Stand Up Straight Again

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If you’re one of the many who spend their days sitting in front of a computer or behind a steering wheel more often than you’d like, there’s a chance your posture may be suffering. Being seated for hours a day can start to pull you out of natural alignment and begin to add stress to your spine, hips, shoulders, and surrounding tissue.

So what can we do to get the body back into proper balance? For this article, the focus will be on 5 exercises that will help release shortened muscles while activating weak muscles and in turn, set the body back into normal muscle tone.

Pectoral Release. Lie on a dense ball to apply pressure directly to the pec muscle near the front of the shoulder. With firm pressure held on the tight area, slowly move your arm around and focus on getting a full range of motion through the shoulder joint. Continue for several minutes until you feel improved range of motion and then switch to the other pec.

Thoracic Release. Lie on a foam roller with it placed slightly below your shoulder blades. Keep your neck neutral and hips on the floor. Gently drop your shoulders and puff your chest forward as your back naturally arches. Hold for several seconds and then move the roller up or down an inch at a time and repeat until you feel a release of tension throughout that area of the spine.

Thoracic-Smash

Hamstring Release/Stretch. Take a seat on a firm medicine ball and place it just below your glutes at the top end of your hamstrings. Allow your weight to sink into the ball and slowly move down the length of your hamstrings until you reach the backside of your knee. You can also tilt your body side to side to hit the inner and outer parts of the hamstrings. Once you ‘smash’ out each hamstring, now you can focus on stretching it. Assume a lunged position over the top of a mat and drop down until your back knee is resting on the mat. With a flat back posture, slowly straighten the front leg while leaning forward until you feel the hamstring lengthen. Slowly shift your hips side to get a nice release through the back of your leg.

Hamstring-Stretch

Now that we’ve released some of the tight areas, it’s time to activate some of the weaker areas.

Glute Bridge. Lie on a bench with your feet on the floor and your upper back supporting the rest of your weight as your body will be turned perpendicular to the bench. With your feet placed directly under your knees, squeeze your glutes while keeping tension through your abdominal wall. Hold for 5 seconds and then slowly drop your hips about 12 inches. Raise back up and hold again for 5 seconds. Repeat for 1-2 minutes.

Glute-Bridge

Scapular Retraction. Lie face down with your legs together and your arms resting on the floor so you form a Y-shape. Engage your glutes and your abdominal wall and then slowly raise your arms off the floor while rotating your thumbs upward and squeezing your shoulder blades. The goal is to feel engagement in the glutes, abs, and shoulder blade area without feeling tension or pinching in the lower back or neck. Hold for 5 seconds and then slowly return to your starting position. Repeat for 1-2 minutes.

Use this routine a few times per week to help your body re-learn its natural posture.

Caffeine – Is it right for you?

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Pouring Coffee

Caffeine. Is it good or bad? We get this question all the time, and the answer really depends on your goals and current state of health.

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that starts altering bodily functions once consumed. Caffeine will increase heart rate and blood flow while raising your body temperature. Many people drink coffee and its accompanying caffeine to help them start their day. A cup in the morning makes you feel more alert while satisfying the physical dependence you may acquire from drinking it daily. Most experts agree that a daily cup or two of coffee or tea is considered safe.

Caffeine may not be suited for everyone though. Caffeine consumption may disrupt sleep cycles, but it can also cause under-hydration as well as restlessness, anxiety, and irritability in mood and behavior. Those with heart conditions, high blood pressure, or type 2 diabetes are risking added stress on the heart and circulatory system as well as a possible increase in blood sugar levels. So caffeine could increase health risks in individuals with these conditions.

On the positive side, studies have shown that caffeine does improve athletic performance, which means a cup of coffee or green tea before you exercise could help you accomplish more. This is due to caffeine’s ability to increase muscular power output by assisting the release of calcium as well as helping your body burn more fat as a fuel source. Caffeine consumption before a workout also lessens your rate of perceived exertion and your perception of exhaustion. Your brain makes you feel as if you aren’t working as hard as you really are. This performance boost can be achieved by consuming as little as 1 milligram of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight. So, for most people, a cup of coffee or green tea would be enough to boost the output of your workout.

