January 24, 2015

Strength Training for your Health

I recently conducted a peer evaluation for a fellow faculty member and the topic of his lesson was Principles of Strength Training. While I was listening and evaluating his teaching specifically, I was reminded of how this content could be transferred easily from the Exercise Professional perspective to the average American. Because let’s be honest, sometimes a little reminder about the importance of strength training is needed.
From his presentation, I will identify FIVE key points which I believe are important for the Average American to know about Strength Training effectively.

1. Strength Training is a Skill. We must practice proper form and technique first to ensure we are participating in safe and appropriate movements. If you don’t know what if you are in the right position, then ask a professional around you. I caution saying, “Ask someone!” because anyone can give you an answer but it doesn’t mean it’s the right answer. But by ensuring we have proper form, then we can forcus on strength and not injury. But it takes repetition to learn a skill in order to become familiar with form and technique.

2. Don’t workout, instead TRAIN. Who cares if you say “workout” or if you say “train.” The question is- Are you moving towards a goal? How are your movements progressing you towards your goal? Or, are you just moving some body parts around with no real goal? Move towards a goal. May it’s jogging a mile in __ minutes… Or bench pressing your body weight… Or to do a pull up without any assistance. Whatever it is, TRAIN towards it.

3. Build Muscle. Muscle allows you to burn calories at rest. Wouldn’t it be nice to burn calories when you are doing nothing at all? When you are sleeping? Well it is possible… With muscle mass. The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you will burn at rest.

4. Lift heavier weights. Unless your physician does not give you clearance, the Average American can/should lift heavier weights. Not the little pink weights with a rubber covering. The little one pounders. We can do more. The human body was made to lift more. To lift heavier. If you want to lift little weights for dozens of reps, that’s fine, but you are practically wasting your time. To maximize your time, lift heavier weights for less reps to improve your health. We can give into specifics in another post , but gradually increase your weight as you gain strength.

5. Women need to lift too. Many women avoid the weight room. Maybe they are intimidated, feel unknowledgeable, do not feel confident, they don’t want to “look like a guy”, etc. I understand. I work with many women who experience these feelings. But exposure, knowledge and practice will help you become successful. But let’s be clear- you won’t look like a guy. Just by lifting weights will not mean you will look like a guy. You may see bodybuilders or fitness models looked jacked. The Average American will not look like that… CANNOT look like that with basic lifting. But here’s the deal… Strength training is so important for women. Even young moms are lifting their babies up and down, carrying them everywhere, and after a while it can be tiring. Or if you think of adults in general who start to lose muscle mass in their 30’s, it’s even more important to build muscle and be STRONG.

So be active… Train towards a goal… And seek assistance from a professional to guide you to health (and not injury).
January 22, 2015

Making Health a Priority

We live a society where we hear “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And sometimes there is truth to that statement. And when we DO need to fix “it” (injury, illness, ailments, etc) we thankfully have outstanding physicians, nurses, athletic trainers and health care professionals to care for our injuries and ailments all around us.
But what about preventative care? Let’s focus on that. Preventing injury, illnesses, ailments, and promoting strength, healthy eating, and peace of mind. Because we all know that preventative care is typically cheaper and its outcomes can be sometimes priceless In order to avoid or reduce tertiary care (illness, injuries, ailments). Many times, the outcomes of preventative care are lifelong lasting.
What is preventative care? Here are a few examples…
It’s exercise- strength training, building muscle, stretching your muscles, movement.
It’s eating healthy most of the time. Yes, I said it. Most of the time. Ideally we should eat “clean” or healthy at least 80% of the time (or day, to be time specific).
Avoiding tobacco use and secondhand smoke (or quitting now). There is some data which shows that exposure to secondhand smoke can be hereditary, especially for young women.
Preventative care is my passion. Preventative health care is a priority.
Why?
We all know why. Really, we do.
So what don’t we do it?
It takes effort, time, energy, and sometimes planfulness. Effort and energy to move and exercise when we don’t want to because we are a tired, we don’t have time or the resources, we are not confident in how to begin, etc. We have to do research to find out what is best for us, or the best healthy decision for us- and that takes time and energy. And realistically, many times it takes intention of being planful- sometimes intentionally in your calendar or planner, but more so as a mindset.
We all have priorities. In order to have food on the table, we must get groceries. So we make time in our day to ensure we have the food to put on the table or in our mouths. Priority.
In order to pay the bills, we must work. Priority.
But what about our health? What are we doing everything to prioritize our health?
Here is what I have learned in my field of preventative health care and it continues to repeat itself.
We KNOW we should engage in preventative health care practices. We KNOW that. But that doesn’t mean we DO IT (for reasons mentioned above, and more). Or, it doesn’t mean that we will invest in our health despite KNOWING what’s good for us.
But ultimately, if we don’t have our health then if can be very difficult to do much else… So why not make it a priority?
Make small steps toward health. What is your biggest obstacle? Weight loss? Tobacco use? High caffeine consumption? Poor nutritional habits? Which one is your biggest challenge on your road to health? Let’s make steps to change. Change our behavior. Because ultimately, our health comes first and we must make it a priority.

