Exercises to Avoid – Try These Instead

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Any exercise is better than no exercise, but if you’re taking the time to work out, make sure you’re choosing exercises that will truly improve your health and fitness.

The following exercises are too commonly performed in hopes of measurable results but often lead to injuries or disappointment.

The crunch with hands behind the head. The crunch is a staple exercise in many people’s abdominal routine, but there are just so many better options out there. Lying on the floor and pulling the head forward while rounding the torso a few degrees may create quite a muscle burn if done long enough, but it does not strengthen the core as many may think. Crunches performed incorrectly can actually strain the neck and accentuate poor posture, which is all too common in today’s population.

Superman_Plank

Instead of the crunch, try any version of the plank. The superman plank is a great exercise as it strengthens many layers of the abdominal wall along with the stabilizing muscles of the back and hips while helping to improve posture. Set up in a plank and slowly reach one arm forward until it is fully outstretched. The goal is to elongate your body without shifting your center of gravity. Return to the starting point and then alternate with the other arm. Perform for at least 30 seconds and increase time as your strength improves.

Lying or seated chest press machine. This is the machine where you lie on your back and push a weight away from your chest. This is great if you want to add size to your chest, but lying on your back and moving a weight doesn’t involve much functionality. There are many more practical toning exercises out there for the typical person trying to tone up, lose weight, and get healthy. Using a fixed machine can actually limit your body’s natural range of motion and lead to tight joints and muscle imbalances.

Pushup

Rather than performing a chest press on a machine, try any version of the pushup. With a pushup, you are moving your body through space and requiring more total body recruitment. To perform a quality pushup, you must engage your core and stabilizing muscles – you’re in charge of how your body moves rather than the machine allowing you to move a certain way. If a traditional pushup is too difficult for you to perform, elevate the surface you are pushing from or try a pushup from your knees. If a traditional pushup is too easy, there are numerous options for progression.

Seated hip adduction/abduction machine. This is the machine you sit on with knees bent 90 degrees and either push your knees outward against resistance or pull them inward against resistance. This machine can target specific muscles of the hip, but it’s awkward at best. Trying to tone these areas won’t necessarily tighten and shrink the hips as many may think. These machines often lead to tight hips and imbalanced muscles.

Lateral_Lunge

Ditch these hip machines and try a lateral lunge instead. This lateral movement will work the muscles of the hips and upper leg while improving balance and range of motion. Stand with feet wider than shoulder width apart and toes turned slightly outward. Shift your weight sideways as you bend one leg and lunge down. The opposite leg should remain straight. As you near the bottom, make sure your heal stays planted on the floor and push your hips back. Return to your starting point and repeat on the other side.

So, encourage proper movement and overall results by avoiding exercises that are likely to hold you back.

Salads with Sustenance

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Steak SaladSalad. The word itself can conjure up thoughts of dieting and boring lunches, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Salads can be packed with nutrients, flavor, and color while giving you convenient options for any meal or snack.

The key is in the ingredients. Technically, a salad is a mixture of greens that is usually topped with a dressing. But, salads go way beyond iceberg lettuce, croutons, and ranch dressing. The possibilities are virtually endless as long as you understand how to build your salads to include all three macronutrients – carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

Carbohydrates. Build your salad on a foundation of vegetables. Leafy greens such as spinach, romaine, arugula, kale, and collard greens add a ton of phytonutrients while giving the salad plenty of fullness. Additional vegetables such as red, orange, or yellow peppers, onions, beets, carrots, or parsnips will add some crunch and a splash of color. Fruit is a flavorful ingredient, but limit it to one serving or less per salad. Apples, pears, grapes, or strawberries add wonderful sweetness but still pack plenty of nutrition.

Protein. Without protein, a salad is just a salad – not an actual meal. Add a protein source and your salad rises to a new level. Include 4-8 ounces of a meat source such as steak, chicken, turkey, pork, tuna or anything else you desire. Two hard-boiled eggs would also suffice as a protein source. If you’re a vegetarian, you should still focus on getting a serving of protein through beans, legumes, or other acceptable sources.