The main concern we have with drinking coffee every morning is that too often the coffee takes the place of a complete breakfast. Many people rely solely on the caffeine and sugar in their morning cup to get them through until lunch, but this gives no nutritional sustenance. So as long as breakfast consists of a balance of macronutrients from actual food, there should be little concern with having a cup of coffee or brewed tea. If you’re drinking an 8oz caffeinated drink, be sure to drink 8oz of water to help offset the diuretic effect of the caffeine.

Also, be aware of your dependence on caffeine, as it is found in many sodas and energy drinks. If you have to drink more than two caffeinated drinks just to get through your day, it may be time to cut back. Try, instead, to fuel your body with nutrients from real food so you stay naturally energized. Many caffeinated drinks contain high amounts of sugar or artificial sweeteners, so limiting or avoiding them will help keep your overall health in check as well.

So be aware of the good and bad aspects of caffeine and if and how it should fit into your nutrition plan.

Maintain That Weight Loss

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weight loss nutritional

So after months of hard work the extra weight is finally off – now what? Maintaining your weight loss will no doubt take focus, but the hardest part is definitely behind you. Now it comes down to permanently taking control of your health so you’ll never again gain back that extra weight.

Remember your reason for losing weight in the first place. Is it still important to you? If not, find a new internal drive. You must want to keep your newly acquired body. Once you have a solid focus, use it to set your goals. Whether it’s to stay healthy for life or simply fitting into a dress for an upcoming wedding, a goal of any kind will keep you looking towards the future for the focus you need.

Schedule ‘you time’ every week. If taking care of yourself isn’t a priority, then it could very well get pushed aside and replaced with ‘more important’ things. The best intentions usually aren’t enough to stay consistent, so unless you block off time just for you several days throughout the week, you may find yourself struggling to find time for exercise. Your weekly workouts should be as much of a routine as your lunch break or picking up the kids from school. Three to five workouts per week will help you maintain a healthy body weight.

Plan your meals ahead of time. If you’ve had previous weight loss success, you already know how important meal planning is for consistent results. Plan out your meals based on where you’ll be that particular day. If you’re at the office, make sure you stock the fridge with healthy options so you aren’t skipping meals or snacking out of the vending machine. If you’re traveling, be aware of grocery stores and restaurants in the area that have healthy food options or pack a cooler so you have what you need at your fingertips. Eating a balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates for 5-6 meals a day will ensure a variety of nutrients and help maintain blood sugar levels, which curbs hunger and keeps your metabolism running efficiently.

Surround yourself with healthy people. If friends and family seem to be pulling you off track, get them more involved in their own health. At the same time, get out and meet people who have healthy interests. Find a workout partner, take a yoga class, or join an online support group. Hanging out with motivating people will support healthy choices and improve your lifestyle.

Remember to reward your efforts when worthy. Staying healthy takes focus but it shouldn’t be stressful. Sometimes you just want that dessert or need a massage instead of another workout. As long as you’re happy with your progress, go for it! Understand the value of moderation and know what your body can tolerate without sabotaging your efforts.

So enjoy your slimmer body while understanding what it takes to keep it. The sooner you get these healthy habits set in place, the more fun you’ll have in your new lifestyle.

Find Balance When Planning Your Meals and Snacks

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salmon

Although there’s an abundance of food choices out there, we teach our clients 5 basic food groups – protein, fats, fruits, vegetables, and starches. Fruits, vegetables, and starches all fall under the macronutrient carbohydrates, while protein and fats make up their own respective macronutrients. It’s a proper balance of these three nutrients – protein, fat, and carbohydrates that will keep you healthy and nourished. Let’s take a look at these nutrients and how to fit them into your diet.

