HOW DOES YOUR (GUT) GARDEN GROW?

Nutritionist Kathie Madonna Swift argues that drugs, stress, and poor food choices are causing obesity, and that nurturing your digestive bacteria is the fastest way to lose weight

 

For decades, farmers have been using anti­biotics to fatten up their livestock—they don’t know exactly how it works, but it does. Want to build a bigger chicken? Mix some bacteria-killing drugs into its feed. Research has suggested that this principle might also apply to humans: Some scientists speculate that all the antibiotics we’re prescribed, beginning in infancy (American children are, on average, prescribed at least one course of antibiotics per year), may be playing a role—along with our overly processed diet—in the expansion of our waistlines.

Kathie Madonna Swift, a holistic nutritionist based in western Massachusetts, has gathered quite a following over the years through her work at various health centers in the Berkshires: Clinton-family health guru Mark Hyman’s UltraWellness Center, Canyon Ranch, and, now, the Kripalu Center. In The Swift Diet , Swift hypothesizes that the onslaught of drugs and nutrient-free food has damaged our “microbiota”—the array of bacteria that live in our bellies—transforming what should be friendly flora into fat-­harvesting frenemies that turn our ­digestive health upside down and make our thighs balloon. Fear not, there is a cure—but be warned: It does involve a whole lot of arugula.

You coined the term “irritable weight.” What does that mean?Kathie Madonna Swift: Over the years, I’ve worked with so many women who have struggled with weight issues and who have also been trying to manage their problem digestion. I see irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and being overweight as two faces of the same problem.

Your book is about weight loss and healing the microbiome of the stomach—and yet you begin by talking about the brain. Why?It’s the big missing piece in most weight-loss approaches. I do these weeklong seminars, and it’s always an aha! ­moment when I tell people about ­research showing that chronic, unremitting stress affects the microbiota and that, in turn, the bacteria influence neuro­transmitters in our brain, affecting not only our digestion but our emotions, too. There’s a lot of research with animals showing that changing their gut micro­biota can radically change their behavior—making timid mice act more boldly, for example. And in humans, stress can alter the amount of mucus in the stomach, which affects the strains of bacteria that thrive there, which in turn can affect the chemical messengers that link the whole gut-brain connection.

How would bad gut bacteria cause weight gain?What we think happens is that, all too often, beneficial microbiota are not fed, not tended to, not nourished with what they need, which is a plantcentric, fiber-rich diet. They’re getting too much sugar, too much unhealthy fat. They’re getting wiped out by overuse of anti­biotics. There’s a decline in healthy bugs, and opportunistic bugs begin to flourish. When that happens, there’s a shift in ­intestinal permeability—some scientists have refer­red to it as the opening of the biological doorway. You want nutrients to get through the gut wall into the bloodstream, but you don’t want unfriendly organ­isms, pathogens, or big protein molecules to leak through.

Is that “leaky gut”?Yes, but I’m still keeping watch on other mechanisms that might be at play. As with most anything in nutrition or ­science, you can’t put all your eggs in one basket. But when these bad things seep through, they cross-talk with your ­immune system and set up low-grade, chronic inflammation and a shift in ­energy balance. In some individuals, these bugs become energy harvesters and storers. There’s evidence, for example, that American kids, who get so many anti­biotics and live in such a hygienic ­environment, are missing bacteria that keep the hunger hormone ghrelin in check. Lose the bacteria and you lose control of your appetite.

So what do we have to give up, and what should we eat to properly feed our microbiome?You have to eliminate what I call the micromenaces—first, foods with high carbohydrate density. I use the example of a rice cake. It seems so virtuous, but its carb density is actually very high because there’s nothing to it—it’s all carbs, whereas foods that are often not allowed on low-carb diets, like fruit and sweet potatoes, contain a lot of fiber and water along with the carbs—so their carb den­sity is lower. Cut out sugar, of course, and unhealthy fat: the mass-produced vege­table oils and trans fats. And then there are specific potential gut irritants: gluten, lactose, the additives and chemicals in processed foods that might be playing a role, alcohol….

You cut out all that forever?No! Once you’re feeling better, you can experiment with adding foods back in. Don’t permanently eliminate a food until you’ve tested it three separate times. Because otherwise, people can really whittle their diet down to nothing.

And what are the top foods for nourishing the gut?I really try not to pick favorites, but my son started calling me “Arugula” one year because we were eating so much of it. You want to increase the amount of prebiotic foods you eat—that’s the good, starchy vegetables and legumes, ancient grains, and lots of herbs and spices, lots of fruits and vegetables. And add in fermented foods, like yogurt, sauerkraut, tempeh, and raw apple-cider vinegar. I think a key element here is diversity. Try to eat seasonally, because that forces you to mix it up.

You also suggest people try a probiotic supplement. But is there a risk that in dosing yourself every day you’ll reduce the diversity of your microbiota, limiting it mostly to the one you’re taking in a pill?Some scientists think there might be a risk. In fact, a lot of clinicians might switch it up a bit—I do this myself. For ­example, I have had some patients with IBS use Align supplements for a week or so, which have some actual data supporting their use with IBS, and then we might go to a different broad-spectrum pro­biotic, alternating the organisms. We’re still experimenting with probiotics. Some supplements do have research behind them, but we are not yet at a place where we can make definitive recommendations about which are best.

Putting aside weight gain for a moment, are there other conditions that might improve with a better microbiome?Well, certainly two of our other epidemics—diabetes and heart disease—are affected. And so are autoimmune conditions—multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and others—because so much of our immune system resides in the gut. With the brain connection micro­biota have, I think improving the gut can help maintain cognition and increase the neuroplasticity and resilience of our brains. There’s a lot that’s still uncharted territory, but I really believe there’s an oppor­tunity at the plate.

The skeptic in me says that anyone eating such a healthy diet would lose weight, no matter what’s going on with the gut biome.So true! I actually didn’t want the word diet in the title of the book. It should be a way of life. But I think knowing how your food affects your microbiome is ­motivating—that kind of understanding and awareness can really inspire. You can almost visualize this community of organisms multitasking to help us stay well. They are an ecological community, and all we need to do is nourish it.

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8 SURPRISING WAYS ELLE EDITORS FAKE LEANER LEGS

Way back when, I surveyed my colleagues on how they combat a bad case of the bloats with strategic styling. Now, as we approach pant season, I’ve asked this same stylish bunch to reveal how they streamline their stems. (Because, let’s admit it, after we saw Amal Clooney in Giambattista Valli, 2014 officially took a hairpin turn from the Year of the Nipple to the Year of the Longer, Leaner Leg.) From the obvious to the out-there, eight tricks of the tibia-elongating trade:

The Naked Truth

Almost every editor I polled copped to wanting to showcase the bird-like delicacy of her ankle bone. One fashion editor’s go-to formula? “A cropped jean and a bootie that hits below the ankle.” The cut of a bootie can make or break the illusion of longer limbs so play close attention to the mouth of your shoe. A nude pair that dips right under the narrowest part of the leg but stays flush to the foot will seamlessly continue the line. (Fun fact: That’s why ballerinas look so lanky on stage!)

Stem Research

“I think an A-line skirt that hits at the knee or below really skinny-fies my stems,” cops one editor, who credits French apparel brand A.P.C. with turning her on to the foolproof silhouette.

Pret-a-Proportions

Several editors recommended oversize pieces in lieu of skin-tight minis and leggings. “Think an A-line black skirt with a men’s oversize button-down shirt,” says one fashion editor. “I always, always choose a loose or oversize top,” offers an assistant. “There’s nothing like a chunky sweater to make your legs look slender in comparison.” Evidence above.

Room Service

Wide-leg pants paired with platforms can add up to 6″ to your legs. “Ideally,” confides a fashion news editor, “the pants are wide enough to completely cover the shoe.” We cannot stress the importance of keeping the footwear hidden when trying to trick the layman eye.

High Tide

There’s a reason high-rise cigarette pants are back in style: They are so. damn. flattering. “I’m no style savant, but I have insanely short legs and an insanely long torso,” says one features editor. “The only time I feel proportional is when I’m in heels, very high-waisted pants that fit loose-to-baggy through the legs and nip in at the ankles, and a tucked-in top.”

Size Up

“In terms of slimming the leg down, I like to pick a pant that’s juuuuust a bit oversized,” confesses a web editor. “It may sounds counterintuitive, but it works. There’s a reason why boyfriend jeans are surprisingly flattering with heels!” Indeed.

Get Waisted

ELLE.com fashion editor Danielle Prescod (above) is full of helpful tips pertaining to fit and sizing: “For longer legs, you have to elongate the waist,” she says matter-of-factly. “I like to wear my jeans as high up as possible…basically a jean and bra combination.” Or, a distressed mom jean and off-the-shoulder cardi. Tomato, tomahto.

 Heel No!

And, of course, some people have no real use for leg-lengthening logistics: “I am the opposite of everyone, I suppose. I have the longest, skinniest legs, to the point where I’ll wear a flat chunky shoe sometimes just so I don’t look freakish,” says an ELLE.com contributor. But don’t underestimate the juxtaposition between a shorter hemline and longer-than-average flippers. “Flatforms also help to make the legs look way longer,” explains one fashion editor. “They are a bit awkward and clunky, but the heavier sole emphasizes a smaller ankle. Voilà! Skinny!” There you have it, folks.

 

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WHAT DRIVES THE WOMEN OF IRONMAN?

More women than ever are doing endurance sports like triathlon. Who are they? And why do they do it?

 Swim 2.4 miles. Bike 112 miles. Run 26.2 miles. All. In. One. Race.

Simply by the numbers, an Ironman race is nothing short of extraordinary. To some, it may sound awe-inspiring. To most, tackling a 140.6-mile triathlon race seems nearly impossible. And yet, thousands of men and women around the world are taking on this challenge, the ultimate test of human limits (both physically and mentally), in growing numbers every year. Specifically, more women than ever are diving into the historically male-dominated sport. Over the past four years, international women’s registrations in Ironman races have grown a whopping 275 percent. This year’s field at the Ironman Championships will have the largest group of female competitors ever.

About 10 months ago, I decided to become one of those women. The first question that everyone asked me when I said I was doing an Ironman: Why would you want to do that?

My response to my skeptical friends and family: Why not? Well, tons of reasons, really. They could have pointed out that I don’t fit the mold of the “stereotypical” triathlete by any means. When most people picture an Ironman, they think of a 30 or 40-something year-old man who is so ripped, his veins are popping out. His body fat is in the single digits, he rides a bike like he was born doing it, and he can run a marathon and barely break a sweat. And then there’s me. I am 26, female, and while I’m athletic, I’ve never been described as “ripped” in my life. And up until this year, my biking experience was limited to brief trips on my pink beach cruiser—I didn’t even know there was such a thing as “clipping in.” (For those in the same camp, “clipping in” is where you clip your bike shoes into the pedals.) My closest friends thought I was scared of biking altogether. For the most part, they were right.

 

Swimmers in the water at the start of the 2013 Ironman World Championships in Kona; Photo: Courtesy of Ironman

Over the course of the 10-plus months I trained for the big race (I competed in the inaugural Ironman Princeton 70.3 last month, which is technically a half Ironman), I learned that there isn’t really such a thing as a stereotypical triathlete, because behind every competitor (pro or amateur), there’s a story. Many of those stories begin just like mine, not knowing how to clip into a bike or how to swim in open waters.

Gwen Jorgensen, the 2014 World Triathlon Series World Champion, was pursuing her career as a tax accountant with Ernst & Young when she got a call from U.S.A. Triathlon asking if she might be interested in pursuing the sport. Up to that point, she had experienced success in her days on the track team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and was a strong swimmer growing up, but she had never done a single triathlon in her life. “I thought they were crazy for thinking I could be successful in it,” she says. “I had never ridden a road bike before, and when I tried one, I was falling over at stop signs all the time.”

Watching her race on her Specialized S-Works Amira these days, you would certainly never know that was the case. Just a year later after being recruited to triathlon, she qualified for the 2012 Olympic team and has since gone on to become the top-ranked female triathlete in the world.

Ironman World Champion Mirinda Carfrae (center) with second place finisher Rachel Joyce (left) and third place finisher Liz Blatchford (right); Photo: Courtesy of Ironman

Mirinda Carfrae, a.k.a Rinny, the reigning Ironman queen, who is set to defend her title this coming weekend in Kailua-Kona at the 36th annual Ironman World Championships, didn’t own a bike either when she first got into the sport. She grew up playing basketball in Australia until the local triathlon coach took notice of her. “He saw me running and said I had a beautiful run style. When he asked me if I knew how to swim and bike, I said, ‘Yeah of course.’ That wasn’t really true at all.” The next day, she showed up to the pool to show him she could swim. “I went to the pool in a bikini with no cap or goggles. I swam maybe 25 yards and then grabbed the lane rope and asked him what he thought. He just turned around and walked away.”

He might not have been particularly impressed by her swim skills, but he still saw a triathlon star-in-the-making in her. Carfrae went on to represent her country in the junior Olympics for the sport, and slowly progressed to longer distance races. “I don’t suggest that anyone just dive right into the deep end and go for a full Ironman right away,” she said. “You have to know what your body and mind are capable of first.” She did her first longer distance tri back in 2002 (the Lake Tinaroo Half Ironman), where she came in second, and competed in her first-ever full Ironman at the 2009 World Championships in Kona.

This weekend as she battles it out in Kailua-Kona, the ne plus ultra of Ironman races, she’ll be chasing her own records and hopefully, yet another victory. “It’s really about trying to get the best out of myself and that’s why I keep coming back here. I am not at my peak yet and I feel I can still perform better on this course,” she explains. “It’s about pushing for that perfect performance. That’s what motivates me.”

She will be joined on Hawaii’s big island on October 11 by nearly 2,000 other athletes. For people like 84-year-old Sister Madonna Buder (the oldest woman ever to finish an Ironman), or federal prosecutor Kristina Ament (who will be the first-ever blind American woman to compete in Kona), or breast cancer survivor Shayne Findlay, the race is symbolic of overcoming another challenge in their lives, be it a loss of a loved one, fighting disease, or losing limbs. It’s about reaching the end, even if they have to crawl to get there, in 17 hours or less (the official race cut-off time). It is the ultimate test of human willpower. So, let’s return to that initial question: Why me? Why did I want to give up months of dinners and brunches with friends in exchange for a weekend routine that included back-to-back 60-mile bike ride sessions followed by a 6-mile run, or early morning swims and late-night strength sessions at the gym? (After a busy day at fashion week, no less.) Why would I want to wake up to aching muscles or feel constantly hungry? Why even jump into a sport that I had always found intimidating? Sure, getting in good shape was a nice perk, but it’s more than that.

Swimmers in the water at the start of the 2013 Ironman World Championships in Kona; Photo: Courtesy of Ironman

It’s about stepping up to a challenge and sticking to it. I had just finished my first marathon, the New York City Marathon back in November, and was looking for my next high. I wanted to feel that extreme adrenaline rush and that unparalleled burst of emotion that you get when you finish a race as epic as that—it’s an addicting feeling, I’ll admit. I already knew another marathon wouldn’t be enough to satisfy the craving. (I did another in June and it just didn’t compare to that feeling you get from your first.)

It was about finding out what I could really achieve when I put my mind to it. Too often, we let our own expectations limit us, not just in fitness, but in our careers, our love lives, etc. There’s the fear of setting a goal and then not achieving it. There was always that voice in head throughout my months of training saying, ‘What if I can’t finish?’ Even when I got to the race around 4:50 a.m., I still wasn’t sure what the day would hold.

The path leading up to the finish line of my Ironman was one of the most challenging rides of my life—especially those last grueling six miles of the race, where my legs felt like lead blocks and pretty much every part of my body hurt as I ran. I would be lying if I said I didn’t I have a strong urge to stop at one of the aid stations, sit down for the first time in nearly seven hours, and just call it a day. Just at that moment, a fellow racer, a woman who appeared to be in her early 30s, passed by me and screamed, “You’ve got this! We’re in the home stretch.” At the point where I realized she was right, I was about to become an Ironwoman after so many months of hard work and dedication, I burst into tears. No one was more surprised than myself to discover that limitations are just something you set for yourself. Finding out what’s beyond them is truly a life-changing experience.

I feel limitless, more motivated than ever, and I’m already searching for a new, big challenge. Until then, I ask you this: What is your next finish line?

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CAN A BODY SCANNING DEVICE TELL YOU HOW HEALTHY YOU ARE?

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THIS IS WHAT A ‘MINDFUL’ TRIATHLON LOOKS LIKE

The event was being touted as a “mindful” triathlon, but I was having trouble avoiding a full blown panic attack.

  

“I’m running a triathlon today,” I boasted on Saturday morning to a guy who I was planning on meeting for drinks that night. Uttering those words, I relished in feeling like the badass athlete I’ve never been. I also couldn’t help but feel guilty, because I was lying—well, half-lying.

In truth, I was doing a triathlon of sorts—only instead of running, biking and swimming I’d be running, doing yoga and meditating as part of Wanderlust 108, an inaugural event put on by the nationwide yoga festival of the same name. Jeff Krasno, who is one of Wanderlust’s co-founders, would note that afternoon that they created the running component to “bring people in” who wouldn’t normally attend a yoga festival. In my case, it was quite the opposite: The running component was the one thing deterring me from wholeheartedly looking forward to the day.

Held in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, the event was being touted as a “mindful” triathlon, but I was having trouble avoiding a full blown panic attack in anticipation of it. That morning, cursing myself for abandoning my latest attempt at a Couch-to-5k program back in July, the thought of pulling a Karen Smith flickered across my mind. No, 3.1 miles is nothing to freak out about, but I was most definitely freaking out. See, I have never been able to commit to running, even though in theory, I would LOVE to be a runner, because my neuroses tend to go into overdrive: I overanalyze each and every physical grievance I encounter. On the flipside, once I start doing something, the perfectionist in me refuses to let me stop until I see it through to the bitter, sweaty end. This is why I usually just stick to yoga. So in spite of the fact that the Wanderlust website recommended “training” for the 5k by doing things like “make thoughtful decisions,” “treat people with kindness,” and “maybe run a bit,” I felt more terrified than zen as I rode the G to Prospect Park.

Upon entering the park, checking in, and taking a good look around at the nearly 5000 people milling about, I actually started to feel more at ease: The girl near the starting line of the 5k who repeatedly dropped into a perfect split (as her pre-run stretch, I suppose?) wasn’t intimidating, but somehow endearing; my fellow “competitors” included crunchy Brooklyn toddlers, loads of jovial twenty-somethings who loudly voiced their plans to walk the whole thing, and even a couple of people like me, alone and slightly uncertain. Before I knew it, I was pressing my hands together in namaste along with thousands of others. There was nothing remotely competitive about this “triathlon.” When I finally grasped that, I was able to run those 3.1 miles before I even really had time to think about—or really, overthink—what what I was doing.

 

 

After the race I listened to an intimate speaker panel that included renowned yoga instructors Elena Brower and Seane Corne, congressman Tim Ryan, former NFL player Keith Mitchell, and Sonima Foundation founder Eddie Stern, who helps bring yoga and meditation to underprivileged communities. And though the conversation touched on everything from yoga for professional athletes to the panelist’s muses, I was most struck by the discussion that arose regarding finding mindfulness—my weakness.

“Of course your mind is going to get distracted,” said Corne. “Of course you’re going to think about everything; of course you’re going to feel inadequate and tight. All the different things that will come up inevitably in your mind as you learn how to get still. And when you’re in a community and other people can affirm the process, it really is a blessing.” She might as well have been talking directly to me. Maybe my challenge was a bit like learning to rub your stomach while you pat your head—I had to figure out how to keep my brain quiet while I kept my legs moving. And if it was going to take a village to get me motivated that morning, then so be it—at least I knew now that it was possible to run for a relatively extended period of time without spontaneously combusting, once I turned off the mental noise. Maybe I’m not entirelythe athletic lost cause that I thought I was. (Or maybe I just need to exercise in a large group for the rest of my life.)

 

When I eventually met up with that guy for drinks, he asked me about my “triathlon.” And I didn’t even feel guilty when I divulged what it was really about—or for feeling proud of myself for it.

 

 
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10 SLIMMING FOODS TO EAT EVERY DAY

Stock your kitchen with these go-to eats and you’ll slim down—no huge effort required.

1) Artichokes

Fermented foods such as yogurt are weight-loss wonders because they’re packed with probiotics, the healthy bacteria that live in your gut, help your body digest food, and regulate metabolism, says registered dietitian and SuperKids Nutrition founder Melissa Halas-Liang. “But prebiotics, which probiotics must feed off of in order to survive, are equally important. Research shows that prebiotics support weight loss by helping you feel more satisfied—and that means less reaching for junk food.” Artichokes are an ideal source of prebiotics, as are other veggies high in soluble fibers such as leeks, garlic, oats, and soybeans. Artichokes are also packed with filling fiber and protein, so consider using canned hearts to top your salad or round out a pasta dish.

2) Plain Ol’ Water

Okay, it’s not exactly a food, but sipping water ensures you don’t mistake thirst for hunger, says registered dietitian Keri Gans,author of The Small Change Diet. “Water fills you up so that you eat less.” And drinking it cold may even help speed up your resting metabolism a tiny bit—say, by about 50 calories a day if you sip six cold cups—according to a study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Make it feel fancier by adding seasonal fruits like watermelon and strawberries or herbs such as ginger and mint. Leaving a cool dispenser—we like Prodyne Fruit Infusion Pitcher, which has a removable rod to hold fruit—out on the counter will help remind you to pour yourself a tall glass.

3) Chocolate

It’s not too good to be true. One study found that regular chocolate eaters were actually slimmer than people who didn’t indulge as often—even though they ate slightly more calories overall and exercised no longer than the control group. Why? “When you deprive yourself, you’re ultimately more likely to overeat,” says Gans. “If you take the guilt factor away, there’s a better chance you’ll eat chocolate in moderation, and only until you feel satisfied.” Another theory is that chocolate increases levels of feel-good hormones serotonin and dopamine in your brain, which has a calming effect so you’re less likely to keep eating to self-soothe, says Halas-Liang.

4) Almond Butter

High-protein, high-fiber, and healthy-fat-packed nuts are filling and satisfying. In fact, research published in the journal Obesityshows that people who eat a small portion of nuts two or more times a week are less likely to gain weight than those who don’t. And even though nuts are caloric, some research suggests that the body may absorb only about 15 percent of their calories, says Halas-Liang. “It’s hard to eat only one serving of nuts, so I’m a big fan of almond butter, which adds a lot of flavor to snacks,” says Gans. It’s also an even better source of magnesium than peanut butter, a mineral that helps support a healthy metabolism. Try adding a tablespoon to oatmeal or a smoothie at breakfast or spreading it on whole-grain crackers for an afternoon snack.

5) Cottage Cheese

“I don’t think any other type of cheese is as filling, and it has tons of protein and calcium,” says Gans. “I recommend the low-sodium kind to avoid bloat.” More proof that enjoying low-fat diary such as cottage cheese may be slimming: Research done at the University of Tennessee found that people who ate three to four servings of calcium-rich dairy a day could consume 150 to 200more overall calories and still lose weight when compared to those who ate two servings a day or less. Other studies associate being low on calcium with higher levels of body fat, potentially because conjugated linoleic acid in dairy helps your body burn fat. “The secret is to use healthy staples as toppings, not just as diet foods,” says Gans. Top a baked sweet potato with pesto and cottage cheese, stir it into oatmeal, or add to pasta.

6) Avocados

The mild, nutty-flavored fruit is high in appetite-suppressing healthy fats, meaning it doesn’t spike blood sugar levels and can take up to six hours to fully digest. Avocadoes are also rich in L-carnitine, an amino acid that may fuel your metabolism. “Research suggests that people who eat avocadoes have lower BMIs and smaller waist circumferences,” says Halas-Liang. “It’s because of the satiating combo of high water volume, fiber, and healthy fat.” Try swapping a serving—about one quarter of an avocado—for butter or mayonnaise on sandwiches to help fill you up, and fold slices into eggs for extra flavor.

7) Raspberries

“Raspberries are a skinny staple because they help keep you full,” says Gans. “They have more than 85 percent water volume to ward off dehydration and 8 grams of fiber per one-cup serving.” Lay raspberries on a baking sheet and freeze overnight before transferring to a freezer bag. They taste delicious on hot summer days.

8) Eggs

If you’re a granola bar or bagel woman, try giving your breakfast a protein makeover. “Eggs enhance satiety, which lowers overall energy intake,” says Halas-Liang. People who eat higher amounts of protein at breakfast feel more satisfied and are less likely to reach for unhealthy snacks later on, according to Obesity. In fact, a high-protein breakfast may keep you from eating an extra 200 calories during nighttime snacking. Hard-boil eggs at night and pop them in the fridge, then have them with fruit for an on-the-go morning meal.

9) Spinach

“You can eat volumes of veggies for a lot less calories than most other foods,” says Gans. “Spinach, in particular, is a good choice because it’s full of iron to help keep your energy levels up, allowing you make better food choices.” Iron is also necessary to deliver oxygen to your cells, which they need for energy and to burn fat. For women, the recommended daily allowance of iron is 18 mg, and simply adding a side of cooked spinach to a meal offers 6 mg. Squeeze a vitamin-C-rich lemon over a cup of steamed spinach to help your body better absorb the mineral.

10) Pickles

“Pickles are wonderful snacks because they satisfy a craving for something crunchy or salty, but have so few calories that you may burn more digesting them than eating them,” says Gans. “Go for the Kosher dill kind, which are lower in sodium.” We think they’re best eaten the old-fashioned way, so grab a spear and crunch away.

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14 WAYS TO GET BIKINI-READY IN 24 HOURS

We’re not miracle-workers, but when the bikini countdown is officially on, there are some last minute hacks to putting your best body forward. See how to tackle everything on the fly, from banishing bumps and bruises to nipping bloat in the bud. (And you’re not just hearing it from us—we’ve got tips from certain swimsuit experts like Miranda Kerr, Gisele Bündchen, and more.)

   

1. Cut out sodium.

When it comes to bloating, consider salt your enemy #1. It’s a sneaky offender at that, so your best bet is to avoid all processed foods, where it might show up as an ingredient under names and in quantities you aren’t aware of.

2. …and alcohol.

We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but there really aren’t any loopholes here: Alcohol = bloat. It’s only ONE DAY, so just dream of sipping margs tomorrow night. (You can do it!)

3. Avoid carbs.

Or most of them, anyway—especially when they’re of the white variety. While it’s best to keep them to a minimum, high-fiber whole grains like oats, quinoa, and brown rice can actually help diminish bloating. It’s been proven time and again that low-carb diets really aren’t a sustainable solution, but scaling back for 24 hours should be A-OK.

4. Say it with us: water, water, water!

Given that it’s the cheapest and easiest way to prep for a beach day, you really don’t have any excuses. Staying hydrated will keep your skin looking dewy, your metabolism humming smoothly, and actually combat water retention, since drinking stimulates your body to release fluids. If you’re stingy about it, try these tips to make water drinking more fun and palatable.

 

5. Go raw.

If you’re feeling ambitious, adopting a raw diet for a day or two is a great way to detox. Raw veggies and fruits are chock full of H2O, stomach-flattening fiber, and you’d be surprised how quickly they’ll satiate your appetite (not to mentionhow glow-y your skin will be). Heck, even Kate Middleton is giving the raw diet a try. Just be careful to do your research—crash dieting never helped anyone.

6. Go to the gym.

Or get moving in some way. It seems obvious, but it’s the number one tip from bikini-ready models like Behati Prinsloo and Nina Agdal. Don’t go crazy, because you’re not about to transform your body in a matter of hours, no matter how many minutes you clock on the elliptical. Just pick a fun class or activity you love (Behati and Candace Swanepoel are partial to Zumba) to get your blood flowing and your metabolism churning.

7. Take a probiotic.

It’ll help iron out any excess gas or bloating.

8. Try arnica.

Industry insiders swear by this plant-based supplement when they’re getting photo shoot-ready. As nature’s answer to ibuprofen, its anti-inflammatory properties help tone down puffiness when taken orally. Meanwhile, used topically, arnica gel or lotion will help heal bruises in a snap, and Gisele Bündchen uses it as a last minute blemish eraser.

9. Make sure your bikini line is bikini-ready, too.

Namely, keep any ingrown hairs at bay with Bliss’s whole line of products devoted to doing just that. (And please, for the love of god, do NOT get a wax just hours before you hit the sand, lest you’d like to look red and puffy before you’ve even had the chance to bask in the sun.

 

10. Banish bruises and other marks with a spray tan.

Arnica might help, but a real shiner isn’t going to disappear in a matter of hours. Either make a quick trip to the salon for a spray tan or try an at-home tanner (like this one) for flawless, smooth-looking skin. Bonus: You won’t have to risk a sunburn come beach time, because you already have a healthy faux-glow.

