4 Must-Do Strength Training Exercises for Runners

Build Strength and Power, Decrease Injury Risk
  — By Nicole Nichols, Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor
Runners are a breed all their own. I can say that because I am a runner. We can be quirky about our race rituals and to outsiders looking in, our lives seem to revolve around a “boring” sport of putting one foot in front of the other. But as any runner knows, it’s not really that simple (or boring!), to try to fit in fartleks, quarters, repeats and speed work along with your hills, distance runs, and race days. Mile after mile, we pound the pavement—rain, cold or sun—to reach our goals.

No matter what type of runner you are, or how many races you have under your belt, we all share one common goal: to be better runners. We want to get faster, run farther, be more efficient, and stay injury-free. But if we hope to reach this goal, we must do more than just run. It is important to incorporate other exercises into our workout plans, as well as some rest, if we hope to reach our full running potential.

Strength training is an important form of exercise for serious athletes and recreational exercisers alike, because not only does it help you build lean muscles that power your body through tough runs, but it also fires up your metabolism to help with weight-control and strengthens your bones against age-related deterioration. A solid strength training program can help runners achieve a more balanced musculature for greater power and a lower injury risk.

Here are some of the moves every runner should include as part of their strength-training program, along with an explanation of why each exercise is so important for runners.

Squats
Squats are the single most effective exercise that you can perform to strengthen the entire lower body. Squats target the quadriceps, hamstrings, hips, hip flexors, and glutes, and even activate your core. When done properly, they can also help strengthen your knees and prevent knee pain and injury. Here are a few ways to do them, based on your fitness level and equipment available:

Beginner Exercises Advanced Exercises

Lateral Movements
Runners seem to only move in one direction: forward! That’s why it’s important to train your body through other planes of movement, like backwards or sideways (laterally). Lateral moves help you train often-neglected muscles like the abductors (outer thigh) and adductors (inner thigh), helping increase stability at your joints, improve your balance, and prevent injury. Here are some examples you can try.

Beginner Advanced

Pushups
Runners often neglect their upper bodies when training, but a strong upper body is essential for overall fitness and powerful runs. Pushups help strengthen the arms, chest, and shoulders, as well as the core, in one move, and you can do them anywhere, too. Various types of bench presses or chest presses also work many of the same muscles, but there are plenty of ways to continue challenging yourself with pushups (see options below).

Beginner Advanced

Plank
As a runner, you are only as strong as your core is—your abs, obliques, lower back and hips. These muscles, which wrap around your torso like a corset, help you balance and support every step you take. Strong abdominals and lower back muscles also help you run with better posture, which aids in breathing. The plank is one of the best ways you can train every muscle in your core. Here are a few variations to try.

Beginner Advanced

Now you know the key muscles and movements that runners should include in their strength training programs. When you’re short on time, try just one exercise from each of the categories above, or include a few from each section into your current strength-training workouts. To take the guesswork out of your workouts, try one of the full-body strength training plans listed below.

Strength Training Workouts for Runners
Here are three workouts I created exclusively with runners in mind. These should offer plenty of variety while also helping you strengthen the muscles that are most important for runners. Try two sets of 12-15 repetitions for each exercise, and follow your workout of choice twice a week for best results. If you’re new to strength training, start with the beginner’s program and master the moves without added weights first, and gradually go up from there. And don’t forget the warm up, cool down, and stretches!

Beginner Strength Training Workout for Runners
Intermediate Workout for Runners
Gym Workout for Runners

Strong muscles and joints are less prone to strains, pulls, and other damage, so consider strength training a part of your injury-prevention plan as much as a performance-enhancing one!

This article has been reviewed and approved by SparkPeople Coach Jen Mueller, Certified Personal Trainer.

Original Post On Spark People.com

The Best Exercises for Muscles Most People Neglect

  — By Melissa Rudy, Staff Writer
Did you know there are more than 650 muscles in the human body? Yet, when it comes to strength training, most people focus on only a small fraction of the whole. Biceps, triceps, glutes, quads, abdominals, maybe some shoulders or hamstrings—these “A-list” muscles tend to get most of the love in the weight room, while other, less prominent parts of the body fly under the radar.

