This Is Your Year!

This Is Your Year!

If you want to tackle your fitness goals for a healthier, fitter life, could be your year! Only you have the ability to make it so. No matter what your fitness goal, achieving it will not be easy, or you would have already done so. Whether you want to lose weight, build your endurance, improve your functional fitness or get healthier, only you can make it happen. You decide whether you’re going to be successful this year.

Make your goal or goals something you’re passionate about achieving.

Your own passion is what drives you to achieve the goal. Did you finally decide you’ll no longer feel bad about being overweight and instead love yourself and do something about the excess pounds? Do you want to be able to keep up with the kids or grandkids when you go for a hike or simply want to be healthier? Did your doctor suggest you start a program of regular exercise to help a specific condition or extend your life? All those are good reasons to start a workout program and will get you excited enough to begin a program.

Starting the program is a huge step, but sticking to it is even more difficult.

One reason you should be passionate about your goal is that it motivates you to continue until you see progress. You need to be specific about the goal and it needs to be achievable. If the goal is big, such as losing more than 10 percent of your body weight, you need to break it down to smaller goals that are achieved in a shorter time frame. Achieving a goal helps you stay motivated.

If you’re not certain how to start, a personal trainer can help you.

Some people don’t know where to start. They may not even be able to create a specific goal. That’s okay because personal trainers can help. The trainer will listen and then suggest a way to word the goal. For others, creating a route to achieve that goal is where they face a downfall. Trainers do that for you. Finally, trainers can put you on a program that will help you reach your goal safely and quicker. As a trainer, I love seeing the faces of clients when they finally are successful in achieving a goal. I am only successful when you are, so I work hard to ensure you are successful.

  • Trainers can help you learn how to eat healthier. It may include substituting one food for another, cooking differently or simply ensuring you have healthy snacks for between meals.
  • If weight loss is a goal, both exercise and healthy eating play an important role in achieving it.
  • Regular exercise and eating healthy are lifestyle changes that you commit to for the rest of your life. Luckily, healthy eating isn’t dieting. It’s all about making smarter choices when it comes to food.
  • This could be the year you break out of your shell and uncover the you that you were meant to become. It won’t take long to see results, but it will take perseverance, dedication and passion.

Is Cardio Making You Fat

Is Cardio Making You Fat

No matter how far you run or how much your pedal the stationary bike, you may be on the path to nowhere and might actually be sabotaging your efforts to lose weight. While cardio—endurance training—plays an important role in everyone’s fitness program, it may not be the best way to lose weight. In fact, it may cause you to gain weight. Is cardio making you fat? Many factors affect the answer to that question. If you’re only doing cardio and nothing else, you may be running toward extra pounds rather than away from them.

Are you doing the same cardio every day?

If you’re running the same length of time and at the same pace, you might be setting your body up to become more efficient. Efficiency is a good thing, right? Not when you want to lose weight. When your body repeats the same movements for a while, it finds ways to burn fewer calories and become more efficient in that movement. That causes plateauing, making it harder to lose weight. The whole goal for cardio when it comes to weight loss is to burn calories. You have to change your exercise program on a regular basis to maximize the calorie burning effects.

You may be burning lean muscle tissue rather than fat.

If you’re not getting enough calories and exercising too long, your body wants to store the fat. It prepares for leaner times and that store of fat may be what it needs for survival. When you initially start the workout, your body uses the glycogen that is stored in your muscles and liver for fuel. After about 30 minutes that runs out and then the body burns fat stores if the exercise is moderate. High intensity exercise can cause burning muscle tissue instead, which also occurs if your diet is too low in calories.

Your body produces cortisol if your caloric intake is too low or your cardio too rigorous.

Cortisol is the catabolic hormone that converts muscle tissue into energy. Cortisol is a stress hormone and that’s exactly what you’re doing to your body at that point, stressing it. Cortisol is also associated with the accumulation of abdominal fat. Not only are you burning muscle tissue that helps you shed weight, you’re also adding to any weight around the middle, which is normally what people want to lose.