Protein is a building block for muscle. Therefore, if you want a toned and lean body, you must eat protein to support muscle growth and maintenance. Eggs, beef, chicken, turkey, fish and whey are all excellent forms of protein.

Fat is the most underrated macronutrient. Most people avoid fats because of their higher caloric content, but the truth is, fats are vital in our diet and without them, there is a tendency to eat too many calories from carbohydrates. This leads to spikes in blood sugar and weight gain. Focus on eating natural fats such as olive oil, avocados, nuts, and coconut oil.

Fruits are easy to understand, but remember that a variety of fresh fruit is the way to go. Fruit provides natural energy and an abundance of nutrients. Don’t be afraid of the “sugar” in fruit but eat in moderation as with everything else and be sure to always pair fruit with the other two macros.

Vegetables are too often neglected and overlooked. If you look at the ratio of nutrients to calories, vegetables like broccoli, spinach, asparagus, and zucchini will flood your body with nutrients but not drown you with excess calories.

Starches should be limited because of their sugar content and the effect they have on blood sugar levels. Too much sugar eaten at one time could cause spikes and drops in blood sugar, which has negative effects on metabolism and overall health. Bagels, cereal, and bread might be common staples in your diet, but they provide a lot of sugar with minimal nutrients. Limit these types of starchy foods and get more carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables.

So if we break that down into a sample meal plan for the day, a 1600 calorie diet would look like this:

 

Breakfast – 7 am Snack – 9:30 am Lunch – 12 pm Snack – 3 pm Dinner – 6 pm
1 protein, 1 fat, 2 vege 1 protein, 1 fruit, 1 fat 1 protein, 2 vege, 1 starch, 1 fat 1 protein, 1 fruit, 1 fat 1-2 protein, 1 fat, 2 vege
 Omelet

2 eggs

1 oz shredded cheese

½ cup spinach

½ cup chopped tomato

 

5 oz Plain Greek Yogurt

¼ cup blueberries

1 Tbsp Flax Oil

 

 

Salad

4 oz chicken breast

¼ cup brown rice

½ cup black beans

1 cup chopped romaine

¼ avocado

 

1 scoop whey protein

1 apple

1 Tbsp natural almond butter

6 oz salmon

1 oz crushed walnuts

4 asparagus spears

½ cup diced red peppers

 

 

How does a typical day from your diet compare? Remember, a healthy balance of these 5 food groups is a sensible way to not only ensure a variety of nutrients, but to control your weight as well. Give your diet the thought and time it deserves. Your body will thank you!

 

 

A Green Smoothie a Day…

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Green smoothieHaving a difficult time eating more vegetables? Try drinking them. Blending vegetables and fruits into a smoothie is simple and inexpensive and provides numerous health benefits. Ingredients might include a few green leafy vegetables paired up with one or two fruits.

Let’s take a look at the benefits of consuming ‘green’ smoothies.

Green smoothies are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Depending on the fruits/vegetables you use in your smoothie, you could be getting a great dose of Vitamins A, C, E, and K as well as minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, and potassium. In addition, the phytonutrients are immeasurable and include carotenoids, flavonoids, and resveratrol just to name a few.

Consuming green smoothies is a great way to increase your daily vegetable intake. Think about it, how many quality vegetables do you really consume in a day? We could all use more. Kale and collards are two superfoods that are seldom eaten as side vegetables, but can easily be blended into a smoothie as green ingredients.

Green smoothies deliver a natural source of energy. Ever feel like taking a nap in the afternoon? Rather than going for a coffee or soda, try a green smoothie. The natural sugars from the fruit and vegetables will give you a boost, but the high fiber content and vitamins and minerals will help to prolong the energizing effects. Remember, your body runs much better on real foods than food substitutes.

Green smoothies have numerous health benefits. Greens are the staple of many holistic programs designed to return someone to optimal health after a disease or injury. Greens can decrease inflammation, aid in blood purification, and even improve digestion. Many diseases are caused by prolonged inflammation and improper detox, so consuming green smoothies is a great way to be proactive in the fight against aging and disease.