11. Sleep.

You should know at this point that “beauty sleep” is no myth—substantial shut-eye (that’s 7-8 hours) ensures that everything in your body is running smoothly.

12. Drop down and give us 20.

Or try some planks when you’re ready for the big reveal.Miranda Kerr says it’s her favorite way to make muscles pop right before a photo shoot, and, well, it seems to work.

13. Stand up straight.

Congratulations! You just lost five pounds! (Or look like it, anyway.)

 

14. Be confident!

You’re rolling your eyes because you’ve heard it before. And yet, it’s true: When you feel good, it’s apparent to everyone around you. You’re at the beach (or pool, or lake), and you’re here for a good time. Own it—and remember that at the end of the day, none of this is that big of a deal.

Photos by Alexei Hay

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11 WAYS TO REV UP YOUR METABOLISM

Sure, your metabolism slows as you get older. But who says you have to take that sitting down? New research shows the best ways to burn more calories—faster!

Traditional wisdom holds that a sluggish metabolism is a curse of midlife, like needing reading glasses to use a smartphone or starting to worry about your retirement plan. So we fight the slowdown, eating like parakeets for a few days or launching into an intense exercise routine. When a week goes by with no miracles, we give up and resume the same bad habits—sloppy portions, half-hearted workouts, and non-petite servings of imported cheese.

Ok, put away the Brie and consider this: About 30% of your metabolism is under your control (the rest, devoted to such mundane but essential functions as digesting food and repairing cells, isn’t). And as researchers get deeper into the physiology of weight regulation, they’re fine-tuning their understanding of what it takes to ramp up that 30% and drop pounds. Happily, it starts with what you consume—the right foods at the right times.

1. Measure Your Meals
If simply cutting back isn’t budging the scale, it’s helpful to know how many calories you need each day to maintain your weight. Then, to lose pounds, you can subtract from that maintenance number. Since a woman’s metabolic rate falls roughly 2% to 3% each decade, this number—alas—goes down with age. A moderately active woman in her 20s requires a daily average of 2,000 to 2,200 calories to maintain her weight. In her 30s and 40s, it drops a little to just about 2,000. After 50, it falls to 1,800.

And you? Check out the Metabolism Calculator at webmd.com. By plugging in your gender, age, height, weight and activity level (there’s a five-point range on the site, from “inactive” to “extremely active”), you’ll learn what it takes to keep the status quo. For example, a 45-year-old woman who is 5’4″, 158 pounds, and moderately active will maintain her weight on 2,093 calories a day. There’s been some refinement of thinking on this, but in general, to lose a pound a week, she will need to consume 500 fewer calories each day (because a pound equals about 3,500 calories), or 1,593 calories.

Try to stick to your Metabolism Calculator calories for a week without changing your exercise routine. If a pound disappears, that’s a calorie-needs bull’s-eye. If not, adjust accordingly.

But don’t be tempted to subtract too many calories. As counterintuitive as it may seem, eating too little can slow your metabolism—by as much as 20%. “If your body thinks you’re trying to starve it, it fights back by burning fewer calories,” says Domenica Rubino, M.D., an endocrinologist and a spokesperson for the Obesity Society.

2. Reset Your Eating Clock
For years, experts have said that working on smaller, more frequent meals is essential to a faster metabolism. But recent studies suggest that’s no better—diet-wise—than eating three larger meals a day. There’s no cut-and-dried approach, says Dr. Rubino. “The research is certainly clear that breakfast is beneficial,” she says. “But beyond that, you need to find what works for you.” Some people do best with six small meals a day, while others consume way too much on that schedule. Some do better with three square meals, but that can make others so hungry that they set themselves up to overeat.

Whichever plan you choose—and you may want to experiment if you’ve been frustrated in your past dieting efforts—be sure to keep an eye on calories and track your hunger throughout the day. And once you do decide on the best approach, start a diet log: Note meals, snacks, and your mood before you eat. “It’s the number one way to be conscious of what you’re taking in and what is (and isn’t) working for you,” says Dr. Rubino.

3. Pack on the Protein
You need it to build muscles—the metabolic powerhouses in your body. Indeed, every pound of muscle zaps six calories a day just doing nothing, while a pound of fat burns a measly two. A 2012 review from the Netherlands found that eating a healthy amount of protein helps you drop pounds and keep them off. What’s “a healthy amount”? The study authors suggest 1.2 grams of protein for each kilogram you weigh. So our 158-pound (72-kilogram) woman might eat 86 grams of protein a day—that’s one egg at breakfast (6 grams), a tuna salad sandwich at lunch (16 grams), 4 ounces of fat-free cottage cheese for a snack (12 grams), and a 6-ounce chicken breast at dinner (52 grams). If she starts by loading up at breakfast, she not only will feel more satisfied throughout the day, a new study of overweight women reports, but will also snack less at night. Remember, though, “Protein doesn’t have any superpowers,” says Felicia D. Stoler, D.C.N., a doctor of clinical nutrition and an exercise physiologist. “Excess calories from protein will just get stored as fat.”

4. Say “Yo!” to Yogurt
This favorite snack has been associated with maintenance of a healthy weight. Now researchers believe this may be because of yogurt’s bacteria. “Scientists have found that obese people have more of a certain type of bacteria that is more efficient at extracting energy from food,” says Gerard Mullin, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital. “It’s possible that the ‘good’ bacteria in yogurt help counter these ‘bad,’ weight-gain-causing bacteria.”

5. Sprinkle on Spicy Extras
Chili peppers, ginger, and turmeric have all been found to have a beneficial, albeit small, effect on metabolism. Use them often—beyond the boost, “You’ll be getting phytonutrients, and they make meals more flavorful,” Stoler says.

6. Be Cardio Smart
Aerobic exercise is like one of those store sales at which you buy one item at full price and get a second item for 50% off: There are the calories you burn while working out and, because your metabolic rate stays elevated, the extra calories you continue to burn while lounging on the chaise. Researchers found that about five sessions of moderate cardio per week—each lasting between 20 and 45 minutes—increased daily metabolism by an average of 109 calories in women. So even on the days the women weren’t exercising, they enjoyed an afterburn.

Need more motivation? Even without dieting, cardio can lead to weight loss: In recent research from the University of Kansas, overweight women doing moderate cardio five days a week dropped 5% of their body weight in 10 months—without changing a thing about their diets.

To make sure your own workout is sufficiently strenuous, try to talk during it—having a short conversation should be possible, but not easy. Or, you can find your target heart rate here. For each age group, the rate is given as a range, so you may want to start with the lower number (especially if you’re new to exercise or haven’t done it in a while) and work your way up.

Try to get your workout to 30 minutes a day, and don’t worry—it’ll pay off: In a Danish study, previously sedentary volunteers instructed to exercise for half an hour lost just as much weight as those who worked out for an hour. (The researchers speculate that 30 minutes likely felt so doable and rewarding to those participants that they went on to do more physical activity in other ways not connected to the study.)

 

7. “HIIT” It
High-intensity interval training has become the rage for a very good reason: Sprinkling just five 30-second extra-hard intervals into your normal cardio routine can torch as many as 200 additional calories in your workout. (You can do anything for 2? minutes!)

Or you can alternate intensities, going faster for one minute and then slower for the next. There’s an unexpected perk to this approach, says Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., a professor of exercise science at Quincy College in Quincy, MA: The recovery minute feels so good to people that “time becomes their friend for that minute. It becomes more like a game and less like a workout.” Research backs this up: A study from Liverpool John Moores University reports that recreational exercisers who ran using HIIT found it significantly more fun than just slogging along.

8. Get Muscular
At around age 30, we start morphing into marshmallows as we lose about 5% of our muscle mass per decade. But maintaining and building muscle revs our metabolism. Even a simple weight-training program of three 25-minute sessions a week can keep your muscles toned—and burn 100 calories per session. The happy result: You could blast a third of a pound of pure fat in a month or 4 pounds a year.

There’s no need to go to the gym. Exercises that rely on body weight, such as push-ups, tricep dips, wall sits, squats, and lunges, can be just as effective as those that use weights or machines. For how-tos, check out the exercise library at the American Council on Exercise.

9. Cure Sitting Sickness
If you make phone calls for one hour at your desk, you’ll burn 15 calories, but if you do it while standing up and pacing, you’ll blast 100 calories. It’s called NEAT—Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis—and ongoing research at the Mayo Clinic has found that we can burn up to an additional 800 calories a day simply by getting off our keisters and moving around more. Not only does NEAT help drop pounds, but it also may have a greater impact on longevity than standard exercise. A large study from the American Cancer Society found that women who sat for more than six hours a day were 37% more likely to die during the course of the 14 years of research than those who were sedentary fewer than three hours a day. This association remained virtually unchanged even when the sitters were devoted exercisers.

Some of the ways to incorporate more activity into your day are well known—taking the stairs instead of elevators, walking to colleagues’ desks rather than e-mailing them. But you can also seed mini workouts into your daily life. “Do squats or lunges while waiting for the copier to warm up,” suggests Stoler. At home, get in some tricep dips while the dryer is finishing its cycle or the coffee is brewing.

10. Call “Om”
Add a bigger belly to the list of miseries chronic stress can inflict. Even if you’re not eating more, changes in the way your body stores fat may cause thickening. In a just-completed study, for example, researchers found that a woman caring for a loved one with dementia had a bigger waistline than her less stressed counterpart, although both were eating the same large amounts of high-fat, high-sugar comfort foods.

It’s the stress hormones and peptides at play here, which become elevated when we’re under pressure. But several studies have shown that practicing yoga can tame anxiety—and also lower levels of these chemicals.

11. Melt Fat Mindfully
A study in which women practiced mindfulness techniques (meditation, yoga, and more) for four months found those who showed greatest improvement in awareness of thoughts and feelings reduced their abdominal fat the most. And such focus, experts say, may be just what you need to embark on a bigger metabolism-revving program.

 

 

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The crop top workout

Before you sport that mid-riff bearing top with high-waisted shorts, get

your abs in perfect, flat shape with these summer workout tips.

The crop top workout

 

We don’t know about you, but anytime we even think about exposing our mid section we feel the need to de-bloat and tone. And with a season filled with adorable crop tops that pair so perfectly with our midi-skirts and denim shorts, we’re on a mission to keep our abs toned.

We enlisted the help of Eva Redpath, Nike Master Trainer and womens fitness expert., for her best tips on how to get your abs in shape for the beach and crop tops. “Flat abs aren’t just built in the gym or studio,” advises Redpath. “Along with some of the key moves highlighted below, it’s important to consider your diet. I like to live by the 80/20 rule. I eat healthy about 80% of the time but am not willing to give up all my favourite things so allow myself to eat the things I really love 20% of the time.”

Do these five moves designed by Redpath plus cardio each week for the best results.

Toned abs move #1: V ups
- Sit upright with knees ticked in to your chest, feet off the floor and hands in a supportive position behind you.

- Extend legs out in front of you as you lower your upper body back towards the floor.

- Crunch back in to start position and repeat.

Toned abs move #2: Kick downs
- Lie on your back with legs straight up in the air, 90 degrees from your body.

- Keeping your legs straight, lower them as far as you can.

- Return to start position, keeping your belly button drawn in the whole time.

Toned abs move #3: Toe touches
- Lie on your back, holding a medicine ball above your chest with arms straight and legs straight up in the air.

- Using your abs, reach towards your toes with the ball.

- Return to start position and repeat.

Toned abs move #4: Side plank crunches
- Lying on your side with one hand directly under you shoulder and your feet stacked on top of each other, life your hips up to a level plank.

- Contract your abs to lift the hips higher.

- Lower hips back down to level plank.

- Continue lifting and lowering the hips, switching sides halfway through.

Toned abs move #5: Crazy Ivans
- Sit with knees bent and feet crossed.

- Lean back until your abs burn and hold a medicine ball outside one hip.

- Rotate through the upper body to bring the medicine ball up over the opposite shoulder, then down to the same hip, and repeat.

- Switch to the other side hallway through your time.

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THE BUSY GIRL’S GUIDE TO MEDITATING

Research shows that taking the time to find some inner calm can do a whole lot of good. Whatever your schedule, here’s how to take a few moments to yourself from Gabrielle Bernstein, author of the New York Times bestselling book Miracles Now.

“When women say to me, ‘I don’t have time to meditate’ I reply, ‘Do you have time to feel like crap?’,” says Gabrielle Bernstein, author of Miracles Now.

If you’re a busy woman looking for meditative moments throughout your day, she says following these six meditative tips is a must.

1) We all have a minute to spare.

“One minute of day spent in stillness can change your life,” says Bernstein. “Commit to one minute a day and use this practice to silence your mind and calm your energy.” Here’s her 60 second trick:

The One Minute Breath

For one minute follow this breathing technique:

Breathe in for 5 seconds.

Hold your breath for 5 seconds.

Release for 5 seconds.

Hold for 5 seconds.

Practice this breath pattern for one minute a day.

2) Peace is in your pulse.

“Meditation can be as simple as finding your pulse—and this simple tip is very easy for meditation newbies,” she says. “A great meditation for beginners is one that improves your concentration and brings calm to even the most scattered mind.” Her recomendation is this easy how-to. “This meditation can be done any time, anywhere and you can experience great benefits in just one minute,” notes Bernstein. “Practice it daily to develop your intuition and calm your mind.”

Peace Is in Your Pulse

Sit comfortably cross-legged on the floor.

Lightly close your eyes and focus on the space between your eyebrows (the third-eye point).

The mantra is Sat Nam (which means “truth identified”).

Place the four fingers of your right hand on your left wrist and feel your pulse. The fingers are in a straight line, lightly pressed on the wrist so you can feel your pulse in each fingertip. (It’s called mudra.)

On each beat of your pulse, mentally hear the sound of Sat Nam.

3) Peace begins with you.

“This technique is a fantastic Kundalini meditation that’s fast, simple and effective,” says Bernstein, who says to first, gently press your thumb against your index finger, then your middle finger, then your ring finger, then your pinkie finger.

When you touch your index finger, say: PEACE

When you touch your middle finger, say: BEGINS

When you touch your ring finger, say: WITH

When you touch your pinkie finger, say: ME

“Breathe deeply as you say each word—go as slow or as fast as you’d like,” she adds. And not only will you want to use this at home, but really anywhere and whenever your anxiety skyrockets. “Use this technique in line at the bank, under the desk in an office meeting, or in the middle of a fight with your lover,” says Bernsten. “This technique will get you through all kinds of crazy emotions and help you release resentment fast.”

4) Meditate while you cook.

“If you enjoy cooking then it can be considered a meditative practice,” explains Bernstein. “Time spent in the kitchen is designated for creativity and helps you detach from your day, so next time you feel stressed out after a long day of work, cook a meal.”

5) Try a walking meditation

“You can find a meditative moment even when you’re walking,” she says. “If you are, say, at the bank, the grocery store or the office, make it meditative.” Easier said than done? Bernstein says it’s as easy as these three steps:

Take a deep breath with every step.

Feel your feet and focus on being more grounded with each step.

Use a mantra while you walk. With each step recite this mantra: “I am, calm now.”

“Whenever you’re stressed out you disconnect from your body and your power,” she notes. “Get more grounded with a walking meditation.”

6) Take a five-minute tech break.

“One of the main reasons we’re so stressed these days is because of technology,” says Bernstein. And it’s true: when are you not updating emails or Instagram even when you are trying to take a ‘break’? “Give yourself a five minute tech break once a day and use that five minutes to practice one of the meditations you’ve learned here,” she says. “Do the one minute breath trick, go for a walking meditation or find peace in your pulse—just turn off your phone, step away from the computer and create space for stillness.”

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5 yoga moves to nip in your waist

Flat stomachs, here we come. These yoga moves will workout your abdominal muscles and give you a strong core.

5 yoga moves to nip your waist

 

Whether it’s bikini season or not, one thing we all covet is a trim and slim waistline. The less time and gym commitment it takes to get that nipped in waist, the better. We chat with Carolina Carvalho from 889  Yoga Wellness Spa at the Thompson Hotel in Toronto for her top 5 yoga moves for a super trim and fit waist. 

The target: Rectus abdominus, transversus abdominus, internal and external obliques.

A.K.A: 
The sides of your abdomen, the six-pack area of your abdominal muscles and deep in your core.

Time commitment: 
10-15 minutes

Warm-up: Cat and cow stretches
As with any exercise, warming up is key to getting your muscles and body prepped for a workout – same goes for an intense ab workout. To really reap the benefits (trim waistline, meet my new bikini) and prevent injury to your abdominal muscles, Carvalho says to make sure to do this quick warm up.

- Start on hands and knees (table top position), with hands under shoulders and knees under hips.

- Draw low ribs and navel in towards spine, feeling the abdominal muscles engage.

- Inhale lifting tailbone up and looking ahead, opening chest and arching entire spine.

- Exhale tucking tailbone under, contracting lower abdominal muscles, bringing chin towards chest, rounding spine.

- Repeat 5 times, inhaling and exhaling to a count of 4 seconds.

After your quick warm, these 5 moves will give your waist and abdomen an intense workout.

Yoga move # 1: Boat pose (A.K.A. Navasana in yoga terms)
Props needed: 1 thin yoga block

Start by lying on your back with knees bent, feet on floor hip distance apart, holding block between thighs, arms down by the waist.

Inhale arms up overhead, keeping low ribs tucked in, exhale reaching arms forward toward outsides of knees, lifting head and shoulders off the floor. Chest lifts and if possible, shoulder blades come off floor. Shoulders stay away from ears, back of neck long (chin slightly down towards chest).

- Variation #1: Extend legs just above floor.

Variation #2: Bend knees, bringing shins parallel to floor; lift torso higher, coming onto sitting bones.

- Variation #3 (advanced): From variation 2, straighten legs bringing body to a ‘V’ shape. Optional: Bring arms up by the sides of ears, keeping shoulders down, palms facing each other.

Hold for 5 full breaths in variation 1, 2 or 3.

Exhale to lower body back down, draw knees into chest for a breath to release spine, then return to original lying position.

Repeat 3 times.

Tips: Keep your chest lifted and back of neck long at all times. Be sure to not round your spine.

Yoga move #2: Half forward bend (A.K.A Ardha uttanasana in yoga terms)
Props needed: 
1 yoga block

Start standing in mountain pose, with feet hip distance apart, parallel to each other. Roll inner thighs backwards, draw low belly in and up towards spine, tuck tailbone slightly under.

Holding the block in the widest position between palms, inhale lifting arms straight up by the sides of ears.

Exhale reaching chest forward and folding over the legs (keep arms by the sides of ears). Knees can be slightly bent.

Inhale lifting torso halfway up (arms stay by the sides of ears, reaching forward toward the horizon). Hold this posture with the breath in for 4 seconds. Knees can be slightly bent.

Exhale to release, folding forward over legs, bending knees slightly.

Inhale arms move forward and up, coming to standing position with arms overhead.

Repeat 5 times

Tips: 
If there is any discomfort in the back, do it without the block, reaching arms sideways instead of forward.Avoid rounding the spine at all times, bending knees as much as needed.When lifting arms by the sides of ears, keep low ribs tucked in, minimizing space between the floating ribs and hipbones, while keeping the chest broad and shoulders away from ears.

Yoga move #3: Extended triangle pose (A.K.A Utthita trikonasana in yoga terms)From mountain pose, step right foot back, in line with the left foot (feet about one leg’s length apart). Left toes point forward, right heel slightly back (foot in a 60 degree angle, inner rotation in right leg).Inhale arms out to shoulder height (above legs), exhale reaching the left hand forward as far as possible bringing torso halfway down, parallel to floor, over left leg; right hand reaches in opposite direction. Pause and hold for one breath, engaging the core muscles and firming legs.

Inhale again and on the exhale bring the back of left hand down to touch the shin, reaching right arm straight up toward the ceiling.

Look down at the left foot, lengthening the neck, with the chin slightly toward the chest. Then, lift gaze up toward right hand, stopping anywhere in between the left and right hands, whatever feels right on the neck. Keep left side of waist long by drawing left hip away from left shoulder. From the navel up, twist chest toward the right side. Find as much length in spine as possible, slightly tucking the tailbone.

- Variation #1: Reach right arm overhead, parallel to floor, palm facing down, right shoulder away from ear.- Variation #2: Extend left arm parallel to right, palms facing each other.Stay in the chosen variation for 5 full breaths.

To come out, inhale to open arms back to original position, exhale looking down at left foot, firm legs and inhale back up to standing with arms out, exhale arms down.

Repeat on second side.

Cultivate a feeling of ‘fullness’ in the lower back and keep back of neck long at all times.

Yoga move #4: PlankStart on hands and knees, then extend legs back, placing body into one long line.Hands should be directly under shoulders, fingers spread wide (middle fingers pointing forward), even weight in all parts of hands. Keep shoulders away from ears, do not let them roll forward. Feet are hip distance apart, inner heels reaching back to create an inner spiral in the legs. Tailbone energetically moves toward the space in between heels. Draw pubic bone slightly up towards chest to minimize the space between hipbones and low ribs, creating a ‘zipping’ action. Keep shoulder blades down towards hips, reach chest forward, look down at floor, maintaining back of neck long, the back of the head in line with back of pelvis. Those actions should ALL happen at the same time!

Hold for 5 full breaths. Bring knees down to rest, then back to plank, preparing for variations.

- Variation 1: Without changing anything else, lift one foot slightly of the floor. Hold for 2 breaths, place it back down and switch. Repeat 3 times with each foot.

- Variation 2: From plank, roll onto outer edge of left foot (right foot can be in front of left to start), lift right arm up. Both feet should be flex, pointing toward the right. Arms stay in line with shoulders, shoulders away from ears. Keep body in one straight line, lengthening the bottom waist (left hip away from left shoulder, lifting away from the floor). For more challenge, bring right leg directly on top of left. Option to lift top leg up in line with bottom leg. Keep feet flex and legs fully energized. Hold for 5 full breaths.

Repeat on other side.

Tips: 
Avoid collapsing hips, or sticking them back.

The entire body should be held in one line, maintaining the ‘zipping’ action from pubic bone toward the low ribs — do not let ribs pop out.

Back of head stays in line with back of pelvis.

Yoga move #5: Stomach twist (A.K.A Jathara parivrtti in yoga terms)

Lying on the back as if in mountain pose, with both legs straight, flex your feet, big toes together and heels slightly apart. Arms out to sides in a ‘T’ position.

Inhale right leg straight up towards ceiling, exhale right foot towards left hand (turn head right), inhale right leg up, exhale to lower it down by side of left (back to original position).

Repeat with other leg.

-  Repeat 6 rounds.

Tips: Avoid popping out the ribs and shortening the waistline when twisting.

Cool down: 
To finish, draw knees into chest, arms around shins, forehead to knees, curling up into a tiny ball.

Then, release body into the most comfortable lying position.

Rest for 3 minutes, allowing body to integrate practice.

 

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Your Best 20-Minute Workout

Ready to get in shape but not sure you’ve got the time? Between long workdays, packed weekends and family obligations, it can seem impossible to fit in an hour of exercise several times a week. Fortunately, there are a variety of routines you can add to your schedule that will help you get (or stay!) in shape in just 20 minutes. Bonus: You can do them anywhere.

We’ve asked Lesley Mettler-Auld, a running, triathlon and fitness coach in Seattle, to share a 20-minute workout she does. The exercise routine she gave us can be used as a supplement to your current routine or as a primary workout if you’re crunched for time. “It’s designed to use all the major muscles of the body in a different way [and is] very efficient,” she says. “Start with light weights until you get the motion down, then increase weight as your muscles are ready.”

Repeat each exercise for 50 seconds, taking 10 seconds to move on to the next exercise. Repeat the entire circuit twice.

Get Started:

Equipment needed: one set of dumbbells or a resistance band

 

  • Burpies: Begin in a plank position, with legs extended and feet hip-width apart. Rest your weight on your hands or forearms. Jump to a squat position. From there, reach your hands over your head and jump as high as you can. Return to a squat, step or jump back into plank pose and repeat.
  • Squat Combination: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet hip-width apart and weight on your heels. Lower into a squat while keeping your knees behind your toes. As you rise, curl the dumbbells into a biceps curl, then extend your arms and press the weights over your head with your palms facing inward. Lower and repeat.
  • Mountain Climbers: Begin in a plank position with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your right knee to touch your left elbow, then return to plank position and repeat with your right knee to left elbow. Continue alternating sides.
  • Narrow Hand Push-Up: Begin in a plank position on your feet or with your knees bent on the ground. Lower your body down into a push-up while keeping your elbows in and along your sides. Return to plank and repeat.
  • Boat Pose: Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Raise legs to a 45-degree angle from your torso. Keeping your back straight, lean back slightly, forming a “V” shape with your body. Bring your arms out in a straight line, parallel to your legs, and hold this position.
  • Bicycle Crunch: Lie on your back with your knees bent and abs pulled tight toward your spine. With your hands behind your head, extend one leg out while lifting your shoulders off the floor and bringing the opposite knee toward the opposite shoulder. Switch sides and repeat.
  • Shoulder Press with Leg Extension: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and bend your elbows to hold the weights at shoulder height. Raise your right leg to 90 degrees and, with your leg raised, exhale and extend your arms up with palms facing inward. Lower your arms and leg at the same time and repeat on the other side.
  • Bent-Over Fly: Bend at the waist, letting your arms hang down with a dumbbell in each hand. With a straight back and moving only your shoulders, lift the dumbbells up and out to the side until they’re even with your back. Slowly lower and repeat.
  • Biceps Hammer Curl with band or dumbbell: Keeping your arms at your sides and bent at the elbows, raise and lower your arms into a curl.
  • Crunches: Lying on the floor with a flat back and bent knees, place your hands behind your head and use your abs to lift and lower your head and shoulders.

 

Got an exercise ball? You can incorporate it into your quick workout with exercises such as crunches and the “Superman” stretch (lying face-down on the ball, lift your right arm and left leg; hold and switch to your left arm/right leg).

Completing exercises like these in a circuit format allows you to do more with your workout in the same period of time, making the most of your routine.

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How to beat bloating

Dreaming of a flat stomach? These 6 healthy tips will help you kick bloating to the curb.

 ELLE Body: How to beat bloating
We all want it. And we all spend countless hours in the gym, crunching and twisting, holding yoga poses and sucking in during pilates trying to achieve it. It’s the infamous, and somewhat mysterious, flat stomach that makes just about anyone feel great. Sometimes it’s not about the time you put in at the gym that matters, it’s more beating the bloating that so many of us have and don’t even know it.

Here are 6 healthy tips to beat the bloat and get a flat stomach, without doing a million crunches.

1. Reduce the stress
One of the number one factors in bloating has absolutely nothing to do with what you do or don’t eat. It has to do with your emotions and stress levels. “Higher stress levels means that cortisol (our stress hormone) increases and when it does our hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) decreases, making it very difficult to digest foods,” explains Melissa Ramos, a nutritionist (sexyfoodtherapy.com), based in Toronto. Plus, stress can lead to cravings and emotional eating (like munching on those salt and vinegar potato chips, or finishing off two cupcakes). “A special focus should be made that it’s not just about what you eat, but also your state of mind. Stress greatly impacts how we digest and if we become bloated or not!”

2. Check your allergies
But pasta and cheese are your friends, you say? While gluten and dairy aren’t the most friendly of items to your body, most people can handle them, unless they have an allergy that can cause major bloating and discomfort (and get in the way of your flat stomach). “If it reacts with our system then it can cause immediate or delayed bloating in some,” says Ramos. If you suspect your bloating may be due to one of these culprits, get a proper test done with your doctor.
3. Say goodbye to sugar
Put down the macaron. If you really want to beat bloating, thinking about how much sugar you take in each day. “Sugar 99% pure and can cause fermentation in our gut that can promote bloating,” explains Ramos. “You can replace it with alternatives like stevia.” Your afternoon pick me ups of cappuccinos with sugar and biscotti could be causing your stomach to puff out more than you think. Another tip when it comes to sugar? “Avoid combining high-sugary fruit with protein. The sugar can ferment protein in the gut,” advises Ramos.
4. Eat this, not that 
Once you stop the sugar indulgences, you can also eat some foods to help prevent, or cope with bloating. “I would say that water with unpasteurized apple cider vinegar is a great start,” suggests Ramos. “It helps to kick start the digestive system. Another great option is digestive bitters in herbal tincture (liquid) form. Taken 10 minutes before meals, it can really help digestion.” Other great food options to snack on? Celery to help ease bloating if it has been caused by salt, and lemon water is a “great way to alkalinize the body if it’s bloated and acidic from eating too much sugar,” says Ramos. Above all, be mindful when eating – not just with what you eat, but also how quickly you eat, since eating fast can also cause bloating.
5. Avoid ice water 
“The main offenders of bloating are gluten, dairy and sugar. But cold water can also indirectly cause bloating because it weakens our digestive fire (hydrochloric acid), making it difficult to digest,” explains Ramos. “So as a rule of thumb I always tell people never to drink ice cold water before their meals.”
6. Exercise 
Hitting up the gym might seem like the last thing you want to do when you’re feeling uncomfortable from bloating, but a good dose of exercise will help smooth down your stomach faster. “Exercise can help to move energy in the body if the bloating is caused from eating too much food,” explains Ramos.