  • Don’t give up cardio entirely. Variety is the spice of a healthy life. You should have at least some cardio or endurance training in your workout routine, just as you should have balance, strength and flexibility exercises.
  • If you want to shed pounds, while retaining lean muscle mass, strength—resistance—training is the route to go.
  • Not only does strength training maintain and build muscle tissue, it also helps protect against osteoporosis as you age.
  • A healthy diet that’s lower in calories, but not excessively low, combined with resistance training, helps you shed fat faster than you would with a moderate or rigorous cardio workout.

Yummy Winter Beverages Without All The Calories

Yummy Winter Beverages Without All The Calories

If you’re tired of the same old coffee black, no sugar to save calories, here are some yummy winter beverages without all the calories that make a great alternative. While tea, especially green tea is often the first option you think of, which is also a healthy one, it’s not the only option. You can make a low calorie hot chocolate from 4½ cups almond milk, ½ C unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/3 to ¼ C pure maple syrup and 1.5 oz dark chocolate bar melted. Add a teaspoon of pure vanilla to top it off. Heat the milk first and add the other ingredients, saving the vanilla for right before you pour it from the pan. At 123 calories, it satisfies your sweet tooth and warms you up at the same time.

Get healthy, warm and enjoy this healthy drink.

In a large mug, pour boiling water, leaving a little room at the top for the juice of a half freshly squeezed lemon, ¼ teaspoon turmeric, a small pinch of raw cane sugar, coarse sea salt an cayenne pepper. This drink gives a boost to both your metabolism and immune system. It’s tart, hot, sweet and salty all at the same time.

Herbal tea can help you become healthier and taste great at the same time.

There are all types of herbal tea on the market and you can make your own, easily, if you have a tea strainer and the herbs available. Ginger tea tastes good and is good for the stomach, while chamomile tea will help you relax and sleep like a baby, reduces menstrual cramps, fights allergies and aches and pains. It tastes good too. Numi Organic Rooibos Tea, Tazo Organic Spiced Black Tea, Tazo Wild Sweet Orange Tea, Cardamon Cinnamon Tea, Good Earth’s Sweet & Spicy Red Tea and Celestial Seasoning Raspberry Zinger are naturally sweet. All the tea has zero calories.

Golden milk tastes good and has great health benefits.

You can make your own version of this yummy warm drink and the calories will vary. If you like it sweet, use 2 cups of vanilla almond, pecan or coconut milk for a bit healthier version (but not my favorite) switch in bone broth for some or all the milk. Add ½ tsp cinnamon, a pinch of black pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper, ¼ tso ginger powder and for your sweet tooth a tsp of maple syrup or raw honey. Blend in a blender then heat at low to medium heat for about five minutes. It should be steamy but not boiling.

  • Depending on the recipe you choose, the calorie count for golden milk will vary from 61 calories up to over 120.
  • Heat apple cider and add a few cinnamon sticks for a low calorie drink that’s also yummy.
  • You can create your own delicious recipes by getting creative. Heat half coconut milk and regular water then use it as you would water, adding a rooibos tea bag. You can steep with ¼ tsp clove, turmeric, ginger and vanilla. Add a dash of cayenne pepper and stir with a cinnamon stick.
  • Make a half cup of Earl Grey tea using two tea bags. Let it steep five minutes. Pour in a blender with a cup of almond milk, a tsp raw honey and a touch of vanilla. Blend on high and enjoy this frothy drink that’s also good for teeth, digestion and the boost of caffeine.

Write Your Winter Bucket List

Write Your Winter Bucket List

If you’re like most people, you have loads of things you’d love to do if you only have time. When those rare moments come, you simply can’t remember what they were or are totally unprepared to do. That’s why you should have them written down on your winter bucket list. If you need extra supplies for them, pick them up and store them so you’re ready when the time comes. The list can contain anything that you want to do, whether it takes two weeks or two hours, it doesn’t matter. These are all things you want to experience at least once in your life.

Break down the items to the amount of time it takes.

If you never painted a room before and would like to make this one of the things on your list, but you don’t think you’ll have time, break it down to smaller steps you can do sporadically when there’s time available. For instance, if you’ve always wanted to be your own decorator, start by painting a room and sewing curtains. That job can be broken down to four steps, painting the ceiling, then walls and finally woodwork, with curtains being created at another time. List each step according to the time required.

