Fitness & Wellness

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.

Best Knee Exercises

Best Knee Exercises

The knees are often the first to feel the wear and tear of years of abuse. It can lead to osteoarthritis and other knee conditions. When you have strength and flexibility around the knees, it also reduces the probability of bursitis and tendinitis. You’ll improve your mobility, which also is important for maintaining a program of exercise and good health. Here are some of the best knee exercises to help you build strength and flexibility. You should do them about two to three times a week making certain you leave at least 48 hours between sessions or recovery. Stretching daily during warm-ups can be done every day and improve the flexibility as well. Make sure you warm-up before starting any workout.

Do a straight leg raise for strength building.

You can do this exercise with two different forms. The easiest is with one is laying on the back with one knee bent, foot flat on the floor and the other leg extended straight out. Lift the extended leg to the height of the bent knee, lower and repeat 10 to 15 times. The other form of the exercise leaves both legs stretched out straight, raising one six inches off the floor and holding it for ten seconds. Keep the abdominal muscles tight as you do. Repeat this one five times on each leg. Avoid arching your back.  It helps to put your hands under the lower area of the back. With both legs extended, you get additional core strengthening.

Strengthen your hamstrings.

Here’s another you can do two ways. The first technique you lay on your stomach on a mat on the floor with your legs extended. Bend your knees and slowly raise the lower leg, attempting to get your heels as close to your bottom as possible. You’ll feel the pull at the back of the thighs. Three sets of 15 is a good starting point, but if do as many as you feel comfortable if that’s too many. If you’re at work, you can do a standing form of this exercise. Hang on to the back of a chair and lift one leg at a time, attempting to hit your bottom with your heel each time.

Alternating prone leg lifts strengthen the area around the spine, hips and knees.

You’ll be doing a slow flutter kick with one leg at a time, laying on your stomach and building a number of areas. Lay flat and as you tighten the muscles in your bottom, slowly lift one leg, keeping it straight. Lift as high as you can and hold to the count of five (five seconds), then slowly lower and repeat the movement until you’ve done ten. Repeat on the other side.


– Always start with simple muscle strengthening exercises such as the ones given and hip abduction or hip raise before going on to more advanced ones that work specifically with the knee joint. You want to build all the surrounding area first.

– Squats, lunges and step ups are an advanced form of knee strengthening. Build to these to ensure the muscles are strong enough to prevent pain.

– Simple movements you can do throughout the day, such as going up on your toes—calf raises—while supporting yourself with a hand on the wall or chair, can help strengthen the legs and build the muscles around the knee.

– Always check with your health care provider before you undergo exercise of any type. This is especially true of knee exercises.

Great Exercises For Specific Body Parts

Great Exercises For Specific Body Parts

It’s well known that you can’t shed pounds from just one area on your body by doing exercises for specific body parts, but you can tone that area and make it look better. Exercise of any kind will help you lose weight, but that weight comes from every area of your body, not just the area where you’re working your muscles. That doesn’t mean that you don’t benefit from exercising specific body areas. Those types of exercises tone the areas and help create a firm, fit appearance.

Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, BAT WINGS!

In case you couldn’t tell, I was singing the Bat Man song. Bat wings are the reason many women wear longer sleeves in the summer. You don’t have to put up with your arms fluttering in the wind when you work with weights doing this exercise. If you don’t have weights, especially if you’re just starting out, I’ve had clients use soup cans and even empty detergent bottles with handles. The best thing about using the detergent bottles is you can adjust the amount of weight. Start with a small amount of water in them and as you get stronger, add more. A reverse fly is one. Use an incline bench and lie on your chest with the weight in each hand. Lift your arms so they’re perpendicular to your body. Squeeze through the shoulder area and lower. Repeat 10 times for one set then do two more sets.

Tummy tucks naturally

We work on core muscle groups, which will have you looking thin and trim in no time. While total body exercises and kettlebells work well. There are other exercises you can do. You can say good-bye to a jelly belly and hello to a trim flat abdomen with this simple exercise. You’ll be doing a modified crunch with this one. Lay on your back on the mat. Lift your legs in the air straight above the hips. Lift your upper body and reach toward your feet. Slowly lower your upper body back to the floor as you lower one leg. Lift the leg and upper body and repeat. Do ten repetitions and switch the leg you lower.

Get rid of jiggly thighs.

If you’ve ever watched a ballet dancer, you’re probably familiar with a plie. It’s the move they make where they have their feet slightly wider than their shoulders, toes turned out and then they squat and rise using graceful arm movements. It’s excellent to strengthen your thighs too.

– A deltoid raise also helps with batwings. Do it by standing with feet slightly apart, raising your arms with weights in your hands to form a T and lowering your arms.

– A standing side crunch helps flatten the stomach. You’ll have your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width. Put your hands on the front of your hips and slightly bend your knees. Scrunch your body forward, slumping slightly, exhale deeply and then pull your stomach tight trying to pull your stomach toward your spine. Hold and pull your shoulders back as you inhale, thrust your chest forward and push your bottom as far back as you can go.

