How to Exercise Your Resiliency Muscle

6 Ways to Deal with the Ups and Downs of Weight Loss (without Giving Up)
  — By Ellen G. Goldman, Health & Wellness Coach
I sat listening quietly to the women in my monthly weight-loss support group talk amongst themselves over the conference line. Marge was sharing how happy she was to be back to her regular daily walks after months of being derailed by her broken ankle. She was sad that five pounds had crept back on but felt determined and ready to get back down to her pre-injury weight. “You can do it!” Sue cheered, “I remember you gained 20 pounds the year your mom passed away, but you got back down to maintenance. If you can take off 20 pounds, five will be a walk in the park.”

Every month, the group members reconnect to swap stories, support one another, and share anything new they have learned in the field of weight loss to help them continue their journeys. Some are maintaining at their goal weight; others are still looking to pare down. They range in age and life experiences, but what they all have in common is resiliency. Each one of them has experienced setbacks, and not a single woman has given up!

There are a lot of personal strengths that are helpful for achieving permanent weight loss: determination, perseverance, self-discipline, even organizational skills. However, the one strength I believe to be vital is resiliency.

Resiliency is the capacity of humans to come out of extreme shock, damage, injury and trauma and get back to normal life. However, Robert Brooks, author of The Power of Resilience, feels that we should not foster a resilient mindset just to safeguard against the possibility of unfathomable crisis and tragedy. His research has led him and others to believe that a resilient mindset will help us handle even the “minor” setbacks, disappointments and problems of ordinary living.

Another author and researcher in the field of developing resiliency is Emily Werner. She states, “Resilience reflects the concept of ‘reserve capacity.’ It helps us prepare for future adversity and enables the potential for change and continued personal growth.”

I particularly like this concept as it relates to permanent weight loss, which requires adjustments to one’s habits and lifestyle. Many who achieve and maintain their weight-loss goals report that they have changed not only in body size but also in mental toughness, finding strength, perseverance, and determination they didn’t know they had—and developing, sometimes for the first time in their lives, the inner belief that they can succeed at whatever they put their mind to. Along with weight-loss success came increased confidence and self-esteem, not necessarily because of their new body, but because of their success at reaching a goal.

I would define resiliency as our ability to bounce back from life’s adversities and difficulties within a reasonable time frame, and the ability to be flexible and adapt to difficult circumstances. Simply put, when we are resilient, we stand up again after falling down, learn from and evaluate our mistakes, and keep trying even if we have to change directions. When working toward a goal we find meaningful and valuable, we don’t give up. In my mind, fostering a resilient mindset is vital for permanent weight loss.

Weight loss is never a straight path. Seldom, if ever, do you hear about an individual who makes the decision to lose weight and does so without ever having setbacks. You might lose three pounds one week, and be up one the next. You do a fantastic job sticking to a healthy diet throughout the holiday season, and then lose your job and start the new year soothing yourself daily with ice cream and cake.  You were exercising consistently five times a week, and then realize you haven’t been to the gym in months because you’re overwhelmed taking care of a sick parent.

When you make a decision to try again, to get back on track after a setback or even start over, that’s resiliency! You proclaim and you believe, “I’ve done it before and I can do it again!”

The National Weight Loss Registry is a large, ongoing research study of several thousand individuals who have maintained weight loss. To be part of the study, participants need to have lost a minimum of 30 pounds and kept it off for at least a year. Registry members have lost an average of 66 pounds and kept it off for five and a half years. However, most registry members didn’t permanently lose the weight on their first try. Nearly 60% of them had tried to lose weight and keep it off five times before finally achieving success. Close to 20% had dieted three to four times before finally figuring out what worked best for them. If that doesn’t demonstrate resiliency, I don’t know what does!

Successful, sustained weight loss is usually achieved despite setbacks and plateaus. Dealing with and accepting the disappointment of the scale not going in the direction you hope, or as fast as you would like, is important if you’re going to make it to the end goal. When that happens, rather than giving up, the resilient individual will re-evaluate what’s been going on, be willing to try a different approach, and keep going. They rarely feel hopeless, or if they do, they stay in that state for a very short time. They remind themselves—as the weight-loss group members reminded Marge—that they have weathered storms before, and move quickly to a place of recovery and resolution.

If you are thinking resiliency is an innate strength of a lucky few, the good news is you can definitely strengthen your resiliency muscle. Here’s how to become more resilient in the journey of weight loss—and in life.