Fat. A fat source could be as simple as an olive oil based dressing but the options don’t stop there. Toppings such as avocado, nuts, shredded cheese, or olives are all healthy fats that keep you satiated while adding incredible flavor.

Finally, add your favorite herbs and spices or a squeeze of lemon and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how flavorful a salad can be.

Salads work great if you’re packing your lunch because there is no need to heat anything up – you can eat everything cold. Just prep and pack your greens and veges in a bowl – this will later become the base for your salad. Cut up your protein source and keep it in a separate bowl. Pack a side of healthy fats and when it’s time to eat, just add the protein and fat to your main bowl and you have a complete meal that’s ready to satisfy.

So structure your salad in a way that ensures you’re getting complete nutrition while enjoying everything a great salad has to offer.

Try the following DIY dressing:

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp fresh lime juice

1 Tbsp honey

Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper (to taste)

Add all the ingredients to a jar and shake well.

Strengthen Your Golf Game

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DriverWith warm weather finally here, many people are getting back to outdoor activities. If you’re a golfer, this means getting out on the course and picking up where you left off last year. If you find yourself frustrated with your swing, simply adding a few functional exercises to your workouts may have you recording your best game yet.

Golf is a sport that requires specialized skill, but also a balance of power, mobility, stability, and proper mechanics. If any one or more of these aspects is limited, it will hinder your performance and have you swinging your club in frustration. Make sure your workouts contain exercises that will naturally establish a foundation in these areas of sports performance.

Overhead_Squat

Overhead Squats. A typical squat will build stability and strength, which will lead to more power. The hips and legs can generate huge amounts of power and if you can harness that energy and utilize it, you can drive the ball farther. An overhead squat adds the challenge of shoulder stability and flexibility as well as core strength, all of which come into play during a golf swing.

To perform: Hold a barbell overhead with feet shoulder width apart. To lock the bar in the overhead position, you must extend the arms while engaging the muscles of the upper back and shoulders. Once the bar is stabilized overhead, you can move into the squatting portion. Slowly squat down as you inhale, ensuring that your heels stay heavy, while pushing your hips back and maintaining the natural curve in your low back. Drop down to a comfortable and stable depth. Exhale as you stand up, but don’t lock out your knees at the top.

R_Cable_Woodchop

Reverse Cable Woodchop. Appropriate golf mobility requires overall stability while allowing proper flexibility and range of motion. The woodchop challenges lower body stability while improving flexibility and building strength and power through a large range of motion.

To perform: Drop down into a squat position and take hold of a resisted cable at floor level. As you stand up, rotate yours arms across your body and reach upwards to eye level. You should be utilizing power from your legs and core to initiate the movement and then following through with the arms and upper body to finish out the rotation.

Prone_Rotation

Prone Dumbbell Rotation. Holding a plank and performing additional movements from a plank position works the deep core muscles that stabilize the spine and hips. A strong core is the foundation from which powerful movements originate. An efficient core also helps prevent common injuries that can occur during the deceleration phase of the golf swing.

To perform: Assume a pushup position with a dumbbell in each hand. Keep your feet slightly wider than shoulder width and make sure your core is tight and your hips are not sagging. Allow your shoulders and hips to turn as you swing one arm towards the ceiling. Keep your arms straight throughout the exercise and try to generate movement from your hips and core. Reverse to your starting point and repeat on other side.

For overall performance gains, focus on 3-6 sets and use a weight that allows you to safely perform 3-10 repetitions.

5 Tips for Training Smart and Preventing Injuries

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sport woman starting running. Speed effect.Injuries sustained during exercise are far too common and can discourage even the most focused athletes. Injury prevention is definitely time well spent and much more enjoyable than injury rehabilitation. Keep your body healthy by practicing the following tips and working to avoid injuries altogether.