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The lazy girl’s guide to running

Spending a bit more time on your couch than your bikini body would like? Ease your way into running for that lean, toned physique.

 

The lazy girl’s guide to running
Are you green with envy as you watch runners with their lean, toned bods run swiftly by you—but not enough to put down your green juice to pound the pavement yourself? The thing is, even lazy girl’s can run—take it from a former lazy girl (former because I’ve now run six marathons). To get you off your chaise longue (rule #1: never call it jogging, just don’t), we’ve got your lazy back—here are some pointers to help you complete your first 5 or 10k.
  • Guide to running: Go shopping. 

If shopping is your cardio, well, you’re in luck, because hitting the mall is the first thing you should do if you are a new runner. Firstly, you need a proper pair of running shoes—your Keds aren’t going to cut it. The staff at a running shop can help you find the right pair for you (they’ll have a look at how your foot strikes the ground) that fit well, which will help lessen the chance of you experiencing shin splints or knee pain. Also, add some pieces of cute, functional fitness gear—sweat-wicking, technical fabrics will keep you comfortable, and getting to sport some chic fit wear always provides a little motivational boost to get your run done. Other key items: a high-impact sports bra, water bottle, non-cotton socks.

  • Guide to running: Find a running bestie.

A running BFF can help keep you accountable. It can be way too easy to skip a run in favour of kicking back on the couch catching up on Scandal when you’re just running on your own. But it’s harder to skip your run when you have regular running dates with a friend. Don’t have a friend who wants to take up running? Look into a running clinic for beginners in your neighbourhood.

  • Guide to running: Set a goal and find a training plan.

As a new runner, you should stick to a short distance such as 5k or 10k—even if you’d love to be able to say you’ve run a half-marathon or marathon (once you’ve gotten over your lazy ways and establish a good fitness base, then you can consider these longer distances). Longer distances call for lots of training, and you’re better off starting with a more manageable regimen so you don’t get discouraged. Once you choose your goal, then look for a training plan either online, an app or in a book or magazine so you can mentally prepare for your training and put it in your calendar. Without a plan that you’ve incorporate into your schedule, and your “goal” is simply to “run more often”, guess what happens? You don’t run.

  • Guide to running: Finish each run with some stretching. 

After plodding your way through a training run, the static stretches you do after a run will appeal to your lazy ways. But it’s just a much a part of your workout as your run; the stretching will help prevent tight muscles so you won’t feel as sore the next day and it’ll help prevent you from injuries. Guide to running: Gossip during your run. No, really. Talking as you run is a good way to pace yourself—it’s called the talk test. You should be able to have a conversation as you run. If you’re gasping for air and unable to chit chat, you’re going too fast.

  • Guide to running: Rest that hardworking body of yours.

Once you start running and demanding your body to perform in ways you’ve never asked it to, getting the proper rest and recovery it needs become crucial. Pull an all-nighter out with your girlfriends and think you’ll feel great during your run the next day? Think again. Your muscles need time to recuperate from your training, so consider your snooze time as essential as your daily vitamins, and space out your runs so they’re not all back to back.

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5 ways to get the fit outside

Spring is the perfect time and opportunity to start up, step up or change up your regular fitness routine.  Making the move outside, however, can add more challenge than you think – leaving you humble, sweaty and soaking sore muscles.

To help you make a successful transition from indoors to out, consider the following tips.

1. From treadmills to trails

Running or walking on a treadmill is certainly a safer and warmer option in winter.  Making the leap outdoors is a welcome change but remember it also comes with some challenges,  so keep the following in mind:

Modify your speed.  You set your speed on a treadmill and the belt keeps you going there.  It’s much tougher when you have to initiate that pace!  You also have to deal with varied terrain instead of the nice, flat run in the gym.  Expect to start a bit slower and gradually increase your speed back up to your normal pace.  Consider shaving off 10-20% from your typically speed and/or time or for the first few weeks, forget about pacing yourself and just enjoy the fresh air and the view!

Dress for success.  Although high-tech attire means that not much weight is added with your running gear, it definitely needs to be part of your planning process.  Dress in layers using the 3 W’s – wicking fabric next to your skin; warmth as your mid layer; weather as your final layer with something that will block wind or rain.

Be a shoe-in.  If you’ve been inside all winter, your shoes may look brand new but they may not be giving you the support you need.  The general guideline for replacing running shoes ranges from 300-500 miles.  That means you should be splurging on a new pair of shoes every 3-6 months depending on your mileage along with weight, terrain and how you run.

Consider intervals.  Spring is a great time to take up running and there are so many great events to use for goal of 2, 5, 10 k or more!  Based on your current fitness level and running experience, take the time to gradually build up your strength and stamina by progressing with intervals of walking and running.  For example:  4 min. walking + 1 min run/jog; 3 min walk + 2 min run/jog; 2 min walk + 2 min run/jog; 1 min run + 3 min run/jog

2. Indoor to outdoor cycling

Indoor group cycle programs are extremely popular and offer a great balance of cardio and conditioning.  If you’re making the leap to road or trails, however, there are some specific differences

Posture points.  When cycling inside, the focus is on fitness instead of a trail which ends up changing your set up and posture on the bike.  First, you don’t need to be aerodynamic indoors so we tend to set the handlebars higher.  This allows you to see the instructor and it reduces the stress on the shoulders, wrists and particularly the low back.  Once you get outside, you have the wind and vibration of the road to contend with so you may fatigue faster or feel some muscle and/or joint soreness in those areas.

Not so fast.  Speed tends to vary more with indoor cycle classes as we run through specific drills using resistance and cadence – but you can always modify those!  The fly wheel of an indoor bike is also weighted which adds momentum and that feeling of “spinning.” Once you get outside, however, you’ll be riding against the wind and on various terrain that you can’t control with that handy red dial!

Tips:

  • set with your handlebars higher at the start of the season
  • gradually increase intensity and time
  • wear gloves!
  • stretch and reverse posture – particularly your low back

 

3. Elliptical to inline

If you’re using an elliptical as one of your primary cardio options, you may be in or a shock once you try to transition to any outdoor activity.  One of the reasons trainers tend to steer clients away from these machines is because the linear and supported movement don’t provide much of a challenge and they don’t help prepare us for imperfect patterns of real life.  Newer models, however, offer independent and lateral movement that does add to the challenge and benefits and make this machine very similar to a skating motion.

In-line skating is a great option for warmer weather and it has the added bonus of being low impact.  It’s also very easy to take skating from a light and fun outing to intense workout.   Try these tips and drills that can make your skate an amazing cardio and lower body workout!

Tips:

  • start on flat surfaces – around your neighbourhood, in the park or an empty parking lot
  • vary your route – there are great trails in most communities but these will have the added challenge of a few hills here and there
  • slow motion lateral drills – exaggerate the drive and push back and out and then lifting and tucking the knee back in to the centre of the body; slowly alternate side to side
  • add hill drills – find a 10-30° grade and add in some hill repeats
  • 1-leg drills – drive and push with one leg, circling a few times one way then repeat with the other leg
  • figure 8′s – curve skates and feet in and out focusing on the push and pull in each direction
  • intervals – vary your speed up and down for a set time or distance; start small with 1 block at a time

4. Step mill to stadium stairs

Stair climbers have always been a popular indoor option and can provide a challenging workout but can still be far easier than climbing stairs at a local stadium, condo or at the CN Tower!  First, on indoor machines, you set the resistance or the depth of the stair.  And, whether you intend to or not, most people have their hands on the rails and end up supporting some of their body weight.  And, by the way, the more you support the FEWER calories you burn!

If this has been a main-stay for your routine, shake it up with some different step challenges before you head outside.  Try a Jacob’s Ladder or Step Mill.  These two machines offer more resistance and less opportunity to hold your body weight so can help you make that transition and add variety to your program.

Whatever your workout outdoors, though, stairs are an easy and effective way to add intensity and some conditioning work for the summer.

Tips:

  • add a few flights of stairs at the end of a walk
  • add some stairs in as circuits with a walk or a run
  • shoot for sets – find a specific flight of stairs and start with a few sets or flights; gradually increase the number you do adding to it every 2-3 weeks
  • step it up at the park – if you’re with your kids at the park, finding a step or two to workout on is an awesome way to be active while your kids play and set an amazing example

3. Elliptical to inline

If you’re using an elliptical as one of your primary cardio options, you may be in or a shock once you try to transition to any outdoor activity.  One of the reasons trainers tend to steer clients away from these machines is because the linear and supported movement don’t provide much of a challenge and they don’t help prepare us for imperfect patterns of real life.  Newer models, however, offer independent and lateral movement that does add to the challenge and benefits and make this machine very similar to a skating motion.

In-line skating is a great option for warmer weather and it has the added bonus of being low impact.  It’s also very easy to take skating from a light and fun outing to intense workout.   Try these tips and drills that can make your skate an amazing cardio and lower body workout!

Tips:

  • start on flat surfaces – around your neighbourhood, in the park or an empty parking lot
  • vary your route – there are great trails in most communities but these will have the added challenge of a few hills here and there
  • slow motion lateral drills – exaggerate the drive and push back and out and then lifting and tucking the knee back in to the centre of the body; slowly alternate side to side
  • add hill drills – find a 10-30° grade and add in some hill repeats
  • 1-leg drills – drive and push with one leg, circling a few times one way then repeat with the other leg
  • figure 8′s – curve skates and feet in and out focusing on the push and pull in each direction
  • intervals – vary your speed up and down for a set time or distance; start small with 1 block at a time

4. Step mill to stadium stairs

Stair climbers have always been a popular indoor option and can provide a challenging workout but can still be far easier than climbing stairs at a local stadium, condo or at the CN Tower!  First, on indoor machines, you set the resistance or the depth of the stair.  And, whether you intend to or not, most people have their hands on the rails and end up supporting some of their body weight.  And, by the way, the more you support the FEWER calories you burn!

If this has been a main-stay for your routine, shake it up with some different step challenges before you head outside.  Try a Jacob’s Ladder or Step Mill.  These two machines offer more resistance and less opportunity to hold your body weight so can help you make that transition and add variety to your program.

Whatever your workout outdoors, though, stairs are an easy and effective way to add intensity and some conditioning work for the summer.

Tips:

  • add a few flights of stairs at the end of a walk
  • add some stairs in as circuits with a walk or a run
  • shoot for sets – find a specific flight of stairs and start with a few sets or flights; gradually increase the number you do adding to it every 2-3 weeks
  • step it up at the park – if you’re with your kids at the park, finding a step or two to workout on is an awesome way to be active while your kids play and set an amazing example

5. Weight room to weight work

If you’ve been using weight machines in the gym, you may definitely feel delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) once you start any outdoor activity.  This doesn’t just apply to sports; you can also end up with DOMS from gardening, yard work along with fun and (seemingly) light recreational activity.

WHY?  When using machines, the range of motion is often supported and limited where sport and everyday movement is dynamic and multi-planar or moving in many directions.  Once you take your activity outdoors, your muscles move in more complex ways and without rest.  You don’t often see people taking a rest between sets of planting petunias!

Finding activities you enjoy is the best way to fit activity into your day but you do want to consider a couple of points heading into spring and summer.  Recreation activities can also be more dominant on one side which can create muscle balance and increase risk of injury.  Your favourite sport or activity also may not include all the components of fitness in balance like your gym workout or favourite class.  To stay in balance, consider the following:

Tips:

  • take stock – think of what you’re working doing your favourite sports and activities and identify what you may be missing and then fill in the blanks; for example:
  •  if you play golf, you may want to train similar movement swinging the other way for balance, add some cardio and some lower body strength
  • if you garden, you may want to add in some cardio and lots of upper body stretching that opens the chest and shoulders and lean back
  • band aid – use a resistance band to add muscle work; it’s quick, easy and portable; take it with you on a walk or run and fit in some conditioning focus at the end or take it with you on holiday
  • break with body weight – another great option to balance out cardio activity is to add in some body weight exercises during the week – inside or out!
  • push-ups on benches
  • lunges on curbs
  • dips on benches
  • squats on steps
  • planks…anywhere!

Other tips to tune up your routine:

  • have fun…think of spring as an opportunity to take a break from your regular routine
  • get some new gear – shoes, skates, gloves, bike, etc. – it can add to your motivation and commitment!
  • shift your weights – make the change from machines to working muscles in different ways or with different tools – kettlebells, viPR, bands, medicine ball, ropes, TRX or your own body weight!
  • vary time OR intensity – as a way of adding variety with your workouts
  • join a group or a team – there are so many great options and it’s a great way to get motivated and stay accountable
  • make it social – make activities a group event with friends or family
  • think balance – in the gym, you automatically think about doing cardio, muscle and then stretching out – identify what you’re working with outdoor activities and make sure to add in the any components you may be missing from your routine

Read more: http://canadaam.ctvnews.ca/fitness/libby-norris-5-ways-to-get-the-fit-out-1.1795308#ixzz30Eucq2DW

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Body news: Give your body a spring cleaning

Want a Victoria’s Secret body? Your unconventional how-to give your body a spring cleaning..

 

Spring clean your body

 

1. Don’t get eight hours of sleep every night
Measuring your sleep is like being able to distinguish a quilted chanel handbag from a canal street knock-off: you quickly discover that it’s the quality that counts. If you’re juggling multiple responsibilities (career, family, relationships, browsing online sales, etc.) and it feels like your mind is always racing, you may be suffering from “semisomnia.” Dr. Neil Stanley, a U.K.-based sleep expert, coined the term to describe persistent low-grade exhaustion—a condition that effects 75 percent of the population and has been linked to health issues such as irritability, poor performance, lowered immunity and mood swings. in the longer term, it can lead to depression, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

So how do you know if the quality of your sleep isn’t up to par? Stanley says that people who have trouble falling asleep, wake up feeling exhausted or experience a mid-afternoon crash are likely suffering from semisomnia. To improve the quality of your zees, take time to unwind before bed. Have a light snack or a cup of herbal tea, mist relaxing scents like lavender in the bedroom, make sure your phone is set to “silent” and steer clear of the internet or television.

2. Eat (real!) sugar 
If you’re craving something sweet, don’t deny yourself what is usually considered a diet don’t. A recent study in the journal Psychological Science showed that people who choose real sugar (as opposed to an artificial sweetener) experience higher levels of self-control, focus and productivity. Caveat: Before you inhale an entire Toblerone bar, you should know that the study found that only a “taste” of sugar is needed to experience the efficiency boost.

3. Skip your daily workout
We all have fitness-fiend friends who shame us in the exercise department, but overly vigorous work-outs may be bad for your health. A study from the british journal Heart found that excessive exercising—like frequent long-distance running—taxes the body, causing stress that can burn through antioxidants and lead to chronic pain or injury. While the limits of “vigorous exercise” aren’t clear-cut, Dr. James O’Keefe, lead author of the study and researcher at Saint Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, offers some advice on how to reap maximum benefits when planning your workout schedule: Keep strenuous workouts to under an hour, listen to your body and swap out cardio for a gentler yoga class when you’re feeling sore.

4. Stop taking vitamins 
Last year, Health Canada reported that most Canadians receive proper nutrients the old-fashioned way: from their diet. If you eat a relatively healthy, balanced diet and take a multivitamin, you are likely getting twice what you need, says Dr. Diane Birt, director of the Center for Research on Botanical Dietary Supplements at Iowa State University. Overdosing on vitamins in the long term can cause health issues like kidney failure (too much calcium), dimin- ished bone density (excessive vitamin A) and heart disease (high iron).

5. Wear makeup to the gym 
Stop eye rolling over that perfectly coiffed girl on the treadmill. While we’re not suggesting that you break out your Tom Ford lipstick before cardio, it might be helpful to pay more attention to your gym wardrobe and appearance. A recent study found that people who perceive themselves to be attractive perform better during a workout than those who feel self-conscious or unattractive. So, go ahead: Be the girl who primps pre-spin class.
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6 ways to boost your metabolism

Get your body out of slumber mode. Rev up your metabolism with these 6 healthy tips.

6 ways to boost your metabolism

 

What’s the one healthy wish we’d all like to make? To have a fast metabolism. Think about it, a fast metabolism means you’ll be processing food better and burning off those calories faster (anything that means less time on the treadmill works for us). We spoke to Andrea Sarjeant a Holistic Nutritionist and Wellness Consultant of healthydelicious.ca in Toronto for tips on how to jump-start your metabolism.

“Your metabolism is the complex process in which food is turned to energy,” says Sarjeant. “A slower metabolism will mean that more of the food you eat is stored as fat. When you have a healthy metabolism, you have loads of energy, maintain a healthy weight and feel great!” Read on for tips on making your metabolism work at its best.

Boost your metabolism tip #1: Work with your metabolism
We’re going to make a bet that while Gisele Bunchen with no doubt works incredibly hard to maintain her perfect bod, she likely has some fast metabolism genes on her side as well. “We’re all different – we all have different metabolisms, determined by age, sex, genes, hormone levels, body size and composition and activity levels,” explains Sarjeant. “While we don’t have much control over those things, we can fortunately influence our hormone and activity levels.” And much of that has to do with what we put into our bodies and how much exercise we get.

Boost your metabolism tip #2: Watch what you eat
“A big key to keeping your metabolism humming is to make sure that your blood sugar is balanced,” says Sarjeant.

“When you eat a food that causes your blood sugar to spike (sweets and concentrated sources of sugar), the hormone insulin is released. Insulin is responsible for turning that sugar into fat! More sugar equals more insulin, which equals more fat.” So reaching for your mid afternoon snack of chocolate covered almonds, or digging into the office birthday party cake, isn’t doing your metabolism any favours.

“The easiest way to avoid this is to have three small meals per day plus two snacks, all containing a protein, complex carb and good fat,” explains Sarjeant. “The protein and the good fat will slow the absorption of the sugar contained in the complex carb, leading to less of an insulin spike (and less fat storage!).” The added bonus of fibre in these foods will help maintain that full feeling longer.

Boost your metabolism tip #3: What you need to eat
“Turning food into energy as opposed to fat relies on hundreds of enzymes. These enzymes rely on vitamins and minerals,” says Sarjeant. “‘Thermogenic’ foods will also help to boost your metabolism. Some of these foods include:

• Spicy foods, such as hot peppers, hot sauce, cayenne pepper, mustard and horseradish

• Green tea contains cannatic extract and gymnemic acid, which reduce the absorption of sugar into the blood and lessen cravings for sweets. Catechins found in green tea have also been found to reduce body weight.

• Protein is the building block of muscle. Digestion of protein requires that it be broken down into amino acids. This requires a significant amount of energy and can help to boost your metabolic rate. Good sources of protein include poultry, fish and eggs.

• And don’t forget celery, which takes more energy from the body to absorb and digest than the calories it provides.

Boost your metabolism tip #4: What not to eat
“Sugar!” insists Sarjeant. “Anything containing processed sugar or grains (especially if consumed on its own, without a little protein and good fat) will cause your blood sugar to surge, which will lead to excess fat storage and cravings.”

Boost your metabolism tip #5: When to eat what
“I always recommend that carbs be consumed with protein and some good fats,” suggests Sarjeant. “This is especially important in the morning – eating a good breakfast (with protein, complex carbs and good fats) is a great way to get your metabolism going and keep cravings at bay.” So throw on some extra nuts or seeds to your cereal, or include items like avocado and olive oil. Throughout the day sipping on a hot green tea can also help. “Green tea, if consumed before a meal, can aid digestion by enhancing amylase, an enzyme required for the digestion of carbohydrates,” says Sarjeant.

For that mid-afternoon slump? “I would recommend a snack that has a little good quality protein, complex carbs and good fats,” suggests Sarjeant. “Some snack ideas include apple slices with almond butter and a shake of cinnamon, celery sticks with a hardboiled egg or some hummus, or a smoothie with berries, hemp seeds and a scoop of protein powder.”

Boost your metabolism tip #6: What else you need to do
“Exercise!,” insists Sarjeant. “It’s the most effective way to increase your metabolism. Muscle provides a metabolic boost and your muscle tissue actually dictates your metabolic rate! Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise per day.”

Then assure that you are always getting a good night’s sleep. “If you aren’t getting good quality sleep, your levels of ghrelin, an appetite stimulating hormone, will increase and your levels of appetite-suppressing hormone, leptin, will decrease,” says Sarjeant.

Finally, living a stress-free life is always a goal for everyone, but some extra motivation to keep anxiety down? It will help your waistline. “Chronic stress and anxiety can wreak havoc on your hormones and your waistline because of the overstimulation of cortisol, a hormone excreted by your adrenal glands. High levels of cortisol can push your body into fat store mode, leading to an increase of fat around the midsection,” explains Sarjeant. That means those early morning yoga sessions just started to sound a lot better.

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Should you do a cleanse?

Expert tips on cleanses plus how to keep up with those healthy habits long after the cleanse is over.

ELLE Body: Should you do a cleanse

Every now and then, we all need a little nudge, a bit of extra help to get off the couch and stop watching Girls reruns, and get back into healthy habits. Gwyneth Paltrow praises cleanses in her weekly Goop newsletter — claiming that they help keep her envious body in tip top shape, gives her a flat stomach and help her maintain her healthy habits. Throw in the news about countless celebrities who do cleanses or detox diets pre-red carpet appearances, or for movies, and what more motivation do you need? We get the low-down on the cleanse and detox diets situation: who should do it, the benefits and how to maintain that healthy lifestyle from Dr. Sara (drsaradetox.com), a Toronto-based naturopathic doctor and detox expert. Read on to see if a cleanse is right for you.

Cleanses: What are they? 
For Dr. Sara, a cleanse involves three major components that all play a part in whether your cleanse will be a success or not. Think of it this way, reducing, supplementing and adding energy.

a) “Reducing exposure is the first step, which typically involves avoiding toxins entering the body as much as possible. For example, alcohol is one substance that a person is asked to refrain from drinking during the cleansing period.”

b) “Taking organic herbs to support the liver and enhance the removal of toxins. As a Naturopathic Doctor, I recommend herbs that are fairly strong and stimulate toxin elimination through various routes, including urine, feces, and sweat.”

c) “The body needs energy to cleanse effectively. Without proper nutrients, antioxidants, and vitamins, the body is unable to perform necessary tasks of detoxification. This is the most common reason people will fall ill or feel depleted during a detox. They must provide their body with adequate nutrition; otherwise, toxins re-circulate and can make a person feel worse.”

Cleanses: Who should do them and who shouldn’t
“Toxins are impossible to avoid and people are getting sicker everyday because of the chemicals in our food, personal care products, and environment,” explains Dr. Sara. That means nearly everyone can benefit from a cleanse now and then, but Dr. Sara advises those who are elderly, pregnant or breastfeeding should all consult with their doctor beforehand.

Cleanses: The benefits of detox diets 
While cleanses will benefit individuals differently in each case (depending on your lifestyle or specific health or skin issues you wish to resolve), nearly everyone will see some dramatic changes. “The benefits are endless and I have seen a wide range of symptoms improve following detoxification programs,” explains Dr. Sara. “I have had patients who struggled with eczema their whole life report 100% improvement. I have also seen digestive issues, migraines, and acne completely resolve.” Dr. Sara points out that since cleansing reduces inflammation and improves the overall function of your organs, it’s the ideal way to kick start a weight-loss program. “Since toxins cause fat cells to expand, cleansing is a great way to achieve a flatter mid-section, drop stubborn pounds, and boost metabolism to burn fat more efficiently.” And don’t we all want that?

Cleanses: How often and how long? 
While you might feel better after a few days of removing items from your diet, that doesn’t mean you’re really cleaning your body out. “Contrary to popular belief, you can’t effectively cleanse toxins in just 3 days,” warns Dr. Sara. “Toxins take years to build up in the body and it takes time to flush them from the system. I normally recommend cleansing for two-to-four weeks.” Bottom line is this. If you’re really looking to improve your health, get a flatter stomach or clear up some skin care issues, there is no fast fix. “It is a good idea to cleanse two-to-four times per year, which is dependent upon one’s lifestyle. If a person enjoys drinking regularly, eats fast food, and lives a stressful lifestyle, they probably need to detox more often than somebody who practices yoga daily, drinks green smoothies, and lives on quinoa salad.”

Cleanses: The prep 
Think beyond food and the fridge – to cleanse properly, Dr. Sara it all starts with a positive mind set. “Preparation doesn’t just involve clearing your fridge, meal planning, and checking your calendar for any social engagements,” says Dr. Sara. “The most important element of success is dependent upon a person’s mindset. I advise starting a cleanse with a positive attitude and imagining the liver enjoying a relaxing vacation. Just as a person needs time off from work, the liver needs a break too!” The other way to keep on track? Set goals, which can help make the process of detoxification much more manageable.

Cleanses: What to remove 
You may need to rethink your daily Starbucks run if you’re considering a cleanse. “Many of the foods we eat on a daily basis are difficult to digest and lack nutrients. As tasty as a latte and croissant are, they provide virtually no nutrition to the body. I like to call them empty calories,” says Dr. Sara. “The foods that a person is asked to remove include red meat, dairy, gluten, soy, sugar, and anything processed. I also suggest eliminating peanuts, pistachios, bananas, melons, green peppers, and white potatoes. And of course, alcohol and coffee.” If this sounds like there’s not much to eat, think of all the fibre-rich, filling fruits, veggies and grains you’ll get to much on, not to mention organic teas, purified water, and freshly prepared juices.

Cleanses: Post-cleanse healthy habits lifestyle 
“The good news is that most people will continue some of the good habits they picked up during their 14, 21, or 28 day cleanse,” says Dr. Sara. That’s good news because even if you pick up one or two new healthy habits, the next cleanse will be that much easier. “The number one tip I have is to ‘prepare’ ahead of time. If you live a very busy life, take a day on the weekend and prepare your meals for the week. Cut up fruits and vegetables and store them in glass Tupperware. When they are already cut up, it makes it easier to munch on them or throw them into a stir-fry. The most common reason why people eat poorly, skip meals, and rely on caffeine for energy, is because they don’t prepare their meals ahead of time. Planning can make all the difference when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle.”

Cleanses: Get a buddy system 
“Find a friend who you can cleanse with and make sure you have a good support system,” suggests Dr. Sara. “The last thing you need is somebody tempting you with pizza or wine.” We’ll second that.

 

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How to get sexy shoulders

Get ready for summer with these tips on sculpting sexy shoulders.

 Fitness funk

Celebrity fitness trainer Ramona Braganza the woman responsible for some of Hollywood’s most enviable bodies, including Jessica Alba, Halle Berry, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale, and Canadian cutie Ryan Reynolds, has developed her own 3-2-1 Training Method. Her method consists of 3 Cardio segments, 2 Circuit strength-training segments and 1 Core segment to create long and lean muscles.

This month the fitness guru showed us how to strengthen and tone our shoulders, here we come shoulder-baring citrus-printed Stella McCartney!

At Home:

  • Stand tall with dumbbells in your hands and palms facing forward. Raise your arms to the sides and draw a half-circle until the dumbbells touch above your head, and then lower them down.
  • Raise your arms to the sides, stopping when they are parallel to the floor. Bring your arms forward until the dumbbells touch, and then lower them down.
  • Hinge forward slightly at the waist with your arms down in front of your body, palms facing each other and knees slightly bent.
  • Lift your arms to the sides and slightly back, squeezing between the shoulder blades when your arms are parallel to the floor.
  • Repeat each move 10 times for one set. Aim for three sets.

At Gym:
These 3 moves combine pulling and pushing motions to work your muscles in opposition. This creates symmetry and protects your joints while working out. Between each set you should rest for approximately 45 seconds. Your goal? Try to repeat the combination 3 times through.

Assisted Pullup machine:
Using the weight stack as a counter balance to your body weight.

Form is the key to a pullup: keep your back straight, your abs tight and bring your shoulder blades together as you perform the pull up. Slowly lower yourself all the way down for an added stretch with each pullup.

The Load:
 Adjust the stack to half your weight.

The Goal:
 15 reps.

Seated shoulder Press:
Sit tall against the pad holding onto the handles. As you exhale, pull your belly button in to support your back and push the machine handles upwards. Hold this position briefly before slowly lowering arms down.

The Load: begin with light weights and add with each set for optimal results.

Goal: 
15 reps.

Reverse Fly Machine:
Sit facing the pad and adjust the seat so that the handles are shoulder level. Keep your back straight and as you exhale, pull your arms apart until your shoulders are parallel with your body, hold briefly then slowly let arms return back to start.

The Load: 2-5 lbs.

Goal: 15 reps.

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BFit Smart Fitness Band from BeBalanced Energy, Latest and Greatest

BFit’s Smart Fitness Band integrates fitness into your daily, weekly and monthly  activities by communicating with your smart phone and computer with its special app.IMG_0588

BFit Smart Band is a smart device with corresponding app, built-in Bluetooth 4.0, 3D Sensor and PC cloud service. It helps people to improve health by monitoring daily and weekly activity. It can communicate with all smart phones with Bluetooth 4.0.