6 Keys to Resiliency
1.   Accept and face difficult situations head on. Anticipate in advance that challenging situations will arise all the time. Almost every week is marked with a birthday party, unhealthy temptations or busy workdays at home or the office. Be proactive rather than reactive, and plan how you will handle the challenge. Learn more about developing a Plan B to stick to your goals.

2.   Believe in your own inner strengths. Take time to remind yourself of past successes in other challenging areas of your life. Identify the strengths you used then, and apply those strengths to your weight loss journey. This is a good exercise to try in the beginning of your journey. Write down those successes in a blog post or a journal. When you start doubting yourself, return to them for motivation.

3.   Reframe your thinking.  Tell yourself that setbacks are temporary, not permanent. Focus on what is still working, rather than the area where you lapsed. Remind yourself of all the things you did well before that small setback, then celebrate the next thing you did well, like getting up for your morning workout the next day rather than beating yourself up over the thing you did wrong.

4.   Talk back to your inner critic. Despite a difficult week, it doesn’t mean you are a failure, you’ll never lose weight, or all is lost. It only means you had a difficult week, and you have the opportunity to do better in the upcoming one.

5.   Try to learn from your setbacks. Mistakes and slip-ups aren’t failures; they are learning experiences.  Gather data to help you move forward in the future and avoid a similar issue. Treat them as learning opportunities.

6.   Find a cheerleader. Children who grow up to be resilient and highly successful adults report there was one person in their life who never stopped believing in them. Brooks refers to these individuals as “charismatic adults.” When it comes to weight loss, having just one supportive, significant person in your life is essential. Whether it’s a coach, your trainer, spouse or best friend—even your mom—hearing from, remembering, and receiving encouragement from someone who believes in you will help you achieve your goals and strengthen your resiliency muscle. If you’re not sure where to start or don’t have a cheerleader in your real life, you’ll find plenty of support in the SparkPeople Community.

Sources
Brooks, Robert and Sam Goldstein. 2004. The Power of Resilience. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Fletcher, Anne M. 2003. Thin For Life. New York: Houghton Mifflin Books.

Original Post on SparkPeople.com

What to Eat After You Work Out

Refuel and Recover with a Post-Workout Meal or Snack
  — By Dean Anderson, Fitness Expert
Everyone knows that athletes must plan and time their meals and snacks very carefully to reach their performance goals. But what about the rest of us? You try to squeeze in 30-60 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Do you have to be careful about what you eat before and after your workouts, too?

If you’re eating a healthy diet and getting enough calories to support your activity level, you can probably rely on your own appetite, energy levels and experience to tell you whether you need to eat anything before or after exercise and what it should be. The basic rule here is: Find out what works best for you, and do that.

There are some advantages to knowing how your body works and what it needs to perform at its best. The bottom line for healthy weight loss and fitness sounds simple: You have to eat fewer calories than you use up—but not fewer than your body needs to function at its best.

The size, timing and content of your pre- and post-exercise meals and snacks can play an important role in your energy levels during your workout, how well your body recovers and rebuilds after exercise and whether the calories you eat will be used as fuel or stored as fat. Here’s what you need to eat and drink to get the results you want.

Your Post-Exercise Fluid Needs

Most moderate exercisers will lose about one quart (four cups) of fluid per hour of exercise, so try to drink about 16-20 ounces of water shortly after your workout to aid the recovery process. If you sweat a lot or the weather is hot and/or humid, consider weighing yourself before and after exercise, and drinking an ounce of water for every ounce of weight you’ve lost. Because heavy sweating also causes loss of minerals and electrolytes, consider using a sports drink with electrolytes if you need to replace more than two or three cups of fluid.

Your Post-Exercise Meal or Snack

As long as you’re staying within your overall range for the day, you don’t need to be obsessive about matching the following calorie and nutrient ratios perfectly. Just be careful not to fall into the very common trap of thinking that it’s okay to eat anything and everything in sight because you just worked out. Many people are very hungry after a workout, making it easy to eat more than you really need or to choose foods that won’t really help your body. Eating too much of the wrong thing can cause your body to store that food as fat instead of using your post-workout meal to refuel and repair your muscles. <pagebreak>

So what does the ideal meal or snack look like?

