Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful...

It is nice and chilly outside, which means running can be a bit of a pain. Frequently I wimp out and head to the indoor track or the treadmill for my longer runs. But, due to my hate extreme dislike of treadmills and running around a track, I can be seen running outside in the frigid winter. It does take some planning ahead, and you don't want to do it without being prepared. Here are some things to remember when braving the cold:

1. Wind chill temperatures can be dangerous. A good rule of thumb is to stay indoors whenever the wind chill dips below zero degrees.
2. Frequently the worst part of a cold run is the first mile or so, where your body is still trying to adjust. Try running your first mile on a treadmill, or warming up for 15 minutes on an elliptical, then heading out. That way your body has the blood flowing before stepping out in the cold.
3. Be sure to layer! Ideally your first layer should be something that helps keep moisture away from your body. The second layer can be a cotton fabric to take in the moisture, and the third should be something nylon or wind-resistant.
4. Keep extremities warm! Your head and your hands always need to be covered. Also, invest in some warm socks to keep your toes warm while you run.
5. Get out of your running clothes as soon as you get home. When you sit around in sweaty clothes, your body temperature will keep dropping. So take them off and go take a warm makes the whole run worth it!

Of course, always be smart about running outside. Be aware of snowy or icy conditions that should keep you inside.

                                                     A nice and chilly race day...Oct 2009

*Starting with the new year I will be mixing things up with my blog, making it a bit more personal for you and for me! So look forward to some changes in 2011, and have a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Three Pillars

Have you ever heard of the three pillars to health? Can you guess what they are? Diet...Exercise...and Sleep. The first two are frequently addressed and most understand how a balanced diet and consistent exercise benefit their health. Sleep, however, isn't as accepted and practiced.

Sleep is critical for both the brain and the body. While sleeping, your brain consolidates memory and reduces psychological stress. What does it do for the body, though? It plays a large role in regulating metabolism and strengthening your immune system - two very essential things to health. Furthermore, according to the "Harvard Health News," consistent sleep deprivation causes weight gain by directing the body to store more carbohydrates.
This is because when you get a good night's sleep--at least 8 hours--your body produces the hormone leptin. This hormone helps regulate appetite and allows you to feel full and satisfied after a meal. Adequate rest also regulates the hormone ghrelin, which increases appetite. Skimping on sleep is a double whammy...less leptin and more you feel less satisfied after eating and eat more food more often.
Not enough sleep also effects energy level, which can frequently translate into your workout. When you are consistently not getting enough sleep, you most likely aren't getting much out of your workouts because you are so tired.
The National Sleep Foundation reports that fewer than 7 hours of sleep each night is associated with increased risk for obesity, diabetes, and other health problems.
So here are some tips for sleeping better:
1. set a regular bedtime and allow time to wind down before that set time so your body is ready to fall asleep
2. turn off the TV and avoid computer screens or doing active things less than an hour before you plan on going to bed
3. keep the temperature a bit cooler - your body does better cool than hot at night
4. encourage other people in your house to go to bed about the same time so there aren't unnecessary noises and stimulation going on

Sleep Tight!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Loosen Up

We talked about doing things to improve our posture, but now let's talk about what to do when you realize you haven't been sitting so straight. During stressful times we tend to hunch our shoulders, stick our heads out and tense our muscles. I especially find myself doing this as I study for big tests or spend hours at my computer writing papers. So here are some stretches to do to help you loosen up! I try to take a break at least once every hour, sometimes more if I find myself really tense, and I do some of these stretches. I promise it makes such a difference!

Back Rotations: These rotations help loosen the muscles around your spine. An easy way to do this is to stand in a door way about a foot away from the door frame, then rotate and grab the frame with both hands. Make sure you keep your feet flat and breathe out as you do it. And rotate to both sides!

Shoulder Rotations: This is probably my favorite. The key is to do exaggerated shoulder rotations in both directions. Be sure to do them slowly and at least 5 or 6 times in both directions. Then when you are done, let your shoulders sag all the way down to really let them relax.

Neck Rotations: To loosen up neck muscles, try this exercise. Sitting or standing tall, lean your head to your right shoulder so your ear is almost touching it. Then sag the opposite arm until you feel a stretch in your neck, and hold it for at least 10 seconds. Repeat this on the other side and you should feel a difference.

