise, but usually where you hit your plateau is a good indicator.
   My biggest suggestion; learn to love your body for what it can do, has done, and will do rather than hate it for what it cannot. Being healthy is always the ultimate goal, and health comes in all shapes and sizes.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Budgeting Nutrition

   I hear it a lot, "I can't afford to be healthy". I understand healthy foods can be expensive, gym memberships may not come cheap, and if you go vegetarian or organic you're looking at a whole different kind of expense. But do you know how much it costs a year for type II diabetes medication (Type II diabetes is often caused by obesity); you're paying for hospital care, a slew of medications you will be on daily, and then you have to pay for any of the nasty complications such as nerve damage and loss of vision to just name two! I did a little research, and you're looking at around $14,000 a year... that is more than a $1,000 a month! So, a decent gym membership might cost you around $30/ month, and the grocery bill might be around $500-$600 a month, depending on how many people you feed and what you eat... so that's only around let's say $700 a month. That's $300 you didn't have to spend on insulin medication and doctor appointments. And let's face facts, no matter what groceries you are buying, you're still buying them so it's not like that $600 a month would be money in your pocket. Put down the Ramen Noodles and hot dogs. What you put into your body matters! Still don't want to pay for a gym membership, read my Warm Weather Workouts blog; you don't need one! Move the couch or go to the playground, invest in a pair of dumb bells but get up and move! Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to hit the gym decked out in under armour... most of the time I'm there in shorts and an old tshirt. Even better, hit Marshalls; exercise equipment and clothes and shoes for cheap!
   Back to the food problem... I know produce is expensive, and it goes bad quickly so lesson #1: Don't overbuy! Set up a weekly meal plan, and only buy what you're planning to eat. If frozen veggies are on sale, stock up. Frozen has less sodium than canned, and is therefore healthier, but fresh is ideal. If you run out, there is nothing that says you can't go back to the store for just a few things. Keep the fridge and pantry organized so you know exactly what you have, and keep things that go bad quickly towards the front.
   Get Creative! Some foods, especially fruits, can still be used even after they are overly ripened. Bananas for instance are actually higher in cancer fighting agents when brown and freckled but if you're like me, you can't stand the mealy texture and strong banana taste. Throw them in a protein shake, or bake something that uses mashed bananas as the sugar. On my facebook page, ltip fitness, I have a recipe for apple oat muffins that uses bananas and they're delicious! Get on pinterest, tons of ideas! You can also use greens that are a day past what you want to eat in shakes. Try something new, if you don't like it, you were going to throw it out anyways. Consider starting a compost?
   Know what to buy in bulk! Safeway is having a sale! Awesome, but don't buy 12 boxes of cereal. Stock up on things that freeze well, and what you have room to freeze. Bread products and meats freeze well. When I buy meat in bulk I pre-portion it in baggies, because who wants to take a chainsaw to 10 pounds of frozen chicken breasts when they only need 2 pounds? It's not good food safety either to thaw and refreeze foods over and over again either. Yes, I realize this is time consuming but it's worth it! If you're going to eat a lot of brown rice and things of the sort, be sure to keep only one container open at a time and keep it cool and dry. Other than that, you should plan to buy things on a more weekly basis.
   Couponing! Sign up for the grocery store reward program too; it's free and it does pay off. Start checking out coupons too, but don't clip coupons for things you don't use unless you are interested in trying something new. Keep an eye on which stores are having which sales too. Not interested in couponing? Check out a local farmers market for your fresh foods. You can usually talk to the stand and get half of something for half of the price and you don't pay taxes, and it's usually cheaper, fresher, and more local than the grocery store. As a girl who works for a farm, at the farmer markets I have some advice; be nice! We have every right to say "Nope." but usually if a person asks nicely, we will happily oblige. Plus, being rude gets you nowhere and it's not good for your mental health!
   So while you're still sitting here, arguing that you can buy the entire taco bell menu for under $10, save it for your doctor when you develop diabetes or metabolic disease. And sorry to burst your little gas bubble, but that kind of food will only keep you full for around an hour or so and then you need more... more food, more money. Healthy food that is nutrient dense will keep you full for longer. Being healthy is more fulfilling and cheaper in the long run. I lived on my own, I know groceries can be expensive but it's a necessary expense in your budget. Go to the grocery store, and avoid the filler aisles as much as you can and you can lose... weight that is! Do it for yourself and for your family.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Warm Weather Workouts