  • Calories. Ideally, try to eat enough calories to equal 50 percent of what you burned during your workout. So if you burn about 600 calories, try to eat 300 calories after exercise.Don’t worry about undoing the calorie-burning benefits of your workout—that’s not how weight loss works. As long as you’re eating within your recommended calorie range (whether for weight loss or maintenance), you’ll be on your way to reaching your goals.
  • Carbohydrates. Roughly 60 percent of the calories you eat at this time should come from carbohydrates. Contrary to popular belief, your body needs more carbohydrates than protein after a workout, to replace depleted muscle fuel (glycogen) and to prepare for your next exercise session. Moderate exercisers need about 30-40 grams of carbohydrates after an hour of exercise, but high-intensity exercisers need around 50-60 grams for each hour they exercised.If you have some favorite high-carb foods that are lacking the whole grains and fiber that are often recommended as part of a healthy diet, this is a good time to have them. Your body can digest refined carbohydrates faster during your “refueling window,” but if you prefer whole foods, don’t force yourself to eat processed foods.
  • Protein. While carbs are essential, it’s also important to include some high-quality protein in your post-workout meal or snack. This protein will stop your body from breaking down muscle tissue for energy and initiate the process of rebuilding and repairing your muscles. About 25 percent of the calories you eat after a workout should come from protein—that’s about 10-15 grams for most people.
  • Fat. Fat doesn’t play a big role in post-workout recovery, and eating too much fat after a workout won’t help your weight control or fitness endeavors. Only 15 percent (or less) of your post-workout calories should come from fat—that’s less than 10 grams.

The ideal time to eat after a workout is within 30 minutes to two hours, when your body is ready and waiting to top off its fuel tanks to prepare for your next session.

But if your appetite or schedule doesn’t allow you to eat a meal right after exercise, don’t panic. Your body can still replace your muscle fuel over the next 24 hours, as long as you’re eating enough food to support your activity level. Try to have a smaller snack that contains carbs and protein as soon after exercise as possible. Liquids like smoothies, shakes or chocolate milk, and/or energy bars, can be especially effective post-workout snacks.<pagebreak>

Here are some sample food combinations for your post exercise meal:

  • Bread, a bagel or an English muffin with cheese or peanut butter
  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • Cottage cheese with fruit
  • Fruit juice with cheese
  • Yogurt with fruit
  • Veggie omelet with toast or roll
  • Chocolate milk
  • Cereal with milk
  • Eggs and toast
  • Turkey, ham, chicken or roast beef sandwich
  • Vegetable stir-fry with chicken, shrimp, edamame or tofu
  • Crackers with low fat cheese
  • Rice or popcorn cakes with nut butter
  • Smoothie (with milk, yogurt or added protein powder)
  • A protein or energy bar
  • A protein or energy shake
  • Pancakes and eggs
  • Any regular meal that contains lean protein, starch and vegetables

Be sure to “Pin” this graphic for future reference.

As a moderate exerciser, you have a lot of flexibility when it comes to timing your meals and choosing your foods. The most important thing is getting to know your body and how it responds to exercise, so you can give it what it needs to perform at its best. Eating the right things at the right times after you work out is essential to keeping your energy up, your workout performance high and your body in fat-burning mode.

Now that you know what to eat after, here’s how to fuel up before you start sweating!

Original Post on SparkPeople.com

3 Strategies to Prevent Relapse After Reaching Your Goal Weight

Winning the Mental Game
  — By Dean Anderson, Fitness & Behavior Expert
When it comes right down to it, the “secret” to keeping the weight you’ve lost off is really very simple: Don’t stop doing the things that helped you take it off in the first place.

Obviously, you’ll need to make some small changes in your eating and exercise so that you’re achieving energy balance (to maintain weight) instead of creating a calorie deficit (to lose weight). But other than that, the key to successful weight maintenance is maintaining the healthy practices that got you to this point.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always as easy or simple as it sounds. Old habits really do die hard. If you struggled with obesity for a long time, or if you lost weight by following some diet plan that you can’t stick with safely or easily, you can’t assume it’s going to be easy to continue eating and exercising in a healthy way now that the weight’s off. Just stopping your healthy lifestyle and going back to “business as usual” will put you on the fast track back to your original weight, and maybe with a few extra pounds.

Even if you’ve taken the gradual “lifestyle change” approach advocated by SparkPeople, you’re likely to find yourself facing a new set of challenges as you shift gears into maintenance mode. Being aware of and prepared for these challenges can make it a lot easier to meet them successfully. So let’s take a look at some of the strategies and approaches of people who have lost weight and kept it off.

Strategy 1: Redefine Your Goals

The Problem: Having a goal weight provided a focus and direction for all the mental and physical energy that you put into this project. But reaching your goal weight can leave you feeling a little disoriented and unsure of what to do next—all the energy, momentum, and purpose you’ve been relying on can evaporate pretty quickly, making it easy to fall back into old habits. Simply trying to maintain your weight loss often isn’t the kind of goal it takes to avoid this problem.