There are lots of other stretches to do for your back, shoulders and neck, but these are just a few to start with. Feel free to try some new ones if you are still feeling stiff!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Home Workout Equipment

Treadmills and ellipticals are great assets to your home when you want a good workout without having to go to a gym. But what do you do when you don't have the budget or the space for one of those pieces of exercise equipment? Here are some ideas:
  • jump rope: Jumping rope can burn up to 700 calories an hour! Now, jumping for an hour can be quite difficult. But it is a great idea to jump for 10- 15 minutes, then do some arm weights for 10 minutes (or push-ups, squats, lunges if you don't have weights), then back to jump roping, and so on. Do that for an hour and you will have an awesome workout! ($10-20)
  • resistance tubing: Resistance bands are great for a good workout if you don't have free weights. I even recommend switching between bands and weights if you have the option. You can usually buy different levels or resistance in one pack. From there, all you need is a place to hook the band and you have tons of options for arm, abs, and leg workouts! ($10-30)
  • medicine balls: You can get medicine balls in varying weights, usually ranging from 6 to 20 lbs. These can be used do to all kinds or workouts, targeting your legs and abs especially. ($15-30)
  • fitness balls: These are great for all around body workouts as well. You can use them by sitting on them and doing exercises, holding them, or laying on the ground and putting feet on the ball. They are a great addition to your workout equipment! ($10-20)
These are just a few ideas, but they are all worth the buy. Look into even buying some workout DVDs to go with the piece of equipment you bought. There are lots of workouts involving fitness balls and resistance bands out there. Or just get creative!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Party Tips

If you haven't gone to one already, a holiday party is probably right around the corner! Here are some party tips to keep you from over indulging and regretting it later.

1. Plan Ahead: Don't go to the party really hungry, but also make sure you are packing in veggies and low fat foods earlier in the day
2. Include Exercise Before You Go: Exercise will help you burn off those extra calories before eating them, as well as boosting your metabolism for the rest of the day
3. Mingle Away From the Food: Don't hang out near the snacks! You'll eat while you talk, which always results in eating more than you thought you were
4. Use a Plate: Allow yourself only one plate, and don't cover it and don't reuse it. With those rules, you will only pick the things you really want, and avoid the "okay" foods that just add extra calories
5. Take Half: If you are there with a friend or family member, split a cookie you both like or a certain dessert. That way you get the taste you want, but don't get all the extra fat and calories from a whole serving.
6. Don't Drink Your Calories: Eggnog, fruit punch, beer, wine and soda all are back with calories and sugar. Opt for the water and you'll save 200 calories easily
7. Stop Eating Early: The party might go on for hours, but set a time that you have to stop. If it's a dinner party, say you won't eat the snack in a couple hours after the dinner. By only eating at a certain time, and earlier in the evening, it allows your body to burn it off before you go home and saves you from mindless munching later because you are bored or with friends.
8. Keep Things In Perspective: If you do slip up at one part, recommit, make sure you eat well and exercise in the coming week, and for the next party try a little harder. Don't get down on yourself, but remember how it made you feel and move forward. Being too hard on yourself will hurt more than help!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Banana Nut Oatmeal

Oatmeal is a great choice for breakfast. It has fiber so it keeps you full, its a good carb, and you can add your own natural sweeteners instead of having added sugar like in cold cereals. Here is a recipe to try:
Banana Nut Oatmeal 
1 banana
1/3 cup oats
1/3 cup milk
1 tbsp walnuts (optional)
1 tbsp wheat germ (optional...but it adds fiber!)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp brown sugar
Dash salt

Mash banana in a bowl. Mix in the oats; add the milk and microwave for 45 seconds. Add the nuts, wheat germ, vanilla, cinnamon, and honey. Microwave for another 45 seconds, or until oats are cooked and soak up all the liquid. Stir well; add a dash of salt. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Talking Yourself into Your Next Big Breakthrough

I read this article in the Rocky Mountain Running & Triathlon magazine and thought it was definitely worth sharing. Just like it takes training to get ready for a race, it takes training to keep self-talk positive and powerful.

