Workout…RECOVER…Repeat

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The older I get, the important recovery time has become for me. In my mid 40’s, my workouts can still be intense but my recovery takes sooooo much longer. Like, A LOT longer! Some days I get out of bed and feel like I’m 100 years old!

20 years ago I could go for a run, grab a bagel and a shower and go about my day. And do it all over again the next day and the next and so on. Not anymore!

As we age it takes our muscles longer to repair themselves from the damage we do during hard training. I hate to admit this but it’s reality.

Besides an extra rest day here and there (and a nap) I use several tools that help me recover a little faster and get me ready to move again.

My hip and hamstring flexibility is abysmal. It always has been, my high school track coach can confirm this. I’ve never been able to reach my toes.

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Just. Can’t. Reach!

So I use a Stretch Out Strap. It helps me stretch, and hold the stretch, with good form without bouncing around and I can use the loops to slowly stretch deeper as I loosen up. I’m never going to be Olympic gymnast-flexible but the Stretch Out Strap helps me be a slightly looser version of the Tin Man.

I have very high arches that get tight and sore sometimes so this Sportline Recovery Massage Stick works great for that. It also works well on tight muscles to work out the kinks.

My Fitness Gear foam roller is my new favorite piece of equipment. I think I love it more than my treadmill! I use it for self massage on my calves, hamstrings, quads and hips after a hard run and for a few minutes at night when I’m winding down. It’s done a lot of good for my tight hip flexors.

These tools along with rest, lots of water and good food help me feel less like I’m 100 and more like I’m 45!

Happy Exercising!

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How to Prep for the Grocery Store

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We’ve all heard the saying that health is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise, right? I don’t know if those numbers are right but I do know that nutrition and exercise work together and it’s difficult to have a well rounded healthy lifestyle if you only focus on one part. That’s not to say you have to do everything at once. For example, you can take a month or two to focus on establishing a good exercise routine before you worry about changing your eating habits. But eventually, to work towards your best health, you’ll need a combination of good exercise and good nutrition.

Once you’re ready to focus on nutrition, what do you do? I had a friend recently tell me she was standing in the grocery store just looking at the shelves and not knowing what to buy. So here are a few tips to get you started if you’re not sure what the heck to do.

  1. Make a list of fruits and vegetables you like. Don’t try to “force” yourself to eat things you don’t like just because you’ve heard they’re healthy. (I’m looking at you, kale!) You’ll be miserable and won’t stick to it. If you don’t like the texture of Lima beans, don’t put them on the list. If peeling oranges seems like a lot of work for a little piece of fruit, then don’t put them on the list. A healthy diet has lots of fruits and vegetables so make that the bulk of your list but you can also add things like nuts, seeds and beans. (Link to webpage)
  2. Find some recipes or prep techniques for the list you just made. Maybe you find some fruit smoothie recipes that look interesting. Or maybe a vegetable side dish recipe or a bean salad that looks good. Having a plan for what you buy will cut down on waste and help you feel better prepared for the week.
  3. Make a list of your favorite meals and think of ways to make them a bit healthier. Do you love toast with your eggs in the morning? Spread it with mashed avocado or natural peanut butter instead of butter. or make it with whole grain bread. Can you add some pureed or shredded vegetables to one of your favorite dishes? Can you cut down on a sauce or some cheese in a recipe? 
  4. Some people do detailed meal planning and prep every week. If this works for you, especially at the beginning, then go for it. Write down all your meals and snacks for the week and build your shopping list from that. Personally, I plan my family’s dinners but breakfast, lunches and snacks are not usually planned out. I try to have a couple of options available. For example, my kids like cereal, fruit, bagels, oatmeal, yogurt and eggs so I have all of those available for them to choose from for breakfast.
  5. Think outside the box. You don’t have to have breakfast food for breakfast or sandwiches for lunch. A salad of baby spinach, chopped apples, walnuts and dried cranberries makes a great breakfast! And I eat oatmeal or cereal at any time of the day.
  6. It can be challenging to stay away from processed food but also keep things convenient. There’s nothing wrong with some prepackaged, processed foods as long as you pay attention to ingredients and as long as you’re not making these items your primary source of nutrition. Fruit and nut granola bars are easy to stash in your bag or desk for an afternoon snack or for your commute home. Whole-grain crackers and cheese slices or pretzels and hummus are good too. Precut vegetables make it easy to throw together a salad for lunch or dinner. Jarred marinara sauce makes an easy topping for chicken or pasta and you can add shredded vegetables to boost its nutritional value. Canned beans or soups or frozen vegetables are good to keep on hand as well.
  7. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. The middle aisles are usually where all the pre-packaged junk food is. Stick to the perishable sections like produce, the meat and dairy case and the bakery department. Pre-cooked chicken or packaged, marinated meats can make putting a meal together quick and easy but stay away from processed meats like lunch meat and hotdogs. Choose low-fat dairy options or non-dairy like almond milk. If you like yogurt, choose brands with real fruit that provide some sweetness instead of added sugar. Whole grain or Ezekiel bread make quick, healthy sandwiches or toast.