Try the following green smoothie as a healthy snack or occasional breakfast. Once you master this one, try adding more greens such as kale, collards, chard, watercress, or other leafy greens for an added benefit.

Combine in a blender:

1-2 handfuls of fresh spinach

½ frozen banana

1/4 cup frozen berries

½ avacado

A few ice cubes

Add water until desired consistency is met

Optional: 1 scoop of your favorite protein powder

 

The berries in this shake may actually turn it from green to purple, but the benefits are still the same. Blend well and enjoy!

Assessing Your Overall Health

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Scale-TapeMeasure2

Have you completed a fitness assessment lately?

There are many assessment protocols out there, but the key is finding one relevant to your goals. If you’re training for a specific assessment, such as a firefighter physical ability test for example, you probably know exactly what you must do to pass. But, what about the average person who just wants a standard to test themselves against?

Some common areas to assess are cardiovascular efficiency, muscular endurance, muscular strength, flexibility, circumference measurements, and body composition. Your performance or score in each of these areas paints a picture about yourself and your overall health.

The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports has an adult fitness test that sets some standards for the common adult. It’s not overly thorough, but may give you a general idea of how you stack up in these areas of fitness.

Aerobic Endurance. This test consists of either a 400 meter walk, a 1 mile walk, or a 1.5 mile jog/run. Choose the appropriate test based on your current fitness level. This test measures how efficiently you utilize the oxygen you take in with each breath. If you’re lungs and heart can utilize more oxygen at any intensity, then you can maximize your output at those different intensity levels and get more work done – move faster or farther in a set time frame.

Muscular Strength and Endurance. To test these aspects, you’ll be performing pushups and situps. These tests may vary slightly based on your sex but your individual score is always relative. Keep in mind, this test will give you an idea of your muscular strength and endurance but only in the movements being measured. So, if you run often for example, you may have great muscular endurance in your legs, but you may score low on the pushup test due to a lack of training the upper body.

Flexibility. This test consists of the well-known sit and reach where you’re in a seated position with your legs extended while attempting to reach towards or past your toes. Again, it’s one aspect of flexibility but gives you a general idea of how well the muscles of the legs and back allow the hips to move through a specific range of motion.

Personal Statistics. These areas of testing could include height, weight, BMI, body composition, and circumference measurements, such waist and hip size. For the adult fitness test, you’ll be entering your height, weight, and waist circumference and it will give you a score based on those 3 areas. Another important test to consider is measuring your body fat percentage. One goal of exercise is to not only achieve and maintain a healthy weight, but to improve the muscle vs. fat composition of that weight. With proper exercise, your lean mass should increase as your fat mass decreases. So, measuring your weight and your body fat percentage will tell you much more information that just stepping on a scale from week to week.

So if you’re wondering where your current fitness level ranks, check out the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports website and enter your stats from the above tests or contact us for a complimentary assessment.

More Exercise or Better Nutrition?

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vegetable exercise woman

If you started 2015 with a new workout routine, you’re not alone. Millions join health clubs in their quest to lose weight, get healthier, and feel better. Exercise is definitely a must, but only one piece of the wellness puzzle. Don’t overlook the importance of nutrition and how it affects your results and overall well-being.

Below are the 3 most common nutrition mistakes we find with new clients and how to fix them.

Mistake #1: Eating most of your calories at dinner and after. If you skip breakfast or stop for coffee on your way to work, you are missing the first opportunity of the day to get some quality calories and nutrients. Coast by on fumes until lunch and you’re setting yourself up for failure. You’re going into the afternoon/evening on a low tank and you’ll probably soon over eat for dinner and in the hours that follow.

How to fix: Eat a well-rounded breakfast every day and try to consume 60% of your daily calories by the end of lunch. This way you will feel more consistent energy throughout the day while hopefully avoiding those cravings that kick in around dinnertime caused by under eating earlier in the day.