– We use kettlebells for a total body workout, but there are certain exercises that focus on specific body parts, while working other muscle groups too. Ask for help in the area you need extra work.

– To get the best results from exercise, combine it with a healthy diet.

Are Fitness Trends A Good Thing Or Not

Are Fitness Trends A Good Thing Or Not

When you’re a personal trainer, you keep abreast of the latest fitness trends. Some of the trends are based on solid science and bring a lot to the world of fitness. Others, aren’t as good and may even cause injury. Marathon weight lifting, for example, is really a fitness trend. The lifter tries to hoist the heaviest load possible repeatedly in the shortest amount of time. It promotes poor form and can be dangerous, particularly since form goes out the window after just a few lifts.

Crossfit is certainly popular and has both good and bad points.

Crossfit has gained popularity rapidly and there’s a good reason. It’s extremely social and group oriented, plus you get a great workout. There’s a dark side to it, though. I’ve heard people brag about working out until they threw up. In fact, in some social media circles, videos with upchucking crossfitters are praised. While overwork can occur, it shouldn’t be the goal. Working hard to achieve a goal is commendable and crossfit promotes that. Working beyond the point of exhaustion where your form suffers and you pose the potential for injury or rhabdomyolysis, a kidney condition is not acceptable. You workout to get and stay healthy, not to jeopardize your health.

HIIT has many of the same dangers of crossfit, but without the gold stars for vomiting.

HIIT—high intensity interval training—is extremely popular and works well to help people get into shape and stay in shape. Just like crossfit, the potential to overdo a workout is very real. While you can over exercise no matter what mode you use, with HIIT, you have the potential for putting your health on the line. The idea is to get your heart rate up to maximum, slow the pace for twice as long and then take it back up again. If you’re in good shape and increase the timing carefully, it should be no problem. However, people with a history of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and joint problems need to move cautiously. That’s one reason a personal trainer is important when doing HIIT workouts.

Trackers, watches and pedometers help you stay on top of the workout.

Actually, I like the technological approach to exercising. Initially, the technology wasn’t as accurate as it should be to get a good reading, but now, it’s pretty close to reality. Tracking how far you’ve walked, your heart rate and having your watch remind you it’s time to workout isn’t all bad. If it helps keep people working out an doing their best to stay fit and healthy, I say it’s a good thing.

– Kettlebells aren’t new, but have re-emerged as a top workout technique. Yes! I love them, that’s why you’ll see them in the program, but like any form of equipment, proper training is a must.

– Strength training has broken through the barrier and now has become a tool for women, too. It’s about time. Strength training is extremely important to women, particularly post menopausal women, to prevent osteoporosis.

– The rush to exercise as preventative medicine. This is another focus I love. With modern medicine costing a fortune, the best insurance policy is to avoid getting sick.

– Senior fitness training is one more smart trend that can help baby boomers stay fit far longer and may even help prevent memory loss and dementia.

Fitness Routines For People With Limited Time

Fitness Routines For People With Limited Time

I’m constantly being asked for fitness routines for people with limited time. The problem is that these can vary based on your lifestyle and situation. For instance, I might create two very different ones if one client was a stay at home mom with just nap time to get in her workout and the other was a busy executive with small windows of opportunity to exercise throughout the day. Here are some quickies you can do to help get and stay in shape.

If you’re trying to crowd your entire workout into just a 20 minute frame, consider circuit type training.

Circuit training is an intense method of working out where you quickly move from one station—type of exercise—to another with a short breather in between the two. It gets your heart pumping fast, but the short cool down between workouts helps. It’s a form of high intensity interval training that gets your endurance built fast. Don’t forget to warm up and cool down. A simple one uses two to three minute intervals for each exercise and combines jumping jacks, lunges, push-ups and walkouts. Do ten reps of each as fast as you can and repeat 8 times. Take a breather for two minutes and repeat.

Break up the workout to shorter intervals throughout the day.

Maybe you don’t have an hour or half hour to workout in the morning, but you might have ten minutes while you wait for the coffee to brew. Use the interval training suggested in number one, but only do it once without resting 2 minutes and going it again. When you get home, do the second set. Follow it with a ten minute walk or walk during lunch. There are also toning exercises you can do anywhere, simply by contracting certain muscle groups.

Get a great workout with kettlebells.

Kettlebells give you the workout of your life and burn more calories in 20 minutes than most exercise do in an hour. It’s a quick way to workout, but does require training. You’ll be swinging a weight and that can lead to injury unless you know what you’re doing. If you’re working out with us, we’ll show you a great routine that you can do in just 20 minutes or break it down to two ten minute ones.

– Flatten your tummy with dance every time you get a chance. Boogie down in your cubical or when nobody’s looking, rocking your hips and toning your body. Turn on music and dance while making supper.

– Make your lunch hour count. Sure, you want to have some peace and quiet, but a good 20 minute workout before lunch will burn off the hormones of stress and make the rest of the day better.

– Find ways to get more exercise. You don’t have to lift weights to build arm muscles, carrying grocery bags works too. See how many you can carry into the house at once.

– Do strength training. Lifting weights burns calories fast.