Always get a proper warm-up. This starts by assessing how your body feels and noting any soreness or stiffness in your muscles and joints. If you feel residual soreness from your last workout, take some time to care for that area with myofascial release such as foam rolling, or maximizing range of motion in the surrounding joint with stretching or proper mobility exercises. If a joint feels tight, work on the surrounding muscles until you feel loose and mobile. This type of warm-up could take up to 30 minutes but may be necessary to maximize mobility.

Train smart and know your limitations. Train smart by using proper form on all exercises and by learning how to fully engage your muscles. Proper form includes maintaining control of the weight at all times, even on ballistic movements. Use your muscles to decelerate your movements rather than letting the weight push you around. If you’re working with heavy weights, make sure you understand exactly how to move and which muscle groups to engage and control. Never try lifting a weight that pushes you into bad form.

Face your weaknesses. It’s convenient to avoid exercises you struggle with, but most times that just means you need to spend more time performing them. For example, if you struggle with squats because you have tight hips and a weak core, it means you need to spend more time bringing these tight and weak areas up to speed. Having a functional body will pay off by not only minimizing your chance for injury but by maximizing exercise output as well.

Run on the best fuels. Give your body what it needs to function at its best by maximizing nutrients and staying hydrated. Quality proteins such as organic chicken and turkey, wild caught fish, and grass fed beef will support muscle mass while healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil, and coconut oil will help you control blood sugar while positively impacting hormone levels. Limit processed and starchy carbohydrates like bread and pastas, and focus on getting a variety of organic fruits and vegetables. Drinking pure water throughout the day will help to naturally detox the body and keep your muscles working properly.

Recover effectively. Most of the physical progress your body makes happens after your workout is completed. This is why it is so important to focus on recovery with fuel, sleep, and continued mobility after you leave the gym. Make sure you get a snack or meal within 45 minutes of the completion of your workout. Don’t skimp on sleep as this is such an important time for your body to repair and recharge. Just as a warm-up is important before your workout, focus on continued mobility after your workouts. If you start to feel tight or fatigued in certain muscle groups, take time to move those muscles and joints through their full range of motion with flexibility exercises and stretching. Using the foam roller to smash out and release muscle tension will speed up the recovery process as well.

So spend much of your time and focus on preventing injuries so you can continually progress and move in a positive direction.

Top 5 Must Do Nutritional Weight Loss Tips

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waist

1)    Always eat a healthy breakfast within 30 minutes of waking.

Besides being the most important meal, breakfast sets the tone for the rest of your day. Think of breakfast as a key time to refuel from hours of fasting and the first opportunity to stoke your metabolism.

2)    Consume protein, carbohydrates, and fat with every meal.

Never eat a carbohydrate by itself. The goal is to combine any sugars you eat with a protein and/or a fat so each meal satisfies nutritionally without spiking insulin levels.

3)    Eat every 2 – 3 hours.

Just as you never want to eat a carbohydrate by itself, never go too long between meals. Allowing your blood sugar to drop out of optimal range will have negative effects on your hormones while causing sugar cravings and more fat storage.

4)    Drink half your body weight in ounces of water every day.

Water is the most important nutrient for the body. Dehydration causes stress and disruptions of normal metabolic processes within the body and doesn’t allow the body to detox properly on a daily basis. Flush out toxins and keep you cells hydrated with plenty of pure water.

5)    Avoid processed foods and those with artificial ingredients.

Processed foods are loaded with chemicals, filler ingredients, and added sugars and sweeteners, all while containing less nutrients than whole foods. Feed your body real foods with real benefits.

Strengthen your Brain to Improve your Health

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Brain ImageBrain health is an often overlooked aspect of fitness but has a major impact on the overall well-being of the body. Many times brain health is only addressed once there are known issues. Fortunately, many of the healthy steps we recommend for the well-being of the body will also support healthy brain function.

The following tips will support brain health while improving overall wellness.

Never stop learning. Keep your brain sharp by challenging it on a daily basis. Simple things like brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand, or trying a new activity that makes you think on your feet like a dance class, or simply reading a book on an unfamiliar topic are all great for keeping the brain active. These types of activities should make you think, learn, and use the brain while embracing the new challenges.