Mistake #2: Misunderstanding the relationship between calories and macronutrients. Calorie counting may be a good tool to help you quantify your food intake, but you must be aware of what makes up those calories. This is where many people go wrong with macronutrients – proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. A seemingly healthy caloric range that is made up of 70% processed carbohydrates is not a healthy balance of macronutrients.

How to fix: If you know your caloric range, use that as a reference, but you need to understand the macronutrient profile of the foods you eat. Your snacks and meals should always have a combination of protein, fats, and carbohydrates. For example, rather than grabbing a banana for a snack, which is all carbohydrates, try a Greek yogurt with crushed walnuts instead. This combination includes protein, fat, and carbohydrates for a more balanced macronutrient profile.

Mistake #3: Allowing too much time between meals. If you’re only eating once you actually feel hungry, you’re waiting too long. Your rational decision making goes away if you get too hungry and you may grab something you shouldn’t be eating. You’re also compromising your productivity by not having enough calories and nutrients available to run your body efficiently. If your blood sugar drops too low, you may feel your mood, energy, and focus change for the worse.

How to fix: Besides the obvious of trying to eat every 3 hours, you need to set a routine with your meals and understand that food is a fuel source. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy food, but you need to think beyond just the pleasure of eating and remember the reason we all eat in the first place – to nourish the body. Set your schedule so 3 hours after breakfast you have a snack, 3 hours later you have lunch, another snack 3 hours after lunch, and then dinner 3 hours later. This consistent timing of calories and nutrients will keep you going strong throughout the entire day.

So, fix these common mistakes and be that much closer to losing weight, getting healthier, and feeling better.

Moroccan Chicken Salad

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Moroccan Chicken Salad

salad

AUTHOR: Danielle Walker – AgainstAllGrain.com

Ingredients:

For the Chicken

  • ½ pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley

For the Salad

  • 1 cup butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1 cup red beets, peeled and cubed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
  • 5 cups romaine lettuce
  • 1 cup arugula
  • 2 medjool dates pitted and chopped
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • 1 carrot, shaved
  • 2 tablespoons toasted almonds
  • 2 tablespoons dried, unsweetened cranberries
  • ¼ cup Champagne Vinaigrette (recipe to follow)

For the Champagne Vinaigrette

  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • ⅛ cup champagne vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Instructions:

  1. Place all of the chicken ingredients in a ziploc bag or glass dish and marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake the chicken for 20 minutes, flipping once, until it’s cooked thru. Let cool while you prepare the remainder of the salad. This can also be done the day before and stored in the refrigerator.
  3. Toss the beets and butternut squash in the olive oil and sea salt, then roast at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes until tender. Remove from oven, then let cool.
  4. Toss together the butternut squash, beets, lettuce, dates, avocado, carrot, almonds, and cranberries. Slice the chicken and place it on top, then drizzle with Champagne Vinaigrette.

Champagne Vinaigrette

  1. In a blender (I actually used a blender bottle!), mix together 1 teaspoon dijon mustard, ⅛ cup champagne vinegar, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, and a pinch of salt and pepper. With the blender running, drizzle in ½ cup olive oil.

Give the Gift of Fitness

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gift-exercise-small

If you’re looking for any last minute gift ideas, don’t forget the gift of fitness. Here are some great ideas for the fitness inclined, or as a hint for anyone you’d like to see become more active.

Now keep in mind, there are lots of gimmicky fitness gifts out there, but these gifts will help anyone get the most out of their workouts.