The Solution: Set some challenging new goals for yourself, beyond maintaining your weight loss. Ideally, include at least one goal that requires you to stay at least as fit as you are now, or more so. For example, if your main motive for exercising was to burn calories and lose weight, try to find a sport or physical activity you enjoy for its own sake. Then you can put your efforts into getting better at that activity. My own interest in going to the gym every day for a stint on some cardio machine started to fade pretty quickly when I shifted gears from weight loss to maintenance. But when I took up hiking and biking instead, a whole new world of challenges and goals opened up. This year I’m aiming to complete my first 100-mile bike ride, and training for that gives me all the motivation I need to get out on my bike almost every day.

Key Attitude: The key thing here is not what you do—that can be anything from mall or pool walking to training for a competitive triathlon. It’s finding something you like to do, and then trying to get progressively better at it.

Strategy 2: Carry the Message

The Problem: You’re probably not going to want to spend the rest of your life tracking every meal you eat and counting calories—and you shouldn’t need to do that. But one of the things that tracking and recording your food and exercise does is give you a concrete, simple way to hold yourself accountable to your goals. As you make the shift into maintenance mode, it’s important to find other ways to hold yourself accountable to maintaining your weight.

The Solution: One of the very best ways to help yourself keep the weight off is to do what you can to help others who are trying to lose weight and improve their lifestyles. Tell your success story. Share tips on how you dealt with a particular problem. Or simply offer encouragement and support. Every time you do these things, you remind yourself of how things were for you before you reached your goal and how important it is for you to maintain what you’ve accomplished. Every time you preach the value of sticking to it when the going gets tough, you’re giving yourself another reason to practice what you preach when you have hard times yourself.

Key Attitude: Maintaining your weight loss can take just as much support as losing the weight, and the best way to get what you need is to give. Stay active (or get active) on the Message Boards, SparkTeams, and blogs here at SparkPeople.

Strategy 3: Broaden Your Perspective

The Problem: Concern for your own health and appearance is a great motivator for weight loss and healthy eating, especially when being overweight is causing you real emotional or physical problems. But sometimes, taking the weight off can also take the urgency out of this motivation, making it much harder to resist all the daily temptations to go back to old habits.

The Solution: Make your own diet a positive force in the world around you. Get to know where your food comes from, and the social, environmental, and nutritional consequences of how it is produced, marketed, and delivered. Find out, for example, if there’s a local farmer’s market in your area, and do as much of your shopping there as you can. Most of the products you’ll find there will be grown without pesticides and with environmentally-friendly methods. Plus the money you spend will stay in your local community. Another example is to look for pastured (grass fed) and humanely-raised animal products. Why? For one, the amount of grain it takes to produce just one pound of grain-fed beef or chicken would feed a lot more people than a single pound of meat would. Plus pastured animals are often higher in omega 3’s, leaner, and lower in saturated fat (making them better for you too). These are just a couple examples of how you can continue making meaningful choices when you sit down to dinner. For more ideas, check out these websites:

www.EatWild.org
www.FoodDownTheRoad.ca
www.LocalHarvest.org
www.SlowFoodUSA.org

Key Attitude: When you make food choices that line up with your own social, environmental, and nutritional values, it can be a lot easier to stick to your eating goals.

Putting It All Together

The key to successful maintenance is to know that reaching your goal weight is not the end—it’s simply proof that you have the know-how, spirit, and skills to tackle difficult challenges and succeed. One good way to carry all this with you into whatever new challenges you want to tackle (including the challenge of maintaining your weight) is to do a little inventory of what you’ve learned and the skills you’ve developed while losing weight. My article, The Three S’s of Success may help you identify some of the skills and attitudes you’ve developed, so read through it, sit down and make an inventory of your own. Think about how you can apply your knowledge and skills to maintain your weight—and to the next big challenge you decide to undertake.

Original Post on SparkPeople.com

Are Your Fitness Goals Realistic?

Forget Failure. Set Yourself Up for Success!
  — By Jennipher Walters, Certified Personal Trainer & Fitness Instructor
In life, we’re told to dream big. Reach for the stars. Go for the gold. While I think everyone would agree that having big aspirations is admirable not to mention inspiring, you should take a more calculated approach when setting fitness goals. It may seem counterintuitive to start small, but remember that you want to set yourself up for success not burnout or injury.

Think about it. How many times have you or someone you know set a huge goal to lose 50 or more pounds, or exercise for an hour six days a week, only to fall off the wagon a few weeks (or days) later? The truth is that even when people have the best of intentions and the willpower to set out and do something grand, without a plan and a smart goal, they stumble—and are more likely to fail.