Unless you’re an elite athlete training for a competition or under strict doctor’s orders, you don’t need to make yourself crazy over your food. Focus on fruits and vegetables and use common sense.

Happy Exercising!

Home Step Workout

Working out at home allows me a lot of flexibility with my schedule but can sometimes be limiting since I only have a certain amount of equipment. I get creative with things around the house, such as a step or fireplace hearth. This is a simple but very effective workout. It left we wiped out with my legs feeling like Jell-O!

Make sure you have a sturdy step and that you plant your feet solidly on the step when you’re working out.

1 minute of walking step-ups.

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1 minute of running step-ups.

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30 reps of alternating lunges.

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30 reps of angled push-ups.

 

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Another 1 minute of running step-ups.

30 reps of side squats. Switch sides halfway through.

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30 reps of tricep dips.

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Another 1 minute of running step-ups.

Another 1 minute of walking step-ups.

I repeat this circuit 2-3 times depending on how much time I have and how I feel.

Happy Exercising!

 

 

Last Minute Valentine Gifts for Your Fit Significant Other

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Yes, I know Valentine’s Day is in two days but, if you need a last minute gift idea, here are a few for the fit-minded person in your life. Or if you just want to treat yourself!

  1. Edible Arrangements. Flowers and chocolates are so overrated but a fresh fruit arrangement is unique and a bit healthier than that heart-shaped box of candy!
  2. Beeline Bike Compass. This little device is so simple to use. Just clip it to your bike and follow the arrow! It makes your trip safer by being less distracting then trying to follow a map on your phone. It has two different modes depending on how you want to use it. It also has a built-in clock, speedometer and odometer to track the stats of your ride.
  3. Soundsport Free Wireless Headphones by Bose. For a truly wireless workout experience, these in-ear headphones are perfect. You can keep your phone in your pocket or strapped to your arm or in the cup holder of the stair climber. It doesn’t matter because there are no wires to organize or move out of the way. These headphones will keep the beat no matter what type of workout your loved one is doing.
  4. Simple Green Smoothies. This book is the perfect gift for anyone who likes making their own healthy smoothies. Or for someone who wants to make their own but isn’t sure where or how to start. The book includes a wide variety of recipes, including kid-friendly ones (always a plus!) and information on useful equipment, shopping lists and much more.

Happy Exercising!

Restaurant and Party Tips

The month of February for me includes several close family members birthdays so it got me thinking about eating out and attending parties. I thought these tips might be helpful for you guys as well!

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  1. Check the menu in advance. Many restaurants now list their menus, including ingredients and nutrition information, online. Having a good idea of what you want before you go makes things less stressful. Of course, you might not be able to get an advance peak at the menu for a party, especially if its pot luck but if you know the  host very well you could ask a few strategic questions.
  2. If you are attending a pot luck party, make sure your contribution is something that fits with your nutrition plan and something you like. Then you know there will be at lease one thing for you!
  3. Think about your drinks. Certainly indulge in a good glass of wine or a fancy drink if its a celebration but make sure you drink some water too. You want to be able to enjoy the great food so don’t fill up on liquid calories.
  4. Get your veggies. Start your restaurant meal with a salad and if you can choose the sides for your meal, make sure to pick a vegetable, and no, french fries don’t count! If you’re at a party, hit the vegetable tray first.
  5. Enjoy yourself! This is the most important tip. There are lots of additional little tips I could tell you, like…dressing on the side, have the server remove the bread, packs doggie bag right away, blah, blah, blah…but honestly, if you’re at a party or out to dinner, just relax and enjoy yourself. One meal is not going to make or break your overall fitness plan. One caveat: If you eat out A LOT then don’t celebrate every time!

Happy Exercising!

5 Steps to a Plant Based Diet

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Step 1: Setting Yourself Up for Change.

Changing your habits isn’t about deprivation or will power or punishing yourself. It’s about having a plan. The first step to a plant-based diet is to figure out your “why”. What are your reasons for wanting to eat a plant-based diet? Health reasons? Environmental reasons? Ethical reasons? A combination? Whatever your reasons are, they will help shape your journey. Having an idea of your end-goal can also help. Your goals could change along the journey but knowing if you intend to go fully plant-based or just reduce the amount of animal products you consume each week can help you plan.

Your first step is to answer these questions for yourself. Write down your answers if that helps but give them some serious thought.

1. Why have you decided to adopt a plant based diet? What do you hope you will gain from it?
2. Is everyone in your household on board? It’s ok if they’re not but it will make a difference in how you approach your journey. (I’m the only vegetarian in my house of 5 but we make it work!)
3. What is your end-goal? To be fully plant-based, meaning you plan to eliminate all animal products including eggs and dairy? To eliminate red meat only? To incorporate more plant-based foods into your existing diet? Some combination of these?

This step may be easy for you or require a lot of thought but don’t skip it.

Step 2. Pay Attention.

