Stay Injury Free

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Woman-Stretching-small

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 allow healthy movement.

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 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 forces you into bad form.

Face your weaknesses. It’s natural 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 nutrient uptake 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’s 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, continued mobility is important 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.

How To Keep Your Brain Active

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Brain Image

Brain health is an often overlooked aspect of wellness but has a major impact on your body’s well-being. Many times brain health is only addressed once there are known issues. Fortunately, many of the healthy steps we recommend for 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 tools 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 find it challenging to get 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 overnight 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 more stable 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 inflammatory foods and controlling insulin levels, you are improving your brain’s ability to communicate 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 and it becomes a vicious cycle. Proper diaphragmatic breathing will help balance out this issue while keeping your brain cells oxygenated.

So treat your brain well and you’ll notice an improvement in your overall health!

Make Better Exercise Choices

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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.

Plank

Instead of the crunch, try any version of the plank. The 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 as pictured. Keep your body in a straight line and be sure to squeeze your abs while continuing to breathe. Hold for as long as possible and record your time. Now, add 15-30 seconds to this time at your next workout and continue to increase this time at each workout over the next several weeks. With consistent practice, you should be able to hold the plank for several minutes.

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.

TRX-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, such as using a TRX strap.

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.

How to Build a Salad

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Steak Salad

Salad. 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 meals or snacks.

The key is in the ingredients. Traditionally, 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 watercress 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 may leave you wishing for more sustenance. 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 follow a vegetarian diet, 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 end 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 – remember to choose a bowl large enough to eventually hold all the ingredients of your salad. Cut up your protein source and keep it in a separate bowl. Pack a side of healthy fats in a third bowl along with a small container of dressing. 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 this DIY salad 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)

Keep refrigerated and use within a week. Enjoy!

7 Essentials for you Gym Bag

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Gym_Bag

The quickest way to spoil a workout is getting to the gym and realizing you forgot something important. We’ve probably all forgotten a t-shirt or our gym shoes at some point, but what are some other items worth having with you for your next workout?

After many years of gym-going, here is a list of seven things that you should always have in your gym bag.

1) Exercise Journal. No matter how great technology is, sometimes it’s nice to just have a notebook where you can write down your workouts and track your progress. Taking a look back to see what you’ve accomplished while progressing and planning for future goals is the foundation for seeing continuous results.

2) Workout Gloves. We don’t recommend wearing gloves all the time, but some exercises are much more enjoyable with a bit of padding and added grip for your hands. Wearing gloves for heavy lifts may actually increase your output.

3) Lacrosse Ball. This dense ball is not just for playing lacrosse. It’s the perfect density and size for isolated self-myofascial release, which is basically massaging out knots or adhesions in your muscles. If you’re going into a workout and something feels tight, lie on the floor on top of the lacrosse ball and let it sink into the tight muscle. After a few minutes the muscle should relax and allow better range of motion while hopefully alleviated pain and tension.

4) Water Bottle. Okay, this should be no surprise, but we had to mention it. Having a water bottle next to you at all times ensures that you’ll drink more water. A good quality water bottle makes drinking water more of a habit while making it more enjoyable.

5) Music Source and Earbuds. Music has an extremely powerful effect on your mood, which in turn affects your workout. If you’re constantly complaining about the music played at the gym, bring your own music with you. Personalize your list to get the most out of your workout. And remember, it’s worth having an extra pair of earbuds in your gym bag just in case.

6) Personal Items. Some basic things to keep spares of are hair ties, sweat bands or bandanna, a spare towel, and of course – deodorant. We’ve all had days where our deodorant has worn out before the end of the day or we forgot to apply it altogether. Re-apply as needed so you and the other gym members can stay focused on the workout.

7) A Spare Change of Clothes. It’s easy to forget to toss a clean shirt or pair of socks in your bag, so having a complete spare set in there is always good – shirt, pants or shorts, underwear, socks, and a lightweight pair of shoes. Remember to rotate them out every week so they don’t start smelling like a ‘gym bag.’

So keep your gym bag well stocked to get the most out of your workouts!

Increase Nutrients While Managing your Calories

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calories

It’s probably safe to say that most of you realize the importance of managing calories. Eat too many calories and you’ll gain weight; restrict your calories and you’ll lose weight. Although this is technically true, we put much more emphasis on the types of calories verses the amount of calories when we teach our clients about healthful nutrition – and so should you.

Our mentality is that our bodies run by burning nutrients, not just calories. Nutrients are substances your body absorbs from the foods you eat to create energy.  You could eat 1200 empty calories and probably get through your day, but that doesn’t mean your body is getting the nutrients it needs to thrive, such as a balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates, and many vitamins and minerals. The list of nutrients you get from whole foods is almost endless in comparison to what you get in processed foods. For instance, two eggs and a banana have a better nutritional value than a typical bowl of cereal, even though they may have similar caloric values.