When you first set a goal, you’re full of energy and completely motivated, but over time those feelings can wane and your overzealousness can push you to do too much too soon. The fix is to define a progressive set of fitness goals that build on one another to help propel you toward that big dream or aspiration. Breaking a big goal into smaller, realistic goals can help you both mentally and physically. This method can also help you improve your fitness level gradually and safely, which helps to build confidence.

The first step to setting realistic goals is to really think about your goal and write it down.

Then, ask yourself these three questions:

    1. 1. How big is the goal? Is your goal only attainable in three months or more? If so, make a or goals to get you to that long-term goal. Ideally, you should be able to reach the smaller goal in two to six weeks.

 

    1. 2. What does it take to achieve the goal? This question addresses your goal’s frequency. If reaching your goal requires five workouts a week, but you can only get a babysitter two days a week, then you need to scale back your goal. Be realistic about what time you have to devote to the goal and be honest about your fitness level. Building your fitness base takes time, and being smart about increasing it will help you stay injury-free. As a general rule, never increase your weight lifted or your minutes exercised by more than 10 percent in any given week. Slow and steady really does win the race!

 

    3. Can you see yourself reaching the goal? You want a program that you can stick with for the long haul—not just this week. Be completely honest with yourself and ask if you can realistically see yourself doing what it takes to achieve the goal at hand. If you can and it meets the above criteria, then you probably have a goal !

Take a look at these common situations (and fixes) that I’ve encountered as a personal trainer:
<pagebreak>
Unrealistic Goal for a Non-Competitive Exerciser: I want to complete an endurance event in two weeks. Competitive events are an excellent way to stay motivated and a great goal, but many triathlons and running races put a lot of wear and tear on the body, and if you do too much too soon (or without proper form or footwear), you can get injured, which really puts a damper on your dreams and is just plain painful!

Realistic Goal: I will complete a shorter distance endurance event like a 5K or sprint triathlon in three to six months. If you want to begin participating in endurance events, it’s important to start building your fitness base slowly and really listen to your body. If you can walk comfortably for at least 20 minutes and can commit to working out four to five times a week for 20 to 40 minutes, then a 5K training program is a great place to start. A run/walk program is flexible and lets you see results over the course of just a few weeks, which is both exciting and motivational. Plus, if you get into it and find that you really despise running or it makes your knees hurt, you can walk and still reach your goal instead of giving up after the first week. Additionally, the time frame of two months is long enough—and the 5K itself is challenging enough—so reaching the goal is big enough to result in one of the best rewards of all: bragging rights!

Unrealistic Goal for a Sedentary Person: I want to go to the gym every day. There are two main issues with this goal. First, it’s not specific—what activities do you want to do and for how long? After all, just showing up at the gym doesn’t accomplish anything unless you get your body moving. Second, it’s not realistic. I love to work out and even I don’t want to go to the gym every day. Plus, taking a day off here and there helps give your muscles time to repair and rest, and it gives you a break mentally.

Realistic Goal: I will be active for at least 10 minutes each day. While this goal isn’t specific when it comes to the activity, it is specific and realistic with the time constraint. While going to an hourlong Spinning class every day would be impossible, not to mention not very healthy for you (cross-training is important so that no specific groups of muscles get overused), doing something active for 10 minutes a day, whether it’s a walk after work, some push-ups or sit-ups over lunch, or a full session at the gym or with a workout DVD, is very doable. Also, note the addition of “at least” in this goal, which helps to emphasize that 10 minutes is just a minimum. Over time, this goal could progress to have a minimum of 15, then 20, then 30 minutes.

Unrealistic Goal for a Novice Exerciser: I want to do the workout I did in high school. If you used to play a sport competitively when you were younger and are itching to get back into it, beware. Most sports require explosive and powerful movement that can give your body a rude awakening—such as extreme soreness or injury—especially when you try to do something that you haven’t done in years. Even if you were the high school team captain, if you haven’t practiced it in many years, start slowly and be cautious.

Realistic Goal: I will meet with a personal trainer once a week for a month and follow his or her strength routine two times a week. Even if you were MVP of your team back in the day, a lot has changed in sports performance and workouts over the last few years. Instead of going out and doing the same old workout that you remember from high school, take the time to meet with a personal trainer who specializes in your sport or regularly works with athletes. He or she can get you back in the sport saddle with a strength routine that prepares your body for competition and will help you prevent injury. A qualified personal trainer will also help you set other realistic goals once you’ve built your foundation to play. (If you’re not sure how to look for a personal trainer or what else you need to ask, read this.)