Exercise. We all know that consistent exercise is recommended to keep your body going strong, but these benefits will support brain health as well. High-intensity cardio and strength training will help produce a beneficial form of nitric oxide that promotes brain function and vascular health while reducing inflammation. Short bouts of extra high-intensity exercise have the greatest impact on these nitric oxide levels, so think interval style training rather than steady state.

Improve your sleep quality. Of course we’d all like to get more sleep, but if you haven’t been getting seven to eight hours a night, start focusing on the quality of your sleep. Maintaining a consistent blood sugar throughout the night will help you sleep straight through or for longer periods before waking unintentionally. You can help maintain nightly blood sugar levels by avoiding high carbohydrate foods later in the day or before bedtime. Consuming fibrous carbs instead and getting a quality fat and protein source will help keep levels steadier throughout the night.

Eat clean and nourish. Systemic inflammation from poor dietary choices and food intolerances can deplete brain health as well. The brain communicates directly with the digestive system through the vagus nerve. Poor brain function can impair this communication and lead to digestive issues which will in turn lead to continued brain impairment from lack of nutrient absorption. By limiting sugary foods and controlling insulin levels, you are improving your brain’s communication with the rest of the body.

Support brain oxygenation. If the brain is not getting an ample supply of oxygen, it may be struggling and performing poorly. Stress can cause shallow breathing and overstimulate the sympathetic nervous system and suppress the parasympathetic nervous system. This means that the “fight or flight” response is turned up and the “rest and digest” response is turned down. Learning how to calm the body with stress reduction and breathing techniques can go a long way in resetting this balance.

These are just a handful of simple things you can do to help improve the health of one of the most complex organs in the body.

Making Your Healthy Lifestyle Personal

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Trainers CasualCongratulations! You’ve finally joined the gym! You’re handed a list of classes with odd names, take one look at the complicated equipment and the hard bodies walking by and wonder why you’ve invested a nice chunk of change in something so intimidating.

It’s not you. It’s the facility. Which is why Push Fitness is worth a long, lean look.

Push Fitness is a private personal training studio that focuses on getting results for clients no matter what shape they’re in. Specializing in weight loss, muscle toning and nutritional counseling, Push’s programs are customized to fit your specific needs and goals. “Push has always been about keeping personal training “personal” and working with clients on an individual basis to ensure that lifestyle choices are continually improving and goals are being met,” explained Joshua Steckler, President and owner of Push Fitness.

Established in 2008, Push works with and for everyone from first-time exercisers to performance athletes and the many in between. And success is really what sets the Schaumburg business apart from other fitness facilities. “Our programs are based on the specific results the client is looking to achieve and are broken down into three, six and nine months at either two or three times per week,” Steckler said. “Our job is to educate, motivate, and hold them accountable with the exercise we prescribe as well as the nutritional program they are set up on.” The nutrition program, “Push Start your Metabolism,” can even encompass trips to the grocery store, special recipes and nutritional seminars led by local professionals.

Think you can down a bag of Doritos and do a couple more minutes on the elliptical to even it all out? That would be a negative according to the fitness expert. “Our nutrition program is based on eating real foods but customized to the individual based on their metabolic needs. Without a nutritional overhaul, many of our clients would be spinning their wheels in the gym only to end up doing more harm than good to their bodies.”

The seed of the Daily Herald’s Fittest Loser Challenge was actually planted by Steckler and his team. “Our vision was to showcase the extraordinary results we were getting with our clients in a way that could bring awareness to the community,” he said. “It has grown into an incredible program that really shows what can be done when someone is surrounded by the right people.” Steckler says his trainers are the best in the biz: well-educated, experienced, energetic and with tons of passion for helping people lead healthier lifestyles. The fitness business reaches out to the community with health-centered events such as a 5K in the fall to raise awareness about childhood obesity.

“We are all very excited to be a part of this program that allows readers to experience the drastic changes that someone can go through if they are willing to put in the time,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s a great feeling to be doing what you love while helping people improve their quality of life.”