   Warmer weather is coming! ...Eventually. This has been a pretty brutal winter; cold, windy, lots of snow, rain, and ice. But spring will prevail, I promise! So get those walking shoes ready. Exercising outdoors has a lot of benefits; you get natural Vitamin D, it has been proven to boost your mood, and it's cardio! Let's be honest, the gym can become boring and stuffy. Spring is the perfect time to revamp your workout and add some outdoor hours to your weekly routine.
   Things to do outside: walk, jog, run, hike, hit the playground, go exploring. All of it is free, and all of it is good for you. Nothing says you have to stay in your neighborhood or hit the closest track; go to a local park or beach, hit the trails, or even go downtown. I love warmer weather, because I can walk a mile before I start my day to boost my mood, torch some calories, and it doesn't take a long time but kickstarts my metabolism. Last spring I downloaded the Nike + running app and made a plan. I took a before picture, curious if walking was actually an effective way to lose weight; it definitely was! Not only did I love the app and wanted to push myself harder, I could see my progress not only in my physique but on the app as well. I could set goals such as walk 10 miles in 1 week, drop my mile time by a minute, etc.
   See for yourself that walking and jogging can make a difference... I lost around 5 pounds and 10 inches, everything tightened up and I felt great. I'm generally a healthy eater, but during this particular semester I was barely making it into the gym due to my school and work schedule. I suck at running, but I really enjoy interval training that switches between a fast walk and a jog. My average mile time for just walking is around 13 minutes.
Before and After picture: Just one month of walking!

   I'm a walk-jog fiend; I'll go for a walk first thing in the morning to warm up all my muscles and my metabolism and really get a wake up the way I like to (with fresh air and a sunrise and a few moments to myself) and usually again after dinner. I don't recommend jogging or running after dinner because then you're asking for a cramp, but a leisurely stroll is actually good for you and your digestion. Plus, an after dinner walk will help ward off that sluggish feeling you get after a large meal and give you a small energy boost to finish the dishes with! It'll also help you sleep better that night. I still usually couple this with a gym routine, but instead of spending a boring 30 minutes on the treadmill, I can just do a quick warm up and get right to strength training. On cardio only days, I'll usually go for a longer than average walk-jog or I'll try and explore a new place; different environments have different benefits.
    Walking on the beach (I prefer barefoot) works different muscles than walking on the road, or hiking in the woods. Switching up the scenery will also keep it fun and force yourself to push yourself farther. If you're going to be out while it's dark be sure to wear clothes that early morning commuters can see! Always have your cell phone but keep music low so you can hear what's going on around you. Stick to places you know are safe, and always let someone know where you are if you're going out alone. The great thing about exercising outdoors though is your whole family can join you... and I highly recommend that! If you have younger children, utilize the park and it's a win win. You can do sit to stands on benches, use those shoulders and do the monkey bars, but also hop on the swings and remember what it was like to be carefree. Mental health is an important as physical health. Afraid you will look ridiculous? Who cares!Get out there and do what's best for you!

Love the Burn!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Common "Healthy" Misconceptions

   When the urge hits to get healthy, by all means, follow it! But please, don't fall into these "health" traps or let these wrong ideas wiggle into your mind! Being healthy is a science and it's not always easy to understand, but have no fear, I am here! I hear everything in my profession, and here are some of the most common misconceptions I hear, and want to clear up. Anytime you decide to start a new routine, talk to a health professional for at least some guidance if you want to be the most successful.