List the challenges in the order they must be completed.

If you have a task that has several steps, list them in the order they need to be completed. Using the above example, you’d start at the ceiling, go to the walls and then paint the woodwork. Even if the jobs aren’t related, you should prioritize them according to their importance. If you definitely want to take the polar bear plunge, but only half heartedly want to make a gingerbread house, the plunge should be close to the top of the list.

Your list should be things you get excited about doing.

While I used the example of painting a room and decorating, it may not be at the top of most people’s lists. The list isn’t about getting tasks accomplished, unless it’s something you really want to do. Have you ever ridden a horse in the snow, gone snowboarding, ice fishing or skiing? These could be top priorities on your list. Plan a whole day for these endeavors and work them into your weekend this winter.

  • If you want something invigorating and relaxing at the same time, soak in an outside hot tub or a hot springs and run—don’t walk—through the winter snow back into the warmth of the closest building.
  • Take a healthy cooking class. You’ll benefit for the rest of the year from the knowledge and have fun in the process.
  • Clean out your closet and donate the good clothes to a homeless shelter or free clothing store for the poor. You’ll get two benefits. One is a tidier home and the other the good feeling of helping another.
  • Bake up a storm or make pots of soup and take your bounty to shut ins and elderly neighbors that might have trouble cooking for themselves. You’ll keep your house warm and toasty while you’re doing something nice.

Whats Your Favorite Snow Activity?

Whats Your Favorite Snow Activity?

You might say you hate winter, but there’s always something you can find you love about the snow. It may be watching the flakes fall outside while you’re snuggled up with your favorite person next to a roaring fire. Your favorite snow activity can be more active, like a winter sport. Whatever it is, it can help you make it through the winter months when there’s less sunshine and optimism falls to a year long low.

Get active outside and enjoy cross country or Alpine skiing.

While Alpine skiing is often more advertised, since there’s so many downhill competitions, it pales in comparison to the great exercise you get when you go cross country skiing. Both are good, but cross country skiing keeps you in motion continuously, doesn’t require a chair lift or a mountain. You can do it on flat land, gently rolling hills and even in more rugged areas. In fact, you’ll burn almost double the calories with cross country, even if the terrain is gentle. Enjoy both and if you prefer one to the other, choose it, rather than worrying about calories. All exercise is good.

Ice skating and hockey dominate in the cold weather.

Figure skating, racing or playing hockey are also good exercise in the winter. All three have their own benefits and drawbacks. If you love hockey, but can’t get a team together, you may be relegated to just practicing shots on your own. For those who enjoy racing, practicing is where you’ll get most of your exercise with races only a few times a year. It’s not nearly as social as hockey or regular skating, but for those with a competitive streak, may be the most fun. Skating in general burns over 400 calories an hour.

Have a family fun day in the snow.

Take advantage of the snow to create a family day. Whether you’re throwing snowballs at one another or building a snowman, it can be fun to enjoy the cold weather together. If you want to get creative, do more than just make a snowman, create a snow sculpture that can decorate your front yard for the rest of the winter. Build a snow fort and the kids will love you for it. It can be their winter get-away when they play outside. The whole family can do it together.

  • When was the last time you made a snow angel? This can be fun in the winter, as long as you don’t get snow down your back.
  • Sledding down a hill, whether on a sled or in an inner tube can be a blast and is excellent exercise.
  • Go for a hike and look for animal footprints in the snow. It can be a learning experience for children that they’ll remember and enjoy every year.
  • Snowboarding is almost as popular as skiing. If you haven’t already tried it, you might make it the challenge for this winter.

Processed Foods To Avoid

Processed Foods To Avoid

Processed foods are often the go-to product for mealtime when the day’s been hectic, rushed and longer than planned. Some are relatively good for you, but there are processed foods to avoid, as well. The good ones are lightly processed and very much like their original form. Canned tuna or a prepared vegetable tray are good examples that add convenience, without losing nutrition or adding ingredients you can’t pronounce. Those that are more unhealthy can be eaten on occasion, but keep it to a minimum. They often bear no resemblance to the original food and their ingredients list reads like a college chem lab experiment.

