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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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


AUTHOR: Danielle Walker – AgainstAllGrain.com


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


  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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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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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.


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


Find Your Perfect Pull-up

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The pull-up is one of those exercises that demands respect, even though most people don’t particularly like it. It’s a simple concept – grasp an overhead bar and pull yourself upwards until your chin clears the bar.

The pull-up is an excellent measure of upper body strength and many of you may remember performing the pull-up or bent arm hang as part of your fitness testing in junior high.

The pull-up works muscles of the arms, shoulders, back, and core. It’s a great exercise for increasing muscle tone in the arms and back while improving grip strength and shoulder mobility.

The problem is, many people lack the strength to do a proper set of pull-ups, but that’s okay. Finding some practical ways to assist the upper body will allow you to complete a set of pull-ups while taking advantage of all this exercise has to offer.

I’ll start with one of the simplest pull-up variations and then progress from there.

squat_pullup2The Squat Pull-up. In this version, you are gripping a bar set at chest height and using your legs to assist by squatting through the pull-up so your lower body is holding some of your weight. Take a slightly wider than shoulder width grip on the bar and step forward slightly with each foot but maintain an upright posture. Slowly bend your knees and squat down until your arms are fully extended. Push with your legs while you pull with your arms until your chin clears the bar. For a more challenging version, use only one leg to assist.

rubber_band_assisted_pullup2Rubber Band Assisted Pull-up. Hang a resistance loop band from the pull-up bar. Choose the correct band based on the amount of assistance you need. Take an overhand grip on the bar and slip your foot through the loop. Fully extend that leg and place your non-assisted foot on top of the other foot to hold everything together. Keep your body perpendicular to the floor and perform the pull-up as described.

traditional_pullup2Bodyweight Pull-up. If you possess the strength, the traditional pull-up is an ideal exercise to add to your routine. A common mistake many people make is not fully recruiting the muscles of the back. Be sure to fully extend your arms at the bottom and as you pull yourself up, drive your shoulders down and back. This uses more of your back rather than relying too much on your arms, which will fatigue quickly. If the basic pull-up is too easy, hold a dumbbell between your feet or wear a weighted vest.

So no matter what your fitness level, be sure to add pull-ups to your routine for a great way to tone and strengthen the upper body.



Healthy Snacking

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Want to take control of your weight once and for all? Eat more – more often that is.

Eating more often does not necessarily mean eating more calories, but spreading out those calories into more portioned meals and snacks.

Your food intake should be timed every few hours to fuel your body consistently throughout the day, rather than eating once you actually feel hungry. Now of course I’m talking about nutritious foods. Snacking on sugary foods that hold no nutritional value will do nothing more than starve your body of nutrients while enhancing fat storage.

Eating balanced snacks between meals will help control your blood sugar – something that your body is constantly trying to stabilize so you can perform efficiently.

If your blood sugar drops too low, you’ll feel a crash in energy levels, you may become moody, shaky, or irritable, and you’re more likely to reach for something sugary or unhealthy. Your ability to make sound food choices at this point becomes more difficult.

Spiking your blood sugar by eating too many carbohydrates in one sitting, especially after letting your blood sugar drop too low, may have you feeling drowsy or sleepy shortly after the meal. This is due to large fluctuations in blood sugar which are worsened by eating too much in one sitting or having allowed too much time since your last meal. This abuse to your insulin response over and over again can lead to chronic blood sugar issues and possibly type 2 diabetes. Over time this will lead to more fat storage and an increase in weight.

So now that you know the importance of consistent eating, what types of foods should you eat?

A balanced meal or snack not only consists of nutritious foods, but it also needs to include all 3 macronutrients – protein, carbohydrates, and fat. A balance of these three nutrients ensures that the body is getting a balanced supply of calories. A snack with too many carbs and not enough protein and fat will spike your blood sugar temporarily, only to give you that crash as your blood sugar drops, resulting in low energy and a craving for more sugar. So even though a banana is healthy, just eat half and pair it with a protein/fat food, such as a hard-boiled egg, to balance out your snack.

Some other healthy snack options include:

-          Protein Smoothie – 1 scoop whey or egg protein powder, 1 cup frozen fruit, 1 Tbsp natural almond butter, 8 oz  water 

-          1 hard-boiled egg and ½ cup blueberries

-          Green salad with 4 oz chicken, 1/4 avocado, and sliced apple

-          6 oz Greek yogurt, ½ cup raspberries, and 1 oz crushed walnuts

-          1 packet plain oatmeal, 1 scoop protein powder, and 1 Tbsp peanut butter

-          Large leaf of lettuce, 4 oz shaved turkey, 1/4 avocado, mustard

-          ½ cup cottage cheese, 1 sliced peach, and 1 Tbsp flax meal

So support your health and energy levels by eating the right foods and eating them often.