1. Fitness magazines can't steer me wrong.
WRONG! Please, don't go to the magazine aisle and stock up on every fitness magazine you can get your hands on. While we are in that aisle, stay away from all the diet books too, especially if you are new to the health scene.The problem with fitness and health magazines is that they are rarely authored or edited or even fact checked by people who are in the health industry with PhD's and Masters degrees. These magazines are written by journalists who may or may not have any more expertise than those who write for Cosmo and Vogue. Every now and then they are an easy read, but don't believe everything you read unless it is from a peer reviewed health journal (which doesn't have pictures of models). Just today I was skimming one waiting to check out at the grocery store and I come across a page that tells people in order to speed up their workout and burn more calories that they can skip the 5-10 minutes for a cool down and stretching. This magazine then went on to claim that a thorough cool down and stretching doesn't really prevent injuries or reduce sore muscles so why do it? In my major (Exercise Science) we do a lot of research, and a lot of research has shown that a cool down DOES prevent injuries to a high enough extent that ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine-- the gold standard as far as information in the fitness world goes) recommends a cool down and stretch. Are you wasting those 5-10 minutes to cool down when you could be burning calories? I suppose, but tell me how easy it is to go for a run or do push ups when you injure yourself.
   If you want to flip through for some motivation or maybe a new recipe to try, go for it, but don't take everything they say as true. You're probably reading this blog, and thinking "why should I believe you then?" Well, not only have I been working in the fitness industry for over 3 years but I have my associates degree in Health, Wellness, and Exercise Studies and am currently working on my bachelors in Exercise Science... I have access to countless peer reviewed research articles, textbooks, and teachers at my disposal. If I'm not sure of something, I always do my fact checking before I write and post it!

2. Carbs are bad.
Carbs are NOT the enemy. Carbohydrates are a major macronutrient, and one your body needs more of than fats and protein. The brain will ONLY use glucose (which is a carb) to function, so no carbs= no glucose = no brain power. Carbs also give the rest of the body energy. All macronutrients are important, and none should be considered bad or ever be too restricted. You want to shoot for around 40- 50% of your total calories to come from carbs. If you need more information about this, you can read my blog Personalized Macronutrient Needs!

3. Low fat and 0 calorie foods are the best.
Again, nope. These foods are pumped full of chemicals so that they still have flavor, but no calories or fat. Fat is a necessary part of the diet. 0 calorie foods and drinks (diet soda) are the devil. Have you ever wondered how it's 0 calories? Well, your body cannot digest the chemicals so they can't be broken down and absorbed so you don't get any calories from the product. Nothing about that is good for your body! Want something high in fat or calories... everything in moderation! I would prefer you to drink a glass of soda than drink an entire diet soda if you're dead set on having soda. Stop putting chemicals your body can't recognize into your body; many of these are proven carcinogens (cancer causing chemicals) and contain free radicals.

4. It's too expensive to be healthy.
I understand your grocery bill might increase when you start buying more produce and healthier foods, but in the long run it's cheaper. The cost of diabetes medication is sky rocketing, health insurance is getting more costly, and doctors are pushing drugs for everything; drugs cost money. A trip through the drive through might be cheaper at first glance, but what about when you're hungry again two hours later? Eating a healthy, balanced diet helps keep you full and satisfied, and keeps your body working the way it's meant to. Check out the local farmers markets and start clipping coupons. Make sure you have a weekly meal plan to cut down on wasted food and try new recipes... I didn't want to throw away a bunch of bananas but they had become overly ripened so I found a recipe for banana oat muffins where the bananas were a substitute for the sugar- healthy and delicious!
   No one says you have to join the top gym, or even any gym, to get healthy. You can walk around your neighborhood or at a track or park close by. You can use hand weights and do body weight exercises in your own house. You can often join a gym for fairly cheap though and if you use it, it'll be worth the money you spend. Many insurance companies will reimburse your gym membership also, it's worth looking into! 