Processed meat like bacon, hot dogs and salami.

It’s no secret that there’s a lot of salt, dangerous nitrosamines, high fat and calories in processed meat. Bacon seems to have an almost cult following and it’s one of the last unhealthy foods many of my clients reduce in their diets. I say reduce since most don’t give it up entirely. You can make it a little healthier by cooking it in the oven on a wire rack placed inside a deep sheet pan or on the broiler pan. It takes longer and uses a lower temperature—250 degrees to 300—but that keeps the splattering down and is a perfect method for cooking bacon for a large group brunch when there’s more demand for the stove top. Organic hot dogs with no additives or preservatives are also a bit healthier.

There’s a reason why they’re cheap.

Ramen noodles are a staple for college students and often for the night before payday for some people. They’re filling and curb the appetite, are a quick cheap dish in a pinch, but aren’t foods you should eat every day or even every week. The reason? Ramen noodles have a high sodium count, saturated fat, contain a petroleum based preservative TBHQ—tertiary-butyl hydroquinone—and no redeeming nutritional value. If you eat a lot of ramen noodles, you raise your risk for metabolic syndrome that can lead to heart disease, stroke and diabetes just to name a few of the problems.

Margarine was once touted as the healthier alternative to butter.

Yup, science is ever changing its mind when it comes to healthy foods. At one time, there was nothing better to spread on toast than margarine. That was before scientists discovered that trans fats were more lethal than the saturated fat of butter. Use alternatives like olive oil. If you refuse to eat toast with olive oil, use butter from grass fed cows.

  • Microwave popcorn may be a great office snack, but it contains diacetyl, a synthetic butter flavoring that causes lung disease and has dangerous chemicals lining the bag. Use a brown paper bag and your own popcorn for chemical free enjoyment.
  • Frozen TV dinners contain additives that can lead to stroke and heart problems. Always read the ingredients before buying them to find ones without the massive amount of chemicals, such as organic meals.
  • Any type of carbonated drink is suspect. Not only does pop add unnecessary calories and are acid producing, those lower in calories have artificial flavoring that’s even more unhealthy than the sugar.
  • Don’t believe all the hype about granola bars. In many cases, they’re more like candy bars in a clever disguise.

Can Energy Drinks Be Healthy

Can Energy Drinks Be Healthy

You’ve watched the commercial where the buff athlete shakes the sweat from his head and grabs a can of Big Boost (I made up the name, but you get the idea), takes a drink and looks refreshed and ready to conquer the world. Can energy drinks be healthy and do they actually work? Most energy drinks work because they contain caffeine and deliver it with sugar. In fact, some have the amount of sugar that equals 13.5 teaspoons. While many say they have other ingredients to boost your energy, it’s still the caffeine and sugar that does the trick.

Even though drinking too many energy drinks is bad, it does have some potentially redeeming qualities.

I’ve seen clients come into the gym touting an energy drink with a second one ready in their gym bag. In my opinion, it’s just plain unhealthy. Not only are they spiking their sugar levels and predisposing their bodies for a roller coaster of sugar highs followed by lows, there’s a chance they’re drinking even more throughout the day. That’s not good and can lead to caffeine overdose, plus blood sugar problems. However, the same is true of coffee. Studies show that energy drinks do work at boosting your energy and making you more alert.

There are some benefits from energy drinks.

Most energy drinks contain more than just caffeine and sugar, they also contain vitamins and nutrients, including taurine. Taurine is known for its ability to improve blood low to the heart and boost oxygen levels, help people function better when they have higher levels of a stimulant, such as caffeine and regulate heartbeat. While the body does create its own taurine, there are studies indicating that production is often reduced under stress, such as illness, injury and even physical exertion—such as working out. There are also B-vitamins, small amounts of A, C and E and other nutrients found in these drinks that could prove beneficial to the body.

There are better ways to get those benefits.

If you’re eating healthy, all those extra nutrients will be excreted through your elimination system, leaving you paying only for the caffeine in the drink. Grab a cup of Jo from the office coffee pot or make your own at home and carry it in a thermal travel mug. In the summer or when you want a cool drink, iced coffee in that mug will be refreshing. Get your nutrition through a healthy diet and if you must, a supplement.