BFit Smart Band seamlessly integrates fitness into your daily life by wirelessly and automatically syncing to your smartphone and computer. Easy-to-use online tools and mobile apps keep you on top of your health and fitness trends.

A powerful Force for everyday fitness, this sleek wristband is with you all the time. Stay motivated to keep moving with real-time stats right on your wrist. Track steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, stairs climbed and active minutes throughout the day. At night, track your sleep and wake up silently with a vibrating alarm.  It is a must for improving and setting fitness goals. Fitness becomes a fun game as you track your progress.

 

This slim, stylish device is with you all the time. During the day, it tracks steps, distance, and calories burned. At night, it tracks your sleep quality and wakes you silently in the morning. Just check out the lights to see how you stack up

Makes fitness fun as you set goals and make progress.

 

Colors:        Black, White, Rose, Blue, Light Green, Grey

(Can customize color on special orders)

Operation:  One button

 

Sizes:         One size fits all as adjustable.

 

Wireless:    Syncs to all current Apple and many Android devices

 

Battery:      Approximately 4 days of use per charge.

Charge through USB Port on your computer. Do not need separate charger.

Features:    Tracks distance, steps and calories burned

At night, it tracks your sleep patterns and gently wakes you up in the morning

Bluetooth 4.0 interaction

Charge with USB Port

Water Resistant and lightweight

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If you don’t like wearing a pedometer on your waistband or carrying a pocket pedometer, there’s a new breed of activity monitors including the BFit that you wear as a bracelet or wristband. Accelerometer chip technology has developed to the point where they can use formulas to weed out junk movements and produce fairly accurate step and physical activity data from a wristband. These monitors link up with phone apps or download their data to your computer to view more details on their web site. They vary in how much data you can see on the wristband’s display (if any) and what they track in addition to steps. Some of them are sleep-tracking activity monitors and some can help reduce sitting time.

The BFit Smart Fitness Bracelet. One size fits all unlike many others that you have to order in one of 5 sizes. Interchange bracelets to match your outfits. You don’t have to worry about a separate USB Charger. Just plug the Smart Center into your USB port.   Fantastic app that works with Apple phones and many Android phones.  Available on Amazon.com or directly at   

http://www.BeBalancedEnergy.com

One Button Control

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EAT THESE FOODS TO FEND OFF THE FLU

This season, win the fight against germs by supercharging your natural defenses

Most of us already know the basics when it comes to warding off a wintertime cold or flu—from excessive hand washing to loading up on vitamin C and getting plenty of rest, as well as keeping stress at bay. However, incorporating these foods and spices into your daily meal plan will play as much of an integral role in keeping you healthy, all season long.

Greek Yogurt. ”Yogurt is packed with probiotics, which are live active cultures, or good bacteria, that help keep up your defences,” says Candice Kumai, a Le Cordon Bleu–trained chef and author of the upcoming Clean Green Drinks, Cook Yourself Sexy and Pretty Delicious and a judge on Iron Chef America. Can’t plan to eat yogurt every day? Try a probiotic supplement, too. “Probiotics are known to boost the immune system by supporting digestive function and gut health and helping to stave off, and fight flu symptoms—and taking a good-quality probiotic supplement, especially in the fall and winter months when our immune systems are in overdrive is so important, says Theri Griego Raby, MD, founder and medical director of the Raby Institute for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern.Try Swisse UltiboostInner Balance, $20 for 30 capsules.

Fermented Foods. Add kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, tempeh and kimchi, to your grocery list. “Eating these foods every day is not only great for weight loss, and balancing pH levels, but also aiding in digestion and helping to destroy and inhibit the growth of bad bacteria,” says Kumai.

Zinc. Think of oysters, roast beef, crab, lobster, dark chocolate, and peanuts as natural Zicam. “These can help to regulate immune responses, attack infected or cancerous cells and alleviate the common cold,” says Kumai.

Garlic. ”It’s an extremely good natural immunity booster,” says Kumai. “Garlic is full of selenium, manganese, vitamin B6 and anti-inflammatory agents that help to fight bacteria, protect your heart and of course is a good old remedy to fight the common cold,” says Kumai.

Avocado. Need another reason to order guacamole? “They contain heart-healthy and monounsaturated fat—and this type of fat promotes the release of bile from the gallbladder, assisting in proper elimination of toxins from the body and the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K,” says Kumai. “As well as vitamin E, folate, panthotehenic acid, fiber, potassium.” Translation: it’s like an anti-cold multi-vitamin.

Super Greens. ”Kale, spinach, parsley, celery all contain chlorophyll, which helps to-boost to your digestive tract, rids the body of harmful environmental toxins and aids the liver,” says Kumai. And the less toxins your body has, the more equipt it is to fight off any germs that come its way.

Ginger. ”Fresh ginger activates T-cells, immune cells that destroy virus-infected cells,” explains Griego Raby. “It inhibits mucous production and helps clear congestion so while you want to try and cook with ginger on a regular basis year round, do so even more consistently in cold and flu season.”

Sweet potatoes. “Rich in beta-carotene and vitamin A, sweet potatoes aid the immune systen,” says Griego Raby. “They also help maintain mucosal surfaces in our respiratory tract, digestive tract, and skin to keep microbes out of our bodies—aim for once week and more often if you’re feeling run down.”

Protein. Along with building muscle and keeping your appetite in check, protein can also keep you cold-free. “Protein is vital for many biological processes including immune function,” says Griego Raby. There are the obvious sources such as meat, fish and eggs but also plant-based options include beans, nuts, seeds, rice, quinoa, and corn. “Quinoa is a complete protein that’s also gluten free and full of amino acids, which helps cleanse and detoxify the body and keep your immunity up,” explains Kumai.

Elderberry Juice. “Elderberry juice suppresses replication of some influenza viruses and increases levels of viral antibodies that block the flu virus because it is rich in anthocyanins, which enhance cytokine production, proteins that regulate the immune system’s response to a virus,” says Griego Raby. Not sure how to use it? Add it into a smoothie for breakfast or an afternoo pick-me-up.

Peppers. You may think that an orange has the highest levels of vitamin C, however, peppers, particularly the orange and red kind are up there, too (and can be easier to incorporate into a few meals a day). “Peppers can reduce the length and severity of symptoms in a viral upper respiratory tract infection,” explains Greigo Raby.

Salmon. “Salmon is rich in omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D,” says Griego Raby. In a study published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, omega 3s helped to strengthen the immune system by enhancing the function of white blood cells. “And vitamin D is important to help our immune systems, kill harmful bacteria and viruses, however most Americans are deficient,” says Greigo Raby, who suggests eating mostly cold water fish, which are richest in EPA and DHA, including salmon as well as anchovies, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacoretuna. But be mindful of where they come from: “Farm-raised fish do not normally have as much omega 3 fatty acids as they do not eat the same diet as weild fish, or swim in as cold of water as their wild counter parts,” says Griego Raby, who says to aim to get it in your diet around twice weekly.

Turmeric. “Turmeric is best known for giving Indian curry its distinct color and taste—it is rich in a compound called curcumin and this delicious yellow seasoning has a high antioxidant value and is a powerful anti-inflammatory,” says Griego Raby. “Research has confirmed that curcumin can increase the immune system’s protein levels and help the body to fight bacteria and viruses including those that cause tuberculosis.”

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8 ways to beat the winter blues

Banish seasonal angst with the help of these pro food, fitness and beauty tips for a healthy (stress-free) mind.

 8 ways to beat the winter bluesFalling victim to the winter blues is way too easy—we have frigid temps, grey skies and a long haul until spring to contend with. These unpleasant ideas make January, February and March tough to suffer through—both physically and mentally. We enlist the advice of Registered Holistic Nutritionist Daniel Chiang from the Inspired Life in Toronto for eight tried and true ways to shake the winter blues for a healthy mind, body and spirit.

Be physically active

Remember your New Year’s resolution to join a gym? Ahem. Yes, that one that maybe you didn’t necessarily keep up with? As post-holiday melancholy sinks in, this commitment becomes even more vital to your well-being. “Physical activity is an extremely important aspect of a healthy mind and body,” says Chiang. “Whether you’re walking at a brisk pace outdoors or pumping iron at a gym, each movement will help increase blood flow and oxygen to every part of your body, stimulating the production of chemicals in the brain that elevate your happiness and mood levels.”

Eat your way to a better mood
“You may have noticed that eating certain foods can make you feel like you were run over by a truck, while other times, like you’ve been shot with a concoction of flowers and rainbows,” says Chiang. You need to feed your brain the basics it needs to fight mood swings and maintain a positive outlook. Start small by adding magnesium (found in dark leafy greens), melatonin (from tart fruit juices like cherry) and selenium (from depression-resistant Brazil nuts) to your plate for the winter uplift you desperately need. And ditch the bacon and maple encrusted doughnut.

Supplement your diet with vitamins and minerals
When your body needs a winter pick-me-up, introducing fundamental nutrients to your diet can help you feel more content. “There are a host of supplements you can take to benefit your mood during the winter months. A good quality vitamin D3 supplement can be taken—the same vitamin that your body makes when it is in contact with sunlight,” says Chiang. “B vitamins, especially folate and B6, are essential in sustaining balanced hormones and nervous system functionality.”
Just breathe
Mourning the loss of your holiday vacation time is a major stress builder, but you can feel Zen once again if you focus on your breath and maybe a little daydreaming of a beach in the tropics. “When oxygen is balanced and being absorbed throughout every cell in our body, we feel invigorated and refreshed,” says Chiang. “When you consciously breathe in deeply, you not only increase your oxygen intake and absorption, but you also release toxins when you breathe out.” Concentrate on taking long, equal breaths to help every muscle in your body relax.
Give yourself a pep talk
Positive reinforcement is one of the easiest ways to improve your attitude toward the winter months. The idea? Write down your accomplishments, ask yourself what you love about your life and keep track of things to look forward to (like your upcoming beach vacation, perhaps?). “The suggestion for doing affirmations is to keep reading them until you believe the statement to be true,” says Chiang. Post your notes on your computer, bathroom mirror or nightstand so you can review them on a daily basis and overcome the winter blues.Take a break from reality
When all else fails, taking a moment to escape from your everyday norm can have a major impact on a healthy mind. Set aside a few minutes of “me time” each night to listen to upbeat music (hello, Beyoncé), catch up on your favourite TV show (Scandal it is) or read a new book. “If you’re feeling down and out, one of the quickest ways to get out of your rut is to watch a lighthearted comedy or funny Youtube video,” says Chiang. Laughing and smiling will rapidly trick your brain into feeling happier, and who doesn’t want that?

Play up your beauty look
Fact: Preserving a healthy mind can be as simple as applying a vibrant shade of makeup. “Go for bright and warm colours that can conjure spring or summer memories,” says Chiang. With the addition of a hot pink lip colour or neon orange nail polish, your mood and appearance are brightened simultaneously. (Bonus points for instant gratification.)

Be fashion forward

“Did you know that putting on a dress can actually make you feel happier? A study from University of Hertfordshire concluded that when you put on nice clothing your brain actually associates the garb with happy times and can perk you up when you are in a low mood,” says Chiang. Even if you’re just going out for a casual dinner, wear your best LBD and favourite accessories to raise your mood. (When in doubt—remember the winter blues will subside with spring just around the corner.)
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8 Pilates moves for toned arms

Get sleek and toned arms with 8 easy moves you can do at home.

 

Even when it’s not bikini season, a toned body is always on our want list. And sexy arms and shoulders are high on that list. To get sculpted arms without hitting the gym (or even lifting a weight for that matter), we enlisted the help of Pilates guru Keri O’Meara, from Misfit Studios in Toronto for the ultimate arm workout in 8 steps.

“Pilates is a great way to achieve toned arms and shoulders because it helps create long lean sleek muscles,” explains O’Meara. “It focuses on using specific fibers of the muscles and working them in a shortened and lengthen position.” And added bonus for all those working away on laptops or lugging weighed-down purses? “As you are working with the bio-mechanics of the body it also helps to lubricate the shoulder joint and assists with relieving neck and shoulder tension.” And as O’Meara says, “No point in having a tight belly and butt, and killer legs if you’ve got scrawny arms.” Plus, these moves all work the back muscles, creating better posture, which equals a more slim-looking frame.

What you’ll need: “Not a thing! What’s great about this arm series is that you can do it anywhere,” says O’Meara. However weighted balls or simple small weights will make the series a bit harder and will help build muscle faster. “I would suggest two to five pounds and no more then that,” she recommends.

O’Meara’s secrets to toned arms
“I call the this the ‘Red Carpet’ series. You know when starlets pose on the red carpet and they bend one elbow and look over their shoulder their arms always look super sleek and sexy and toned — this series will do that!” Sign us up!

“The best way to do this series is sitting on the edge of a chair with your feet firmly planted on the ground and your spine upright and in a neutral position. This can also be done sitting cross-legged on the floor or standing but I find the chair is the best way to ensure that your spine is in proper alignment.

Reach your arms out in front of you and gently draw the bottom two tips of your shoulder blades down the back to make sure you aren’t rounding your shoulders forward and your arm bones are set in their sockets. (Keep reminding yourself of this gentle setting of the shoulder blades — this is to ensure proper shoulder stability and to avoid taking all the work into the upper trapezius).”

Toning move #1 
- Slowly lift your arms up towards the ceiling (lift, don’t fling arms quickly).
- Very slowly return the arms back to shoulder height (so you are focusing on the eccentric movement of the muscle).
- Here you want to allow the shoulder blades to rotate up, they are meant to move with your arms, so don’t be rigid but try to avoid shoulder shrugging

- Repeat 8 times

Benefits: Warms you up, gets the arms and shoulder blades moving together as they are meant to, ultimately to help relieve neck and shoulder tension and starts to get your deltoids working.

Toning move #2 
- Simply bend the elbows back so they line up with your shoulders and then slide them back out to the original starting position.
- Be careful here again not to round the shoulders forward as you reach the arms in front.
- Have the sensation that the shoulders are pulling back as the hands move forward.

Benefits: Works your posterior deltoids as you draw the arms back and anterior as the arms move forward, as well as your mid back muscles. There’s no point in sexy arms without a sexy back.

Toning move #3 
- With the palms up and facing forward and the elbows bent, straighten the arms over head.
- To pull back to starting position give the bottom two tips of the shoulder blades a little squeeze and make sure when you return the arms come back to a place where the elbows line up with the shoulders.

Benefits: The middle deltoid is working as well as those mid back and shoulder stabilizers.

Toning move #4 
- With the elbows back, keep the upper arm bone still in space (don’t life the arms or drop the elbows) rotate the arm up so the palms are now facing forward as opposed to down.
- It might be more clear to say rotate the hands up but you don’t want to action to come from the wrist but from the back of the arm.

Benefits: Deltoids working isometrically to hold the arm still in space but now you are getting into the small oft forgotten rotator cuffs to rotate forward and back. People often have weak rotator cuffs, which lead to a lot of shoulder injuries so this has benefits way beyond making your arms look sexy.

Toning move #5
- With the palms facing down elbows still bent, draw the elbows down towards the body.
- Keeping the shape of the arms (elbows bent, wrists strong) lift the arms back up to shoulder height.
- Think of lifting right from the very centre of your shoulder as if there is a string there pulling the arms up- like a marionette.

Benefits: Now you are isolating the very centre of the deltoid here working it in a tight and shortened position. Also we’re using the other two rotator cuffs that abduct (move away from the midline) and adduct (move towards the midline) the arm.

Toning move #6
- Repeat this whole sequence fluidly now as a set, one rep for each move a total of 4 times.

Benefits: Now you are using all of the muscles around the shoulder fluidly as a system, which is really great for strength but also to help relieve neck and shoulder tension by lubricating the shoulder joint.

Toning move #7
- With the arms lifted to shoulder height and then open the arms out to the side.
- Reach the arms out away from each other as if someone is pulling you apart by the arms (notice the spine get taller here), flip your palms so they are facing behind you and in small sharp and controlled movements pulse the arms back, initiating the move from the top of the triceps, or just behind the armpit.

Benefits: Wings, baby! Targets those bat wings. Great triceps exercise and the whole time you are still working those red carpet deltoids by holding the arms up.

Toning move #8
- Finish by flipping the palms down and repeat the reach, the more lengthened the arm the more likely you will activate biceps (in a lengthened position) and triceps.
- Then again in small sharp and controlled movements circle the arms forward and then back 10 times each.
- Then hold and reach until you can’t hold and reach any more.

Benefits: Again working to lubricate the shoulder joint and working all of the arms muscles here, in a way that creates long lean muscles. Also your core is forced to kick on when you reach those arms in opposing directions, and endurance by continuing to hold the arm up even after you’ve completed the whole series and are dying, you are telling your muscles that they can and must hold on!

 

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Train like an Olympian: Mind, body and soul

The 2014 Olympic Winter Games showcase stunning performances by some of the world’s best and most accomplished athletes.

And while most of us won’t come close to the kind of conditioning and training that those athletes undergo, there are ways to incorporate their training regimens into your regular workouts — and into your everyday life — say Olympians Molly Vandemoer and Karen Thatcher.

First, “don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t make it,” said Thatcher, 2010 Winter Olympics women’s ice hockey silver medalist and current private coach with CoachUp, a service that connects athletes with private coaches that can help them improve their athletic performance.

“So many things have to align for you to be ready for that one tournament every four years,” she said. “Many of those things are out of your control, but the one thing you can control is how hard you work every day. Be the hardest and smartest worker at every practice and competition, so when that opportunity arises, you are ready for it.”

photo
Snowboarding is the ultimate squat jump. — Photos.com

Thatcher recommends that athletes who are interested in training like Olympians should try dynamic resistance exercises, such as plyometrics – also known as “jump training” — to strengthen their “explosiveness” and help build strength in the legs. Examples of plyometric exercises include squat jumps, power skipping, lateral bounds and depth jumps.

“Make sure you have a coach to show you how to do (plyometric exercises) properly to avoid injury and maximize gains,” she added.

Daily physical training is an essential part of life for any serious athlete — regardless of whether or not they harbor Olympic ambitions — but mental preparation and conditioning also play a huge role in preparing athletes for their competitions, according to Vandemoer, a member of the 2012 Olympic Summer Games U.S. sailing team.

“You need to be extremely driven, ultra-focused, open to criticism and not afraid of failure,” she said. “The best elements of training I would apply from my training to someone not working towards the (Olympic Games) include setting realistic goals. If the hurdle is too big, it’s easy to make excuses.

“(Hold) yourself accountable; don’t make excuses, if you missed a workout, make up for it,” she said. “And keep it fun. If you don’t enjoy it, you’ll never stick to it.”

The hard work and determination that helped Vandemoer and Thatcher achieve their goals of competing in the Olympics are values that can translate to success in many areas of life, which is something that Thatcher said she always keeps in mind.

“My mother always told me before every hockey game, ‘Skate hard, have fun and hit back harder,’” Thatcher said. “I think it’s a good philosophy for all types of training and for life. Work hard, make sure you enjoy the ride, and when adversity comes, as it most certainly will, jump up and fight back harder.”

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Body news: Give your body a spring cleaning

Want a Victoria’s Secret body? Your unconventional how-to give your body a spring cleaning..

Spring clean your body

 

1. Don’t get eight hours of sleep every night
Measuring your sleep is like being able to distinguish a quilted chanel handbag from a canal street knock-off: you quickly discover that it’s the quality that counts. If you’re juggling multiple responsibilities (career, family, relationships, browsing online sales, etc.) and it feels like your mind is always racing, you may be suffering from “semisomnia.” Dr. Neil Stanley, a U.K.-based sleep expert, coined the term to describe persistent low-grade exhaustion—a condition that effects 75 percent of the population and has been linked to health issues such as irritability, poor performance, lowered immunity and mood swings. in the longer term, it can lead to depression, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

So how do you know if the quality of your sleep isn’t up to par? Stanley says that people who have trouble falling asleep, wake up feeling exhausted or experience a mid-afternoon crash are likely suffering from semisomnia. To improve the quality of your zees, take time to unwind before bed. Have a light snack or a cup of herbal tea, mist relaxing scents like lavender in the bedroom, make sure your phone is set to “silent” and steer clear of the internet or television.

2. Eat (real!) sugar 
If you’re craving something sweet, don’t deny yourself what is usually considered a diet don’t. A recent study in the journal Psychological Science showed that people who choose real sugar (as opposed to an artificial sweetener) experience higher levels of self-control, focus and productivity. Caveat: Before you inhale an entire Toblerone bar, you should know that the study found that only a “taste” of sugar is needed to experience the efficiency boost.

3. Skip your daily workout
We all have fitness-fiend friends who shame us in the exercise department, but overly vigorous work-outs may be bad for your health. A study from the british journal Heart found that excessive exercising—like frequent long-distance running—taxes the body, causing stress that can burn through antioxidants and lead to chronic pain or injury. While the limits of “vigorous exercise” aren’t clear-cut, Dr. James O’Keefe, lead author of the study and researcher at Saint Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, offers some advice on how to reap maximum benefits when planning your workout schedule: Keep strenuous workouts to under an hour, listen to your body and swap out cardio for a gentler yoga class when you’re feeling sore.

4. Stop taking vitamins 
Last year, Health Canada reported that most Canadians receive proper nutrients the old-fashioned way: from their diet. If you eat a relatively healthy, balanced diet and take a multivitamin, you are likely getting twice what you need, says Dr. Diane Birt, director of the Center for Research on Botanical Dietary Supplements at Iowa State University. Overdosing on vitamins in the long term can cause health issues like kidney failure (too much calcium), dimin- ished bone density (excessive vitamin A) and heart disease (high iron).

5. Wear makeup to the gym 
Stop eye rolling over that perfectly coiffed girl on the treadmill. While we’re not suggesting that you break out your Tom Ford lipstick before cardio, it might be helpful to pay more attention to your gym wardrobe and appearance. A recent study found that people who perceive themselves to be attractive perform better during a workout than those who feel self-conscious or unattractive. So, go ahead: Be the girl who primps pre-spin class.

 

GIT it done!

 

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7 Shocking Facts About Sleep

Yes, we at FITNESS love a great early-morning workout. But we also know about the importance of a good night’s sleep, and not just because sleep deprivation is tied to weight gain. Here, the most interesting health facts that warn against burning the candle at both ends. Pace yourself, people.

1. Flu-Z’s

If you’re sleep-deprived before getting your flu shot, it can take three to four weeks for the vaccine to kick in. Those who don’t get appropriate rest have a weaker immune system, which hinders the vaccination’s effectiveness.

woman sleeping

2. Take This to Heart

Poor sleep is more dangerous to women than to men. Women experience higher risks of cardiovascular problems when they don’t get enough rest and they’re also more susceptible to psychological distress, depression, and anger.

woman and man in bed

3. Big-C Shifts

There’s a link between those who work night shifts and breast cancer; researchers say they think it’s because melatonin is suppressed, which is necessary for protection against some cancers. “Shift work that involves circadian disruption” is officially listed as a probable carcinogen.

seated woman in pajamas holding knees to chest

4. Gasp! Wait… What?

Not only does lack of sleep hurt your ability to learn, but there’s also a link between sleep-disordered breathing (i.e., sleep apnea) and dementia in women. Mental impairment is consistently associated with hypoxia, which is when the brain gets less oxygen due to breathing disruptions.

sleeping woman

5. Rise and Grind

Auto accidents increase by 17 percent on the Monday after Daylight Saving Time occurs, which is when people “lose” an hour of sleep. Heart attacks increase by approximately 5 percent.

asleep at the wheel

6. Pillow Balk

For couples who sleep together (a whopping 23 percent don’t), one partner typically loses about 49 minutes of sleep every night, due to disruptive behaviors. These could include anything from a companion’s tossing and turning, the TV being on, the room’s temperature being too hot or cold, and more.

sleeping couple

7. Sleep Sweep

It’s important to take responsibility for your sleep health, because the truth is that your general physician may not know that much about sleep. Doctors today typically receive less than a semester’s worth of sleep education, and sleep medicine wasn’t recognized as an individual practice until 1995. One doctor recently told a FITNESS editor, “I only get so much time to see each patient. As much as I’d like to talk to them about their personal issues, I don’t have time to ask how they’re sleeping.”

patient on examining table
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Women who follow a Mediterranean diet live longer: study

Mediterranean diet linked to longer lives in women

Now you’ve got even more good reason to eat a heart-healthy Mediterranean diet. A new study finds that middle-aged women who do so may live a healthier, longer life.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston evaluated the diets and medical records of 10,670 women who were in their late 50s or early 60s between 1984 and 1986.

After tracking the data for 15 years, the team found that women who followed a Mediterranean diet were 40 percent more likely to survive to age 70 or over without heart disease, diabetes, or other chronic disesase.

The study, funded by the US National Cancer Institute and the US National Institutes of Health, was published November 5 in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

Following a Mediterranean diet means eschewing processed foods in favor of plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and fish, and eating less red meat. Olive oil is another staple of the diet, and a moderate amount of alcohol, such as a glass of red wine with dinner, is allowed.

The study adds to a mountain of research that has already proven the health-promoting benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Recently, researchers from Universidad de Navarro in Spain found that eating a diet rich in olive oil, nuts, fruits and vegetables along with wine can reduce your risk for cardiovascular problems. Findings were published in February in the New England Journal of Medicine.


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Celebrity diets: Beach body cleanses

Show off your beach body with total confidence this summer with a little help from the latest celebrity diets and cleanse crazes.

Celebrity diets: Beach body cleanses

 

Celebrity diets: The Dr. Oz Cleanse
Time commitment: 
3 days of only liquid (become one with your blender)

The lowdown: 
Let’s start off by saying it’s only three days. Three days to get an amazing beach body. By the end of day one, you’ll need to repeat this to yourself over and over to stay on track and not dive face first into a bag of Oreo cookies. You’ll get to sip on 4 smoothies each day (breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner) that range from yummy (breakfast with raspberries, almond milk, spinach and almond butter is tart and creamy) to interesting (even blended, kale, pineapple, green apple and celery has an undeniable texture to your lunch time shake that’s not the most pleasing). The third shake is a mix of anti-oxidant packed blueberries, kale coconut oil and avocado. You get to pick your fave smoothie as your snack each day (hint the breakfast smoothie may be your best bet). Plus unlimited green tea, honey/lemon water and plain water. The cleanse will flush you out, rid your body of toxins and by the end your bloated tummy will be noticeably flatter. Three days ladies, it’s only three days.

Celebrity diets: The Food Program by Tracy Anderson (foodprogrambyta.com)

Time commitment: Never ending (depending on how long you can handle the routine)

The lowdown: 
Want Gwyneth Paltrow’s bod? Who doesn’t? The A-lister has been candid on the fact that her enviable long, lean body doesn’t come easily – and regularly praises her personal trainer Tracy Anderson for toning her butt, thighs and midriff. After venturing into gym and workout routines, Anderson now tempts the everyday person to attain a celebrity beach body with her meal delivery system. Dig deep in your purses — her meals don’t come cheap (in fact you may want to whip out your credit card, too, starting at over $45 per day on a 14-day plan). The cost of looking like Gwyneth isn’t cheap, friends. On the plus side you get to dig into yummy items like tandoori spiced flat iron steak and sundried tomato crusted eggplant. The down side? You can’t just eat your coconut flan with mango sauce on the couch and call it an night. You’re going to have to stick to Anderson’s vigorous (and we do mean vigorous – pulsing anyone?) workout routine and schedule.

Celebrity diets: Harley Pasternak’s The Body Reset Diet
Time commitment: 
15 days (on the bright side, that’s really only one day longer than two weeks)

The low down: Celeb fitness guru Harley Pasternak (he’s the one responsible for Rihanna’s rock-hard abs), developed a three-phase, smoothie-based cleanse that promises to shed pounds and reset all your bad habits. Each phase spans five days, with the first being the most challenging. The premise? Blend up your favourite fruits and veggies with a healthy fat, dairy (or non-dairy) and protein three times a day – that’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A few light – and we mean light—snacks are allowed each day (apples, anyone?). The next phase is a bit simpler, where you can swap out your evening smoothie to a modest dinner. Since Harley knows that you can’t do an extremely difficult cardio workout on this type of plan, he suggests moderate exercises such as walking (we like this part best!).

elebrity diets: The GM Diet
Time commitment:
 7 days (of vegetable soup and lots of bananas)

The low down: First introduced in the ’80s to encourage health and wellness for employees of the automotive company — yes, GM stands for General Motors — this plan has developed quite a cult following (it still trends on Pinterest to this day!). Let’s go over the ground rules: each day you’re required to drink eight glasses of water (easy, right?) and can break up your days with a special vegetable (cabbage) soup. Now onto the hard part: each day you’ll have to stick to a specific set of foods, which makes up the more cruel days (like the banana and milk-packed Day 4) and mono-fruit days (which are happily divided by the vegetable soup option). This diet promises to melt away up to 8 kg of fat, but we’re wondering if it’s really worth all the sacrifice!