Be mindful of what you put in your mouth. Don’t worry about changing anything at this point. Just be aware. Keeping a food journal can be helpful but is not necessary. When we eat mindlessly, we tend to eat whatever is easy, quick and right in front of us. Often, we’re not even aware of how many animal products we consume in a day and how little fruits and vegetables we get. For this step, practice being purposefully mindful of everything you eat for the next two weeks. This behavior will likely result in changes to your diet naturally and that’s ok. Just paying attention often results in positive change.

Step 3. Your Surroundings.

Create the right environment. While I don’t advocate being wasteful and throwing out food, getting rid of stuff in your kitchen that doesn’t align with your new plan can be helpful. Donate it or make a plan to use it up and start fresh with your next shopping trip.

Being prepared when you’re out and about is key to supporting your plant-based diet. Everybody is busy and on the go. I get it. Eating out or grabbing food on the run can’t be helped sometimes, but isn’t a problem if you’re prepared. More and more, restaurants are offering vegetarian and vegan options. For this step, investigate places in your area that offer plant-based options you might be interested in. If you have a usual lunch spot or favorite take-out place then check the menu for options that fit your needs BEFORE your next trip. When you’re in a hurry and starving is not the time to try to find new menu choices. Vegdining.com is a great resource to find plant-based-friendly restaurants.

Step 4. Make The Switch.

You might be the type of person that can jump in with both feet and make a total and complete switch all at once. But for most of us, tackling it in stages works better. For example, phase out red meat over a period of weeks, then pork and poultry, then seafood. Or instead of focusing on eliminating, focus on adding. Bring in one new vegetable a week. Take your time, this isn’t a sprint and going slowly allows you time to adjust. Use this opportunity to be creative. Enjoy your time exploring the produce department! Find new recipes to try. Forks Over Knives and Tasty Vegetarian are good sources for meal ideas and recipes. And Pinterest can be your new best friend!

Step 5. Adding and Subtracting.

When making your food choices, think fresh, whole food. Keep it simple and focus on vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Rethink what a “meal” can look like. We’re so used to a meal centered around a piece of meat that we often think its not a real meal if we don’t have meat. If you choose to use fake “meats” and “cheeses” try to phase them out over time. They’re fine for transitioning but you’re simply swapping animal products for processed foods.

For Step 5, choose one item to add/eliminate and work on that for 2 weeks. For example, if you want to reduce or eliminate red meat, work on finding alternative recipes or meal ideas for red meat. Don’t worry about chicken, fish or dairy for now.

If you prefer to focus on adding rather than taking away, find 2 ways to add a plant-based food to your week. Perhaps oatmeal for breakfast instead of sugared cereal. Or your favorite fruit with lunch. Practice a new way to prepare a vegetable for dinner.

Continue slowly adding and eliminating foods over weeks or months. This will be a fun journey so enjoy it and take your time!

Bonus Step: Your Community.

Make connections and find resources. Finding like-minded people can be so helpful on your journey. Being able to ask questions, get advice and share recipes and resources is invaluable. Online groups and vegetarian websites, such as, veggieboards.com and happycow.net are excellent resources.

 

Happy Exercising! And Eating!!!

3 Ways to Make Your Strength Routine More Efficient

I enjoy exercise. Moving and sweating and pushing myself. But that doesn’t mean I want to spend hours and hours on my workout. I’m busy just like everyone else so I need to create efficient exercise routines.

I’m not a bodybuilder or figure competitor so I have no need for dozens of exercises that hit every individual muscle. There’s nothing wrong with that type of training (I’ve used it at other times in my life) its just not what I need right now.

If you’re like me and need an effective and efficient workout too, follow these principles…

1. Compound Movements

Compound movements are exercises that involve multiple muscle groups. Working multiple muscles at once certainly saves time. These can all be done with or without added weight. Things like:

Squat Presses – after you squat down and return to a standing position, press the weight overhead.

 

Row to Stiff-Leg Deadlift – bend over at your hips with weight hanging straight down. Pull weight up to chest. Return to start. Contract glutes and lower back to stand up straight.

Walking Lunge with Alternating Shoulder Raise – step forward into a lunge position while lifting both arms to at least shoulder height. One arm at front and one arm to the side. On the next step alternate arm positions.

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Lunge with Shoulder Raise

Kettlebell Swings – start with the kettlebell between your legs in a slight squat. Contract glutes and hamstrings to thrust the weight forward and lift to about shoulder height.

I could go on and on but you get the idea.

2. Circuits

Circuits are a great way to get a quick workout in when your schedule is busy. Alternate upper and lower body movements and move from one exercise to the next without stopping. For example, squats, pushups, lunges, bent over row, etc.

3. Intensity Level

Adding more weight to your current routine (within reason!) can increase your intensity just enough to give your program a little boost. If you’ve been just going through the motions or doing a set number of reps without considering how challenged your muscles are, then maybe its time to increase the weight to make your workout more efficient and effective.

Happy Exercising!