  • Don’t discount water as a viable alternative to energy drinks. Often that sleepiness and exhaustion you feel is just dehydration. Water hydrates faster and doesn’t have the extra calories.
  • Green tea has caffeine, but also has other healthy flavonoids to bring even more benefit. Iced green tea is refreshing and has 0 calories if you don’t add sugar.
  • Too much caffeine from overindulgence in coffee or energy drinks can cause jangled nerves and irregular heartbeat. It also can interact with medications, so always check with your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Just like soft drinks, energy drinks can pack on the pounds without providing significant nutrients. One 16 oz can of Monster Energy Drink contains 210 calories. You could opt for a healthy snack and a bottle of water and intake far fewer calories. It’s all about weighing the benefits vs the drawbacks.

Beer Vs. Wine Health Benefits

Beer Vs. Wine Health Benefits

If you’re out on the town with another healthy eater and decide to have one glass of your favorite beverage, only to be told by your companion that drinking an alternative might be healthier, you’re probably ordering either beer or wine. There seems to be two groups of people when it comes to an occasional glass of alcoholic beverage, the beer drinkers and the wine drinker. If you’re trying to choose the healthiest, you’ll need to know all the beer vs. wine health benefits. In most cases, the person that only has an occasional drink should let their preference be their guide, as long as they’re splurging.

Beer can really create a beer belly if you drink too much.

Beer has fifty percent more calories when you compare the average serving size of beer to the average serving size of wine. The beer comes in a larger glass, so ounce for ounce it’s about the same, but normally, you’ll get more beer in one serving. There are also more carbs in beer, not to mention the gas and bloating it can cause. It’s really tough to get an adequate measure of calories, since it varies so much by type in both wine and beer. The key goes back to the occasional drink and limiting it to one.

Wine has heart health benefits.

Red wine, in particular, contains polyphenols that help reduce the risk of heart disease and also prevent high blood pressure and diabetes. The polyphenols are anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidants that help to protect the cells. They also can be rejuvenating. If you compare white wine to beer, they’re about the same when it comes to the amount of polyphenols, so they do offer some health benefits, but not as much as red wine. That doesn’t give a pass to binge drink, but does mean the occasional drink isn’t as damaging.

There’s a reason the worm is dead in the tequila bottle.

Since both wine and beer contain polyphenols, both start out ahead of hard liquor like whiskey and tequila, but even those have some redeeming qualities. Alcohol alone won’t kill bacteria and parasites, but when combined with the other ingredients in wine and tequila, have proven beneficial for that purpose. One study shows that tequila that is 10% alcohol has the potential to kill pathogens such as Montezuma’s revenge—E. Coli—and even kill salmonella. A study of the outbreak of cholera in France in the early 1900s indicated that those who drank wine were far less susceptible to the disease. Still, a further study shows that both beer and wine drank regularly (with wine being more effective), but in modest amounts can prevent ulcers caused by H. pylori and therefore reduce the risk of stomach cancer.

  • While there are some health benefits for both beer and wine, red wine seems to come out ahead in most cases and is served in smaller glasses, so one serving has fewer calories.
  • The number of calories in both wine and beer vary by type, just as the health benefits do.
  • Most studies show that an occasional drink actually has benefits, but more isn’t better in the case of wine and beer. In fact, the more you drink, the faster the benefits drop behind the negatives of drinking.
  • Marinating meat with grape juice of any type, whether it’s the straight up Welches or the best aged wine, can kill the bacteria Campylobacter in the meat within 15 minutes, which causes food poisoning or traveler’s diarrhea.

Ways To Make Running Easier

Ways To Make Running Easier

People new to the world of exercise often choose running as part of their overall program, but find it’s almost too taxing at first. Here are ways to make running easier that will pay big dividends in results. Start with the basics. Dress comfortably and appropriately for the weather. Make sure you’re adequately hydrated when you start and carry water with you, particularly on hot days. Avoid running at the hottest part of the day in the summer and slowly adjust to running in the cold weather of winter.