 

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How to Beat Bloating

Dreaming of a flat stomach? These 6 healthy tips will help you kick bloating to the curb.

ELLE Body: How to beat bloating

 

We all want it. And we all spend countless hours in the gym, crunching and twisting, holding yoga poses and sucking in during pilates trying to achieve it. It’s the infamous, and somewhat mysterious, flat stomach that makes just about anyone feel great. Sometimes it’s not about the time you put in at the gym that matters, it’s more beating the bloating that so many of us have and don’t even know it.

Here are 6 healthy tips to beat the bloat and get a flat stomach, without doing a million crunches.

1. Reduce the stress

One of the number on factors in bloating has absolutely nothing to do with what you do or don’t eat. It has to do with your emotions and stress levels. “Higher stress levels means that cortisol (our stress hormone) increases and when it does our hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) decreases, making it very difficult to digest foods,” explains Melissa Ramos, a nutritionist based in Toronto. Plus, stress can lead to cravings and emotional eating (like munching on those salt and vinegar potato chips, or finishing off two cupcakes). “A special focus should be made that it’s not just about what you eat, but also your state of mind. Stress greatly impacts how we digest and if we become bloated or not!”

2. Check your allergies

But pasta and cheese are your friends, you say? While gluten and dairy aren’t the most friendly of items to your body, most people can handle them, unless they have an allergy that can cause major bloating and discomfort (and get in the way of your flat stomach). “If it reacts with our system then it can cause immediate or delayed bloating in some,” says Ramos. If you suspect your bloating may be due to one of these culprits, get a proper test done with your doctor.

3. Say goodbye to sugar

Put down the macaron. If you really want to beat bloating, thinking about how much sugar you take in each day. “Sugar 99% pure and can cause fermentation in our gut that can promote bloating,” explains Ramos. “You can replace it with alternatives like stevia.” Your afternoon pick me ups of cappuccinos with sugar and biscotti could be causing your stomach to puff out more than you think. Another tip when it comes to sugar? “Avoid combining high-sugary fruit with protein. The sugar can ferment protein in the gut,” advises Ramos.

4. Eat this, not that 

Once you stop the sugar indulgences, you can also eat some foods to help prevent, or cope with bloating. “I would say that water with unpasteurized apple cider vinegar is a great start,” suggests Ramos. “It helps to kick start the digestive system. Another great option is digestive bitters in herbal tincture (liquid) form. Taken 10 minutes before meals, it can really help digestion.” Other great food options to snack on? Celery to help ease bloating if it has been caused by salt, and lemon water is a “great way to alkalinize the body if it’s bloated and acidic from eating too much sugar,” says Ramos. Above all, be mindful when eating – not just with what you eat, but also how quickly you eat, since eating fast can also cause bloating.

5. Avoid ice water 

“The main offenders of bloating are gluten, dairy and sugar. But cold water can also indirectly cause bloating because it weakens our digestive fire (hydrochloric acid), making it difficult to digest,” explains Ramos. “So as a rule of thumb I always tell people never to drink ice cold water before their meals.”

6. Exercise 

Hitting up the gym might seem like the last thing you want to do when you’re feeling uncomfortable from bloating, but a good dose of exercise will help smooth down your stomach faster. “Exercise can help to move energy in the body if the bloating is caused from eating too much food,” explains Ramos.

 

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8 Pilates Moves for Toned Arms

Get sleek and toned arms with 8 easy moves you can do at home.

ELLE Body: 8 Pilates moves to tone your arms

Even when it’s not bikini season, a toned body is always on our want list. And sexy arms and shoulders are high on that list. To get sculpted arms without hitting the gym (or even lifting a weight for that matter), we enlisted the help of Pilates guru Keri O’Meara, from Misfit Studios in Toronto for the ultimate arm workout in 8 steps.

“Pilates is a great way to achieve toned arms and shoulders because it helps create long lean sleek muscles,” explains O’Meara. “It focuses on using specific fibers of the muscles and working them in a shortened and lengthen position.” And added bonus for all those working away on laptops or lugging weighed-down purses? “As you are working with the bio-mechanics of the body it also helps to lubricate the shoulder joint and assists with relieving neck and shoulder tension.” And as O’Meara says, “No point in having a tight belly and butt, and killer legs if you’ve got scrawny arms.” Plus, these moves all work the back muscles, creating better posture, which equals a more slim-looking frame.

What you’ll need: “Not a thing! What’s great about this arm series is that you can do it anywhere,” says O’Meara. However weighted balls or simple small weights will make the series a bit harder and will help build muscle faster. “I would suggest two to five pounds and no more then that,” she recommends.

O’Meara’s secrets to toned arms
“I call the this the ‘Red Carpet’ series. You know when starlets pose on the red carpet and they bend one elbow and look over their shoulder their arms always look super sleek and sexy and toned — this series will do that!” Sign us up!

“The best way to do this series is sitting on the edge of a chair with your feet firmly planted on the ground and your spine upright and in a neutral position. This can also be done sitting cross-legged on the floor or standing but I find the chair is the best way to ensure that your spine is in proper alignment.

Reach your arms out in front of you and gently draw the bottom two tips of your shoulder blades down the back to make sure you aren’t rounding your shoulders forward and your arm bones are set in their sockets. (Keep reminding yourself of this gentle setting of the shoulder blades — this is to ensure proper shoulder stability and to avoid taking all the work into the upper trapezius).”

Isolation exercises can tone arms without broadening shoulders
 

Toning move #1 
- Slowly lift your arms up towards the ceiling (lift, don’t fling arms quickly).
- Very slowly return the arms back to shoulder height (so you are focusing on the eccentric movement of the muscle).
- Here you want to allow the shoulder blades to rotate up, they are meant to move with your arms, so don’t be rigid but try to avoid shoulder shrugging.
- Repeat 8 times

Benefits: Warms you up, gets the arms and shoulder blades moving together as they are meant to, ultimately to help relieve neck and shoulder tension and starts to get your deltoids working.

Toning move #2 
- Simply bend the elbows back so they line up with your shoulders and then slide them back out to the original starting position.
- Be careful here again not to round the shoulders forward as you reach the arms in front.
- Have the sensation that the shoulders are pulling back as the hands move forward.

Benefits: Works your posterior deltoids as you draw the arms back and anterior as the arms move forward, as well as your mid back muscles. There’s no point in sexy arms without a sexy back.

Toning move #3 
- With the palms up and facing forward and the elbows bent, straighten the arms over head.

- To pull back to starting position give the bottom two tips of the shoulder blades a little squeeze and make sure when you return the arms come back to a place where the elbows line up with the shoulders.

Benefits: The middle deltoid is working as well as those mid back and shoulder stabilizers.

Toning move #4 
- With the elbows back, keep the upper arm bone still in space (don’t life the arms or drop the elbows) rotate the arm up so the palms are now facing forward as opposed to down.
- It might be more clear to say rotate the hands up but you don’t want to action to come from the wrist but from the back of the arm.

Benefits: Deltoids working isometrically to hold the arm still in space but now you are getting into the small oft forgotten rotator cuffs to rotate forward and back. People often have weak rotator cuffs, which lead to a lot of shoulder injuries so this has benefits way beyond making your arms look sexy.

Toning move #5
- With the palms facing down elbows still bent, draw the elbows down towards the body.
- Keeping the shape of the arms (elbows bent, wrists strong) lift the arms back up to shoulder height.
- Think of lifting right from the very centre of your shoulder as if there is a string there pulling the arms up- like a marionette.

Benefits: Now you are isolating the very centre of the deltoid here working it in a tight and shortened position. Also we’re using the other two rotator cuffs that abduct (move away from the midline) and adduct (move towards the midline) the arm.

Toning move #6
- Repeat this whole sequence fluidly now as a set, one rep for each move a total of 4 times.

Benefits: Now you are using all of the muscles around the shoulder fluidly as a system, which is really great for strength but also to help relieve neck and shoulder tension by lubricating the shoulder joint.

Toning move #7
- With the arms lifted to shoulder height and then open the arms out to the side.

- Reach the arms out away from each other as if someone is pulling you apart by the arms (notice the spine get taller here), flip your palms so they are facing behind you and in small sharp and controlled movements pulse the arms back, initiating the move from the top of the triceps, or just behind the armpit.

Benefits: Wings, baby! Targets those bat wings. Great triceps exercise and the whole time you are still working those red carpet deltoids by holding the arms up.

Toning move #8
- Finish by flipping the palms down and repeat the reach, the more lengthened the arm the more likely you will activate biceps (in a lengthened position) and triceps.
- Then again in small sharp and controlled movements circle the arms forward and then back 10 times each.
- Then hold and reach until you can’t hold and reach any more.

Benefits: Again working to lubricate the shoulder joint and working all of the arms muscles here, in a way that creates long lean muscles. Also your core is forced to kick on when you reach those arms in opposing directions, and endurance by continuing to hold the arm up even after you’ve completed the whole series and are dying, you are telling your muscles that they can and must hold on!

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7 Awesome Ways to Use a Foam Roller

  • Aching muscles can last for days, so speed up your recovery by using a foam roller.   These seven foam roller exercises from Shape-Up Shortcuts only take 10 to 15 minutes—do them after a workout, during your favorite sitcom, or right before bed. Roll over each spot 5 to 10 times.
  • Calves
    Sit on the floor with your legs straight out, hands on the floor behind you supporting your weight. Place the foam roller under your calves (A). Slowly roll along the back of your legs up and down from your knees to your ankles (B).
     
  •  
    Hamstrings
    Sit with your right leg on the roller; bend your left knee, cross your left ankle over your right ankle, and put your hands on the floor behind you (A). Roll up and down from your knee to just under your right butt cheek (B). Switch legs.
     
  •  
    Quads
    Lie facedown on the floor and place the roller under your hips(A). Lean on your right leg (B) and roll up and down from your hip to your knee. Switch legs.
     
  •  
    Back
    Sit on the floor with the foam roller on your lower back, resting your hands behind you for balance (A). Tighten your abs and slowly bend your knees to move the roller up your back, just below your shoulder blades (B).
     
  • Outer Thighs

    Lie on your side with the roller under your right hip (A). Bracing your abs and glutes for balance, slowly roll down from your hip to your knee (B). Switch to the other side and repeat.

  •  
    Shoulders and Sides
    Lie on your back with the roller behind your shoulders. Lace your fingers loosely behind your head and lean your upper back into the roller (A). Brace your abs and glutes for stability, and slowly press into the roller on your left side, raising your right shoulder (B). Roll from your underarms to the bottom of your rib cage. Return to the center and switch sides.
     
  • Butt
    Sitting on the roller, cross your right leg over your left knee and lean toward the right hip, putting your weight on your hands for support (A). Slowly roll one butt cheek over the roller (B). Switch sides.
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10 Foods to Never Eat

Drop that spoon! Everyone deserves the occasional indulgence, but before you dig in there are a handful of foods you should steer clear of to avoid damaging effects on your body, skin, and waistline. Here, experts weigh in on 10 foods to push off your plate for good.
 
Party girl with cake

1. Frosting

That store-bought frosting from a tub might taste great on cakes and cookies, but it’s packed with problems. “It’s one of the only items in the grocery store that still has trans fats, which are terrible for your health and waistline,” says Melina Jampolis, MD, physician nutrition expert and coauthor of The Calendar Diet. “Trans fat raises bad cholesterol, lowers good cholesterol, and causes inflammation, which can lead to belly fat and diseases ranging from heart disease to diabetes.” On top of that, tub frosting is loaded with sugar, and high-sugar diets contribute to premature wrinkles. Yikes.

 

bagel

2. Bagels

If you’re prone to skin problems and tempted to grab a bagel before you go in the morning, think twice. “Bagels have a massively high glycemic index, which increases insulin and leads to increased inflammation in the body, which is shown to possibly accelerate aging and worsen acne and rosacea,” says dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, codirector of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, DC. Opt for an English muffin with peanut butter instead.

doughnuts

3. Processed Baked Goods

So convenient, so tasty (if we’re being honest here), butso not worth it. Those pre-packaged mini muffins, doughnuts, and dessert cakes will add tons of calories and loads of unwanted sugar to your diet, plus they aren’t easy to digest. “These foods are bad on so many levels, because they are filled with high sugar content and preservatives for a longer shelf-life — they can literally sit there forever,” says Dr. Tanzi. “Sugar increases inflammation in the skin, which on top of irritating acne and rosacea, can make you look puffy and bloated. Skip the wrapped stuff and grab fresh fruit for a sweet fix instead.

glass of soda

4. Soda

Dietitians and doctors all agree: Soda should be nixed from your diet completely. “One can of soda is like a can of water with 10 packets of sugar in it,” says nutritionist Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, and director and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. “The recommended amount of daily sugar for a woman is about six teaspoons or 24 grams, and soda has way more than that.” Good old fashion H2O is still your best option. If you want to jazz it up, add a slice of fresh fruit for flavor.

Rise and Shine: The Healthiest Cereals

5. Sugary Cereal

A bowl of Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops, or Cap’n Crunchmight taste like nostalgia, but it’ll wreak some havoc with its high amount of inflammation-causing sugar and gluten content. “For some people with sensitive skin, gluten can exacerbate breakouts, leading to increased redness and, yes, more breakouts,” says Dr. Tanzi. Opt for low-sugar, gluten-free options like Rice Chex and Corn Flakes.

Stick of butter

6. Stick Margarine

Choose a small amount of regular butter or soft spread over stick-shaped margarine when topping foods or baking, says Taub-Dix. “Margarine is usually loaded with trans fat,” she says. Don’t forget that stick margarine is found in plenty of pastries, crackers, snack foods, and even microwave popcorn, so limit intake to keep cholesterol levels in check.

Jar of sauce

7. Jarred Tomato Sauce

It’s easy to forget sources of sugar when you’re making recipes that aren’t traditionally considered sweet, but they do exist. Tomato sauce is a big culprit, says Dr. Tanzi. “Make your own, because the store stuff has a ton of sugar.”

Strips of bacon

8. Bacon

Noshing on bacon as a side for breakfast, as a topping for salads, or as an addition to your sandwich? Bad habit. “I know it’s only 45 calories a strip, but it is really high in fat, sodium, and the preservative sodium nitrate,” says Taub-Dix. Veggies or a few nuts are better options for a crunch, and won’t create such problems for your heart and digestive system. You’re better off avoiding it, but if you must have a little bacon? “Stick to half a strip to crumble on foods like salads and sandwiches,” Taub-Dix says.

banana split and ice cream sundae

9. Maraschino Cherries

This preserved fruit might turn up in your cocktail or on your sundae. Start choosing the real deal over sugar-packed, processed maraschino cherries. “These have artificial colors, like red-40 and red-3 dyes, that add no nutritional value,” says Taub-Dix.

Pot stickers

10. Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is low in calories and has some good vitamins and minerals like riboflavin and vitamin B-6, but the extremely high sodium content will leave you bloated and at risk for conditions like hypertension. “There are so many low-sodium, lighter soy sauce options, there’s no reason to buy the regular stuff anymore,” says Taub-Dix. Yet she still recommends using the light stuff sparingly. “A tablespoon of the low-sodium soy sauce is about 600 milligrams of sodium instead of 900, so it is less but not none.”

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Top Moves to Get Your After-Baby Body, Fast!

You’ve brought your baby home and you’re ready to get back to your pre-pregnancy form. We talked to the experts to get the best exercises to help whip you back into shape so you’ll be rockin’ that body along with the baby.
 
Lose the baby weight

Your Post-Pregnancy Workout

Congrats! You’ve had the baby…now what? After being pregnant for nine months, many mothers are anxious to get back to their normal workout routine. But how soon is too soon? “The general rule of thumb is to head back to the gym six weeks after birth,” says Jade Alexis, personal trainer from Reebok Sports Club. Before you do anything, work closely with your doctor to make sure everything is safe and determine a proper exercise plan for you.

Ready to get started? Check out these exercises to get you moving again and back to your normal routine in no time!

Beginner: Kegels

Target: Pelvic muscles

  • Sit on a bench with feet shoulder-width apart, hands on hips. Contract your pelvic muscles, as if you’re trying to stop from urinating, and stand.
  • Hold Kegel and return to bench, then release.
  • Do 1-3 sets of 10-20 reps.
  • Make it harder: With back to bench, stand a foot in front of bench seat and bend elbows to clasp hands in front of chest. Lift leg straight in front of you a few inches off ground and bend right knee to sit down briefly on bench as you Kegel. Keeping left leg raised throughout, stand up immediately, releasing Kegel and pressing through right heel to straighten right leg. Do 12 reps. Switch legs, repeat.
Hot Seat

Beginner: Floor Bridges

Targets: Hamstrings and butt

  • Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, arms by your sides.
  • Engage core and squeeze butt to lift offthe floor, pressing heels into the ground.
  • Kegel at the top of the bridge, hold for three seconds, and slowly return to floor. Release Kegel at bottom of bridge.
  • Do 1-3 sets of 10-20 reps.
Bridge pose

Beginner: Crunch Beat

Targets: Abs and legs

  • Lie faceup on mat with knees bent 90 degrees, legs lifted, calves parallel to floor.
  • Place hands behind head, elbows out, and crunch up, lifting shoulders off mat.
  • Extend legs diagonally up, cross ankles, and extend arms overhead. Holding this position, switch feet over and under each other 8 times. Return to start. Do 8 reps.

Crunch Beat

Intermediate: Forearm Plank

Targets: Absobliquesthighs, and butt

Getting your core back into prime form is going to help your body bounce back the fastest, says Ashley Borden, FITNESS advisory boardmember and lifestyle consultant at Nike Elite Athlete. “After two to three months, your body is ready for a new challenge to get back to tip-top shape, but you’re likely not ready for a full-blown workout yet,” says Alexis. Planks and side planks are great ways to work your entire core without putting strain on your neck and back.

  • Get into plank position (abs engaged, back straight, forearms on floor, legs extended).
  • Hold for 30-60 seconds, keeping hips up and abs tight.
  • Lower knees to floor, resting for 30 seconds before resuming.
  • Complete a rep of 4-5 planks.
  • Make it harder: After you’ve held a plank for 30-60 seconds, move into side plank, shifting body weight to left hand and rotating body to extend right arm directly up, palm forward. Stack right foot on top of left. Hold for 30-60 seconds, switch sides.
plank pose

Intermediate: Hamstring Curl

Targets: Hamstrings and butt

  • Lie faceup on ground with arms slightly out to sides, knees bent and calves resting on center of stability ball, feet flexed.
  • Lift hips up, squeeze abs tight and bend knees to curl ball in toward you.
  • Slowly push legs back out, keeping hips up at all times.
  • Do 1-3 sets of 10-20 reps.
 Hamstring Curl

Intermediate: Modified Squat Thrust

Targets: Abslegs, and butt

  • Lower into squat position, hands touching floor just in front of feet.
  • Quickly step legs back so that you are in push-up position. Without pausing, step feet forward just in front of your hands and return to standing position.
  • Do 1-3 sets of 5-10 reps.
  • Make it harder: Instead of stepping feet back, quickly jump feet back and forth

Squat Thrust

Advanced: Wide-Stance Deadlifts

Targets: Lower backbutt, and legs

Although it largely depends on what you were eating and how much you were exercising throughout your pregnancy, most women can return to a normal workout routine about six months after birth, says Alexis. Deadlifts are a great, practical exercise for new moms to use because they mimic mommy duties, like putting your baby into the crib, says Annette Lang,personal trainer and owner of Annette Lang Education Systems.

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, holding a 5-pound dumbbell in each hand with palms facing body.
  • Slowly bend forward, pushing your butt back while lowering dumbbells to shin level.
  • Tighten glutes and return to start.
  • Do 1-3 sets of 8-10 reps.
Wide-Stance Deadlift

Advanced: Push-Ups

Targets: Shoulderschest, arms, and abs

  • Start with hands and toes on floor, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend at the elbows and lower chest about an inch from the ground.
  • Straighten arms and push away from the floor, returning to start position.
  • Do 1-3 sets of 10-20 reps.
In-Out Push-Up

Advanced: Walking Lunges

Targets: Legs and butt

  • Stand with feet together, hands on hips.
  • Take a large step forward, bending so both knees are at 90 degrees.
  • Push through the heel of the front leg and return to standing position.
  • Repeat on opposite side. Do 1-3 sets of 10-20 reps.
Girl doing lunge

 

 

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Reach Any Goal: How to Strengthen Your Willpower

 

 

 Woman running in the winter

Strengthen Your Willpower

Turns out that for years, we’ve been going about our resolutions all wrong. That’s because we didn’t really understand what willpower is. It’s not a magical force we summon up only when we’re trying to diet or kick our butts into workout mode. Instead, willpower is something we call on throughout the day, every day, to help us decide between the black pants and the blue ones, for instance, or to try to tune out our cubicle mate’s phone conversation so we can get our work done. “Any act that requires self-control requires willpower,” explains Roy F. Baumeister, PhD, a professor of psychology at Florida State University and a coauthor of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.
Unfortunately we have only a certain amount of willpower in any 24-hour period, and it tends to be strongest at the beginning of the day. “Willpower depends on your body’s energy supply, which generally peaks in the morning,” Baumeister says. The more we use it, the weaker it gets.
And, boy, do we put willpower through its paces: We spend three hours a day struggling to resist temptations like eating, surfing the Web, and spending money, according to a new study by Baumeister. That process leaves us physically and emotionally drained, says Kelly McGonigal, PhD, a health psychologist at Stanford University and the author of The Willpower Instinct. “The brain uses more energy to curb your impulses than it does to perform other mental tasks,” she explains.
The good news is that you can conserve your willpower and use it to reach your goals, not squander it on the small stuff. Here are six smart techniques for doing just that.

Find your focus.

Blaring TVs. People talking. E-mail and text alerts. We live and work in really noisy environments, which makes it hard to concentrate. And the more we try to tune out the cacophony, the more willpower we use up. The simple solution: Eliminate distractions rather than trying to ignore them, McGonigal says. Help yourself focus at work by using earplugs (or closing your office door if you have one), turning off your cell phone ringer, and silencing e-mail notifications. And don’t listen to your iPod on the job.
A 2011 study found that subjects who were asked to memorize information while listening to music scored worse on a test than those who had memorized in silence. “A better strategy is to use music to rev up your mood, energy, and productivity and then switch it off,” McGonigal says.

Eat for energy

The more often you consume good-for-you food, the more willpower you’ll have. Studies show that people whose blood sugar (aka glucose) is elevated to a healthy level, as it is after regular meals, have more self-control and can more easily resist junk food. “When your blood sugar is low, it’s harder to control your impulses,” McGonigal says. Need an immediate willpower boost? “Some baby carrots or a handful of raisins will do the trick,” she says. These foods are naturally high in sugar and will raise your glucose supply almost instantly, helping fuel your brain. Even better, to keep yourself willpowered all day, eat healthy meals or snacks every four hours. Choose foods that have a combo of protein, fiber, and complex carbs, like a salad with tofu, nuts, spinach, and tomatoes, or Greek yogurt with fruit.

Plan ahead.

Cut down on the number of decisions you have to make every day and your willpower muscle will automatically get stronger. “Studies show that after you reach a decision, your self-control is worse, and after you exert self-control, you get worse at making decisions,” Baumeister says. So get to work right now at reducing the number of choices you have to make in any 24-hour period. On Sunday, plan your workouts for the week and put them in the calendar on your phone. Every few months, pull together five to 10 outfits for work so you don’t start off each day agonizing over what to wear.
 

How to Stick to Your Goals

Make exercise automatic.
“Debating whether or not to work out takes a lot of mental energy,” says Charles Duhigg, the author ofThe Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. “But when it happens routinely, like taking a Spinning class every Tuesday and Thursday, and you don’t have to think about it, it’s not so taxing.”
To start a new exercise habit, pick a time when you’ll be able to work out consistently, like first thing in the morning. “Studies show that people who exercise regularly do it at the same hour every time,” Duhigg says.
Also, build get-moving prompts into your day. If you go for a run right after waking up, “put your workout clothes near your bed, where you’ll see them first thing,” Duhigg suggests. Finally, give yourself a little reward every time you finish a workout. “Make sure it’s something you genuinely enjoy,” Duhigg says. That will trick your brain into associating the rush of pleasure that comes from a treat, like a coffee after your morning run, with exercise.
 

Stress less.

Nothing weakens your resolve or zaps your initiative like stress. “Researchers are just learning how stress is tied to self-control,” Baumeister says. “Our best guess is that both things require the same amount of mental energy.” So once you become stressed, your willpower goes right out the window.
To calm down and replenish your energy, go for a walk. “When stress hits, removing yourself from the situation even briefly helps,” says Suzanne Steinbaum, an attending cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and the author of Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s Heart Book. “By changing your environment, you help change your perception and recharge your batteries.” If possible, go outside, she advises. Fresh air will help you relax and get back on track for success.
 

Follow your friends.

News flash: You’re still susceptible to peer pressure. “We have evolved to unconsciously imitate those around us,” says James Fowler, PhD, a professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California, San Diego, and a coauthor of Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives.
Research found that if the person sitting next to us eats a lot, we’re more likely to overindulge as well. Even pals who live hundreds of miles away can affect our habits. “Friends share information about behavior on Facebook and Twitter,” Fowler notes. Similarly, our buds can get us excited about exercise. “If your friend takes up running and says, ‘Hey! I’ve got more energy,’ it may encourage you to start, too,” Fowler says.
Schedule workouts and healthy meals with your fit pals on a regular basis. Making the commitment to get and stay in shape together will help build your willpower and keep you motivated to reach the finish line.
 
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8 Simple Ways to Get Rid of Belly Bloat

Surprising reasons your belly can balloon, and how

to deflate it fast.

 

 

Saucony Ignite Tight Capri

Banish the Bloat

Either your jeans shrank or your belly grew, and chances are it’s the latter. You’re exercising and eating right, so what’s up with the bloating? Sometimes the culprit is obvious (hello, Aunt Flo and last night’s burrito!), but other times your healthy habits are the cause. Read on for five surprising reasons your belly can balloon — plus adviceon how to deflate it fast.

1. Tummy Puffer: Downing Fluids Before Your Workout

It’s important to drink plenty of fluids when it’s hot out to prevent dehydration, especially when you exercise. Also, steadily sipping water encourages healthy digestion by keeping food moving through your system, says Christie Achenbach, RD, a dietitian in Destin, Florida, who specializes in nutrition for exercise. But chugging too much water before your workout makes your belly swell.

Deflate-it fix: To avoid that sloshy, overfull feeling, drink about 16 to 24 ounces of water one to two hours before exercise. That should allow plenty of time for your body to absorb the needed fluid and eliminate the rest, says Eamonn Quigley, MD, a gastroenterologist at the Methodist Hospital in Houston. Then top off your tank with another eight ounces about 15 minutes before you head out, and sip regularly during your workout to make sure you’re fully hydrated.

2. Tummy Puffer: Fueling Up with Sports Gels and Beans

Those gooey, chewy nibbles give you a much needed boost when your energy is flagging during a workout or a race. The problem is that most of them deliver a quick dose of carbs in the form of fructose and/or maltodextrin, two forms of concentrated fruit that many people have trouble digesting. “Some studies show that up to 50 percent of people in the United States can’t digest fructose without GI discomfort,” says Kristi King, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Even if you’re not one of them, gobbling gels and jelly beans can still make you bloated and gassy. “Most exercisers consume these products as fast as they can, which means that the sugar gets dumped from the stomach into the small intestine quickly, and that can cause cramping, bloating, and diarrhea,” King says.

Deflate-it fix: Start with a half pack during a workout and wash it down with a few swigs of water to dilute the carbs and help your body absorb them. If you still have problems, try eating a banana or some orange slices instead; they’re both fairly low in fructose, so they’re easier to digest.

3. Tummy Puffer: Eating Too Much Fiber

“Many women make drastic changes to their diet when it’s bikini season,” says Tamara Duker Freuman, RD, a nutritionist in New York City who specializes in digestive disorders. “If you’re used to lower-fiber meals and you suddenly start eating a lot of fruit, salads, and bran cereals, you’re going to be significantly bloated.” That’s because you don’t have the right bacteria in your gut to help digest the increased amount of fiber.

We all have trillions of bacteria in our intestines, which help us process the food that our stomach and intestines have a hard time breaking down, Dr. Quigley says. “When undigested food reaches your colon, bacteria feed on it and produce gas,” he explains. The type of bacteria that’s in your gut is determined in part by what you eat, and some sorts produce more gas than others. Without the right kind, fibrous foods, which are typically slower to digest, linger in the gut even longer, giving bacteria plenty of time to munch away and create gas.

Not only that, but “everything from energy bars to yogurt is fortified with fiber these days,” says Joy Bauer, RD, the author of The Joy Fit Club: Cookbook, Diet Plan, and Inspiration. “It’s a problem, because they typically contain large amounts of inulin, a fermentable fiber that may cause gas and bloating when consumed in large quantities.”