Don’t Forget to Reward Yourself
Perhaps the most important component of setting an effective and realistic fitness goal is rewarding yourself when you reach your goals, even the small ones! From buying yourself a new magazine to read, enjoying a long bath, or buying a new pair of workout shorts, the reward should be a time where you compliment yourself for your hard work and revel in your success.

Also, don’t be afraid to tweak a goal as time goes by. Life happens! Remember, the key to setting yourself up for success is to be realistic. Now, start setting those goals!

Original Post on SparkPeople.com

Get Fit Without Leaving the House

Home Gyms are Practical and Affordable
  — By Liz Noelcke, Staff Writer

Imagine a gym you can commute to in seconds. It’s open 24-hours, so you can come and go as you please—on your time. It’s comfortable, and you feel completely at ease when you work out there. Oh, and membership is free. You may be daydreaming, but the perfect gym is a dream that can come true…in your own home.

 

There is no reason that you can’t make a home gym part of your reality. A home gym adds convenience and privacy to your workouts. When you exercise at home, you save time, money, and the rush hour headaches (on the road and in line for the elliptical). Although you might be cautious due to budget and space limitations in your house, building a home gym isn’t as impractical as you might think. After all, gym memberships can occupy a large portion of your budget at several hundred dollars per year.

The Basics

Remember, you want to build a gym based on your own personal needs and fitness level. As you progress, you can add on equipment, so don’t feel that you need to buy everything at one time. Your gym can be as simple or complex as you want.

 

  1. Dumbbells (Free weights): A good set of dumbbells will help you start a strength training routine. There are two basic options when it comes to dumbbells. You can buy single sets based on the weight you want to lift. These are often metal, but can also be covered with a rubber material to keep them from slipping out of your hands. Expect to pay $15-$20 for a pair of 5-pound weights. Prices will increase as the weight goes up. A second option is to buy an adjustable dumbbell set. This includes two handles (or bars) for you to grip, as well as plates of varying weights that can be attached. Depending how many plates you get, expect to pay at least $60 for a set like this. Fancier versions can run up to $350 or more.
  2. Resistance Bands: Bands are great because they are compact, portable, and allow for a wide range of motion. Resistance bands come in three or four different levels of resistance and usually run around $15 for one band. These can be used pretty much any way that a dumbbell can be used, so if you are in a budget crunch, these might be the better option. To learn more, read No Need to Stretch the Truth About Resistance Bands.
  3. Stability (Swiss, Balance, Physio) Ball: An exercise ball, no matter which name it goes by, is simply an oversized inflatable ball. These are extremely versatile, and not just for core workouts anymore. You can sit, lie, and balance on them during almost any exercise, rather than investing in an exercise bench. Plus, this unstable surface targets your core muscles and improves your balance and coordination. The balls come in different sizes (based on your height and weight), and a rainbow of colors, and cost around $25 apiece. Read Exercising with a Stability Ball to learn more.
  4. Exercise Mat: Place a good exercise mat on the floor to stretch comfortably, cushion your body during floor exercises (from crunches to modified pushups), and prevent slipping while lifting weights. Consider this a must if you do a lot of Pilates or yoga. Plus, they can roll up out of the way for storage if your space is limited. For about $20 you can get a sticky mat (for Pilates and yoga), which is thin—but better than a hard floor. The price goes up for larger and thicker mats.

Once you’ve purchased some or all of the basics, you’re well on your way! <pagebreak>

 

The Extras

  1. Cardio Machines: Next, consider a piece of aerobic workout equipment. Whichever you choose, make sure your machine has different resistance levels to allow for workout variety and challenge as you progress. Also available, for a price of course, are computer systems with timers, calorie counters, RPMs (for bikes, ellipticals) and even heart rate monitors. Before you make a major purchase, try one for several minutes in a store. While it might be tempting to buy the cheapest available, you’ll want to make sure you are investing in a solid piece of equipment that you are comfortable on.
    • If you like running and walking, a treadmill is a good option. Keep in mind, however, that running outside is free, while these machines are costly—at least $600 for the most basic model.
    • Stationary bikes or elliptical machines are more affordable alternatives.   Elliptical machines, which cost at least $400, are low-impact (and fun!). Bikes come in two different varieties, recumbent (like sitting in a chair with a backrest) and upright (standard seat) and also cost at least $400 for a decent model.
    • Of course, a jump rope is a cheap piece of equipment that can also get your heart pumping!
  2. Workout Bench: Space and budget allowing, a good workout bench is a solid investment. Look for one that adjusts at varying angles (incline, flat, and decline). Many benches start at around $90. Make sure to purchase a sturdy bench (test it out for length, width, weight limit) to support you effectively while you work out.
  3. Universal Gym Machine: Finally, the king of home workout equipment is an all-in-one weight machine. You’ve probably seen them on infomercials, but are also available for purchases in many stores. They will run at least $800, but are often well over $1,000. These machines include a bench and various pulleys and weights, which combine all the machines in a commercial gym into one compact unit, allowing you to do squats, presses, curls, and pull downs.