January 21, 2015

Eating Breakfast

Eating breakfast is key to start our day. It provides us a jump start after sleeping for 7-8 hours. Ideally we wake up hungry because it has been hours since we last ate.
Waking up and eating something within 30 minutes is a good routine… Even eating a breakfast with some protein and carbohydrates. And having a breakfast with requires chewing would be ideal, as opposed to just drinking breakfast (I.e. In a shake or meal replacement).
A typical breakfast for me when I start my day are these homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bites that I make in advance and freeze. I also enjoy it with my cup o’joe. These little bites provide protein, chia and flax seed for fiber and nutrients, some banana for fruit, and some chocolate and honey for sweetness.
Maybe you don’t like eating breakfast in the morning. The thought of eating breakfast in the morning does not appeal to you. That’s ok, but identify if there are some small changes you can make to adjust that…
Is it because you are not hungry in the morning? (Are you a snacker in the evening? You just don’t feel like eating?)
Or maybe you are not sure what to eat? (Try plain yogurt with fruit and low fat granola, or a hard boiled egg with a slice of wheat toast and 1/2 cup fruit)
There is no need to have a BIG breakfast right when you wake up. But a little somethin’ is good.
January 20, 2015

Back to Basics: Moving

If there was a magic pill for weight loss or to prevent heart disease, diabetes, what have you, I’m sure it would be popular since we live in a society with instant gratification.
But when it comes to your health, it’s the slow and steady pace that takes the cake. Meaning, living healthy must be a lifestyle everyday (or at least 80% of the time)- not just something you do in January or when we “remember”. Because let’s be honest, I have the worst memory and you may think the same about yourself. But in most cases it has taken months and years to establish our current health state.
But there is good news- we can make strides towards health! The key, however, is GETTING BACK TO BASICS. No magic pills, no special formula. Just the basics.
We should be engaging in movement activities everyday (or most days) for at least 30 minutes. But what about the other 23.5 hrs in a day? Yes, I know there is sleeping, and commuting, and eating, and working, and everything else in between. But even when we move for those 30 minutes, we can’t just “check it off our to do list” when the rest of our day is sitting. Sitting. In a car, at the computer, in front of the TV.
Have you seen this article– “Too Much Sitting Raises Risk of Death, Even If you Exercise”?
It caught my attention and I enjoyed the quick read. The phrase that caught my attention specifically was “is sitting the new smoking?” What a question. And a valid question at that.
It makes you think- what else can I do to move more during that day? We can all do something.
Park farther away from our destination.
Host walking meetings at work.
Simply stand instead of sitting- wherever you are.
Take the stairs, instead of the elevator. Take the long route- more walking.
Exercise during commercials (or the entire TV show)
It’s clear we have some moving to do. But the key is to stick to the basics (I.e. Move more) to adapt it into a healthy lifestyle.

January 15, 2015

Swim in a Glass of Water

It would be difficult to swim in a glass of water. But the point is we should be drinking water all the time… As if we are swimming in it. Kinda. Stick with me.
Much of our body consists of water. 60% of water.
Our bodies thrive on consuming water (and as you already know… In extreme settings, we can survive longer with water than food).
Many times when we are thirsty, we could really be dehydrated.
Water is so good for us. But with flavored drinks, sodas, fruit juices, and other flavors, plain fresh water isn’t always cool. But I vote for a comeback. Plain, fresh (even chilled) water is cool. Pun intended.
Water helps with weight loss, digestion and absorption, circulation, maintaining body temperature, reducing headaches, slowing down intoxication, improve your skin, etc. But we also lose water through breathing, evaporation, urine, stool, etc. So we must replace water to avoid dehydration.
How much water should we be drink? Well it can depend. Males, females, active, sedentary, adults, children, etc. You many need more than you think… Or maybe less than you think. I don’t know what you are thinking. But nonetheless, we should be drinking water throughout the day plus more if we are exercising.
There are many recommendations…. 8-10 glasses per day… Or even more water if you are a male… Or taking 0.6 x your body weight to determine the amount of fluid ounces to consume… Or even the recommendation of 9-12 cups per day…
Nonetheless, the key is more water than we are likely consuming.
What about drinking teas, soups, and other foods/drinks which contain water? Yeah, that’s great but let’s create a habit of drinking fresh, clean water. Heck, we are a first world country with access to FREE fresh, clean water!
Don’t like the taste of plain water? Add slices of oranges, lemons, or mint leaves! Jazz it up naturally. Try something new.
Is it possible to consume too much water? Sure. Anything is possible. However you would need to be drinking A LOT of water.
So instead of your soda or energy drink, give your body a big gulp of water. Your body will thank you.
January 9, 2015

Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bites

I love this recipe. I make some version of this recipe every week. Not kidding. 
I found the original from allrecipes.com and made it according to the author’s suggestions and a combination of the comments provided. But since then, I have made my own changes and sometimes it alters based on what ingredients I have on hand, or my mood.
These little energy bites are great for breakfast, a snack or even a dessert. Trust me.
Ingredients:
1 ripe banana, smashed
1 cup quick oats
1/2 cup peanut butter (preferably almond butter, or your choice)
1/4 cup of semisweet chocolate chips
2 T. of chia seeds
2 T. flax seed
1 T. vanilla protein powder
1/3 cup honey
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper for easy clean up. Mix everything together. The mixture should form a thick consistency. Form little balls from the mixture and place them on the cookie sheet.
Put cookie sheet into the freezer for 30-60 seconds. Then put all balls into an air tight container and return them to the freezer. When you want to eat one, just take one out and have a bite!
*Depending on how cold you keep your freezer and where you keep your air tight container within your freezer, they may need a couple minutes to thaw before taking a bite.
*Note: There is a bit of honey in this recipe, therefore I suggest limiting the honey as much as you can. Also I usually increase the chia seeds and flax seeds I add because it’s just more goodness in the recipe, and you can’t taste the difference. 
*Future recipe ideas: Adding shredded coconut

December 26, 2014

4 Factors to Keep Your Fitness on Track During the Winter

According to the CDC, adults should all be getting 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. Now the difference between moderate and vigorous- that can be up to interpretation pending on the individual.

But nonetheless, the issue is BEING ACTIVE. I find staying active in the winter months more difficult because I don’t prefer to be in the cold weather to workout. I would rather be warm. Shock! So I find it’s necessary to be planful, strategic and sometimes- creative. 
Here are FOUR factors which will help you stay active during the chilly months and keep your fitness goal on track. They help me, so hopefully they will help you too!
1. EQUIPMENT
Personally I enjoy working out at home. I use a variety of pieces of equipment varying in price from very inexpensive to more pricey items such as weights, kettle bells, indoor cycling bike, etc. I also find that my iPad is used every time I workout. I will share more about its advantages on another post. 
2. TIME
Planning time to workout is key. If I don’t plan it into my day, it simply doesn’t get done. Can I get an Amen? Ideally it’s best to workout in the morning- it’s great for the body in the AM and it’s done to then start the day. However if you can get it done at another time, that’s okay too. The bottom line- just get ‘er done. 
I workout in the morning. I must wake up EXTRA early to do so. It’s the only way I get it done. Otherwise my day gets ahead of me and next thing you know it’s dinner time and I have no energy after dinner to workout. 
3. ACCOUNTABILITY
This is one of the most useful and key aspects to success. Accountability partners can keep you on task, present and productive. This could be meeting someone at the gym or planning a workout outside with someone. Or, it could be where social media is used and communities are used to meet and interact with other like-minded people. SparkPeople.com is a popular site. Or, joining a live, online fitness class with other people. *More about this in another future post. 
4. CONSISTENCY
Even when you don’t want to… Make yourself use do a little. Typically the hardest part is just “getting to the gym”, or “getting out of bed”, or whatever. Because once we are there or show up, we do it (or some of it)… Which is better than nothing. 
However let’s get down to it… Time is limited. So if you are going to devote time and commitment to something, then we need to give it 110%. Leaving nothing at the door, no regrets. Push through it and work. Work it. Be consistent. 
Regardless, there are ebbs and flows in life where sometimes we are ON OUR GAME. Other times, HOW DID WE GET OFF TRACK?? And that’s ok. Personal stuff, finances, physical ailments, etc, can redirect our path- even if it’s temporary. Having babies, kids, career changes, moving, injuries, etc. 
Reflect, refocus, and recharge. Identify where to devote your energy. Research, read, and listen to the right people (this is key). Then- just do it. Try. 
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