Deflate-it fix: Make your belly fiber-friendly by building up a tolerance gradually, adding five grams or fewer from fruits and veggies every week until you reach the recommended daily 25 to 35 grams. “Some people have a really hard time with beans, while others have more of a problem with broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables,” Freuman says. “Start by upping your fruit and vegetableintake at just one meal so you can keep track of what causes the most problems. Over time your gut bacteria population will reach a new ‘normal’ baseline, and your body will adjust to the volume of gas they produce without experiencing discomfort.” Scan labels for inulin, which is also called chicory root extract or chicory root fiber. “If it’s the first ingredient listed, the food contains quite a bit of it,” Freuman says. Avoid it.

4. Tummy Puffer: Popping Vitamins

Many supplements contain additives and fillers, King says. Common ones include lactose or wheat — a problem for those who are lactose- or gluten-intolerant — and sugar alcohols like mannitol or xylitol, which are notorious bloat culprits because they tend to be slower to digest than other carbs, giving intestinal bacteria plenty of time to feast on them and produce gas.

Deflate-it fix: Look for a multi with a short ingredients list that contains few difficult-to-pronounce words (they’re often indicative of additives and fillers) and avoid any that list sugar alcohols, lactose, or gluten, which may also be called wheat germ, food glaze, food starch, or hydrolyzed vegetable protein — if they’re listed at all. “Supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, so all their ingredients may not be noted on the label,” King explains. A safer bet: Get your daily dose of vitamins and minerals by eating a variety of whole foods.

5. Tummy Puffer: Snacking on Protein Bars

“These bars often contain whey-protein concentrate or milk-protein concentrate, which causes bloating in people who have trouble digesting lactose,” Freuman says. Others are made with soy-protein concentrate, which can be gas inducing because it’s a bean product and contains indigestible, fermentable carbs in addition to protein.

Deflate-it fix: Look for bars with proteins that are typically easier to tolerate, like nut or rice proteins or whey-protein isolate (as opposed to concentrate), which contains a higher percentage of pure protein and less lactose than other forms. “You may pay a little more, but it’s worth it,” Freuman says.

Burst Your Bubble

6. Eat a banana every day.

The potassium it contains helps prevent bloat. “When potassium is low, the body retains extra sodium and holds on to water,” says Joy Bauer, RD. Other potassium-rich foods include tomatoes; mushrooms; dark leafy greens, like spinach and Swiss chard; and fish like salmon and halibut.

7. Spoon more yogurt.

 Check labels to find one that contains bifidobacteria. “Some studies show that these bacteria can reduce flatulence and bloating,” says Eamonn Quigley, MD. Fage Total Greek Yogurt and Activia both contain bifido. You can also pop a probiotic supplement, like Align, that contains it.

8. Contract your abs.

“Many people aren’t actually bloated at all; they’ve just developed a habit of relaxing their abdominal muscles and contracting their diaphragm, which makes them look and feel bloated because their stomachs are sticking out,” says Brennan Spiegel, MD, an associate professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Learn to contract your abs instead. Imagine someone is about to punch you in the gut, and pull your belly button in toward your spine. Practice contracting your abs for five to 10 seconds several times, being sure not to hold your breath. Once you get used to the feeling, remind yourself to do it periodically throughout the day so that it becomes a habit, and you won’t look or feel as bloated.

 

 

 

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The New Weight-Loss Strategy: Just Don’t Gain Weight

Your current approach to slimming down may be all wrong

 

Tried losing weight a million times but never had much success? You might be going at it the wrong way: Learning how to maintain your current weight helps women stick to healthier lifestyles and lose weight, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine.

In the study, overweight African American women were put in a program that gave them weight-maintenance (not weight-loss) pointers, such as to skip fast food, watch less TV, and cut their daily caloric intake by just 200 calories a day. They were also taught skills such as how to read nutrition labels and how to find low-calorie dishes on restaurant menus. After 12 months, 62 percent of the women were either at or below their original weight. On average, the women had dropped about two pounds each.

So why did this “maintain, don’t gain” method work? One reason could be that it’s simply easier to stick with healthy habits that control your current weight rather than those that are actively designed to drop pounds, says study author Gary Bennett, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, global health, and medicine at Duke University. Cutting only 200 calories from your daily diet is a lot more doable than cutting 500 calories, after all.

“If you’re a person who’s been unsuccessful at losing weight, the best thing you can do is try not to gain any,” says Bennett, who notes that even a small amount of weight gain can pose a major health risk. So skip soda and drink water instead, or order a side salad with your meal instead of French fries—the simpler the change, the more likely you’ll continue doing it and eventually keep off (or lose) weight.

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11 Foods that Will Make You Gain Weight

It seems like North America is obsessed with losing weight, but what happens if you want to gain weight? Some people are naturally quite small and they too feel the effects of bullying. It can be very hard for a person with a fast metabolism to gain body weight. For these individuals, even a few pounds can make the difference. Having too low body weight can cause organ damage, loss of menstruation in women, and bone density loss.

Individuals who are recovering from eating disorders may also be interested in learning how to gain weight a healthy way. It is certainly true that drinking sugary sodas and eating french fries all day will make you gain weight, but your body will suffer greatly. The best way to gain weight is by eating natural, whole foods and paying attention to the caloric intake.

Here are 11 healthy food that when eaten right can help you gain healthy weight:

1. Red Meat

If you are trying to gain weight, enjoy some red meat. Steak contains a ton of protein and iron. Not all steak cuts are made equal though. You want the fatty cuts where the meat is marbled. These cuts of meat will contain more calories, but they’ll also be way more delicious too! Look for rib-eye, t-bone, New York strip, and beef tenderloin. Red meat is high in cholesterol, so enjoy it with a healthy diet. Combining it with an unhealthy diet high in saturated fats could cause health effects.

2. Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is packed with protein and fats, making it a great choice for people trying to gain weight the healthy way. One tablespoon contains around 100 calories and has 4 grams of protein. Peanut butter is also high in folate, magnesium, vitamin E, and vitamin B3. Enjoy peanut butter mixed into oatmeal, topping a slice of whole grain bread, or as a dip for apples. When picking a brand of peanut butter, try to find varieties that are all natural, meaning they don’t have a ton of sugar and other ingredients added.

3. Whole Fat Milk

One simple substitution you can make when trying to gain weight is swapping your skim milk for whole milk. It’s only 60 calories more a glass as the fat is left in. When you keep the fat in milk, the vitamins and nutrients stay in the solution. Whole milk is high in vitamin D and A. Add whole milk where ever you would use skim, such as in oatmeal, cereal, sauces, or just as a glass of milk. If you enjoy milk in your coffee, you can also use cream here.

4. Tropical Fruit

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but tropical fruit can help you gain weight. Fruits like mango, papaya, bananas, and pineapple are amazing choices. They are full of natural sugars and can give you great energy. Adding in servings of fruit into your diet is a great step to gaining weight. No one ever became fat by eating fruit, so don’t worry about eating too much! If you find it difficult to eat enough fruits and vegetables in a day, try blending them to make a delicious smoothie.

5. Avocado 

These delicious green vegetables are an excellent way to add healthy fats to your diet. One half of an avocado contains 140 calories, but also contain high levels of potassium, folic acid, and vitamin E. Avocado also are filled with B vitamins. Enjoy avocado added to salads, cut up on meat, or even spread on toast. Mash half a ripe avocado onto bread and season with salt and pepper. Delicious!

6. Granola

Granola is a great cereal to enjoy if you are trying to gain weight. This tasty snack is made from rolled oats, sugar, and butter. Dried fruit and nuts can be added. You can buy granola pre-made, but it’s easy to make at home too! Enjoy granola topped with thick yogurt, fruit, and a drizzle of honey. This breakfast will be high in protein from the yogurt, filled with fiber from the oatmeal, and sugar from the fruit.

7. Whole Wheat Bread

Eating healthy bread products is a great way to start gaining weight. If you’re adding bread to your diet, look for whole grains. While white bread is what we all grew up with, it’s not the best for your health. By refining the wheat so much, we strip the nutrients out of it. Instead, opt for whole grain varieties. These contain a fiber and minerals that are missing in white bread. It will help you stay full for longer, and give you sustained energy.

8. Butter

Nothing beats the taste of butter for cooking. It is full of flavor and good calories. Butter does have saturated fats, so enjoy it in moderation. A good option is to incorporate ghee into your diet. This Indian ingredient is ultra clarified butter. It is safe to use when cooking at high temperatures, unlike butter which will burn. Ghee also has concentrated flavor, so you can use less when cooking. Enjoy eggs fried in butter or ghee for a tasty and nutritious breakfast.

9. Nuts

Nuts are a great snack for gaining weight. They are full of fat and nutrients, but also contain a great deal of fiber. Eating only a few nuts can keep you full for hours. Not all nuts are equal for fiber though. Almonds are a great choice, while macadamia nuts are very high in fat. Mixed nuts are a great option because you can get the nutritional benefit of many varieties in one snack. Add nuts to your salads, on top of Asian dishes, and in your breakfast cereals and oatmeal.

10. Cheese

Cheese is one of the favorite foods in North America. You can add cheese into almost any dish. It has all the nutritional benefits of milk products. Most cheeses are high in fat, making it a good product to have if you are trying to gain weight. Cheese comes in many delicious varieties, so pairing a cheese to your meal is a fun experience. Try goat cheese with eggs, Swiss with roasted chicken, and Parmesan on top of asparagus. On its own, cheese also makes a great snack because it’s high in protein.

11. Potatoes

One of the first things people cut when trying to lose weight are carbohydrates. Thus, add them back to your diet when you are trying to gain weight! The key is choosing carbohydrates that have nutritional value. Potatoes are a great choice because they’re high in protein (really!), full of fiber, and contain a ton of vitamin C. Eat potatoes with the skin on for optimum nutrition. Once they’re peeled, the protein is cut in half.

 

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How to make calorie counters work for you!

 

The latest personal fitness trackers and exercise machines offer a bewildering array of metrics to track and quantify your progress. But the simplest and most broadly applicable remains the humble calorie, which reflects both the intensity and duration of your workout.

The problem is that the estimates you get from machines and online calculators reflect population averages and neglect individual differences. To get a more personalized take on your calorie use, and to accurately compare the results of different kinds of workouts, keep the following three factors in mind:

Body shape

Researchers produce calorie estimates by asking volunteers to perform various tasks while measuring their oxygen consumption, which allows them to calculate energy use. To account for the fact that volunteers come in all shapes and sizes, the average result is expressed in calories per kilogram of body weight – which is why exercise machines ask you to input your weight.

This approach produces decent estimates, but it overlooks the fact that two people with the same weight can have dramatically different height and body composition. People with more body fat than average burn fewer calories per kilogram of overall weight during weight-bearing exercises such as walking and jogging, which means that cardio machines overestimate the number of calories they burn.

Height also makes a difference, according to a new study just published in the Journal of Applied Physiology by researchers at Southern Methodist University in Texas. Studying subjects ranging from 3-foot-6 to 6-foot-11, they came up with a formula based on both height and weight that predicted the energy cost of walking more accurately than the traditional weight-only formula.

So how much difference does this make in practice? For someone who is 5-foot-2 with a BMI of 25, the standard formula underestimates calorie burn while walking briskly by about 5 per cent; for someone 6-foot-2 with the same BMI of 25, the standard formula overestimates it by about 5 per cent.

Fitness

The fitter you get, the easier your workout will feel if you don’t increase the intensity. That’s reflected in calorie burn too: As you get fitter, you body gets more efficient and needs fewer calories to maintain the same pace, even if your weight stays the same.

One way to correct for fitness is to measure heart rate while you exercise. Research going back to the 1980s has found that there’s a direct relationship between heart rate and calories during “moderate” exercise, when heart rate is between about 90 and 150 beats per minute. The problem is that the exact relationship is different for each person and requires careful measurement of maximum heart rate, so it’s not very practical.

The best use for heart-rate monitors is to compare your personal rate of calorie burning while doing different activities. A South African study in 2005 found that the relationship between heart rate and calorie consumption is essentially the same for running and cycling. That means if you’re used to jogging at 140 beats per minute, you can monitor your heart rate to figure out how fast you need to cycle to reach the same level of energy consumption.

The same should apply to most continuous aerobic activities that you perform upright, such as stair-climbing or cross-country skiing. Different rules apply to intermittent activities like lifting weights; heart rate is also lower if you’re horizontal or underwater, so swimming heart rates aren’t directly comparable.

Heat

Exercise feels harder in hot conditions, so it’s no surprise that maintaining the same pace on a hot day burns more calories. But even if you slow down enough to keep your effort level the same, exercise in the heat still places greater demands on your body and burns more calories – in particular, it burns through your carbohydrate stores more quickly without changing your rate of fat-burning.

This may sound like a bad outcome, since most people who count calories are really trying to shed fat. But in most cases, what really matters is how many calories you burn, not whether those calories came from fat or carbohydrate stores. Researchers at Australia’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research published a study in 2010 in which mice were genetically altered to burn more fat instead of carbohydrate, but the change had no impact on their body weight or body composition.

In the end, knowing the exact number of calories you burned during a workout isn’t all that useful for most people. But understanding how to compare the calorie-burning effects of different kinds of workouts and how to adjust for changing conditions can help you plan an exercise program that progresses steadily and consistently. If you’re trying to lose weight, there’s no magic calorie-burning number other than “a little more than last week.”

 

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You say Ashtanga, I say Kundalini. What’s the difference? Use this guide to find the right yoga for you.

 

As studies continue to reveal yoga’s many health benefits, this centuries-old Eastern philosophy is fast becoming the new fitness soul mate for workout enthusiasts. Contemporary devotees range from high-powered execs trying to keep hearts beating on a healthy note to image-conscious Hollywood stars striving for sleek physiques. Even prominent athletes are adding yoga to their training regime to develop balanced, injury-free muscles and spines.

Yet to applaud yoga for its physical benefits alone would only diminish what this entire system has to offer as a whole. By practicing yoga on a regular basis, you may be surprised to find that you’re building much more than a strong, flexible body.

“Americans are usually drawn to yoga as a way to keep fit at first, but the idea behind the physical practice of yoga is to encourage a deeper mind-body awareness,” explains New York yoga teacher and author Beryl Bender Birch. “Healing and balancing the physical body helps bring clarity and focus to the mind as well.”

Initially, the sole purpose of practicing yoga was to experience spiritual enlightenment. In Sanskrit (the ancient language of India), yoga translates as “yoke” or “union,” describing the integration of mind and body to create a greater connection with one’s own pure, essential nature.

Classes that have gained popularity in the United States usually teach one of the many types of hatha yoga, a physical discipline which focuses mainly on asanas (postures) and breathwork in order to prepare the body for spiritual pursuits.

To get started on your individual yoga quest, it’s helpful to begin with a list that clearly prioritizes what needs you want to fulfill: Are you looking to sweat your way into a lean form, or does a gentler, more meditative approach sound more appealing?

“Not all practices fit into nice little cubby holes,” warns Bender Birch. “There’s a great deal of crossover among the various yoga schools, and there’s even a diversity in teaching approaches within each discipline.”

Try attending a few different types of classes, and you’ll quickly discover the right match to suit your needs. Below you’ll find brief descriptions of some of the hatha yoga disciplines that are being practiced in the United States.

Vigorous Vinyasas

Vinyasa-style yoga combines a series of flowing postures with rhythmic breathing for an intense body-mind workout. Here are a few different types:

Ashtanga

The practice of Ashtanga that’s getting mainstream attention today is a fast-paced series of sequential postures practiced by yoga master K. Pattabhi Jois, who lives in Mysore, India. Today, yogis continue to spread Jois’s teachings worldwide, making it one of the most popular schools of yoga around.

The system is based on six series of asanas which increase in difficulty, allowing students to work at their own pace. In class, you’ll be led nonstop through one or more of the series. There’s no time for adjustments—you’ll be encouraged to breathe as you move from pose to pose. Be prepared to sweat. For more information, visit Ashtanga teacher Richard Freeman’s website, yogaworkshop.com.

Power Yoga

In 1995, Bender Birch set out to challenge Americans’ understanding of what it really means to be fit with her book Power Yoga. Bender Birch’s intention was to give a Western spin to the practice of Ashtanga Yoga, a challenging and disciplined series of poses designed to create heat and energy flow.

“Most people wouldn’t take a class called Ashtanga Yoga, because they had no idea what it meant. Power Yoga, on the other hand, was something Americans could relate to and know that they’d get a good workout,” says Bender Birch.

Power Yoga’s popularity has spread to health clubs across the country and has taken on a broad range of applications. The common thread is a rigorous workout that develops strength and flexibility while keeping students on the move. For specifics, consult individual instructors before signing up for a class. For more information visit Thom Birch and Beryl Bender Birch’s website, power-yoga.com or Bryan Kest’s website poweryoga.com.

Jivamukti

Looking for a highly meditative but physically challenging form of yoga? Try Jivamukti. You won’t be alone.

Each week, more than 2,000 people visit the Jivamukti Yoga Center in New York City. Its popularity lies in the teaching approach of cofounders David Life and Sharon Gannon, who opened their first studio in 1986, combining an Ashtanga background with a variety of ancient and modern spiritual teachings. In addition to vinyasa-style asanas, classes include chanting, meditation, readings, music, and affirmations. This spiritual resource center also offers specialized courses in Sanskrit and the sacred yoga texts.

“Over the course of time, students will get a broad yoga education,” Life promises. “One week, a class may focus on a particular asana, while the next week’s theme may discuss more metaphysical issues.”

Beginner classes start by emphasizing standing poses, followed by instruction on forward bends, backbends, and inversions. These classes also introduce chants. For more information on class schedules or to find a certified instructor in your area, visit jivamuktiyoga.com.

Kali Ray TriYoga

A series of flowing, dancelike movements intuitively came to Kali Ray (Kaliji) while leading a group meditation in 1980. In 1986, after developing these movements into seven distinct levels, Kaliji established the TriYoga Center in Santa Cruz, California, offering a system of yoga that is taught in a meditative environment.

The first level is a slow, relaxing, and rejuvenating practice. The class, often accompanied by music, focuses on natural alignment and breath within the flow, and ends with meditation. A union of asana (postures), pranayama (breathwork), and mudra (seals), this practice is deeply meditative, promoting relaxation and inner peace. For more information visit kaliraytriyoga.com.

White Lotus

White Lotus Yoga is the collaborative effort of Ganga White and Tracey Rich, who meld two eclectic backgrounds and years of experience into a nondogmatic teaching approach dedicated to helping students develop a well-balanced personal practice. At their 40-acre retreat in the Santa Ynez Mountains of Santa Barbara, California, this husband and wife team offers a complete yoga-immersion experience with programs ranging from weekend and weeklong getaways to 16-day teacher training programs.

White Lotus Yoga is a flowing vinyasa practice which ranges from gentle to vigorous depending on your ability or comfort level. In addition, class formats incorporate alignment, breath, and the theoretical understanding of yoga. For more information, visit whitelotus.org.

Attention to Detail

Iyengar

From his home in Pune, India, B.K.S. Iyengar reigns as one of the most influential yogis of his time. At 80 years old, he continues to teach thousands of students from all over the world, encouraging them to penetrate deeper into the experience of each pose. This is the trademark of Iyengar Yoga—an intense focus on the subtleties of each posture.

In an Iyengar class, poses (especially standing postures) are typically held much longer than in other schools of yoga, so that practitioners can pay close attention to the precise muscular and skeletal alignment this system demands. Also specific to Iyengar, which is probably the most popular type of yoga practiced in the United States, is the use of props, including belts, chairs, blocks, and blankets, to help accommodate any special needs such as injuries or structural imbalances.

“In forward bends, for example, if someone’s hamstrings aren’t flexible, he or she can use a prop to help extend the spine. The wall is often used for support in a variety of poses,” explains Janet MacLeod, who teaches at the Iyengar Yoga Institute in San Francisco. “Using props gives the student support, allowing them more freedom to breathe deeply into the pose.” For more information, visit iyisf.org.

Healing

Integrative Yoga Therapy

In 1993, Joseph Le Page, M.A., founded Integrative Yoga Therapy (IYT) in San Francisco. Le Page developed a yoga teacher-training program designed specifically for medical and mainstream wellness settings, including hospitals and rehabilitation centers.

Two-week IYT intensives are offered worldwide, training health-care professionals, yoga teachers, and bodyworkers to adapt gentle postures, guided imagery, and breathing techniques for treating specific health issues such as heart disease, psychiatric disorders, and AIDS.

“Healing happens through connection with the deepest part of who we are,” says Le Page. “The program emphasizes the healing process in detail by addressing all levels of the patient—physical, emotional, and spiritual. An example of this therapeutic application is to teach patients with heart disease to become more aware of themselves and their condition at all levels, using yogic lifestyle changes, breathing techniques, asanas suitable for their condition, guided imagery for the circulatory system, and meditation with a focus on healing the heart.” For more information, visit iytyogatherapy.com.

Viniyoga

As we travel through life, it’s no mystery that we are constantly evolving on all levels—physically, emotionally, and intellectually. So why not tailor a yoga routine that will help address and integrate these transitions? Viniyoga, in fact, is an empowering and transformative practice designed to do just that.

In this gentle practice, created by T.K.V. Desikachar, poses are synchronized with the breath in sequences determined by the needs of the practitioner. According to Gary Kraftsow, owner and teacher at The American Viniyoga Institute on the Hawaiian island Maui, Viniyoga is a methodology for developing an integrated practice for each person’s needs as they grow and change.

“As children, our practice should support balanced growth and development of the body and mind. As adults, it should protect our health and promote our ability to be productive in the world. And as seniors, it should help us maintain health and inspire a deeper quest for self-realization,” says Kraftsow. For more information, visit viniyoga.com.

Svaroopa

This style of yoga teaches different ways of doing familiar poses, emphasizing the opening of the spine by beginning at the tailbone and progressing through each spinal area. Every pose integrates the foundational principles of asana, anatomy, and yoga philosophy, and emphasizes the development of transcendent inner experience, which is called svaroopa by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutra. This is a consciousness-oriented yoga that also promotes healing and transformation.

Svaroopa Yoga was developed by Rama Berch, who founded and directs the Master Yoga Academy and created the yoga program for Dr. Deepak Chopra’s Center for Well Being, both located in La Jolla, California. Berch says teaching asanas became increasingly frustrating, because the students seemed to be trying to “impose the pose upon their body rather than unfolding it from within.” She began looking for ways to guide her students to the deeper effects of each asana, speaking of them as “angles that provide opening, rather than poses to be learned.” New students find this a very approachable style, often beginning in chair poses that are comfortable and have a deep healing effect in the spine. For more information or to find out if there is a teacher in your area, visit masteryoga.org.

Bikram

When you take a Bikram yoga class, expect to sweat. Each studio is designed to replicate yoga’s birthplace climate, with temperatures pushing 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Why the sauna-like effect? “Because sweat helps move the toxins out of your body,” explains Radha Garcia, owner of Bikram’s Yoga College of India in Boulder, Colorado. “Your body is like a sponge. To cleanse it, you need to wring it out to allow fresh blood and oxygen to circulate and keep your immune system running smoothly.”

This method of staying healthy from the inside out was designed by Bikram Choudhury, who sequenced a series of 26 traditional hatha postures to address the proper functioning of every bodily system.

Choudhury first visited the United States from India in 1971 on a trip sponsored by the American Medical Association to demonstrate his work using yoga to treat chronically ill patients. Today Choudhury continues teaching students of all ages and abilities from his studio in Los Angeles where he also conducts a certified teacher’s training program. For more information, visit bikramyoga.com.

Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy

Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy is a combination of classical yoga and elements of contemporary client-centered and body-mind psychology. It can facilitate a powerful release of physical tensions and emotional blocks. Through assisted yoga postures, guided breathing, and nondirective dialogue, you can experience the connection of your physical and emotional selves, encouraging release, personal growth, and the healing of body, mind, and spirit. For more information, visit pryt.com.

Ease Into Enlightenment

Sivananda

At its core, Sivananda Yoga is geared toward helping students answer the age-old question “Who am I?” This yoga practice is based on the philosophy of Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, India, who taught disciples to “serve, love, give, purify, meditate, realize.” In order to achieve this goal, Sivananda advocated a path that would recognize and synthesize each level of the human experience including the intellect, heart, body, and mind.

In 1957, his disciple Swami Vishnu-devananda introduced these teachings to an American audience. A few years later, Vishnu-devananda founded the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers, summarizing Sivananda’s system into five main principles: proper exercise (asanas); proper breathing (pranayama); proper relaxation (Savasana); proper diet (vegetarian); and positive thinking (Vedanta) and meditation (dhyana).

There are more than 80 centers worldwide, as well as ashrams and teacher-training programs, all of which follow a hatha yoga practice emphasizing 12 basic postures to increase strength and flexibility of the spine. Chanting, pranayama, and meditation are also included, helping students to release stress and blocked energy. For more information, visit sivananda.org.

Integral

In 1966, the Reverend Sri Swami Satchidananda introduced an entire generation of young people to his yogic philosophy: “an easeful body, a peaceful mind, and a useful life.” His goal was to help people integrate yoga’s teachings into their everyday work and relationships, which he hoped would promote greater peace and tolerance worldwide.

“Integral Yoga uses classical hatha postures, which are meant to be performed as a meditation, balancing physical effort and relaxation,” says Swami Ramananda, president of the New York Integral Yoga Institute in Manhattan. In addition to a gentle asana practice, classes also incorporate guided relaxation, breathing practices, sound vibration (repetition of mantra or chant), and silent meditation. For more information, visit integralyogaofnewyork.org.

Ananda

For those who aspire to loftier goals than simply building a hard body, Ananda Yoga provides a tool for spiritual growth while releasing unwanted tensions. During the 1960s, Swami Kriyananda developed Ananda as a particular style of yoga after returning to California following a period of intense yoga training under Guru Paramhansa Yogananda (author of Autobiography of a Yogi). “The most unique part of this system is the use of silent affirmations while holding a pose,” says Rich McCord, director of Ananda Yoga’s teacher-training program at The Expanding Light retreat center in Nevada City, California. McCord explains that the affirmations are intended to help deepen and enhance the subtle benefits of each asana, providing a technique for aligning body, energy, and mind.

In a typical class, instructors guide their students through a series of gentle hatha postures designed to move energy upward to the brain, preparing the body for meditation. Classes also focus on proper alignment, easeful posture transitions, and controlled breathing exercises (pranayama) to facilitate an exploration into the inner dimensions of yoga and self-awareness. For more information, visit expandinglight.org.

Kundalini

Kundalini Yoga, stemming from the tantra yoga path, at one time remained a closely guarded secret practiced only by a select few. In 1969, however, Yogi Bhajan decided to change this tradition by bringing Kundalini to the West. Yogi Bhajan’s reasoning was based on the philosophy that it’s everybody’s birthright to be “healthy, happy and holy,” and he believed Kundalini would help spiritual seekers from all religious paths tap into their greater potential.

The practice of Kundalini Yoga incorporates postures, dynamic breathing techniques, and chanting and meditating on mantras such as “Sat Nam” (meaning “I am truth”). Practitioners concentrate on awakening the energy at the base of the spine and drawing it upward through each of the seven chakras. For more information, visit 3HO.org.

ISHTA

ISHTA, an acronym for the Integrated Science of Hatha, Tantra, and Ayurveda, is the yoga brainchild of South African native Alan Finger, who currently runs workshops at his yoga studio in Irvington, New York. Finger blends 37 years of teaching experience with his eclectic studies under Sivananda and the tantric hermit Barati, helping students of all ages and abilities to get in touch with life’s boundless energy.

“The sequence of postures is designed to help students integrate their individual sensations with a life energy force that’s beyond sensing and perceiving,” says Los Angeles-based ISHTA instructor Rod Stryker. “It’s a tool for visualization and a way to become more fully oneself.”

A typical ISHTA class mixes flowing Ashtanga-style asanas with the precise method of Iyengar, while including pranayama and meditation exercises as well. Instructors begin classes with warm-up poses, then gradually build to a more challenging practice. For more information, visit beyoga.com.

Kripalu

Located in the Berkshire region of Western Massachusetts, the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health has helped guide thousands of people along their path of self-discovery by teaching a system of yoga developed over a 20-year period by yogi Amrit Desai and the Kripalu staff.

During the 1970s, while studying under Indian guru Kripaluvananda, Amrit felt his body begin to move in a spontaneous flow of postures without the direction of his mind. This deep release of prana (life’s energy force) brought about a profound transformation in Amrit, so he developed these movements into three stages of practice which he could then teach to others.

The three stages of Kripalu yoga include: willful practice (a focus on alignment, breath, and the presence of consciousness); willful surrender (a conscious holding of the postures to the level of tolerance and beyond, deepening concentration and focus of internal thoughts and emotions); and meditation in motion (the body’s complete release of internal tensions and a complete trust in the body’s wisdom to perform the postures and movements needed to release physical and mental tensions and enter deep meditation). For more information, visit kripalu.org.