While it might seem smart to spend more time on the most visible areas—who doesn’t want perfect triceps when tank top season rolls around?—fitness trainer and physician Alex Robles with The White Coat Trainer says it’s important to train all of the major muscle groups evenly.

“Unfortunately, many trainees tend to focus a lot of time and energy on a handful of exercises, and thus, they wind up training the same muscles over and over,” Robles says. “This can lead to neglect of other critical muscles, resulting in muscular imbalances, pain and injury.”

To bring these neglected zones out of early retirement and into the workout rotation, start with these nine zones that experts say are most commonly ignored by their clients when strength training.

Neglected Muscle: Lower Posterior Chain

The posterior chain is comprised of the lower back, glutes, hamstrings and calves.

Fitness expert and personal trainer Julie Lohre works with many clients who suffer from back and neck pain, commonly caused by spending hours in front of a computer or by poor overall posture. “Most often, the problem lies not just in the upper back or shoulder muscles, but in the lower posterior chain,” says Lohre. “While it’s great to strengthen the smaller upper back muscles, if you neglect the bottom half of your anatomy, you have only addressed half the problem.”

Lohre recommends incorporating these exercises to help build and strengthen the lower posterior chain:

Hand Release Pushups

“This is one of my very favorite exercises, not just for the erector spinae, but for the whole body,” says Lohre.

  • Begin in a strong plank position, forming a straight line from the ankles to the shoulders with your shoulders directly over your hands.
  • While keeping your elbows tucked in at your sides, slowly lower down until your chest and thighs touch the ground.
  • Lift up slightly through your lower back, bringing your hands off the ground and your chest up. Focus on using those erector muscles as the source of the lift and keep your scapula retracted.
  • Repeat for 10 to 12 reps.


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Plie Wall Squats

Lohre loves that this combination exercise activates the entire lower posterior chain, benefiting the glutes, hamstrings and calves while still supporting the lower back.

  • Using a large stability ball, head to a sturdy wall and place the ball low at your glutes/lower back. Stand with feet wider than shoulder width and turn your toes outward.
  • While keeping the lower back pressed into the ball, slowly lower down until your thighs are parallel with the ground.
  • Press through your heels and maintain good posture with the ball supporting your back as you rise back up to the starting position.
  • Repeat for 10 to 12 reps.

Lower Half Supermans

This exercise activates the erector spinae muscles, along with the glutes and hamstrings, to support a strong lower posterior chain. “While a full Superman exercise can be a good option, I prefer the lower half Superman here, as it allows you to focus on bringing the legs up as high as possible and as one unit without balancing through the upper body,” says Lohre.

  • Begin lying flat on the floor, face down with your hands at your sides.
  • Through engagement of the lower back muscles and glutes, lift from your feet through your thighs up off the ground.
  • Squeeze your legs together and lift as if there is a string attached to your ankles and they are being pulled up toward the ceiling. Hold this position for five to 10 seconds before returning back to the ground.
  • Repeat for 10 to 12 reps.

Neglected Muscle: Obliques

Everyone would like to have a nice six-pack, but they often forget that their abdomen is composed of multiple muscle groups. “The oblique is an important muscle that helps stabilize the spine and aids in the prevention of lower back pain,” says Robles. He recommends training the obliques using isometric exercises rather than moves that require excessive rotation of the spine, as those can lead to injury.

Waiter Carry (video)

  • Pick up a dumbbell, lift it up to your shoulder and then carefully hoist it overhead until your arm is straight with a soft bend in your elbow.
  • Keeping your arm up, focus on engaging your oblique as you walk in a straight line across the room.
  • At the end of the room, turn around and switch the weight to the other hand. Walk back to the starting point.
  • Repeat eight to 12 times.
  •  If you have shoulder issues, you can modify with the Suitcase Carry, where the weight is held down at your side while walking.<pagebreak>

Neglected Muscle: Hamstrings

As Robles points out, most of the neglected muscles are on the posterior side of the body, which can’t easily be seen when looking in a mirror. The quads tend to get more attention than the rear-facing hamstrings, which can result in muscular imbalances that cause knee pain and discomfort. Robles recommends doing hamstring-focused exercises at least once a week.