Run slowly at first and pick up the pace.

Like many marathon runners, saving your strength to make it to the end of the run is important. Start your run with a walk and work into a brisk walk then run once you’ve warmed up a bit. If you’re just beginning a running regimen and are completely out of shape, walk and intersperse running periodically into your walk. Not only does it allow you to set your own pace, it’s a form of high-intensity interval training, which is good for the heart and burns loads of calories.

Stay focused on the road ahead.

If you’ve ever been to Las Vegas and walked the strip, you know how deceiving distance can be. I had a friend who walked from Caesar’s Palace to the Luxor, thinking it was just a short distance since the pyramid looked so close. Of course, it was almost two miles, but she didn’t realize it until she got there, since she was so focused on the road ahead. Stay focused on a target in the distance and you’ll trick your mind into thinking it’s closer.

Make the run your getaway.

You probably do want to carry your phone, just in case you have an emergency on the run or need help along the way. While it doesn’t happen often, it’s reassuring to know you have it along. Keep your phone turned off, at least until you arrive to your turnaround point. At that point you can turn it back on, to retrieve messages. You can turn it off again or leave it on for the jog home.

– Run with a shorter stride at first. The shorter stride will require less effort and keep you running longer.

– Lean forward as you run. It allows your to let gravity help you run, using forward momentum to help make the run easier.

– Get good shoes. When people dress for a run, they often forget their footwear, which is critical to running. If you buy anything new, make sure it’s good running shoes. They need to be replaced every 350 miles.

– Have a specific destination. Run to meet a friend at a coffee shop or run to the grocery for a single item (Don’t try to get more than one unless they’re light in weight.)

Essential Stretches

Essential Stretches

Here are some movements I like to call “essential stretches,” because you can do them every day to get the day started right. You can also use them before a workout or when you take a break from hard work and want a limbering/pain relieving movement before you go back to it. You can do these formally as part of your workout or throughout the day to bring a refreshed feeling. One of my favorites for lower back pain is laying on the floor with one leg bent at the knee. Wrap a towel around the underside of the foot on the outstretched leg and slowly pull it straight up. Then do the other side. It feels so great and relieves pain almost instantly.

Start the day stretching.

If you have a cat, watch it when it first awakens or gets up after a rest. (Which occurs several times during the day.) It makes a deep stretching motion, raising its bottom and stretching its back. You should do the same each morning. Side lunges with the arm raised on the side you lunge toward, stretching until it feels good and then doing the other side can get you a little more limber for the day. One of the children’s programs I watched growing up featured a song called “Bend and Stretch.” The second line of the song said, “reach for the sky.” While trying to touch your toes is good, reaching as high as you can is just as good and easier.

Stretch your hamstrings, hip flexors and quads with this exercise.

Sit on the floor in kneeling position with legs bent at the knee and shins on the ground. Lift one leg in front of you bent at the knee to create a 90 degree angle and foot flat on the floor right under the knee. The other side should still be in the original position. Put both hands on top of the knee in front of you and lean into a stretch, trunk upright. Hold and lean back.

Stretch your hamstrings like a runner.

Sit with both legs extended in front of you. Bend one leg, putting your foot on the side of the other leg’s knee. You’ll have a triangle or number 4 formed with your legs. Bend at the hips, slowly moving forward toward the foot of the outstretched leg. You’ll feel it pull, then hold ten to twenty seconds. Straighten up and do it again. Do the other side. Repeat one more time. Each time you’ll notice you’ll lean further forward.

– Stretch your triceps by bending arm at the elbow, as though you’re trying to scratch your back. Grab the elbow with your other hand and pull make it stretch even further.

– Pull your arms behind you and clasp your hands. First lift them as high as possible, then go back to starting position and push out your chest, stretching as far as possible.

– Take a tip from yoga and do a downward dog. Start in kneeling position, hands shoulder-width apart, raise your bottom in the air and straighten your legs. Straighten your spine as you lower your head. Keep your heels on the ground, lowering them as far as you can, stretching your calves.

– Stand with arms extended. Twist your body, rotating your arms to the left and then to the right in propeller fashion. You can do this one seated as well.