Author Archives: jmack

Fit Tip: Combat Common Running and Walking Ailments

If running or walking is your workout of choice, nothing is worse than an ache or pain. The good news? With a smart plan and a few simple strategies, you combat these common and annoying ailments.

Time to finally put shin sprints, side stiches, and muscle cramps to bed and get on with your workout!

Shin Splints

Shin splints aren’t only a nuisance, but they are seriously painful, too. Tiny tears that occur around your shinbone are to blame. New exercisers and those who took a long break from exercise are most at risk. The first step in avoiding this ailment altogether is to pace yourself and gradually increase mileage overtime. Next, periodically switch to running or walking on grass, gravel, or sand instead of hard pavement to reduce the shock that travels through your legs. Finally, make sure you are wearing a good quality pair of running shoes with proper support. A specialty running store will watch you run and fit you with the correct shoes for your feet.

Side Stitches

You’re cruising merrily along your route when all of a sudden a sharp pain in your side stops you dead in your tracks. Although the cause of side stiches has yet to be proven by science, a few strategies can decrease your chances of experiencing this annoying ailment. Avoid eating within an hour of running and hydrate your body with pure water instead of sugary drinks pre-workout. Next, never take off on a run without a proper warm-up. Walk briskly for a few minutes to prep your body for what’s to come. Finally, make sure you are taking big, deep breathes while in motion. Shallow breaths prevent oxygen from reaching your muscles, including your diaphragm, where side stiches are thought to originate.

Muscle Cramps

Nothing’s worse than a muscle cramp interrupting your run except when the cramp happens to be in the very important area keeping you upright: your legs. When a spasm hits your calves, hamstrings, or quads, immediately stop running and stretch your legs on the side of the road. Unfortunately, you may need to walk it out for a while or the rest of the way. To lessen the chance of cramps happening next time, may sure you drink enough water prior to your run because dehydration may partially be to blame. Also, start using your foam roller or massage stick on your lower body. Finally, take a look at your current workout plan. Do you cross-train or only run and walk? Strength training and plyometrics can help prepare your body for endurance activities like long runs.

How to Avoid the Dreaded Weight-Loss Plateau (and Banish Boredom)

Whether your fitness journey started as a New Year’s resolution or a desire to fit into a swimsuit, you probably began with inspiration and motivation. You may have lost weight rapidly and noticed your body change in positive ways. That’s to be expected.

Keep Learning to Keep Burning

Unfortunately, there comes a point when your fitness journey becomes a marathon rather than a sprint. It’s easy to stay motivated in the beginning when changes happen quickly. It takes effort and dedication to stick with your fitness routine when the scale budges less frequently and less dramatically.

If you stay the course, you’ll continue to progress toward your goal weight and increase your muscle tone and endurance. The key is to keep your body and mind engaged by adding variety to your workouts.

Teach Your Body and Mind – In Class

Group exercise classes are one way to add variety to your routine. Instead of running on a treadmill for cardio, take a cycling class. Instead of lifting weights, take a yoga class that uses balance and body weight to build muscles. There are classes ranging from boot camps to water aerobics. Change it up; attend one for a month, and when it becomes less challenging, choose another class. As a bonus, you’ll meet new people who will hold you accountable to show up.

Try Unfamiliar Equipment

Are you curious about what it’s like to kick a heavy bag? Do you wonder how many flights of stairs you could climb on a stepper, like PowerMill? Satisfy your curiosity and challenge your muscles by trying new equipment. Ask a gym employee for a tutorial, then get started. It will be tough at first and you’ll probably be sore. But that’s how you’ll be rewarded on the scale.

Use Familiar Equipment in New Ways

Perhaps you are a treadmill or bike devotee. If you insist on using the same equipment, you can still change your workout. High-intensity intervals make any cardio workout more challenging. Run (or pedal) at your max speed for 30 seconds, then walk (or pedal slowly) for 30 seconds. Repeat this for the duration of your session.

Fitness should be a lifestyle, not a phase. Keep it interesting and varied and you’ll be more likely to stick with it and realize your goals.

Shop for Success: Pack your Pantry and Fridge with Healthy Options

If you’re trying to lose weight, you probably know diet and exercise are key to success. If you’re exercising consistently and truly challenging yourself at the gym, but you’re still not losing weight or you’re exercising and continuing to gain weight, it’s time to rethink what you eat. Here’s the bottom line: If you don’t buy it, you won’t eat it. Shop for success to achieve success on the scale.

Snacking Doesn’t Need to Sabotage Weight Loss

Mindless snacking on calorie-laden foods is a big reason many people struggle with their weight. Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill tracked peoples’ eating habits for 30 years and concluded desserts, sweet drinks, salty snacks, and candy account for most calories consumed from snacks, and contribute to obesity. If your kitchen is full of those foods, it’s time for a makeover.