Romanian Deadlift (video)

  • Start in a standing position holding a barbell or two dumbbells.
  • Bend down toward the floor from the waist, keeping the legs as straight as possible. This removes the quadriceps from the exercise, forcing the hamstrings to do most of the work.
  • Return to standing and repeat eight to 12 times.

Neglected Muscle: Gluteus Medius

One of the three muscles that makes up the glutes, the gluteus medius is responsible for hip abduction, which keeps the hips externally rotated. “For those of us who spend the day with our legs crossed, our hip adductors can often become very strong, weakening our gluteus medius,” explains personal trainer Sarah Harradine. “If your knees cave in when doing a squat, then it’s this muscle that needs to work harder.”

The movements that work this muscle are highly targeted and usually involve lateral movement.

Banded Crab Walk (video)

  •  Place a small mini band over or under your knees.
  • Go into a quarter squat.
  • Take eight steps to the left, then eight steps to the right, staying low in your squat throughout the movement.
  • Repeat five times.

Side-Lying Clams (video)

  • Lay on your side with knees bent at 90 degrees and the hips stacked over each other.
  • Open the top knee until you feel the gluteus medius work. This won’t be very far if you’re doing it right, so if you have to open your knee wide, ask a friend to check that your hips are properly stacked.
  • Perform eight reps on each side for five sets.

Cable Side Raise (video)

This is a little more difficult, as it also challenges your balance. If you’re not holding onto anything, it will work the standing leg, too.

  • Using the foot attachment of the functional trainer/cable machine in the gym, add a small amount of resistance.
  • Stand to the side and place your outside foot in an ankle strap.
  • With soft knees, lift your outside leg laterally, to the point where you feel the gluteus medius working.
  • Perform up to five reps, or for as long as you can maintain excellent balance and form.<pagebreak>

Neglected Muscle: Serratus Anterior

Wrapping around the side of the rib cage, the serratus anterior is often called the “boxer’s muscle” because it allows you to extend your reach beyond just the length of your arm. When you reach for a faraway object and feel your entire shoulder move forward, that’s the serratus anterior working. A strong serratus anterior also helps you maintain good posture.

“These guys are often neglected because we don’t perform pushing exercises to the full range of our shoulder,” says Rui Li, owner and trainer at New York Personal Training. She recommends trying this exercise to show the serratus anterior some love.

Planks with Shoulder Protraction

  • Get into a plank position (either high on your hands or low on your forearms), with your body in a straight line and your weight on your toes.
  • Focus on pulling your shoulder blades (scapulas) apart and your spine up toward the sky, then pull them back together. This will activate the serratus anterior.
  • Continue to pull them apart and back together for eight to 12 reps.

Neglected Muscle: Rhomboids

Another muscle group that is often neglected are the muscles of the upper back, primarily the rhomboids. “Trainees generally focus on vertical pulling exercises, such as pull-ups and lat pull-downs, and forget to train horizontal pulling exercises,” says Robles. “This can lead to an imbalance between the lats and the rhomboids, which can also contribute to shoulder pain.” Robles recommends targeting the rhomboids at least twice a week.

Bent-Over Rows (video)

  • Start from a standing position holding a barbell or dumbbells in front of you, with your palms facing up.
  • Hinge forward at the hips and bend your knees slightly, with your arms extended in front of you. This is your position.
  • Pull the bar or weights up toward your waist, keeping your elbows close to your sides and pointed behind you.
  • Release the weight back and repeat for eight to 12 reps.<pagebreak>

Neglected Muscle: Traps and Upper Back

When it comes to upper body workouts, Exercise.com trainer Tyler Spraul says most people tend to focus primarily on “pushing” exercises—push-ups, bench presses, overhead presses and dips—because they develop the muscles that are easiest to see.

“Since your back is not something you usually check in the mirror, you might only focus on back exercises once a week, leaving you significantly weaker on your back side compared to your front side,” says Spraul.

To work the often-neglected trapezius muscles—the large triangular muscles that span the upper back, shoulders and neck—he recommends trying these two exercises.

Resistance Band Pull-Apart (video)

  • Grab a resistance band with both hands and raise your arms straight out in front of you, with palms down toward the floor and fists touching.
  • In a slow and controlled motion, pull the band apart until your arms are stretched out to your sides in a “T” shape.
  • Reverse the motion back to the start, which completes one rep.
  • Try to keep your ribs tucked down and tight from start to finish.
  • Repeat for eight to 12 reps.