5. I don't need to strength train.
Everyone needs to strength train. Women, men, young, old. By young, I mean adolescents... don't try and make your 9 year old start lifting weights. Younger children need to be active, but in a way that only uses their own body weight; you don't want to stress the growth plates and growing bones. Women, you will not bulk... if you don't believe me, read Toning vs. Bulking for all the background research and information. Strength training just twice a week will help keep your muscles and bones healthy.

6. Fat becomes muscle and muscle can become fat.
These are two completely different things. They are made of different components, and cannot morph into one another. Fat cells can be made smaller or larger, and muscle cells can atrophy or dystrophy (grow or shrink). Fat cells though cannot morph into muscle cells and vice versa. You have a set number of muscle cells that can increase or decrease in diameter. Fat cells can be created and can grow or shrink. It's still pretty controversial whether you can actually destroy fat cells or not without surgery.

I hope this helped to clear up any misconceptions you may have had. Being healthy is a lifestyle, not a fad and while it takes work, I promise you it is worth it!
Love the Burn!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Toning Vs. Bulking

   I hear it all the time; I don't want to get big or muscular, I just want to tone. Toning is building muscle! The definition of being tone is to lose weight; shed the fat that sits on top of your muscles, and build a little bit of the muscle attached to your bone so that you can see it. As a woman, you will not hulk out. I PROMISE. Your body does NOT produce enough testosterone so unless you take steroids, which I highly recommend you don't do, your muscles will only get so big. Some people like to put on the muscle, and have the strength behind it and there is a training style to make everyone happy.
   Toning: You want to use low weights and complete high reps and medium sets. For example; when doing a bicep curl you would want to do a low weight, say 5 pounds, and then do 20 of them and complete 3 sets of that exercise. Or you can do a lot of body weight exercises too; this will ensure you have the strength to at least carry yourself around for the whole day with little to no problems. As for losing the fat on top of the muscle, CARDIO! And a healthy diet. Especially in the case of abs. Abdominal muscles are made in the kitchen and toned on the treadmill. That's not to say sit ups are useless, but until you have a fairly flat stomach, you want to focus on shredding the fat first.
   Bulking: This is not a negative thing! Some people, including myself, enjoy being muscular and stronger than they would be without weight lifting. Do I look like the hulk? Nope. Do I have bicep muscles? Yes. If this is what you are going for, you want to lift heavier weights, do a lower number of reps, and do a medium to higher number of sets. For example for bicep curls again; you'll want to do 10 pounds, 8 reps, and repeat that 5 times. You'll also want to figure out your one rep max so that you can gauge how your strength is building. You will take lots of pride in seeing how much your strength begins to increase. Not to mention, muscle burns more calories at rest and any muscle will ALWAYS look better than fat.
   One rep max is the highest weight you can lift one time. If you can do three of something, add 5 pounds or so. Also, once an exercise becomes easier, increase the weight. There's also nothing to say you can't switch up between the two styles of weight lifting either... find a happy medium. Every body type is different, and is determined by genetics so don't get frustrated if results aren't immediate or what you want. Embrace who you are and what your body can do. I'll never be a size zero or a marathon runner, but I can squat 300 pounds and have some killer muscles to show for it. As always, diet is a huge factor in your journey to health! You cannot outrun or outlift a bad diet.
   Strong is the New Sexy. Be healthy, be happy.
   Love the Burn!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Got Intervals?!