 

Change up your workout to get better results

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Lateral_LungeChanging up your workout routine is great for progressing the body as well as keeping your head in the game. Boring workouts get boring results. We’ve taken three common exercises and modified them to make them more challenging and more interesting – the squat, the lunge, and the pushup.

The Overhead Squat. Begin with feet shoulder width apart while holding a barbell overhead. To stabilize the bar in the overhead position, you must extend the arms while engaging the muscles of the upper back and shoulders. Once the bar is stabilized overhead, you can move into the squatting portion. Slowly squat down as you inhale, ensuring that your heels stay heavy, while pushing your hips back and maintaining the natural curve in your low back. Drop down to a comfortable and stable depth. Exhale as you stand back to the top, but don’t lock your knees all the way out. Repeat. With the bar overhead, it becomes a total-body exercise and requires much more balance, stability, and flexibility than a typical squat.

Common Mistakes: Never let your knees travel forward of your toes and don’t allow your elbows to bend.

Regression: If a weighted overhead squat is too challenging, grab a lightweight bar or stick and perform the same motion without a load.

The Lateral Lunge. Place feet wider than shoulder width and turn feet outward at a slight angle. With a dumbbell resting on each shoulder, shift your weight laterally and sit back on the heel of your bent leg while you allow your other leg to extend. At this point, your bent leg should have a 90 degree bend as your opposite leg should be fully extended. Return to your starting position and repeat on the other leg. This lateral movement adds a new dynamic that will stress muscles differently than a traditional lunge.

Common Mistakes: Never let either heel pop off the floor – you must push your hips back and keep your posture upright.

Regression: If your flexibility doesn’t allow you to drop into the lateral lunge, hold on to a stationary object so you can support yourself as you push your hips down and back until you can perform the lunge with the desired range of motion.

The Hand Release Pushup. Take a traditional pushup position with hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart, feet together, and maintain a straight line from shoulder to ankle. Slowly drop down into the pushup until you feel your chest touch the floor. At this point, raise your hands off the floor so your weight is resting on your chest and toes. Push your hands hard into the floor as you return to the top of the pushup. Repeat. The hand release pushup requires much more stability and power than a traditional pushup.

Common Mistakes: Don’t let too much of your weight rest on your hips or thighs. If so, your hips may sag as you try to push back up to the top position.

Regression: If you can’t maintain proper form with the traditional hand release pushup, set up so your knees are resting on the floor rather than your toes. This position takes more weight off the upper body and also lessons the strain on the core. It should allow you to move through proper range of motion while maintaining safe and effective form.

So switch up a few common exercises and see how challenging they can be.

Nutrition to Get You Through Your Workouts

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Sports nutrition

Q: I often get nauseous while working out. I’ve tried eating a few different things before workouts, but what do your recommend I eat so I can get through my workouts without getting sick? -Jaime

A: Jamie, pre and post-workout nutrition is extremely important, not only to avoid feeling sick during workouts, but to allow you to perform at your best while maximizing recovery.

Eating the wrong foods or missing the timing of your meals could cause extra stress on the digestive system, a spike or drop in blood sugar, or just an overall sense of weakness.

Practice the following tips and take full advantage of your pre and post-workout meals.

Don’t overlook the importance of water. If you’re dehydrated, your workout performance will suffer and you will feel exhausted. Dehydration increases your chances for headaches and head rushes, muscle cramps, nausea, and poor overall performance – not the recipe for a healthy workout. Chronic dehydration can’t be corrected by simply drinking more water during your workout, so stay properly hydrated consistently by drinking half your bodyweight in ounces of water a day. So if you weigh 160 pounds, you need around 80 ounces of clean filtered water daily. You may need more or less depending on your activity levels.

Timing of calories and nutrients before and after each workout is key. A pre-workout snack should be consumed about 30-90 minutes prior to your workout depending on the complexity of the food consumed. A meal or snack will take more time to digest than a simple liquid shake. A post-workout snack should be consumed immediately after or up to 45 minutes after the workout is completed. Your cells are like a sponge during this time and have already begun the recovery process – so nutrient ingestion is a must.