Face Pull (video)

  • Set up with a resistance band or rope attached to a cable machine set to be level with your head or slightly higher.
  • Grab the rope or band with both hands and pull it back toward your face until it looks like you’re flexing both biceps.
  • Try to pinch your shoulder blades together on your back at the end range, then return to the start to complete one rep.
  • Repeat for eight to 12 reps.

Neglected Muscle: Calves

Personal trainer James Shapiro with Primal Power Fitness sees a lot of clients neglect their calf muscles, assuming they’re not essential. “Imagine if you were a car. Would you want to drive your Ferrari engine knowing your wheels and tires are bad? That’s the way you should think of your calves,” he says.

Standing Calf Raise

  • Stand facing a wall or the back of a chair and lightly hold onto it with your fingertips to aid balance. Legs should be shoulder-width apart and straight. Do not lock knees.
  • Raise up on the balls of the feet and hold for two seconds.
  • Return to starting position and repeat for eight to 12 reps.
  • Try not to let your heels touch or rest on the ground between repetitions.
  • As you progress, use one foot at a time.


Single-Leg Weight Transfer

  • Hold a light kettlebell in one hand.
  • Choose a leg to work on and keep the other foot slightly off the ground.
  • Try to transfer the weight gently from one hand to the other without losing balance. Pass it back and forth from eight to 12 times.
  • Switch your weight to the other foot and repeat the exercise sequence.


<pagebreak>

Neglected Muscle: Rotator Cuff

Out of the hundreds of clients that fitness trainer Ross Steiner works with, he says the most commonly neglected muscle group is the rotator cuff, which is the group of muscles and tendons around the shoulder joint.

“While training shoulders is a common practice among gym goers, some of the most common exercises can eventually lead to shoulder injury,” he says. In his practice, Steiner uses these shoulder stability exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff and help prevent injury.

External Shoulder Rotation with Resistance Tubing (video)

“This drill executes concentric, eccentric and isometric activation throughout a full range of motion,” says Steiner.

  • Secure the band to a column or any sturdy bar at chest height. Stand parallel to the band, holding the band with your outside arm.
  • With good posture (shoulders back, core engaged), make sure to keep your elbow at your side.
  • Think about a pin holding your elbow at your rib cage while you rotate your arm out—the starting position is hand at your belly button and ending position is hand outside of your waist.
  • Make sure not to use your traps to accomplish this motion and try to keep the shoulders from creeping toward the ears.
  • Repeat for eight to 12 reps.

Bear Crawl (video)

“Bear crawls are an excellent drill that focuses not only on hip mobility and core stability, but also shoulder stability,” Steiner notes. “We focus on a multi-directional approach incorporating forward, backward and lateral crawls into our warm-ups.”

  • Start on your hands and knees, with your hands right under shoulders, knees under hips and toes tucked under.
  • While keeping your spine in a neutral position, lift your knees from the ground an inch and start “crawling” forward, backward or sideways with the opposite arm and leg.
  • Keep your core and shoulders engaged while you move forward eight to 12 “steps.”

Original Post on SparkPeople.com

Seated Stretching Routine

7 Stretches that Reduce Stiffness and Tension
  — By Nicole Nichols, Fitness Instructor
When you spend a lot of time sitting, especially at a desk or computer, it’s important to take stretch breaks. A couple of breaks each day will help you stay alert and keep stiffness at bay. This set of stretches is perfect for people who are already sitting or those who prefer to stay seated for balance reasons. Make sure the chair you are using is sturdy. Remember never to stretch to the point of pain. For more stretching tips and guidelines, refer to our Reference Guide to Stretching.

Hold each stretch listed for 15-30 seconds, repeating two or three times, depending on how you feel. For detailed instructions and larger photos, click on the name of each stretch. Please note that while some of these stretches depict various body positions, you can perform these upper body stretches while sitting in a chair.

Neck Stretch
Sit or stand with shoulders relaxed, back straight. Bring your left ear toward your left shoulder and hold. Roll your head toward the ground and bring your chin to your chest. Hold and finally, roll your head to the right and bring that ear to your right shoulder. Inhale and exhale in a slow and controlled manner.