Anusara

Anusara means “to step into the current of divine will.” Anusara Yoga is an integrated approach to hatha yoga in which the human spirit blends with the precise science of biomechanics. It is a new system of hatha yoga that can be both spiritually inspiring and yet grounded in a deep knowledge of outer and inner body alignment. It can be therapeutically effective and physically transformative. The central philosophy of this yoga is that each person is equally divine in every part—body, mind, and spirit. Each student’s various abilities and limitations are respected and honored. Anusara Yoga differentiates itself from other hatha yoga systems with three key areas of practice:

Attitude: The practitioner balances an opening to grace with an aspiration for awakening to his or her true nature.
Alignment: Each pose is performed with an integrated awareness of all the different parts of the body.
Action: Each pose is performed as an artistic expression of the heart in which muscular stability is balanced with an expansive inner freedom. For more information, visit anusara.com.

Tibetan

Tibetan Yoga is a term used among Buddhists to describe a range of tantric meditation and pranayama practices. Though little is known in the West about the physical practices of Tibetan Yoga, in 1939, Peter Kelder published Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth, describing a sequence of postures of Tibetan origin called “The Five Rites of Rejuvenation.” In 1994, yoga teacher Christopher Kilham published a modern version of these exercises called The Five Tibetans: Five Dynamic Exercises for Health, Energy, and Personal Power (Inner Traditions). Composed of five flowing movements, this active workout keeps students on the move. Beginners start with 10 or 12 repetitions and progressively work their way up to the 21 repetitions of the full routine. Classes may be difficult to find.

Tibetan Buddhist monk Tarthang Tulku adapted another ancient movement practice for the modern West called Kum Nye. More contemplative in nature than the vigorous Five Tibetans, Kum Nye strives to integrate body and mind and means “interaction with the subtle body.” For more information, see Tulku’s Kum Nye Relaxation or visit nyingma.org.

Hatha

If you are browsing through a yoga studio’s brochure of classes and the yoga offered is simply described as “hatha,” chances are the teacher is offering an eclectic blend of two or more of the styles described above. It’s a good idea to ask the teacher or director of the studio where he or she was trained and if the poses are held for a length of time or if you will be expected to move quickly from one pose to the next, and if meditation or chanting is included. This will give you a better idea if the class is vigorous or more meditative.

mountain pose

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Fat Proof Your Life

Americans are giving in to the oversized portions that taunt us everywhere we go, filling our foods with fat and unnecessary calories. With an obesity epidemic on the rise, here’s how to fight back.

fat proofCut the Fat

I was headed to the DMV to renew my driver’s license, and I had to walk past a food court to get there. Even though I had just eaten lunch, the smell of pizza and Chinese food was making my stomach rumble, and I could practically feel my pupils turning into tiny cheeseburgers, cartoon-style. Ninety minutes’ worth of paperwork later, I was slathering extra frosting on a Cinnabon. “We’re continually being offered calorie-dense food in big portions, and we don’t have to work hard or spend much money to get it,” says Barbara Rolls, PhD, the author of The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet. “If you wanted to fatten someone up, you couldn’t design a much better environment than the one we live in.” And a lot of Americans are succumbing: 33 percent of adults are overweight and 36 percent are obese. But there’s good news: You can beat the odds and ditch extra pounds. Here, the 10 hurdles standing between you and your goal weight — and how to tackle every one.

Food Is Everywhere All the Time

Turn on the TV, fire up your laptop, or open a magazine, and there it is: food porn. Nearly 60 percent of the Pinterest content that we interact with is culinary, more and more non-grocery stores are selling food (think a hot dog stand at the hardware store and mini pizzas at Target), and there were 32 percent more food ads on television in 2011 than in 2007. The average person now watches 20 mouthwatering commercials a day, according to Yale University research.

The problem is that “seeing or smelling food activates pre-eating responses, like salivating,” Rolls says. But just as spotting a doughnut can trip your splurge trigger, leaving your running log out on the coffee table can activate your stay healthy one. Research shows that overweight grocery shoppers who were handed a recipe with health-related words printed on it bought less junk food than those who got otherwise identical recipe cards. “It didn’t matter whether participants thought about or looked at the card again,” says study author Esther Papies, PhD, an assistant professor at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. “These reminders work subtly.” To give your brain the hint, hang your bathing suit from your bedroom doorknob or put the class card for your favorite yoga studio in the front part of your wallet.

There’s Too Much Variety

Take a buffet: If you have just a few bites of each dish, you’ll still consume far more calories than you would if there were only two or three foods on your plate. Even when you’re not in an all-you-can-eat situation, having too many choices can sabotage your diet. That’s because when you devote mental energy to reviewing all of them, your brain gets overwhelmed and your willpower suffers.

“People in other countries tend to have the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day,” says Brian Wansink, PhD, the director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University and a FITNESS advisory board member. “Here, there’s no pattern at all. One day you skip breakfast, the next morning you have leftover pizza, and the next morning you buy a caramel latte. All this food freedom leads to taking in more calories.”

Wansink suggests eating more or less the same balanced breakfast and lunch every weekday, changing up dinner so you don’t get bored. Claire Wheeler, MD, PhD, a professor of community health at Portland State University and a coauthor of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Belly Fat Weight Loss, takes this approach: “I stick to the same few proteins and grains, but I switch up my fruits and vegetables,” she says. “Variety in that aspect is good, because different kinds of produce contain different nutrients.”

Fat and Sugar Are Hijacking Our Brain…

Junk food has more fat, sugar, and salt than ever before, and all three can affect the brain in the same way drugs and alcohol do. “Food scientists know exactly how to make the french fries in a restaurant more addictive than anything you could make at home,” Dr. Wheeler says. Namely, they engineer them to light up the pleasure center in your brain while throwing off your body’s “I’m full” signals, so it’s hard to feel satisfied no matter how many you have.

But don’t quit eating your faves cold turkey. “If you try to cut something out completely, you’re likely to go overboard if you do cave, because you think, This is my last chance to eat this, so I had better make it count and go all out,” says Deborah Beck Busis, the diet program coordinator for the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. “Instead, allow yourself a small serving and get used to the feeling of stopping once it’s gone.” Another trick: Indulge in activities you enjoy, like Spinning or playing Words With Friends, Dr. Wheeler suggests. They have the same pleasure-producing effect on brain chemistry as hyperpalatable foods, minus the calories.

    …and Our Gut

We all have a mix of good bacteria, which help us break down food and fight off sickness, and bad bacteria, which can muck up digestion, metabolism, and immunity. The newest research hints that a diet high in fat and low in fiber can cause a proliferation of bad bugs, which tell your digestive tract to store more calories as fat. (Good microbes tell your digestive system to let more calories through unabsorbed.) “This means that if two women eat the same 100-calorie candy bar, the one with a healthier mix of bacteria might absorb just 80 calories, while the other might absorb all 100,” Dr. Wheeler explains.

To slow the absorption of calories, aim to get 25 grams of fiber a day. “The nutrient increases the production of mucus in the gut, and good bacteria need mucus to survive,” says David Rakel, MD, an associate professor of integrative medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

We’re Lame in the Sack

“Since the recession, we feel that we need to be working at all hours to prove our worth,” Dr. Wheeler says. And once we do go to bed, high levels of the stress hormone cortisol prevent us from slipping into dreamland.

The problem is that not logging enough zzz’s doesn’t just make you drowsy during the day, it can also increase levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, reduce levels of the satiety hormone leptin, and give more clout to genes — including the bad kind that tell your body to gain weight the second you stray from your diet or take a break from the gym. “The more people sleep, the less sway their genes have over their weight, and the more diet and exercise matter,” says Nate Watson, MD, the codirector of the University of Washington Medicine Sleep Center in Seattle.

To get your seven or more hours, skip caffeine in the evening, power down your electronics at least an hour before bedtime, go to sleep and get up at about the same time every day, and make sure your bedroom is pitch-black.

Our Social Circle Is Growing, and Not in a Good Way

After tracking more than 12,000 health care professionals for 32 years, Harvard Medical School researchers found that their subjects’ obesity risk was 57 percent greater if they had a close friend who was obese, 40 percent greater if a sibling of theirs was obese, and 37 percent greater if their spouse was obese. One explanation: The researchers suspect that unhealthy activities are contagious (if your BFF loves going out for happy hour nachos, you’ll probably partake, too). Also, if the majority of the people in your life are packing extra pounds, being overweight can begin to seem like the norm.

Fight weight creep by finding ways to turn social time into slimming time. “People are willing to change, but you have to take the lead,” Busis says. Suggest meeting at a healthy soup-and-salad cafe instead of a Chinese buffet or taking a kickboxing class together instead of seeing a movie.

We Love a Bargain

You probably shop at least occasionally in one of the more than 4,000 big-box stores in the U.S., like Sam’s Club and Costco. And once you get your purchases home, they can cause something called stock pressure, Wansink says. “You open the cupboard and think, Whoa, look at all those chips!” Suddenly, you’re worried about polishing them off before they go stale or just clearing some room on your shelves.

If you must buy an economy-size bag of chips, crackers, or cookies, repackage it in smaller baggies as soon as you get home, Wansink suggests. Or put bad-for-you bites in the very back of your cabinets, where you’re less likely to see them.

Portion Sizes Keep Climbing

A report in the International Journal of Obesity examined 52 well-known paintings of Jesus’ last supper, comparing portions and dishware. The results: Since 1000 A.D., the size of entrees has grown by 69 percent, bread by 23 percent, and plates by 66 percent.

If you aren’t already eating dinner off salad-size plates, make the switch. Then dish out 20 percent less food than you think you need: Cornell researchers found that a 20 percent reduction didn’t make people feel any less full. At restaurants, ask the server to box up your leftovers. And if you chose something that won’t hold up well the next day, “get over the idea of getting your money’s worth,” Busis says. “You’re paying the same amount whether you finish your food or not. And when you think about the cost of taking in too many calories, it’s just not worth it.”

Health Halos Are Blinding Us

Buying the light version of packaged foods instead of the regular kind could make you heavier. When people were served treats that had a “low fat” sticker on the package, they ate up to 47 percent more than those who were served the same snacks minus the label, a Cornell study showed. In fact, just seeing the phrase “low fat” caused people to consume an extra 89 calories in a sitting. “People think they’re being good, so they compensate by eating more,” Wansink says. Other health claims — “gluten-free,” “all natural” — also spur us to justify eating more. “But these foods aren’t necessarily healthier,” he says.

Weirdly, knowing about the halo effect doesn’t make us any less susceptible to it, Wansink notes. So whether you’re reaching for rice cakes or Oreos, count out a single serving, then close up the box or bag. “Every time you stick to a reasonable portion instead of overeating, your resistance muscle gets a little stronger and your giving-in one gets a little weaker,” Busis says.

We Pay for Everything with Plastic

Studies show that we’re likelier to splurge on an expensive bag or gadget when we use a credit card, because swiping doesn’t feel like spending money. Now a study in the Journal of Consumer Research shows that we also buy less-healthy fare when we pay with credit instead of cash, because our brains trick us into thinking that if it doesn’t count financially, it doesn’t count caloriewise either.

Busis recommends taking out enough money each Monday for seven days’ worth of food. “Doing this can help you become more aware of how you’re spending your grocery dollars,” she says. And use the cash trick when eating out, too. “If you’ve budgeted $20 to spend on dinner, you may have to get an appetizer instead of an entree or stick with water instead of ordering wine,” Dr. Wheeler says. “When you’re more mindful of how much you’re spending, you’re also more mindful of how much you’re eating.”

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Look Hot in a Hurry: Fast Total-Body Weekend Workout

Get a stronger, sexier body by Monday with our simple workout rescue plan.

fast workoutAbout This Workout

Workweek crunch got you playing catch-up on your sweat sessions? “Think of exercise as money in the bank,” says Sonki Hong, a trainer who leads high-octane boot camps in Los Angeles. “The more deposits you can make, the better, even if they all happen on the weekend.” Hong’s three mini routines here counteract job blob and give you what your same ol’ jog won’t: a flatter belly, a total-body tone-up, and a quickie metabolism booster. Tackle one a day — or string them together if you’re feeling it — to get your fix. Ka-ching!

Friday Night, Abs Tight!

Hit the floor for a pre-cocktail tummy trimmer: Do each ab move below for one minute, then repeat the routine from the top. Notice how you alternate from sunny-side up to sunny-side down? That makes sure your waist gets a 360-degree cinch, Hong says. (Bonus if you also tack these on to the end of your Sunday circuit.)

Elongated Crunch Targets abs

  • Lie faceup on ground with hands behind head, elbows bent out to sides; lift legs several inches off ground, keeping them raised throughout.
  • Keeping chin off chest, crunch up, hold for 1 count, then slowly lower to start. Repeat.
  • MAKE IT EASIER: Keep heels on the ground with knees slightly bent.

Superman

Targets back and butt

  • Lie facedown on ground with arms extended in front of you.
  • Simultaneously lift arms and legs a few inches off ground and hold for 5 seconds. Lower slowly to start and repeat.
  • MAKE IT HARDER: The closer to the ground your legs come as you cycle, the more difficult the move.

Accordion

Targets abs

  • Sit on ground with legs extended and lean back 45 degrees, placing hands on ground behind you, fingers pointing forward. Lift legs several inches off ground to balance in a wide V position.
  • Bring knees toward chest, then extend legs again to return to wide V. Repeat.

Tripod Plank

Targets shoulders, back, abs, and obliques

  • Get into plank position, balancing on ground on forearms and toes.
  • Lift left leg several inches and hold for 10 seconds. Switch sides and repeat, keeping hips level.
  • Continue, alternating legs.

Unicycle

Targets abs and obliques

  • Lie faceup on ground with legs together and place hands underneath lower back for support, palms down. Raise head and shoulders off ground.
  • Lift legs a few inches off ground, bring knees to chest, then extend legs up.
  • Lower legs toward ground (without touching ground), then draw in knees to chest to complete the cycling motion. Repeat.

Saturday Get-It-Done Sculpters

Hong’s moves here engage multiple muscle groups so you won’t miss a spot. Carve out 15 to 20 minutes and grab a resistance ring, such as the Spri Xering ($7 and up, spri.com), or a resistance band (tie it to form a small circle). Do each exercise for one minute, aiming to complete the circuit two or three times.

Single-Leg Squat Press Targets shoulders, back, triceps, butt, and legs

  • Stand on left leg, right leg bent behind you, holding resistance ring with both hands in front of chest, elbows bent by sides.
  • Keeping right hand in front of chest, palm facing in, to secure one end of resistance ring, extend left arm diagonally up, palm forward.
  • Lower left arm to start position as you bend left knee 90 degrees into a single-leg squat. Return to standing; continue for 1 minute. Switch sides; repeat.

Lawn Mower

Targets back, triceps, abs, hips, butt, and quads

  • Stand on resistance ring (as if it were a stirrup) with right foot and hold other end in left hand. Balancing on right leg with left foot suspended behind you, lower into a single-leg squat.
  • Hinging forward slightly from hips, drive left elbow back to pull ring toward ribs. Lower left arm; repeat. Continue for 1 minute; switch sides and repeat.

Power Play

Targets biceps, triceps, hips, butt, and quads

  • Stand with feet wide and hold resistance ring vertically in front of torso with both hands, right hand in front of chest with palm up, left hand at waist level with palm down.
  • Squat down, curling right hand toward chin and pressing left hand down toward ground. Slowly return to start. Continue for 1 minute; switch sides and repeat.

Ring Punch

Targets shoulders, back, chest, biceps, triceps, and obliques

  • Stand with feet wide, knees slightly bent, holding resistance ring in both hands in front of chest, palms down, elbows bent by sides.
  • Punch forward with right fist as you pull back left fist near left shoulder, driving left elbow behind you. Quickly switch sides, pulling right fist back and punching with left.
  • Continue, alternating sides, for 1 minute.

Duckwalk

Targets butt, inner thighs, and outer thighs

  • Place resistance ring around ankles and stand with feet shoulder-width apart, hands behind head, elbows out to sides.
  • Lower into a half squat, keeping chest lifted, and sidestep to left for 10 seconds (or 10 steps).
  • Sidestep back to right for 10 seconds. Continue, alternating directions, for 1 minute.

Short, Sweaty Sunday

Unlike a jog through the park, this cardio workout “focuses on speed, agility, coordination, balance and muscle toning, not just endurance,” trainer Sonki Hong says. Plus, doing intervals fires up your metabolism more than steady cardio does, even post-workout. Go hard for each one-minute move below. “When you’re ready to quit, push yourself for an extra five seconds,” Hong says. “That’s the sweet spot where the work gets done.”

Minutes/Activity 0 to 5 Warm-up jog (in place if indoors) 5 to 6 Skater (Lunge diagonally forward with left leg, hop up to standing, then lunge diagonally forward with right leg; continue, alternating sides.) 6 to 7 Run/sprint (fast high knees in place if indoors) 7 to 8 Side Jack (Stand with hands behind head, elbows out; alternately side bend to bring left elbow and left knee together out to side, then right elbow and right knee.) 8 to 9 Run/sprint 9 to 10 Jumping Snap Kick (Jump up, bringing right knee up, then kicking it forward; land softly on left leg. Continue for 30 seconds. Switch sides; repeat.) 10 to 11 Run/sprint 11 to 12 Back Kick (Stand with fists in front of chest; lift straight left leg behind you, then right leg. Continue, alternating legs.) 12 to 13 Run/sprint 13 to 14 Side Hop (Hop from side to side on left forefoot for 30 seconds, then on right for 30.) 14 to 15 Run/sprint 15 to 25 Repeat minutes 5 to 15 25 to 30 Cool down walk/jog

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Sweat: 7 Reasons It Does a Body Good

Whether you’re breaking a sweat at the gym or just walking down the street on a scorching day (Guilty!), you may be giving your health a huge boost. Here, experts dish on the mental, physical and emotional benefits caused by a little perspiration.

Sweat Side Effect #1: Eases Pain

Got a kink in your neck that won’t quit (and no one around to massage it out)? Working up a sweat just might soothe the soreness, experts say. “Exercise stimulates neurochemical pathways in the brain, resulting in the production of endorphins that act as natural painkillers,” says James Ting, M.D., a sports medicine physician at Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Irvine, CA.

Sweat Side Effect #2: Blasts Zits

“When you sweat, your pores open and release the grit and grime that has built up inside of them,” says Whitney Bowe, M.D., a dermatologist in Briarcliff Manor, NY. Caveat: Don’t just sweat and go. All of that dirt from your pores accumulates on the surface of your skin, so aim to wash your face three times a day, especially if you are constantly playing sports or working out.

Sweat Side Effect #3: Rids the Body of Toxins

Not feeling the whole post-weekend juice detox plan? Hit the mat for a super-sweat session instead. Some experts believe that sweating can flush the body of system-clogging substances like alcohol, cholesterol and salt. Get the most bang for your bod with indoor cycling or circuit training — two of the sweatiest workouts, according to Melissa Morin, an exercise physiologist and Senior Director of Group Exercise at New York Sports Club.

Sweat Side Effect #4: Controls Mood Swings

Maybe you’ve already noticed — before a workout you’re Ms. Crabby Pants. But afterwards you feel like giving everyone hugs and high fives. It seems natural that we associate feeling warm with a sense of well-being and relaxation, but there may in fact be a scientific explanation for this feeling, says Dr. Ting. “Research has suggested that temperature-sensitive neural circuits to specific regions in the brain exist and may play a significant role in controlling mood.” So the next time you sense yourself being short, take a break for a Bikram yoga session or a run for a get-happy fix.

Sweat Side Effect #5: Prevents Colds and Other Infections

If you’ve ever wished you could walk around dousing everything in sanitizer wipes to prevent illness, you might be in luck. A study from Eberhard-Karls-University T?bingen in Germany suggests that human perspiration contains a naturally occurring antimicrobial peptide called dermcidin, which has been proven to fight tuberculosis germs and other dangerous pathogens, says Dr. Bowe. It’s like an invisible germ force field!

sweat side effects 2Sweat Side Effect #6: Regulates Body Temperature

The evaporation of sweat off of the skin prevents us from overheating during an intense workout, says Dr. Bowe. So, what would happen if you didn’t sweat? “In extreme cases, the lack of sweat during a seemingly strenuous workout could be due to a condition called anhidrosis that can lead to dizziness, a skin rash, or loss of consciousness during exercise,” says Morin.

Sweat Side Effect #7: Lowers Kidney Stone Risk

Yes, really! Research from the University of Washington found that regular exercisers sweat out salt and tend to retain calcium in their bones, rather than having them — salt and calcium — go into the kidneys and urine where stones form. Frequent sweaters also tend to drink more water and fluids, which is another stone prevention mechanism.

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The Power Abs Workout

Firm your deep ab muscles to shrink your waist, improve your posture, and gain more confidence. Do this circuit workout twice, three days a week, for a stronger core.

ab workoutAbsolute Power

Flat abs and killer confidence have one thing in common: a hard core. That’s because the muscles that make up your middle dictate not only how you rock a sports bra but also whether you stand tall and pack a punch in kickboxing class. “Firming the deep ab muscles is the fastest way to shrink your waist and improve your posture,” says Alexandra White, a co-owner of Jumping Frog Pilates in Tenafly, New Jersey, who supplied the six turbo toners on the next page. Grab a yoga mat and do the circuit twice, three days a week on alternating days. Then flash that superfly center!

Clamp

Targets back, abs, obliques, inner thighs, and outer thighs

Lie faceup on floor with arms and legs extended upward; lift head, neck, and shoulders off floor.
Simultaneously lower arms out to sides and open legs 45 degrees, keeping shoulders and chest lifted throughout.
Return to start, squeezing palms together and legs together.
Do 10 to 12 reps.

Wiper Plank

Targets back, abs, obliques, butt, and legs

  • Start on floor in plank position, balancing on forearms and toes, elbows directly under shoulders. Clasp hands together.
  • Lift right leg behind you as high as you can, then lower it without touching toes to floor and bring it out to right side.
  • Return right leg to center, then repeat without touching toes to floor.
  • Do 10 to 12 reps. Switch legs and repeat.

Sprinkler

Targets back, abs, and obliques

  • Sit on floor with legs extended, thighs together and feet flexed; tilt torso back 45 degrees and extend arms out to sides, palms facing forward.
  • Rotate torso to right, sweeping left arm across body to tap left palm to right palm.
  • Return to start, then repeat to left to complete 1 rep.
  • Do 10 to 12 reps.

Twister

Targets shoulders, back, abs, obliques, and hamstrings

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, elbows bent out to sides and hands touching behind head; keeping back flat, hinge forward from hips so that upper body is parallel to floor.
  • Rotate torso to face right. Pause, return to center, pause again, then rotate to left to complete 1 rep.
  • Do 10 to 12 reps.

Skinny Dip

Targets back, abs, obliques, and butt

  • Lie on floor on left side, propped up on left forearm, knees bent 90 degrees and toes pointed behind you; extend right arm overhead.
  • Lift hips off floor, then raise bent right leg a few feet. MAKE IT EASIER: Keep knees together.
  • Keeping right leg lifted, dip hip to floor.
  • Do 10 to 12 reps. Switch sides and repeat.

Jackknife

Targets shoulders, back, abs, obliques, and legs

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms extended overhead; lift right leg about a foot off floor, toes pointed.
  • Hinge forward from hips and reach hands to toes.
  • Keeping right foot lifted and back flat throughout, straighten up to standing start position as you lift arms overhead, then place right foot on floor.
  • Switch sides and repeat. Do 10 to 12 reps, alternating sides.
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8 Simple Ways to Get Rid of Belly Bloat

Surprising reasons your belly can balloon, and how to deflate it fast.

stop belly bloatBanish the Bloat

Either your jeans shrank or your belly grew, and chances are it’s the latter. You’re exercising and eating right, so what’s up with the bloating? Sometimes the culprit is obvious (hello, Aunt Flo and last night’s burrito!), but other times your healthy habits are the cause. Read on for five surprising reasons your belly can balloon — plus advice on how to deflate it fast.

Tummy Puffer: Downing Fluids Before Your Workout

It’s important to drink plenty of fluids when it’s hot out to prevent dehydration, especially when you exercise. Also, steadily sipping water encourages healthy digestion by keeping food moving through your system, says Christie Achenbach, RD, a dietitian in Destin, Florida, who specializes in nutrition for exercise. But chugging too much water before your workout makes your belly swell.

Deflate-it fix: To avoid that sloshy, overfull feeling, drink about 16 to 24 ounces of water one to two hours before exercise. That should allow plenty of time for your body to absorb the needed fluid and eliminate the rest, says Eamonn Quigley, MD, a gastroenterologist at the Methodist Hospital in Houston. Then top off your tank with another eight ounces about 15 minutes before you head out, and sip regularly during your workout to make sure you’re fully hydrated.

Tummy Puffer: Fueling Up with Sports Gels and Beans

Those gooey, chewy nibbles give you a much needed boost when your energy is flagging during a workout or a race. The problem is that most of them deliver a quick dose of carbs in the form of fructose and/or maltodextrin, two forms of concentrated fruit that many people have trouble digesting. “Some studies show that up to 50 percent of people in the United States can’t digest fructose without GI discomfort,” says Kristi King, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Even if you’re not one of them, gobbling gels and jelly beans can still make you bloated and gassy. “Most exercisers consume these products as fast as they can, which means that the sugar gets dumped from the stomach into the small intestine quickly, and that can cause cramping, bloating, and diarrhea,” King says.

Deflate-it fix: Start with a half pack during a workout and wash it down with a few swigs of water to dilute the carbs and help your body absorb them. If you still have problems, try eating a banana or some orange slices instead; they’re both fairly low in fructose, so they’re easier to digest.

Tummy Puffer: Eating Too Much Fiber

“Many women make drastic changes to their diet when it’s bikini season,” says Tamara Duker Freuman, RD, a nutritionist in New York City who specializes in digestive disorders. “If you’re used to lower-fiber meals and you suddenly start eating a lot of fruit, salads, and bran cereals, you’re going to be significantly bloated.” That’s because you don’t have the right bacteria in your gut to help digest the increased amount of fiber.

We all have trillions of bacteria in our intestines, which help us process the food that our stomach and intestines have a hard time breaking down, Dr. Quigley says. “When undigested food reaches your colon, bacteria feed on it and produce gas,” he explains. The type of bacteria that’s in your gut is determined in part by what you eat, and some sorts produce more gas than others. Without the right kind, fibrous foods, which are typically slower to digest, linger in the gut even longer, giving bacteria plenty of time to munch away and create gas.

Not only that, but “everything from energy bars to yogurt is fortified with fiber these days,” says Joy Bauer, RD, the author of The Joy Fit Club: Cookbook, Diet Plan, and Inspiration. “It’s a problem, because they typically contain large amounts of inulin, a fermentable fiber that may cause gas and bloating when consumed in large quantities.”

Deflate-it fix: Make your belly fiber-friendly by building up a tolerance gradually, adding five grams or fewer from fruits and veggies every week until you reach the recommended daily 25 to 35 grams. “Some people have a really hard time with beans, while others have more of a problem with broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables,” Freuman says. “Start by upping your fruit and vegetable intake at just one meal so you can keep track of what causes the most problems. Over time your gut bacteria population will reach a new ‘normal’ baseline, and your body will adjust to the volume of gas they produce without experiencing discomfort.” Scan labels for inulin, which is also called chicory root extract or chicory root fiber. “If it’s the first ingredient listed, the food contains quite a bit of it,” Freuman says. Avoid it.

Tummy Puffer: Popping Vitamins

Many supplements contain additives and fillers, King says. Common ones include lactose or wheat — a problem for those who are lactose- or gluten-intolerant — and sugar alcohols like mannitol or xylitol, which are notorious bloat culprits because they tend to be slower to digest than other carbs, giving intestinal bacteria plenty of time to feast on them and produce gas.

Deflate-it fix: Look for a multi with a short ingredients list that contains few difficult-to-pronounce words (they’re often indicative of additives and fillers) and avoid any that list sugar alcohols, lactose, or gluten, which may also be called wheat germ, food glaze, food starch, or hydrolyzed vegetable protein — if they’re listed at all. “Supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, so all their ingredients may not be noted on the label,” King explains. A safer bet: Get your daily dose of vitamins and minerals by eating a variety of whole foods.

Tummy Puffer: Snacking on Protein Bars

“These bars often contain whey-protein concentrate or milk-protein concentrate, which causes bloating in people who have trouble digesting lactose,” Freuman says. Others are made with soy-protein concentrate, which can be gas inducing because it’s a bean product and contains indigestible, fermentable carbs in addition to protein.

Deflate-it fix: Look for bars with proteins that are typically easier to tolerate, like nut or rice proteins or whey-protein isolate (as opposed to concentrate), which contains a higher percentage of pure protein and less lactose than other forms. “You may pay a little more, but it’s worth it,” Freuman says.