To maximize your nutrient intake while still keeping your calories in check, we recommend the following tips.

Choose foods that don’t have ingredient lists. That is, choose natural foods that haven’t been altered, like organic fruits, vegetables, nuts, and meat. These foods don’t have extensive labeling, because what you see is what you get.

Severely limit your intake of processed foods. These are the foods that have the long ingredient lists. Read carefully, and if you’re unfamiliar with any of the ingredients, find a different product. How can you take control of your health if you’re not even sure what you’re eating?

Eat a colorful diet. Pick foods that span the rainbow of colors to ensure a multitude of nutrients. The phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, blueberries, spinach, squash, and pomegranate diversify your nutrient uptake while still managing excess calories.

Eat fresh and in season. These types of foods have a greater nutrient density in comparison to frozen or canned foods and by changing your diet with the seasons, you also ensure variety. Don’t miss out on fresh corn on the cob or a ripe watermelon bursting with flavor this time of year.

Expand your cooking skills. What better way to confirm what you’re actually eating than by preparing it yourself. This allows you to incorporate more nutritious ingredients while avoiding unnecessary additives like sodium, trans fats, and artificial sweeteners. Cooking takes time, but it’s time well spent. If you become more proficient at cooking, you won’t have to rely on less than ideal options such as fast food or even skipping meals.

So take these ideas and learn how to incorporate them into your lifestyle. No matter if you’re looking for a fresh start or you just want to build on your current nutritional foundation, these tips will help to keep your health and weight in check.

Healthy Summer Cookout Tips

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grilling

Summer is here and cookouts are a common theme. Grilling can be healthy and tasty if you know which foods to choose and how to prepare them. The following tips will turn your next cookout into a healthy gathering that you can be proud to be a part of.

  • Practice portion control. Don’t let taste be the judge of how much food you eat. A serving of meat is about the size of the palm of your hand. A serving of fruits or vegetables is about the size of your fist, and anything else should be added to your plate in moderation.
  • Grill with quality cuts of meat such as fish, chicken, beef, and pork. Stay away from hot dogs and processed meat patties. Fresh meats taste better and also contain less sodium.
  • To get great flavor, learn how to prep your meats and vegetables. Marinades consisting of lemon juice and vinegar can really pull out great flavors from poultry or fish. Stick with dry rubs rather than sauces or syrups when preparing beef and pork. A good steak needs nothing more than some sea salt, pepper, and garlic to maximize flavor.
  • Use fresh organic fruits and vegetables to garnish burgers and tacos. Tomatoes, peppers, onions, romaine, olives, mushrooms, pineapple, and avocado add great flavor so there’s no need to drown out your food with ketchup or mayo.
  • When making tacos, use gluten free tortillas or soft corn tortillas. Avoid the hard shells that are deep fried in oils. Or better yet, make a taco salad.
  • Lose the buns. Many grilled foods don’t need to be sandwiched between two pieces of bread. Kabobs, steaks, fish, and chicken taste great with a side of grilled vegetables such as zucchini, peppers, or mushrooms, and a side of fresh fruit.
  • Be aware of excess liquid calories. Serve iced tea or water with lemon wedges instead of sodas or fruit drinks. If drinking alcohol, set a limit for yourself and drink plenty of water to avoid becoming dehydrated.
  • If having dessert, keep it simple. Avoid empty calorie sweets such as cookies, cake, or brownies, and stick to a fresh fruit salad with a dab of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
  • Plan to have activities such as volleyball or softball to keep everyone active and less likely to sit around and graze on leftover food.
  • Don’t be afraid to try new recipes. Hot dogs, baked beans, and coleslaw might be a traditional favorite, but mix it up. Break out of the norm and try something new!

So if you’re planning the next great cookout, give these tips a try. You can entertain and still feel good about setting a healthy example for your family and friends.

High Intensity Interval Training HIIT

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sprintersmall

Cardiovascular exercise is certainly an important component of a well-rounded fitness routine. Just like any other type of exercise, it’s important to add variety to your cardio routine to maximize progress and overall results.

A great way to energize your cardio routine is to practice HIIT (high intensity interval training). With HIIT, you are focusing on short bursts of intense exercise versus a long drawn-out exercise session. HIIT can be used with any type of activity, including running, biking, elliptical, swimming, rowing, boxing, and even certain types of strength training. It simply requires a short all-out effort followed by an adequate recovery period. Your heart rate will climb and peak during the work phase and slowly drop and stabilize during the recovery phase.

Below are 5 reasons you should add HIIT to your current fitness routine.

Train smarter. HIIT training elicits a similar hormonal response to strength training and therefore has a lasting effect on the body. Rather than just burning a certain number of calories during your exercise session, the high intensity stokes your metabolism for several hours after your workout is over. During this post-workout period, there is an increased fat and caloric burn. So you get the effect of the actual workout, as well as the bonus of extended fat burn for several hours after.