Guilt-Free Snacking

It’s unrealistic to ban snacking between meals. Snacking on healthy options can actually bolster weight loss by keeping hunger at bay and preventing the urge to binge. Put these convenient and healthy snack options on your shopping list:

  • Heat-and-eat edamame – Lightly salted, they’re delicious and nutritious.
  • Almonds – Enjoy in moderation.
  • Popcorn – Snack on the air-popped variety.
  • Watermelon, cantaloupe and pineapple – Cut them up into bite-sized pieces as soon as you get home. A whole watermelon sitting on your counter won’t do you much good when you need a snack.
  • Mini carrots and hummus
  • Cuties – Keep a few of these sweet, easy-to-peel oranges in your bag, backpack or car.
  • Bananas
  • Hershey kisses – Freeze them and savor one or two to satisfy your sweet tooth.

KEEP THESE STAPLES ON-HAND FOR QUICK, HEALTHY MEALS

Snacking is one contributor to weight gain, but so is eating unhealthy meals. If you have the building blocks on hand to make quick, healthy meals, you’ll be less tempted to hit the drive-thru or order a pizza. Studies confirm that preparing food at home bolsters healthy eating. Here are a list of ingredients to keep on-hand for quick and easy meal prep. Mix and match for variety that will satisfy without sabotaging.

  • Assorted healthy frozen proteins – Stock up on boneless skinless chicken breasts, salmon fillets, shrimp, lean ground turkey and chicken.
  • Eggs
  • Healthier condiments – Think mustard, balsamic vinegar, salsa and hot sauce.
  • Healthy grains, such as brown rice, quinoa or farro.
  • Chicken broth
  • Garlic and onions
  • Canned beans, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce
  • A “rainbow” of vegetables – Mix and match green, red, yellow, orange, and/or purple vegetables for variety.
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt, pepper and assortment of dried spices
  • Nonstick pan spray

Shopping smartly and stocking your kitchen with healthy options is the first step in changing your eating habits and setting yourself up for weight-loss success.

Time Crunch? Go for 30 minutes!

“But I don’t have enough time in the day to workout.” Have these words ever come out of your mouth? We know it can be a challenge to fit every task and chore into your day, but what are you truly using your time for where exercise could go? Here’s the thing: you don’t have to carve out two hours for a workout. Here’s how to get a heart-pumping workout in 30 minutes.

Work Out Harder, Not Longer

Research shows that shorter, high-intensity workouts can do more for your health than longer, more leisurely workouts. You can improve your heart health and significantly reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome and a cluster of cardiovascular risk factors, including obesity, high triglycerides, low levels of HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar.

HIIT It 

If you really want to fire up your metabolism in just 30 minutes, try a heart-pumping, high intensity interval workout (HIIT). Go with a Tabata-style HIIT workout where you do eight rounds of all-out effort for 20-second intervals and then have 10 seconds of recovery. That’s four minutes. Rest a minute before moving onto a new interval. Do six rounds of Tabata for a total of 30 minutes, and you’re done for the day.

Strength and Cardio Combo

No time to fit in an hour-long boot camp class? No worries. Be your own fitness instructor! Pair 15 minutes of your favorite cardio (biking, running, jump roping, etc.) with 10 minutes of strength training and finish with five minutes of core exercises. We suggest mixing up the exercises each day. Just remember, less time doesn’t give you a free pass to slack. Each minute needs to count. Be quick with rests and intentional with each exercise!

Here’s the good news about short workouts: you know it’s over in 30 minutes! Plus, it’s your exercise for the day, so you can bring your A-game and give it your all!

THE ULTIMATE MEDICINE BALL WORKOUT

One medicine ball. Five moves. 22 minutes. That’s the equation for a killer total body workout that will leave you sweaty, satisfied, and a good kind of sore.

Medicine balls offer a great alternative to dumbbells. They prepare your body for realistic motions because you’re not fixed to a single plane of movement. You can add throwing, swinging, and rotational movements whenever possible.

Do each exercise for 1 minute and rest for 30 seconds. Do three of these intervals and immediately start the next exercise after you finish the last 30-second rest.

1) Forward Lunge with Arc
Hold the ball overhead and lowering it the right side of your body (to about shoulder height) while the right leg lunges forward. As you push back and switch legs, arc the ball over your head so that when you lunge forward with the left foot the ball lowers to the left side of your body. Keep alternating.

2) Overhead Slam
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and knees slightly bent. Lift the medicine ball overhead with both hands, bend at the hips, and slam the ball on the ground directly in front of you. Keep slamming at a high speed for the full minute.

3) Rolling Push-Up
Get into plank position with your right hand on top of the medicine ball and your left hand on the floor. Lower into a push-up until your chest is as close to the floor as possible. Press back up to plank and then roll the ball across to the left. Place your right hand on the floor and your left hand on top of the ball and do another push-up. Keep alternating.

4) Russian Twists
Start seated with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, holding a medicine ball with both hands in front of your chest. Keeping the spine long and the abdominals tight, lean back slightly and lift the feet a few inches off the floor. Slowly twist the torso to the left and bring the medicine beside the left hip. Return to center, and then slowly twist to the right and bring the weight beside the right hip to complete one rotation.

 5) Plank To Chair Squat
Start standing with the ball at your chest. Squat down, place the ball on the floor, and quickly jump your feet back into plank position with your hands on top of the ball. Then, jump your feet back and stand up into a squat position. End the rep by pressing the ball overhead.