All of these pieces of gym equipment are available in a variety of places—sporting goods stores, department stores, websites, and by catalog. For a great deal, consider purchasing gently used equipment. Look through the classified ads, auction websites, and even garage sales. If possible, test it out before you buy.

<pagebreak>

Set Up

Start small. A few basic pieces of equipment are all you need. You don’t need 5 different weight machines to have a great gym, although if your budget and house allows it, consider yourself blessed. Keeping just the basics on hand will help make healthy lifestyle goals much more attainable.

 

Make sure you have enough space for your gym. Choose a room with a high ceiling (so you won’t hit your hands while working out), and a sturdy, clean floor (to prevent slipping). Finally, add some good lighting, ventilation (possibly with a fan), and a stereo to crank your favorite tunes, and you’ve created a gym that you can really enjoy!

Original Post on SparkPeople.com

10 Smart Ways to Burn More Calories

Crank Up Your Cardio!
  — By Jennipher Walters, Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor
We all like to get more done in less time, right? We shop from our computers to forgo waiting in lines at department stores and microwave our foods to cut down on cooking time. Some of us even take multitasking to new levels by checking our email while watching television and sipping our morning coffee. And it makes sense. After all, what do we all want more of when it comes down to it? Time. Although spending time working out is a great way to beat stress and get healthy, most of us are usually trying to squeeze in workouts during our already hectic schedules. And when you are able to get to the gym or find that 30 minutes for cardio, don’t you want to make the most of every minute?

No matter what type of cardio you do, you can burn more calories in the same amount of time with just a few modifications to your current workout.

10 Ways to Crank Up Your Cardio
1. Do cardio first. Over the years, many clients have asked me, “Should I do weights or cardio first?” If you want to up your calorie burn (and who doesn’t?), research shows that you should do cardio first. Published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, one study examined how many calories exercisers burned doing one of four workout combinations: running only, strength training only, running followed by strength training, and strength training followed by running. Researchers found that while all exercisers experienced a strong “after burn” (a higher rate of calories burned when at rest after exercise) for the two hours after working out, the strength training and run/strength training groups had the highest exercise after burn of all. So what does this mean? Although it’s just one study, the takeaway is that we might burn more calories after working out if we do our cardio first.

2. Try plyometrics. If you consider yourself an intermediate or advanced exerciser and are looking for ways to burn more calories, plyometrics are the way to go. These high-intensity, explosive exercises such as jumping and hopping, get your heart rate up quickly, which equals a higher rate of calories burned. Additionally, these athletic movements really target your fast-twitch muscles, coordination and agility, so you’re training your body in an entirely new and challenging way. And challenging workouts almost always equal results—and more calories burned. Because using proper form is essential when doing these advanced high-impact moves, consider learning the ropes first!

3. Use your whole body. Most cardio exercises focus on the lower body (biking, walking, elliptical, stair climbing, etc.), but if you want to burn more calories, one easy tip is to incorporate your upper body. Pump those arms hard and high when running and walking, make sure to grab the elliptical with moving handles, and even consider adding a more full-body exercise to your cardio mix such as the rowing machine. The more muscles you move, the more calories you will burn!

4. Get intense. If you’re serious about wanting to burn more calories, then it’s time to up the intensity. Bump up your incline and resistance if you’re on a piece of gym equipment, or walk a hillier route than usual if you exercise outdoors. To increase the burn, you need to get out of your cardio comfort zone. And when you do, the benefits can be big. In a study published in the Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports Medicine in 2002, researchers found that intense exercise resulted in the greatest fat burn (compared to light intensity exercise and no exercise at all) during the hours following a workout—and that fat burn continued for 11 hours.

5. Listen to fast music. If you seem to have trouble pumping yourself up for a workout, try popping in those earbuds! In a small study by the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences, scientists found that when male college students pedaled stationary bicycles while listening to fast popular music, the subjects pedaled faster and elevated their heart rates more. The students even perceived their workouts to be less intense than they actually were. And when the music slowed down? The opposite happened. So listen to music you love and get your cardio on!