Preserve muscle. Extended steady state cardio can increase stress hormones and cause the body to become catabolic and actually break down precious muscle mass. Less muscle equals a slower metabolism and less daily caloric burn. HIIT training, on the other hand, increases natural human growth hormone which supports muscle mass and overall well-being.

No fancy equipment needed. Don’t worry if you don’t have a gym membership. HIIT training can be done anywhere and with limited or absolutely no equipment. Get outside and sprint for one block and walk for the next. Or, if you have access to a hill or incline grade, run up the hill at your fastest pace and then walk back down. Repeat as many times as you prefer.

Save time. A typical HIIT workout may last anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes depending on the intensity you put into it. If you have access to a track or a treadmill try running 100 meters as fast as you can and then jog or walk 300 meters. Repeat this for a total of 6 rounds and you’re done. You will have covered 1.5 miles, your heart rate will have gone through a variety of intensities, and you’ll be done with your workout in 30 minutes or less.

Improve fitness and performance. Pushing yourself up into your anaerobic zone with HIIT will have measureable benefits in cardiac output and therefore allow you to do more during your strength training and other cardio workouts. Many athletes, including marathon runners and triathletes, incorporate HIIT into their training routines to improve performance and cut down on the wear and tear of long distance training.

So keep things fun and exciting by adding HIIT to your weekly routine to elicit new results and improve overall performance.

Keep Changing Your Workout Routine

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Changing 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 the load.

Overhead-Squat

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 straighten. 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.

Lateral-Lunge

The Hand Release Pushup. Take a traditional pushup position with hands 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 torso. Push your hands hard into the floor as you return to the top of the pushup. Repeat. The hand release pushup requires strength and control throughout the pushup’s entire range of motion.

Common Mistakes: Don’t let your hips sag as you drop to the floor or push back up to the top position. Keeping your core engaged will help you maintain a rigid and safe posture.

Regression: If you can’t maintain proper form with the traditional hand release pushup, modify 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 the entire range of motion while maintaining safe and effective form.

HR-Pushup

So switch up a few common exercises and take on the new challenge.

The Power of Herbs and Spices

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HERBS_SPICES

Often overlooked, yet an important component of nutrition, herbs and spices pack a big punch from a small package. They’re generally used to flavor food, but herbs and spices have many health benefits in addition to being taste enhancers.

Herbs and spices have been used for centuries as medicine to treat or alleviate symptoms of disease, so don’t underestimate their potency. Many have either anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, or antioxidant effects when consumed. This makes them ideal for helping to fight the signs of aging, cell deformities, infections, and even the common cold.

The following 5 herbs/spices are fairly common and easy to incorporate into a healthy diet.

Turmeric. This orange colored root contains curcumin, a substance shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic effects. It has been used to help treat inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, allergies, and asthma. Studies have shown that it’s also a strong antioxidant in the fight against free radical damage and the destruction of healthy cells. Add a pinch of turmeric to your scrambled eggs or sprinkle it on a salad for a peppery kick.

Cinnamon. The benefits of cinnamon go far beyond its wonderful smell. Cinnamon has been shown to help regulate natural blood sugar levels and assist in the reduction of LDL cholesterol levels. Research has also shown that it can help reduce chronic inflammation of the nervous system which could help to alleviate symptoms of multiple schlerosis, altzheimers, and Parkinson’s disease. A dash of cinnamon tastes great in your morning coffee or added to a protein shake.

Ginger. This root is great in assisting proper digestion and boosting the immune system. Ginger can improve the absorption of nutrients by stimulating the pancreas to secrete key enzymes. It’s also effective in alleviating an upset stomach. Ginger has been used as a natural treatment for colds and flu and to break up mucous in the lungs. Slice a piece of ginger root and add it to your tea while it’s brewing for a tangy kick. Or add a piece of ginger root to your smoothie and blend well.

Rosemary. As a natural anti-inflammatory, rosemary may help with migraines, arthritis, and gout. It is also an immune booster and can aid in digestion. In addition, it contains the phytochemical carnosol, which studies show is a strong anti-carcinogenic compound that targets pathways associated with inflammation and cancer. Sprinkle some rosemary into your favorite potato dish or add fresh minced rosemary to a homemade marinade for chicken or salmon.

Sage. Sage is anti-fungal, anti-microbial, and anti-bacterial, so it can be used as an antiseptic to alleviate symptoms associated with sore throat, mouth sores, or cough. Sage has also been used to sharpen the mind and studies show it can even combat memory loss. Add a few fresh leaves to water and brew into a tea or sprinkle dried leaves into a stir fry dish.

So be sure to add more herbs and spices to your diet to support your health while making your food anything but boring.

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