Chest and Biceps Stretch
Stand tall or sit upright (not pictured). Interlace your fingers behind your back and straighten your arms. With arms straight, lift arms up behind you while keeping your back straight and your shoulders down. Keep the shoulders relaxed away from the ears.

Triceps Stretch
Stand tall or sit upright (not pictured). Place your left elbow in your right hand. Reach your left arm overhead, placing palm on the center of your back and supporting the elbow in your right hand. Reach your fingertips down your spine. Keep the shoulders relaxed away from the ears. Repeat with opposite arm.

Shoulder Stretch
Stand tall or sit upright (not pictured). Bring your left arm across your chest, holding it below the elbow with your opposite. Keep the shoulders relaxed away from the ears. Breathe deeply and hold. Repeat on opposite side.

Wrist and Biceps Stretch
Stand tall or sit upright (not pictured). Extend left arm in front of you, palm facing outward and fingertips pointing downward. Use your right hand to apply light pressure to the hand, as if pulling your fingertips toward your elbow. Keep the shoulders relaxed away from the ears. Breathe deeply and hold. Repeat on opposite side.

Wrist and Forearm Stretch
Stand tall or sit upright (not pictured). Extend left arm in front of you, palm facing outward and fingertips pointing upward. Use your right hand to apply light pressure to the hand, as if pulling your fingertips toward your shoulder. Keep the shoulders relaxed away from the ears. Breathe deeply and hold. Repeat on opposite side.

Torso Stretch
Clasp hands together and slowly raise them above your head toward the ceiling. Reach as high as you can while inhaling deeply and hold for 20-30 seconds. Bring your hands down slowly while exhaling.

 

Original Post on SparkPeople.com

25 Cheap Foods That Are Good for You!

Original Post on Sparkpeople.com

Get BIG Nutrition for Less Dough
  — By Stepfanie Romine, Staff Writer
Watching your wallet and your waistline can be tricky. Eating right is easy when money is no object, but a trip to the supermarket often yields frustration for healthy eaters on a budget (which is most of us!). Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein are on your list, but they’re so much pricier than Ramen noodles, frozen pizzas and bottles of soda!

Sure, some healthful foods are more expensive, but the same rules of smart shopping apply: Price compare, be flexible about brands and choose larger sizes to save money per serving.

To help make your next shopping trip a breeze, we’ve scanned the shelves and roamed the aisles to find 25 foods that are nutritious and affordable. (Prices from Meijer.com, Cincinnati area, September 2016. These prices will vary according to location.)

Protein

1. Canned salmon: $2.75 for 14.75 ounces (39 cents per serving)
Get your Omega-3’s for less. Salmon is full of these healthy fats, which help lower cholesterol and prevent heart attacks.

2. Chicken breasts: $7.49 per 2.5-pound bag (58 cents per serving)
Easy-to-prepare, chicken is full of lean protein, which helps keep you fuller longer.

3. Natural peanut butter: $1.99 for 16 ounces (14 cents per serving)
Skip the sugary, processed varieties and spread the real stuff on whole-grain bread. Throw a tablespoon in smoothies or yogurt, use it as a dip for carrots and pretzels or mix it with a bit of low-sodium soy sauce, brown sugar and garlic, then thin with water for a quick sauce.

4. Canned beans: $1.00 for 16 ounces (29 cents per serving)
Bulk up soups and stews while getting protein and fiber. Try chickpeas or black beans if you’re not a fan of kidneys or pintos. Drain, rinse and blend with lemon juice, garlic, cumin and a bit of vegetable broth for a quick dip.

5. Eggs: $1.89 for a dozen large (16 cents per serving)
Not just for breakfast, eggs are among the easiest foods to cook. If you’re watching your cholesterol, scramble one egg and two egg whites. Add onion and spinach and you’ve got a great omelet.

6. Dried lentils: $1.49 per pound (11 cents per serving)
Full of protein and fiber, lentils cook in just 15 minutes! Throw some in soups and stews or cook with curry powder for a quick, spicy meal.

7. Almonds: $6.49 for 12 ounces (54 cents per serving)
Get vitamin E, fiber and protein while satisfying a crunchy craving. Nuts are rich in an amino acid that could be linked to heart benefits. Chop a few raw ones and throw them on yogurt.