6. Use proper form. Do you hold on to the handles when you run on the treadmill? Maybe you lean on the handlebars during spinning class or hunch over while walking on the Stairmaster. If you use these machines, you need to use proper form in order to burn more calories. As a general rule, keep your arms moving freely and naturally, keep your abs in, your weight centered over your hips, and your shoulders down and back. Not only does proper form keep you from getting injured, it also ups your calorie burn since your core is engaged. Bonus!

7. Speed up. The simplest advice of all for upping your calorie burn? Increase your pace even if it’s just a little bit. The tortoise may have won the race, but the hare burned more calories!

8. Add some intervals. By varying your intensity through different intervals (think one minute running then two minutes walking), you can actually improve your fitness more quickly than by steady state cardio, and you can burn more calories. The bonus? Time seems to fly when you add interval training!

9. Focus. We talk a lot about the importance of the mind-body connection and fitness. Although cardio isn’t as Zen-like as yoga, cardio can still benefit from a strong sense of awareness. The next time you do cardio, focus on the movements and breathing while squeezing those muscles. By engaging your mind, you can actually better engage your muscles, which allows you to complete the exercise more easily and still burn more calories!

10. Don’t work too hard. This might sound counter-intuitive but hear me out. We all know how important intensity is to any workout plan, but also think about how your workout affects the rest of your day. If you spend an hour at the gym sprinting and doing lunges, you might burn 600 calories in a short amount of time, but if that intense workout completely wipes you out for the rest of the day, the extra calorie burn might not be worth it. Be honest with yourself and definitely push yourself, but not so hard that it gets in the way of other daily activities. After all, the goal is to improve your quality of life.

Follow these tips and you will burn more fat and increase your fitness level in no time!

Source List:
Burning Calories!, from HealthNewsDigest.com
Study: Effects of music tempo upon submaximal cycling performance, from Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences
The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Volume 25 – Issue 2

Original Post on SparkPeople.com

5 Ways to Love Your Body

Let Cupid Take Aim at You
  — By Carrie Myers Smith, Health & Exercise Expert

While many of us have an easy time showering other people with love, we find that Cupid has yet to hit us with the “body love” arrow. Don’t wait for Cupid! Begin today to start appreciating, accepting and yes, even loving your body.

Stop picking yourself apart
Let’s face it: No matter how close-to-perfection body you have (and just what is the perfect body anyway?), chances are, there is something you would change about it if you could. Even celebrities and models who have been stamped with the media’s “perfect body” rating have parts they dislike – their feet, their hands, their ears – and they don’t necessarily have high self-esteem either! Rather than pick your body apart, look at your body as a whole (and read the next point…)

Consider the marvelous functions of your body
There are millions of microscopic functions that go on in our bodies every day, and you don’t even have to think about them. They just happen! Unfortunately, it often takes a crisis or a tragedy, such as a brush with death, a go-around with a disease, or a debilitating accident for some women to realize that their bodies weren’t so bad to begin with and that their body hang-ups were a big waste of time. Don’t let that be the case with you! How much time are you spending each day worrying about your weight, your body shape, the size of your rear? What could you be doing during that time? Maybe you’re supposed to be the first female president, but you’ll never know because you’re too busy obsessing about your abs!

Get real
Did you know that most of the images you see on television, movies and magazines aren’t even real? A model for a magazine cover goes through hours of professional hair and make-up, has professional stylists, top photographers who know her “best side,” professional lighting, and that’s all before the chosen photo goes to a company where they remove stray hairs, wrinkles, blemishes and “extra” curves. Sometimes Model A’s head is stuck onto Model B’s body. What you see is totally made up!

And it’s not just fashion magazines that are creating a fantasy. Most of today’s “fitness” magazines are following suit. On top of airbrushing and computer generating their models, fitness magazines now need to audition their models to be sure they’re strong enough to just do basic exercises! Muscles are even airbrushed in! It’s time to get real! Find real role models who emanate the qualities you desire. Educate yourself about what really goes on “behind the scenes.” And realize that no one naturally “glows” the way those models in the magazines do!

Change your inner dialogue
It’s been said that we teach others how to treat us. If we believe that, the message that comes across to others is that we are not worth being liked, loved, or treated with respect. Most of it comes from what we’re not even saying. Choose to believe that you are worth taking care of and that you have the right to be respected and treated with dignity – and act like it!

Take care of your body
Diets, pills, quick-fixes, binging, not exercising, over-exercising, all these things disrespect one of the greatest gifts you have been given – your body! You only get one per lifetime, so give it the respect it deserves. You will not only feel better, but you just might become someone else’s role model!

Original Post on SparkPeople.com