Self-talk can provide affirmation and help athletes stay calm during times of stress such as when waiting at the starting line of a race or struggling through the last two miles of a run. So, then, what should you say to yourself and how should you say it? Lets take a look at two major mistakes and then the best principle I've found.
Probably the biggest mistake athletes make in their self-talk is using negative statements. For example, they may think, "Stop being a moron, I shouldn't be here" or "There are other people more capable than I." In the moment of performance these statements are frustrating and literally add insult to injury. You must never let negative and self-degrading thoughts enter your head. Imagine your thoughts are like a slide projector or a PowerPoint presentation; when a negative comment comes into your self-talk change the slide. Move on and refocus yourself with a more proactive comment such as "I've done the training, I can do this" or "Get to the next aid station."
Another mistake is using a negative word in a statement when it was meant well. A golfer who has to hit a shot over a water hazard might say "Don't hit it into the water, carry the hazard." While this statement might seem like a focused one, the mistake is the word "don't." Hazards, barriers, and other challenging components to athletic competitions are there to distract competitors, and acknowledging the hazard can cause panic or a loss of focus on the task at hand. A better thought would be "make a smooth swing" or "follow through!" These are more useful and impactful statements that require focus on the process and the task at hand. In endurance sports, change the focus from "don't get lapped or passed" to "run within, make good strides".
Some of the most effective self-talk comes in the form of mantras or phrases that athletes can take solace in during hard portions of training or racing. While struggling up a hill during a road race, and athlete might say "calm, cool, collected" over and over to himself. To settle pre-race nerves, a former collegiate teammate of mine would always say "relax, breathe, and believe". These phrases aim to refocus the athlete and help them remain calm and to focus on the task at hand - starting or finishing any race or training session strong!
So remember, next time you self-talk, keep it positive and task-directed. You might be surprised at what you can talk yourself through or into doing.

By: Stephen P. Gonzalez, M.S.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Straighten Up!

Did you know that bad posture can mess with your whole system? It stresses and strains muscles and joints, as well as compressing blood vessels and it can drain your energy. And for any one trying to fight off age related skeletal changes, standing tall helps you preserve range of motion and stay young!
From the magazine Home Journal, here are three of the six most common bad-posture moments in your day, and some quick fixes for each of them!

1. Working At Your Computer: Most people hunch over their keyboard and point their head down, especially laptop users. Get this...every inch your head projects forward puts an added 10 pounds of pressure on your neck! This can trigger headaches and lower-back pain. Here is how you can fix it
  • Sit smart - your thighs and torso should form a 90 degree angle and both feet should be flat on the floor
  • Make your lap off-limits - The lower your computer or laptop, the more you head is pointed down
  • Don't overreach - Elbows should be bent at 90 degrees and wrists in a neutral position
  • Take a breather - every 30 minutes, get up to stretch and walk around
2.  Talking On The Phone: There is such a thing as cell-phone elbow! People tend to cradle the phone between their neck and shoulder even if it is in their hand. This compresses the nerves and blood vessels in the shoulders and elbows which leads to headaches and arm pain. Here are your quick fixes
  • Check yourself out - monitor how you look while on the phone by glancing in a mirror, then make some changes
  • Stretch away tension - stretch your neck out by tilting your head so your ear is near your shoulder and letting the opposite arm hang down
3. Carrying Your Bag: The cute oversize bag trend is still here, and your body is hurting from it. Lugging a heavy bag around on one shoulder can cause misalignment over time. Try these fixes
  • Lug less stuff - if your shoulder or back starts hurting after 10 minutes or you are sore by the end of the day, lighten the load
  • Share the burden - make an effort to switch your purse from shoulder to shoulder to avoid weighing down one side of your body
  • Take a load off - if there are days where you know you need to carry more, give your shoulders a rest and use a wheeled bag or carry more than one bag

Friday, December 3, 2010


Consistency is key to implementing any new goal in your life. That is why developing a routine that works for your schedule, your fitness abilities and your goals is so important. Even though I have been exercising every day for years, at the beginning of each week I sit down a write out what I want to do each day. I write everything down that I want to accomplish in a given workout. For example, one day would look something like this: 30 minute sprint intervals, 25 minute shoulder and arm lift.

Habits are reinforced and learned through repetition and memory.

This week, sit down and write out what you want to accomplish each day. Maybe one day is a long run, another is 45 minutes of yoga and the next is a full hour of weights. Or start with one day of an alternating walk/run for 40 minutes, another day is yoga and another is 45 minutes on the elliptical. If your body isn't used to exercise, be sure to space out the harder workouts with less impact exercises. That doesn't mean easy, just use different muscles on different days to allow recovery.

Always keep in mind, too, that unplanned things can happen. So if something comes up where you can't make it to the gym that day, switch the workout with one from another day that you do at home. Or maybe you wake up and it's snowing so going for a run won't work. Don't take that as an excuse to not workout. Simply look at your written plan, and mix things up a bit.

Writing things down makes you accountable, and even better...crossing things off a list feels great! So plan away my friends!
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