   Interval training is great, for anyone and everyone. Whether you are just starting out or have been a gym rat for decades, everyone can benefit from interval training. What is interval training you ask? It's when you switch up your workout routine from low to high intensity. The possibilities are endless! Interval training has also been shown by research that it can effectively increase your lactate threshold; so it will take longer to feel the burn and you will ultimately be able to do more reps before hitting failure.
   Benefits of Interval Training:
1. Burns more calories. When you walk or jog at a steady pace, your heart rate isn't fluctuating all that much. When you go from a walk to a run or a run to a sprint, you are spiking up that heart rate for a few moments or minutes. It takes time for your heart rate to come back down, at which point you are probably launching into the next interval and elevating it again. The higher your heart rate, the more calories you burn (Remember talking about THR zone?!).
2. Adds variety. Exercise routines can become boring if you don't change it up often enough. Unless you really enjoy cardio, most people find it redundant. Not only can you burn more calories in less time, but it makes you focus more on the next high intensity burst than how boring it may be. Once you start to push yourself and break your fastest mile time or see your speed increase, you might even get excited to break your next personal best!
3. Increases speed. Doing a jog-sprint interval is ideal for increasing your speed and decreasing your mile time. The science behind this is extremely hard to explain, let alone understand. So just take my word for it. Try it and you can see for yourself! That's not to say though that doing a walk-jog-run interval won't increase your speed, it most definitely will.
4. Increases lactate threshold. You're running, or your lifting weights, or your doing anything that requires anaerobic metabolism. You start to feel the burn, the burn gets so bad you have to stop. This is called failure and many people use their failure point as a marker of their gains. The longer it takes to get to failure, the stronger you are getting. Doing interval training can increase that lactate threshold, meaning it takes longer for the burn to set in. Boom, cardio just helped you lift weights more efficiently!
5. Increase Cardio endurance. So maybe you enjoy running, but can't seem to run for very longer. Maybe you aspire to run a half marathon or take part in an iron man but just don't have the long lasting endurance to last? Interval training is the answer! Cardio helps your body become more oxygen efficient, your mitochondria can begin to use the oxygen more efficiently to run for longer. The same way it increases your speed, it increases your endurance... do it and you will see!

   If that didn't convince you to try interval training, nothing will. Just like all cardio, you can do it inside or outside and at your own pace. I highly recommend downloading an app that records your runs so that you can watch your mile times get faster and that you use a heart rate monitor to see the caloric burn and increased heart rate!
   Love the Burn... less :)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Struggle is REAL

   I'm human... I know being healthy isn't always easy in a world of temptation. But that doesn't mean it's impossible! I took a poll from friends and family about what they find their hardest struggle to be in the battle of being healthy. Here I'll explain the bigger picture problems, and how to overcome them.