The types of foods consumed will affect your results.  A great option for pre and post-workout nutrition is to bracket your workouts with a simple liquid shake. Add the following ingredients to a shaker bottle and shake well: 6 oz. orange juice, 6 oz. coconut milk, 6 oz. coconut water, and 1 scoop whey or egg protein. This will ensure simple carbs and medium chain fatty acids for energy, protein for muscle repair, and electrolytes to maximize hydration. Drink half the shake before your workout, and the other half after. Another option is 6oz. of Greek yogurt with a quarter cup of blueberries and a Tbsp. of flax oil mixed in. The goal is to get a balance of healthy macronutrients but not to consume so much that you feel bloated or weighed down.

Listen to your body. If you’re feeling weak or you find yourself shaking or you sometimes have a headache during your workouts, chances are your blood sugar is out of the ideal range. Try changing the timing and types of foods you’re eating before your workouts so you don’t get spikes and dips in blood sugar. If your stomach feels bloated during your workouts you may have to lighten your snack or allow more time for digestion. If you feel ravenous following your workouts, ensure that you’re getting enough sustenance in your post-workout snack and that you’re consuming it within 45 minutes of your workout.

So prepare yourself for a great workout and feel the difference it makes.

Strengthen Your Diet with Superfoods

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Kale SaladWouldn’t it be great if there was a food that was flavorful and could effectively improve your health?

Or a food that has an extremely high nutrient to caloric ratio, meaning it’s quite high in vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals while still having a relatively low caloric value?

Luckily there is something available just like this in the form of “superfoods.” Superfoods are wholesome, real foods that happen to pack a big punch. Strengthen your diet by including these superfoods on a consistent basis.

Kale. Although kale sounds like a boring vegetable, it’s actually quite versatile. It can be eaten raw in salads, added to soups, blended into smoothies, or even baked into chips. This green powerhouse has plenty of anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer phytonutrients while only yielding around 35 calories per cup.

Green tea. We all need to drink more water, but many people struggle because they just get bored without other options. Green tea is a great way to add some flavor to your fluid intake while adding antioxidants and a metabolic boost. Drink it hot or iced, but stay away from adding artificial sweeteners or sugar. If plain tea is too bland, try teas with a hint of mint or natural flavors, or you can add a bit of stevia to sweeten.

Sweet potatoes. The sweet potato is packed with nutrients and flavor. It has a lower glycemic index than a white or red potato, so it doesn’t drastically disturb blood sugar levels but still provides great energy. They contain good amounts of beta carotene, magnesium, potassium, and Vitamins B and C. Bake a sweet potato in the oven and season with rosemary for a great alternative to a regular baked potato.

Berries. Blueberries, cherries, acai, goji, and cranberries are loaded with antioxidants and add some fun color to your diet. Eating a variety of these berries will help fight inflammation, disease, and the signs of aging. Steer clear of sugary juices that contain these fruits and eat fresh organic as much as possible. Have a half cup of mixed berries with a hard-boiled egg as a snack or simply blend them into a nutritious smoothie.

Cauliflower. This is one “white” food that we actually recommend. Cauliflower contains nutrients that support detox while containing several anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer nutrients as well. It’s high in Vitamins C and K and phytonutrients that fight oxidative stress. Grate a head of cauliflower into a rice-like consistency and sauté in a pan with a bit of coconut oil. Season with sea salt and pepper and eat in place of white rice.

Avocados. Although avocados are higher in calories in relation to the other foods on this list, they are loaded with healthy fats and phytonutrients and definitely worth their caloric content. They also contain Vitamins A, B6, C, E, and K as well as potassium. The healthy fat content in avocados improves your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and adds wonderful flavor to your dishes. Add a slice of avocado to a burger or make a guacamole topping for a taco salad.

See what effect superfoods have on your energy and health by eating them often.

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