Fruits

8. Frozen berry medley: $4.19 for 12 ounces ($1.40 per serving)
Throw some in the blender with milk or yogurt for a healthy treat. Frozen berries can be used in oatmeal or drained and baked into muffins and quick breads.

9. Apples: $1.68 per pound (84 cents per serving)
They might not keep the doctor away, but apples are actually full of antioxidants, which help slow the progression of age-related diseases.

10. Bananas: 54 cents per pound (27 cents per serving)
Slice one on your morning yogurt or oatmeal for some added fiber and only 100 calories or so. Snack on a potassium-rich banana to prevent cramps after a workout.

11. Grapes: $1.49 per pound (57 cents per serving)
Freeze grapes for a low-calorie dessert or snack. Grapes–especially the dark purple ones–contain plenty of antioxidants that are known to help heart health.

Vegetables

12. Romaine lettuce or other hearty lettuce: $1.59 per pound (80 cents per serving)
Banish the iceberg and choose sturdy Romaine for your salads. It will give you more fiber and nutrients, plus a satisfying crunch.

13. Carrots: 89 cents per pound (44.5 cents per serving)
Mom was right. Carrots are good for your eyes, thanks to the antioxidants, including beta-carotene, in them. (That’s what makes them orange!) Dip them in hummus (made from canned beans), natural peanut butter or low-fat dressings.

14. Frozen spinach: $1.79 for 16 ounces (36 cents per serving)
Thaw and drain this good-for-your green, then toss it in omelets, soups, stir-fries and pasta sauces. Spinach is full of vitamins A, C and K, plus fiber and even calcium.

15. Canned tomatoes: 89 cents for 14.5 ounces (25 cents per serving)
Choose low-sodium varieties and throw a can in pasta sauces and chili to stretch a meal. Puree a can with a cup of skim milk and season to taste for your own tomato soup. You’ll get a dose of vitamins A, B and C and lycopene, an antioxidant known to prevent cancer.

16. Garlic: 33 cents per head (3 cents per serving)
Ditch the bottled and powdered stuff if you want to reap more of the myriad of health benefits. Pungent and tasty, garlic can help lower cholesterol and blood clots, plus it can have a small effect on high blood pressure. Crush or chop it to release more of the antioxidants.

17. Sweet potatoes: $1.29 cents per pound (96 cents per serving)
Aside from being sweet and delicious, these bright root vegetables are a great source of fiber and antioxidants. Bake, mash or roast them–you’ll forget about those other, paler potatoes.

18. Onions: $1.49 per pound (74 cents per serving)
Like garlic, this smelly vegetable is full of health benefits. Onions have been proven to lower risks for certain cancers, and they add flavor with few calories. Try roasting them to bring out their sweetness and cut their harsh edge. (If you well up while cutting them, store onions in the fridge for a tear-free chop.)

19. Broccoli: $1.29 per bunch (22 cents per serving)
Broccoli is like a toothbrush for your insides. Full of fiber, it will provide you vitamins A and C, plus fiber and a host of antioxidants. Broccoli is a superstar in the nutrition world.

Whole Grains

20. Whole-grain pasta: $1.00 for 1 pound (13 cents per serving)
With a nutty flavor and a subtle brown color, whole-wheat pasta perks up any meal. Start with half regular, half whole-wheat pasta, then gradually add more wheat pasta for a burst of fiber and nutrients.

21. Popcorn kernels: $1.99 for 32 ounces (.066 cents per serving)
Air-popped popcorn has just 30 calories and a trace of fat. Pop a few cups, spritz with an olive oil or butter spray and sprinkle on your favorite seasonings for a guilt-free treat.

22. Brown rice: $1.99 for 14 ounces (22 cents per serving)
Brown rice is a great side dish, but you can also use it to help stretch your ground meat. Mix a cup of cooked rice with 8 ounces of lean ground beef next time you make meatloaf to save 45 calories and five grams of fat (and some money) per serving.

23. Oats: $3.50 for 42 ounces (12 cents per serving)
Oatmeal is a hearty breakfast, but you can also cook sturdy steel-cut oats in chicken broth for a savory side dish. Or, mix oats with ground turkey to stretch your meatballs.