Workout shoes. A properly fitted pair of shoes that are specific to the task at hand are a must if you want to excel at your particular sport. If you’re a runner, make sure you buy running shoes specific to your gait and cushioning needs. For strength training, a minimalist style shoe that makes your foot work more naturally might be a better option. Every activity or sport has an ideal shoe type that goes along with it. If you have questions on shoe styles, a gift certificate to a shoe store specializing in fitting the right shoe type to a specific body and sport may be the way to go. Check out Merrell’s Shoe Styles

Mobility tools. Everyone wants to feel good while they move. Back tightness, knee pain, and overall stiffness can often be lessened or alleviated with proper stretching and activation of weak muscles. A simple tool that we use with our clients to improve mobility is a foam roller. Nothing more than a dense cylinder 6” in diameter and 36” long, this tool gives you an ideal surface to apply pressure against tight muscles, allowing that muscle to relax back into proper muscle tone. Once your body is moving properly, you can perform at your best – both in and out of the gym. Check out this Foam Roller from Perform Better

Workout gloves. No one wants torn and calloused hands due to gripping dumbbells and barbells or hanging from a pull up bar. Workout gloves protect your hands and may even aid in grip strength. Lightweight gloves with moisture wicking properties are the way to go. Think of it as a second skin that cushions and protects the hands, so you can focus on more important things. Check out Bionic’s Line of Gloves

A water bottle and shaker bottle. A good water bottle will help you drink more water during your workouts, and staying properly hydrated could improve your health and performance. Choose a bottle that works for you but remember to go BPA free and find one that is easy to clean. In addition, a good shaker bottle is always a staple item to keep in your gym bag. Just pack it with a scoop of protein powder, add water, and shake it up for a simple post-workout snack that aids in recovery. Check out Blender Bottle’s Line of Products

Workout tracking tools. Everyone loves to see how hard they exercise – it’s not only a pat on the back, but sometimes a necessary part of learning your limitations. Tools like heart rate monitors, GPS, activity tracking devices, and nutrition aps spell it all out for you and give you a snapshot of your effots. This is great for keeping records or as a reference on how hard you must work to continue seeing results. Check out Garmin’s Wearable Technology

So from the tried and true to the latest fitness gadgets, these gift ideas are sure to get used as long as they are given the opportunity. Just remember to buy one for yourself as well!

Fittest Loser 2015

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Push_workout_6

Are you ready for a change? Is 2015 the year to turn your good intentions into reality? The Daily Herald and Push Fitness are teaming up to offer you a shot at making it happen.

“We’re looking for hard workers who need direction,” says Joshua Steckler, owner of Push Fitness. “Someone who is willing to face their weaknesses, is willing to listen and follow through with the goals they’ve set for themselves.”

The participants who are chosen will receive 12 weeks of free instruction from a personal trainer and a nutritionist. Workouts will take place at least three days a week at Push Fitness in Schaumburg.

Contestants will be featured in before and after photos and in stories highlighting their progress. Results will be measured each week. The Fittest Loser will be chosen based on percentage of weight lost.

To apply, click HERE

Applications will be accepted through Monday, January 5.

Lisa.Josh_fitness_training

Fittest Loser at Work

The Fittest Loser Challenge is not just for the five individual contestants — for the third year, the Daily Herald is inviting companies and organizations to get involved.

Last year, the Fittest Loser Community Challenge — geared toward members and employees of park districts — and the Corporate Challenge — geared toward employees of companies — provided community members an opportunity to work with a team of co-workers to get fit.

This year, the two challenges are being combined in order to make it even more inclusive for those who work for other types of employers. The new challenge, sponsored by Assurance, is called Fittest Loser at Work, and is open to teams of five from any type of company, organization, or workplace.

The program runs parallel to the Fittest Loser Challenge for 12 weeks from February to May. The winning team will receive a $2,000 donation to the charity of their choice, as well as individual prizes.

Last year, 194 community members participated in the Community and Corporate Challenges, and 24 of the participants lost more than 9 percent of their body weight by the final weigh-in. This year, the program is expected to grow.

Think you and your co-workers are up for the healthy challenge?

To sign up a team of five and for additional information, click HERE

Cheryl.Lindsay_fitness_trainer

Click the following button or call 847-240-0045 to sign up! Sign Up Now!