Get Your Mind Set For Weight Loss

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When setting out to accomplish a task such as losing weight, it’s always a great idea to practice goal setting. If you don’t know where you want to go, it will be very difficult to get there. The end goal you visualize and work towards can be extremely motivating because it’s personal to you.

But, so many times we are looking so far ahead that we fail to fully experience what is happening right in front of us. We are so busy thinking about the destination that we fail to enjoy the journey. The journey is the most important part. The journey is your lifestyle. The journey includes the choices you make every day.


Stop looking at exercise and nutrition as a short-term thing that you’re doing right now and learn to see it as a long-term habit that you will practice from now on.

If you’re serious about taking control of your health, stop looking at exercise and nutrition as a “short-term” thing that you’re doing right now and learn to see it as a “long-term” habit that you will practice from now on. If you look at the big picture and have the mindset of changing your lifestyle rather than changing your bad habits long enough to lose a few pounds, you will greatly improve your chances for success and overall wellness.


Your understanding of wellness will influence your daily choices so you need to be confident with your decisions.

The easiest way to change your mindset towards a healthier lifestyle is by educating yourself. There are so many opinions when it comes to exercise and nutrition that you may sometimes feel overwhelmed. Talk to an expert or look at actual research that is not influenced by the profits of the companies trying to sell you their products. Which foods should you be eating to help you build muscle and burn fat? Learn how to cook meals using these healthy food options. Are you gluten intolerant? Do you have an issue with dairy? Should you be eating organic? Learn about unhealthy food additives and how they can be negatively affecting your health. What type of exercise is best for you? Ask questions and get answers. This education will be affecting what you do on a daily basis so you need to be confident with your choices.


Once you decide that you are in it for the long haul, you can begin applying your new education on a daily basis and begin to turn your lifestyle around.

So now that you have the education, it’s time to apply it. This is where your passion and overall mindset come into play. How bad do you want it? Do you really want to be healthy and fit for life, or does it come back to that goal of getting in shape for an upcoming event or because you want to wear a swimsuit in a few months? Once you decide that you are in it for the long haul, you can begin applying your new education on a daily basis and begin to turn your lifestyle around. But, you have to want to do it for the right reasons.


Your focus should always be progression rather than perfection.

Changing your mindset for the rest of your life is not an easy thing. We know it may very well be a struggle most of the time and seldom will everything be perfect. But, it you have the right attitude and the education to make the right decisions, you are definitely on the right path. Your focus should always be progression rather than perfection. As long as you are pointed in the right direction and moving forward, you will see and feel the benefits. Find a way to make the most of your journey and the destination will be all that much more rewarding!

Recruit your Glutes

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Does your job have you sitting on your rear most of the day? If so, chances are you have some muscle imbalances – most likely in your core and hips. I’ve addressed the core in past articles and its importance in overall wellness, but I’d like to build on that with a discussion about the glutes.

The glutes are key components in both hip stability and mobility. They work alongside many other muscles of the midsection to keep you moving efficiently. If the glutes are weak or not working at all, it could be compromising the surrounding muscles of the low back, hamstings, hip flexors, and abdominals – which can lead to systemic mobility issues.

We always preach the importance of multi-joint movements such as squats and deadlifts, but if you can’t recruit your glutes on these movements, you may end up with back issues or a strained muscle. You definitely won’t be able to progress as much as you’d like if your weak glutes are always holding you back.

Try the following exercises to build a strong glute foundation.

The Glute Bridge. Lie on your back with your knees bent about 90 degrees. Pull your toes off the floor so only your heels are touching and rotate your toes outward slightly. Raise your hips as high as you can without over-arching your back. As your hips rise, focus on squeezing your glutes together long enough for a strong contraction. If you feel your hamstrings more than your glutes, slide your heels closer to your hips and rotate your toes outward a bit more. Repeat for 10-20 reps.


Lateral Band Step. While holding a resistance band, step on it so it’s anchored down in the middle part of your foot. Cross the band over and pull up and back to create some tension on the band. Begin with feet hip width apart and strive to always keep tension on the band. While keeping your feet parallel to each other, step laterally to a shoulder width position. Keep your knees slightly bent and your hips back as you step. Maintain constant control and be sure to minimize any side to side tilting as you step. Never lead with your toes, but rather the lateral edge of your foot. Step back and forth in a controlled manner for 10-20 reps.


The Bird Dog. Begin on your hands and knees with arms straight and knees bent 90 degrees. Engage your core and stabilize your hips so your low back maintains a natural curve. Simultaneously raise your right arm and your left leg. Extend your fingertips forward as you point your toes back. Think of squeezing your glute on the elevated leg without over-arching your back. At the same time engage your shoulder blade on the elevated arm. Hold for a strong squeeze and then repeat for 10-20 reps per side.


So perform any or all of these exercises as a means to improve your glute strength and recruitment capabilities. Couple these with multi-joint movements such as squats, deadlifts, and lunges as you progress to get the greatest overall results.

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