Dairy

24. Quarts of low- or fat-free yogurt: $2.59 for 32 ounces (57 cents per serving)
Buy large containers of plain or vanilla yogurt, then add real fruit. You’ll save money and calories by not buying fancy single-serve yogurts.

25. Gallon of skim milk: $1.99 (13 cents per serving)
It really does a body good. Full of calcium and protein, milk can help stretch a meal. Pair an eight-ounce glass with a piece of fruit or a granola bar for a filling snack.

(Prices from Meijer.com, Cincinnati area, September 2016)

Original Post on Sparkpeople.com

Stop and Chew Your Dinner

The Benefits of Slowing Down & Chewing More
  — By Liza Barnes, Health Educator
In this era of fast-paced everything, even the act of eating a meal has become something we can do on the run. Breakfast comes in bars, lunch can be eaten while speeding down the highway, and dinner is merely an accompaniment to the evening news, squeezed in between other pressing activities. Invariably, when eating plays second string to everything else, every meal becomes “fast food,” as in eaten-very-fast food. If you find yourself wolfing down your meals in a hurry, you’re actually shortchanging yourself in more ways than you might think.

It turns out there’s a reason food tastes so good. You’re supposed to enjoy it—slow down and savor it, not just get it to your stomach as quickly as possible. Chewing your food thoroughly is actually the first step in the complex process of digestion, and if you glaze over it, just chewing the minimum amount of times necessary to get the food down your esophagus, you’re actually compromising this process. And it’s a mistake many people make.

If you try to imagine swallowing a whole piece of pizza, it’s easy to see why chewing is necessary. But besides breaking up your food into manageable chunks, there’s another good reason to put in the effort and chew. The saliva that coats your food as you chew actually contains digestive enzymes that begin to digest your food before you even swallow it. The enzymes alpha-amylase and lingual lipase begin digesting carbohydrates and fats, reducing the amount of work for which the stomach will be responsible. And it isn’t just a nice gesture. If food fragments are swallowed un-chewed, not only do nutrients remain locked in the fragments, but these fragments create an environment in the colon that is conducive to digestive distress—bacterial overgrowth, gas, and bloating. <pagebreak>

For food particles to even leave your stomach though, the “gates” of the stomach, the pyloric sphincter, must open. Conveniently, chewing also aids in this process, signaling this event. And speaking of signals, just seeing your food causes your brain to send signals to the pancreas and stomach to secrete digestive acids and enzymes that are essential to digestion. And the longer your food has contact with your taste and smell receptors—the longer you chew each bite—the stronger these signals become. Strong signals mean more digestive molecules, less indigestion, less acid reflux, and superior nutrient absorption.

Chewing your food thoroughly and eating your meals more slowly has another benefit. It might shrink your waistline—and not just because you’ll have less bloating and indigestion. Eating more slowly gives your body a chance to tell your mind that it’s full, so that you stop eating before you go overboard. In a preliminary study presented at the North American Association for the Study of Obesity’s Annual Scientific Meeting in 2004, study subjects ate less when they were instructed to eat more slowly.

Here are some practical tips for chewing more thoroughly and eating more slowly:

  • Give yourself enough time to eat—at least 20-30 minutes just to eat the meal, plus additional time to prepare it.
  • Don’t eat amidst distractions, like the TV, computer, or while driving.
  • Be fully present while you eat. Notice the smell, temperature, texture, color, and subtle flavor differences of each food you consume.
  • Take smaller portions, taking a break before refilling.
  • Put your fork down after each bite.
  • Eat mindfully, chewing each bite as many times as necessary to pulverize any texture.
  • If you’re eating in a group, be aware of the speed at which others are eating. Challenge yourself to be the last to finish.

Besides all of the physical benefits, perhaps the most pleasant benefit of all is that, if you allow yourself to slow down and chew, you’ll enjoy your food much more.

Original Post on SparkPeople.com

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

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

30 Days of Healthy Snacks

Make Better Choices, One Day at a Time
  — By Melinda Hershey, Health Educator
Do you have trouble coming up with unique and tasty snacks that are also good for you? We’ve got you covered with a new healthy snack for every day of the month! Click here for a printable PDF version to hang on your fridge for instant inspiration.

Original Post on SparkPeople.com