   Problem #1: Sweet teeth! There are ultimately two types of people in this world... those who crave sweets and those who crave salty. If you're my mother, you crave both depending on what time of day it is. The struggle for her is super real... I have to hide things! Having a sweet tooth or a hankering for some salt is not the end all be all to your healthy eating. Often, if you're body is craving something it could be because you need it. Unfortunately, a candy bar has little to do with this unless your blood sugar is dangerously low. The best ways to combat a craving is out of sight out of mind, distraction, or supplementation.
   If you leave your biggest weakness out in the open, of course you will want it. Food companies pay big bucks to people who make their product look irresistible. Keep snacks in a colored tupperware container or in a separate room so you're less likely to see it and then want it, and think about nothing else. If it's truly awful for you... don't buy it! If it's not in the house, you won't eat it. The distraction method works like this; paint your nails or pay bills, build something, go for a walk, read a few chapters in a book. More often than not, you're simply bored, or maybe thirsty, and not really hungry. Get your mind moving, exercise your brain, and it won't linger on the bag of chips you think you want. Supplementation works by switching out what you might want with a healthier option to cut down on the guilt. Craving sweets? Try a piece of fruit, have a yogurt, or have a rice cake with nutella. It will crave the sweet tooth with less of the calories. Really craving a certain thing? Don't deprive yourself but portion yourself; you don't have to eat the whole candy bar. Break off a piece and put the rest away before you indulge and then move on to doing something. Craving salt? Try a handful of pretzels, or some veggies with hummus.
   Problem #2: Healthy food gets boring. EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS! If you don't have a pinterest account, get one... so many ideas in one place. Now when you search healthy meals, will every one of them truly be healthy, probably not, but it will give you ideas. Switch up your salads, soup, and sandwiches. Add some ZING to your dinners and breakfasts. Rotate snacks so you don't get tired of them. I am often away from home for long hours and without a microwave so I've gotten creative with salads and sandwiches so I'm not tempted to hop over to McDevils.
 *Spinach (I prefer the taste of baby spinach) salad variations:
   -Grilled & seasoned chicken, strawberries, walnuts, red peppers, cucumbers, avocado, goat cheese,and raspberry vinagrette. Strawberries not in season? Try clementines or apple chips.
   -Grilled shrimp, peppers, cucumbers, goat cheese, and balsamic vinagrette.
   -Grilled steak, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, avocado, goat cheese, and a light peppercorn dressing.
There are 3 salads that don't taste at all similar. While spinach is healthier than other lettuces, if you like the crunch of iceberg or romaine, or the taste of arugula then add some in. Try new things, you might like it!
  *Sandwiches: the options are endless! I like cracked pepper turkey, but with ham, chicken, and roast beef options you can change it up often. Then all the variations in cheese! I often use mustard, avocado, tomato, and baby spinach on my sandwiches as well. Sometimes if I'm home I'll pop the bread, cheese, and meat into the oven to toast it and then add on the extras for a change. Ever toasted the bread for a pb&j? Or try a peanut butter and banana sandwich, a veggie and hummus wrap, or add multiple meats (a slice of ham, a slice of turkey) to add different flavors. Try to stick to wheat bread and whole grain wraps.
    Don't be afraid to try something new and play with old recipes. I keep a food planner on the fridge too and will go back a few weeks sometimes and think oh yea! I forgot about that idea! 

   Problem #3: I can't find healthy snacks. Well, this is just ridiculous. Get out of the granola bar aisle, please and thank you. You just have to get creative, and invest in various sizes of tupperware! My usual snack shelf usually consists of: pretzels (dip them in peanut butter or nutella if you get tired of plain), clementines, apples, and bananas, rice cakes (again I use peanut butter or nutella), belvita bars, a few protein bars, oatmeal ready to go, yogurt, laughing cow cheese, hard boiled eggs, applesauce, raisins, and almonds or pistachios. I love the summer because I live off of fruit, but during the winter I splurge every now and then and get some pineapple or cherries to switch it up. Again, you just have to get creative. I usually plan to have a fruit snack after breakfast, a sweet snack with lunch, and a snack around 2-4 when I start to get tired and hungry. Don't overdo it on snacks, but don't avoid them either.

   Problem #4: Eating when bored. This is definitely not good, but very common. To break this habit, stop eating while watching tv, driving, or doing something else. You aren't paying attention to how much or what you are even eating and therefore you tend to overeat. Eating is part mental as much as physiological. People get a lot of comfort and enjoyment out of food these days, not only nutrients. We use food as a way to celebrate, go on a first date, meet up with friends, or even to console our feelings. Keep food in the kitchen or dining area so you'll be less likely to eat during a movie. If you're in the middle of something and you're hungry, take a break. If you know you are simply bored out of your mind, use the distraction method from Problem 1... take your mind off of it and try to drink at least a glass of water. I doubt you will still feel so ravished afterwards, but if you do, eat... in an appropriate place.

   Eating healthy doesn't have to suck, it can actually be quite enjoyable. Does it take planning and a little extra time? Yes, usually. Is it worth it? Absolutely, always. When you fill your body with good stuff, it doesn't need as much to carry out the processes it needs the food for. When you eat junk, a lot of that can't be absorbed or used by your body, and it starts signaling you need more food because your body has a lot of work left to do in the day. The biggest use of calories in your body goes toward your Basal Metabolic Rate; this is what keeps you alive. Your BMR burns more calories then your workout will, so don't starve it, fuel it!

Food is Fuel!