Burst Your Bubble

Three easy ways to flatten your belly fast.

Eat a banana every day. The potassium it contains helps prevent bloat. “When potassium is low, the body retains extra sodium and holds on to water,” says Joy Bauer, RD. Other potassium-rich foods include tomatoes; mushrooms; dark leafy greens, like spinach and Swiss chard; and fish like salmon and halibut.

Spoon more yogurt. Check labels to find one that contains bifidobacteria. “Some studies show that these bacteria can reduce flatulence and bloating,” says Eamonn Quigley, MD. Fage Total Greek Yogurt and Activia both contain bifido. You can also pop a probiotic supplement, like Align, that contains it.

Contract your abs. “Many people aren’t actually bloated at all; they’ve just developed a habit of relaxing their abdominal muscles and contracting their diaphragm, which makes them look and feel bloated because their stomachs are sticking out,” says Brennan Spiegel, MD, an associate professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Learn to contract your abs instead. Imagine someone is about to punch you in the gut, and pull your belly button in toward your spine. Practice contracting your abs for five to 10 seconds several times, being sure not to hold your breath. Once you get used to the feeling, remind yourself to do it periodically throughout the day so that it becomes a habit, and you won’t look or feel as bloated.

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Love Your Legs Workout

Sculpt strong, toned legs and thighs with these exercises that work the muscle fibers you’re probably overlooking.

strong sexy legsGet Strong, Sexy Legs

If you think lower-body strength exercises will bulk you up, you don’t know squats, says physiologist Brad Schoenfeld, author of Sculpting Her Body Perfect. “Not only have EMG studies shown that basics like squats, lunges, and calf raises work the leg muscles best, but women don’t tend to build big muscles thanks to a lack of testosterone,” says Schoenfeld, who created the Love Your Legs workout with that science in mind. But the real magic is in his mix. “This workout is greater than the sum of its parts, because each move is hitting different fibers in the legs that you are probably overlooking,” Schoenfeld says. Do the routine three times a week on nonconsecutive days, resting for around 30 seconds between sets. (All you’ll need is a chair, a 5-pound dumbbell, and a towel.)

Split Squat

Targets butt and quads

Stand with back facing a chair (about 2 feet away), hands on hips, and bend left leg behind you to place top of foot on chair seat.
Squat, bending right leg 90 degrees with knee over ankle. Make it harder: After each full squat, do a half squat, bending just 45 degrees.
Do 15 to 20 reps. Switch legs and repeat. Do 2 to 3 sets.

Sissy Squat

Targets quads, hamstrings, and calves

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart with right side next to a chair, right hand holding seat back.
  • Rise up onto toes (heels off floor) and bend knees 90 degrees as you lean torso back 45 degrees (so that body forms a straight line from knees to shoulders, abs tight.)
  • Return to standing on toes. Do 2 to 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps.

Pistol Squat

Targets butt and quads

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, fists in front of chest with elbows bent; lift right foot forward a few inches off floor, foot flexed.
  • Squat, bending left knee 90 degrees, as you lift right leg to hip level in front of you. Make it easier: Let right heel hover close to floor.
  • Do 15 to 20 reps, then switch sides and repeat. Do 2 to 3 sets.

Goblet Squat

Targets butt, quads, inner thighs, and hamstrings

  • Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes turned out, holding handle of a single dumbbell vertically with both hands in front of chest (like a goblet), elbows bent out to sides.
  • Squat, bending knees 90 degrees. Make it harder: Holding weight in place, jump up slightly as you rise out of squat, landing with knees soft.
  • Do 2 to 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps.

Three-Way Lunge

Targets butt, quads, inner thighs, and hamstrings

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, hands clasped in front of chest. Lunge forward with left leg (knees bent 90 degrees); return to start.
  • Lunge left leg out to left, toes facing forward, and bend left knee 90 degrees. Return to start.
  • Lunge backward with left leg to complete 1 rep. Repeat sequence with right leg.
  • Do 2 to 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps, alternating sides.

Good Morning

Targets abs, butt, and hamstrings

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding ends of a single dumbbell in each hand; bend elbows by sides to bring weight under chin.
  • Keeping legs straight and maintaining arm position, press butt backward as you hinge forward at hips until back is near parallel to floor.
  • Return to standing. Do 2 to 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps.

Single-Leg Dead Lift

Targets butt and hamstrings 

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing front of thighs.
  • Hinge forward at hips 90 degrees as you lift extended left leg behind you so that body is parallel to floor from head to left heel, arms hanging down.
  • Return to start. Do 15 to 20 reps. Switch sides and repeat. Do 2 to 3 sets.

Hamstring Curl

Targets butt and hamstrings

  • Lie faceup on floor, arms by sides, legs extended with heels pressing into a folded towel on floor.
  • Slowly pull heels toward butt as you lift hips off floor until knees are bent 90 degrees and body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees.
  • Slide legs forward to return to start.
  • Do 2 to 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps.

Calf Raise Three Ways

Targets calves

  • Stand with balls of feet on bottom step of a staircase, heels hanging over edge, hands on hips.
  • Turn toes inward. Lift heels high, then lower them slightly below level of step. Do 15 to 20 reps.
  • Next, turn toes out 45 degrees; repeat.
  • With toes forward, stand on left leg only, bending right leg behind you; repeat lifts. Do 15 to 20 reps. Switch legs; repeat. Do 2 to 3 sets of series.
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Wow Abs Now: The Two-Week Ab Makeover Workout

Tighten up in two weeks with this killer belly-cinching session.

About This Workout

abs for summerThe heat is on — time for your tummy to come out of hiding and hit the pool or beach. No sweat. “If you want a belly that looks great in a bikini fast, you need exercises that engage multiple ab muscles with every rep,” says Mahri Relin, the creator of the Body Conceptions Method, whose sculpting moves work magic on muffin tops. Firm ab flab pronto with Relin’s extra-strength toners on these pages, mixing in three minutes of cardio — one minute each of mountain climbers, burpees, and jumping jacks — after every two exercises. (Have a pair of three- to five-pound dumbbells handy.) Do the workout three times a week and you’ll be flashing some navel in no time.

Scissors Crunch

Targets abs and inner thighs

Lie faceup on ground, head resting in hands with elbows out to sides and legs together with knees bent, feet flat. Lift head and shoulders slightly while raising legs about 45 degrees.
Bring both knees to left, keeping them together. Crunch up 1 to 2 inches, then down; do 10 reps.
Keeping knees together and to left, extend right leg while keeping left leg bent; do 10 more crunches.
Extend left leg, squeezing thighs together (knees stay slightly bent). Do 10 more crunches.
Switch sides and repeat sequence.
MAKE IT HARDER: After each set of crunches, pulse legs up 1 to 2 inches, then down; do 30 reps.

Ballerina Abs

Targets back, arms, abs, and butt

  • Lie faceup on ground with arms out to sides, palms down. Bring both bent knees to right side, keeping legs separated slightly.
  • Keeping right forearm on ground, contract abs to pull yourself into a sitting position as you reach left arm across and diagonally up.
  • Return slowly to start.
  • Do 10 reps; switch sides and repeat.
  • MAKE IT HARDER: Do the exercise as described, this time raising left leg to left side while lifting upper body.

Kneeling Side Crunch

Targets arms, abs, butt, and thighs

  • Kneel on ground holding a dumbbell in right hand, left hand on left hip; bring right leg out to side, knee bent 90 degrees and toes pointing right.
  • Curl weight toward right shoulder while doing a crunch to right side; keep shoulders facing forward. This is start position.
  • Place left hand on ground, hinging toward left so that torso is parallel to ground, and reach right arm up as you extend right leg out to side just above hip level.
  • Lower right foot and right arm as you return to start position.
  • Do 30 reps; switch sides and repeat.

Stir the Pot

Targets shoulders, chest, abs, and legs

  • Start on ground in plank position, elbows under shoulders, balancing on toes.
  • Slowly move pelvis clockwise, as if drawing a small circle on ground.
  • Do 10 circles clockwise; switch directions and repeat.

Frog Lift

Targets back, abs, and butt

  • Lie facedown on ground with hands folded in front of you and elbows out; rest forehead on hands. Bend knees out to sides so that shins are perpendicular to ground and heels are touching.
  • Pulling navel in toward spine, pulse legs up 1 to 2 inches, then down, without moving upper body.
  • Do 12 pulses.
  • MAKE IT HARDER: Reach arms out in front of you and lift chest off ground while doing leg pulses.

Side-Plank Cancan

Targets shoulders, abs, butt, inner thighs, and outer thighs

  • Start on ground in side plank position (lie on right side, hips and feet stacked, right forearm on ground with elbow under shoulder), lifting hips so that body balances between right forearm and foot.
  • Slide left toes up right calf toward knee.
  • Extend left leg up, then lower it to start position.
  • Do 15 reps; switch sides and repeat.
  • MAKE IT EASIER: Skip the toe tracing and just lift leg up and down, keeping leg straight and knee facing forward.

Rocking Raise

Targets arms, abs, and butt

  • Start on ground on all fours, palms flat under shoulders and knees under hips.
  • Rock forward while bringing left knee to left elbow. Then rock back, extending left leg behind you and lifting it up.
  • Do 30 reps; switch sides and repeat.

Cheerleader

Targets arms, abs, and thighs

  • Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, right arm extended out to side at shoulder level and left arm reaching directly up (both palms facing forward).
  • Shift weight to left leg and bring right knee toward chest as you lower left elbow toward right knee and drive right elbow behind you. Return to start.
  • Do 20 reps; switch sides and repeat.
  • MAKE IT HARDER: Start with feet hip-width apart, then lunge right leg to right side, toes facing forward, before bringing right knee to left elbow.

 

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The No-Hunger Way to Cut 100s of Calories

Lose weight — and keep it off — with super-simple diet tweaks that trim 100, 250, even 500 calories a day.

running cut caloriesCut 100 Calories a Day — Lose 10 Pounds a Year

The last thing you want to do right about now is go on a diet. (Okay, it’s pretty much the last thing you want to do ever.) Luckily you can zap the bulge without resorting to rabbit food. The trick: Eat just a little less. Scientists at Harvard and Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge found that people who lowered their calorie intake lost an average of 13 pounds in six months no matter what kind of diet they were on. “This is the best weight-loss news in a long time,” says Frank Sacks, MD, nutrition professor at Harvard School of Public Health and lead author of the study. “If you don’t like what you’re eating, you’re not going to stick with it. These findings give you flexibility to trim a bit here and there and still enjoy your favorites.”

In fact, by nixing just 100 calories a day, you’ll lose more than 10 pounds a year. Up your cuts to 250 and you’re down 26 pounds. Want to lose faster? Ditch 500 calories daily and you’ll drop those pounds in half the time. We found 50 so-easy ways for you to trim a little but save a lot.

Cut 100 Calories at Breakfast

Use skim milk in place of flavored Coffee-mate in your two morning mugs.
Eat a bowl of high-fiber cereal and you’ll consume fewer calories all day.
Order bacon, not sausage, with your eggs.
Choose a yeast doughnut instead of a denser cake one.

Cut 100 Calories at Lunch

Use 1 tablespoon of mayo and 1 tablespoon of low-fat cottage cheese to make tuna salad.
Put barbecue sauce, not honey mustard, on your chicken sandwich at Wendy’s.
Top your burger with onions, lettuce, and tomato and skip the cheese.
Ask for the 12-ounce child-size soda instead of the 21-ounce medium at the drive-through.
Slim down your sandwich by using Arnold Select 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Thins instead of whole wheat bread.
Toss your salad with 1 tablespoon of dressing until every lettuce leaf is coated. You’ll get away with using half the usual serving size. Try this trick at dinner too.
Skip the crackers and shredded cheese on your chili.

Cut 100 Calories at Dinner

  • Trade butter for a flavorful spread made with garlic, fresh rosemary, and light, trans fat-free margarine.
  • Making meatballs? Mix half the amount of ground beef the recipe calls for with half as much cooked brown rice.
  • Instead of two slices of medium pepperoni pan pizza, choose thin-crust.
  • When munching on chicken wings, don’t toss the bones midway through. Seeing the evidence of your feast may help you eat less, studies show.

Cut 100 Calories from a Snack

  • Trade 1/2 cup of premium vanilla ice cream for 1/2 cup of Breyers Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream.
  • Ordering a cone? Make it the sugar, not the waffle, kind.
  • Munch on Pirate’s Booty. In a study, switching to an air-puffed cheesy snack twice a day saved about 70 calories a pop.
  • Grab a Dannon Light & Fit yogurt, not a low-fat fruit blend.
  • Replace half the butter in cake, muffin, and brownie recipes with an equal amount of applesauce or mashed bananas. You’ll save about 100 calories for every tablespoon you swap.
  • Indulge in a slice of angel food cake drizzled with chocolate syrup rather than three cookies.

Cut 250 Calories

Cut 250 Calories at Breakfast

  • Trade a reduced-fat blueberry muffin for instant oatmeal topped with 1/4 cup of fresh blueberries. Bonus: You’ll stay satisfied all morning.
  • Measure out your breakfast cereal; overestimating by just 1/3 cup can add 100 calories.
  • Enjoy it with a 16-ounce chai latte with skim milk rather than a green tea latte with 2 percent.

Cut 250 Calories at Lunch

  • Pick turkey over tuna in your 6-inch sub.
  • At the salad bar, reach for shredded Parmesan instead of cheddar and skip the bread.
  • Nuke a Lean Cuisine chicken parm instead of having one delivered.

Cut 250 Calories at Dinner

  • Make your own salad dressing using low-sodium, fat-free broth in place of 2 tablespoons of oil.
  • Having fajitas? Fill up one tortilla rather than three, then eat the rest of your fixings with a fork.
  • Sub black beans for refried and hold the side of Mexican rice.
  • Order filet mignon instead of a New York strip steak.
  • Opt for broccoli chicken over sweet-and-sour, and for steamed brown rice, not fried.

Cut 250 Calories from a Snack

  • Bite into a chocolate-covered strawberry rather than a chocolate chip cookie.
  • Skip the small movie-theater popcorn and bring your own 1-ounce bag of Lay’s.
  • Switch from juice to Crystal Light twice a day.
  • At the mall, curb a craving for a soft pretzel with a 100-calorie pretzel pack.

Cut 500 Calories

  • Eat fruit before every meal. In a Pennsylvania State University study, people who munched apples 15 minutes before lunch ate about 187 fewer calories.
  • Order one brunch entree to share. Who can finish that giant omelet, anyway?
  • When making mac and cheese, resist temptation and prep just half the box. Save the rest in a zip-top bag for next time.
  • Use your grandmother’s Joy of Cooking and you’ll save an average of 506 calories over three meals, according to a recent Cornell University study. The secret: Smaller portion sizes and lower-calorie ingredients were called for back then.
  • Instead of a Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha for your afternoon pick-me-up, order coffee with a little milk and a dusting of chocolate.
  • At happy hour, drink two rum and diet colas and back away from the bowl of stale snack mix.

Turn Up the Burn

The more active you are, the fewer calories you’ll need to cut. Try these food-fitness combos to reach your target number.

Goal: 100 calories

Burn 50: Get up from your desk and take a 20-minute walk at lunch. Cut 50: Skip the oyster crackers in your soup.

Goal: 250 calories

Burn 125: Shovel the driveway for 20 minutes. Cut 125: Hold the cinnamon bun. Eat two slices of cinnamon toast.

Goal: 500 calories

Burn 250: Spend two hours making dinner for the entire week. Cut 250: Mist a pan with cooking spray instead of pouring in oil.

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The Summer Slim-Down Workout

Lose the belly fat and tone from head to toe with this workout plan that targets your upper arms, abs, butt, and thighs.

summer slim downTighten and Tone

Hone all your bikini zones — upper arms, abs, butt, and thighs — and then some with this high-octane workout. The key is to alternate each of these shapers with 30 seconds of cardio, says trainer Holly Rilinger, who created this Summer Slim-Down plan and who draws big crowds to her outdoor training camp and Spinning classes at Flywheel Sports in New York City. “Your heart rate stays elevated the whole time, so you’re burning plenty of calories as you build lean muscle,” Rilinger says. Beginners can march in place between sets; exercise pros can do high knees or jumping jacks. Complete the circuit twice and aim for two to three sessions each week.

Lower-Body Blast

Targets shoulders, arms, butt, and legs

Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms at sides.
Lunge backward with right leg, bending both knees 90 degrees.
Skipping in place, lift right knee to hip height and come up on ball of left foot; simultaneously swing left arm over head. Return to backward lunge.
Do 12 reps. Switch sides and repeat.

Hip Trimmer

Targets shoulders, chest, arms, abs, butt, and legs

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, hands clasped in front of chest, elbows out to sides.
  • Lunge left leg out to left side, bending left knee about 90 degrees while keeping right leg straight; left knee stays in line with left toes.
  • Push off left heel to return to center, then lower into a squat.
  • Return to start and repeat on opposite side to complete 1 rep. Do 12 reps.

Dip and Crunch

Targets shoulders, triceps, abs, and obliques

  • Sit on floor with knees slightly bent, heels on floor and hands by hips, fingers facing forward. MAKE IT HARDER: Sit on edge of a chair with palms on seat beside hips and scoot butt forward off seat.
  • Bend elbows 90 degrees behind you, or as far as you can go without resting on floor.
  • Straighten arms while lifting right knee toward chest. Lower heel to floor and repeat dip-and-crunch combination.
  • Do 12 reps, alternating sides.

Belly and Booty Firmer

Targets abs, obliques, butt, and hamstrings

  • Lie faceup on floor, knees bent with heels on floor and arms at sides. Extend left leg toward ceiling, foot flexed. MAKE IT EASIER: Keep both feet on floor.
  • Lift hips, squeezing glutes. Hold for 1 count, then lower.
  • Keeping left leg raised throughout, crunch up, reaching hands toward left foot. Return to start.
  • Do 12 reps. Switch sides and repeat.

Plank Tap

Targets shoulders, abs, obliques, hips, and legs

  • Lie on left side, hips and legs stacked and left elbow aligned under left shoulder, with forearm on floor.
  • Extend right arm toward ceiling and lift hips, forming straight line from head to heels. MAKE IT EASIER: Keep right hand on hip.
  • Tap left side of hip to floor for 1 count, then lift back up to side plank.
  • Do 12 reps. Switch sides and repeat.

Russian Twist

Targets chest, abs, and obliques

  • Sit on floor with knees slightly bent, arms extended in front of you with hands together.
  • Lift legs until shins are parallel to floor, feet together, and lean torso back about 45 degrees. MAKE IT EASIER: Keep feet on floor.
  • Holding legs here, twist torso to left together with arms. Return to center and twist to right to complete 1 rep.
  • Do 12 reps.

Thread the Needle

Targets shoulders, chest, abs, and obliques

  • Get on floor in full push-up position, arms extended with hands aligned under shoulders and legs extended behind you.
  • Bring left knee across body toward right elbow. Return to start, then lift right hand out to right side to tap floor. MAKE IT HARDER: Do quickly, like mountain climbers.
  • Switch sides, bringing right knee to left elbow and tapping left hand out to left side, to complete 1 rep.
  • Do 12 reps.

Head-to-Toe Toner

Targets chest, biceps, abs, butt, and hamstrings

  • Stand with feet together, arms at sides, knees slightly bent.
  • Hinging forward from waist, bring arms toward floor under shoulders while lifting left leg straight behind you, body forming a straight line from head to left heel.
  • As you return to standing, lift left knee to hip height and bend elbows directly behind you, bringing hands by ribs. Lower arms and right leg to return to start.
  • Do 12 reps. Switch sides and repeat.

summer slim down 2Melt + Trim Cardio

The secret to supersizing the slimming power of this plan? Don’t skimp on your usual cardio; whether you walk, kickbox, or do Spinning, stick to it three times a week. Even better, Rilinger says, is to skyrocket your calorie-burn every minute by occasionally turning up your intensity, and she shows you how with a couple of ingenious drills she gives her clients. Or use your tunes to pump up the pace: The move-tivating playlist here alternates songs with steady rhythms and ones with fast beats that nudge your speed.

Cardio Option: Just Beat It!

Download this 31-minute high-low intensity playlist, created by Deekron, a DJ and the producer of MotionTraxx.com, to groove and lose.

Warm up   “Feel Inside,” Mary J. Blige, featuring Nas (5:07) Steady “You da One,” Rihanna (3:20) Speed up “Good Feeling,” Flo Rida (4:06) Steady “Out of My Head,” Lupe Fiasco, featuring Trey Songz (3:24) Speed up “Part of Me,” Katy Perry (3:35) Steady “Feel So Close” (Radio Edit), Calvin Harris (3:27) Speed up “Runaway Baby,” Bruno Mars (2:27) Cool down “Show Me Everything,” Tindersticks (5:29)

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Slim Down in a Splash: Pool Workout

Want to lose weight without breaking a sweat? Hop in the pool! This fun water workout burns mega calories and tones every trouble spot.

swimToning Water Exercises

How It Works “This water workout burns tons of calories but feels like play,” says Greg Moe, a master trainer for Rough-Fit outdoor fitness programs in Tustin, California, who created these insanely trimming moves (just see what they do for your abs!) exclusively for FITNESS. Simply treading water vigorously can zap 11 calories a minute, same as a six-mile-per-hour run. “Plus, water’s continuous resistance forces you to engage more muscle fibers through a larger range of motion,” says Moe, so you’ll firm from every angle.

Perform as many reps of each exercise as you can in 30 seconds, rest, then repeat. (As you get fitter, aim for 45 to 60 seconds.) Do this workout on nonconsecutive days and emerge with a body to dive for!

What You’ll Need: A beach ball (the larger the ball, the tougher the workout)

K-Tread

Targets: Arms, back, chest, abs, butt, and hamstrings

  • In the deep end, tread water, making small circles with cupped hands, and lift right leg straight in front of you at hip level while reaching toes of left leg toward bottom of pool. Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Switch legs quickly, bringing right leg down as you raise left leg, and hold for 5 seconds. Continue for 30 seconds, alternating sides.

Otter Roll

Targets: Back, abs, butt, and legs

  • Hugging beach ball to chest, float on back, legs extended, feet together.
  • Roll toward left and over top of ball (like an otter spinning in the water), using entire body — shoulders, back, core, legs — to make a full revolution, returning to start. Take a breath. (Beginners can rock from side to side with head above water throughout.)
  • Continue for 30 seconds, alternating direction of roll.

Tip: Really drive your leading shoulder and hip into the water to get rolling.

Ball Lever

Targets: Shoulders, back, triceps, and abs

  • Holding beach ball with arms stretched straight in front of you, float facedown in chest-deep water so legs are extended behind you, feet together.
  • Keeping arms straight, pull ball underneath you, drawing it as fast as you can through water toward thighs in an arc. (As the ball is pressed underneath, it will lift you out of water to take a breath; beginners can keep head above water throughout.)
  • When ball reaches thighs, bend elbows to bring it back to surface and press it forward to return to start position. Continue for 30 seconds.

Tip: Keep your arms as straight as possible and your body straight and stiff to get the most muscle sculpting.

Pike Scull

Targets: Abs, hips, and arms

  • Standing in shallow end of pool, simultaneously sit back into water, treading with hands by sides, and lift both legs together so that you fold at the hips (like a jackknife) and your body forms a wide V, with head and toes just above surface.
  • Maintaining V position, move cupped hands in small circles by hips to tread water and propel yourself forward (sculling) down length of pool for 30 seconds.

Tip: If your toes start sinking under the water, widen the angle of the V and tighten your abs.

Wave Maker

Targets: Back, abs, butt, and legs

  • Facing pool wall in chest-deep water, hold on to edge of pool deck with left hand and place right palm, fingers pointing down, against wall just below water line for stability.
  • Extend legs behind you at water level with both feet and knees together, then kick like a dolphin: Initiate the motion with abs and hips and transfer it through thighs to knees and finally to feet. Kick as hard and as fast as you can for 30 seconds, trying to make the biggest waves possible.

Tip: If you can’t make waves for a full 30 seconds, don’t stop!  Separate your legs and do flutter kicks.

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Pumped-Up Poses: Yoga with Weights

Try this hybrid yoga, cardio, and weights workout to get lean and toned.

yoga with weightsAbout This Workout

No more slo-mo yoga: The latest hybrid workout getting big-time buzz is a dumbbells-and-down-dog mix with a little cardio twist. “Combining fast-paced movements with the added resistance of weights gives poses much more muscle-carving and calorie-burning power,” says Erin Jacques, a cofounder of SLT Yoga in New York City and the creator of the hot new Shred class. To squeeze more lean-and-leggy results from your mat today, get started on the next slide; all you’ll need is a set of two- or three-pound dumbbells.

Rotating Half Jack

Targets back, shoulders, and inner and outer thighs

Holding a dumbbell in each hand, lunge back with right leg (left knee is bent 90 degrees, right leg straight with toes pointing out) and extend arms out to sides, palms down.
Straighten left leg and arc arms overhead, palms facing each other, as you rotate torso to right.
Bend right knee 90 degrees as you bend elbows to bring weights in front of chest, palms facing each other.
Return to lunge position. Do 10 reps; switch sides and repeat. Do 3 sets.

Wide Second Punches

Targets shoulders, arms, abs, obliques, butt, and outer and inner thighs

  • Stand with feet wide apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms by sides; bend elbows 90 degrees in front of chest, palms facing each other, and lower into a plié squat.
  • Maintaining squat, punch right arm across center of body, slightly twisting torso to left.
  • Retract right arm and quickly punch left arm toward right.
  • Do 3 sets of 20 reps, alternating sides.

Wide Second Punches

Targets shoulders, arms, abs, obliques, butt, and outer and inner thighs

  • Stand with feet wide apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms by sides; bend elbows 90 degrees in front of chest, palms facing each other, and lower into a plié squat.
  • Maintaining squat, punch right arm across center of body, slightly twisting torso to left.
  • Retract right arm and quickly punch left arm toward right.
  • Do 3 sets of 20 reps, alternating sides.

Warrior Crunch

Targets abs, obliques, and quads

  • Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand with feet together, arms by sides.
  • Lunge back with right leg, bending left knee 90 degrees and keeping right leg straight with toes pointing to right.
  • Bring dumbbells by ears, elbows pointing out, and rotate torso to right as you straighten left leg.
  • Bend left knee 90 degrees again, rotating torso back toward left and crunching to bring right elbow to left knee.
  • Do 10 reps; switch sides and repeat. Do 3 sets.

Crescent Kick

Targets shoulders, arms, butt, quads, and hamstrings

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms by sides.
  • Lunge back with left leg, bending right knee 90 degrees and slightly bending left knee, heel lifted; extend arms overhead, palms facing each other.
  • Drive elbows down by sides as you bring left knee toward chest; then kick left leg forward.
  • Lunge back with left leg as you extend arms overhead.
  • Do 15 reps; switch sides and repeat. Do 3 sets.

Chair Lift

Targets shoulders, arms, butt, quads, and hamstrings

  • Stand with feet together, holding a dumbbell in each hand; bring bent elbows to shoulder height in front of you so dumbbells are about eye level, palms facing each other.
  • Balancing on left leg, bring right knee toward chest as you drive bent elbows behind you.
  • Place right foot on floor again as you lower into a squat and drive elbows forward to shoulder height. As you return to standing, lift left knee toward chest and drive elbows back.
  • Do 3 sets of 20 reps, alternating sides.
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Torch Fat Fast: The 10-Minute Plyometric Workout

Explosive, equipment-free exercises to burn more calories and work several muscles at once.

plyometricsAbout This Workout

Right about now you’re probably itching to spend less time cooped up in a gym and more time having fun outside. A plyometric routine will boost the efficiency of your sweat session. “These explosive moves give you more bang for your buck; they’re intense; and they work several muscles at once,” says Kira Stokes, the creator of the Stoked 360 class for Reebok Sports Club/NY in New York City. “Your heart rate stays elevated the entire time you’re exercising, so you burn more calories, even after your workout is over.” Do the following six scorchers as a circuit twice through for 10 minutes just three days a week. Then go out and play!

Plie Squat Jump

Targets abs, butt, and legs

Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed out. Lower into a deep plie squat with hands clasped in front of chest.
Jump as high as you can, tapping heels together in midair.
Land with knees soft in plie squat position.  Repeat for 45 seconds.

One-Legged Dead Lift Hop

Targets abs, butt, and legs

  • Stand on left leg, right knee lifted to hip height; raise arms out to sides and bend elbows (to resemble a goalpost).
  • Keeping back flat and arms raised, hinge forward; extend right leg behind you (body is parallel to floor, head to right heel).
  • Reverse motion, returning upright, and as right knee lifts forward, push off left leg to jump up.
  • Land softly on left leg and repeat.
  • Continue for 30 seconds, trying not to let right leg touch floor. Switch sides and repeat for 30 seconds.
  • MAKE IT EASIER: After jump, tap right foot on floor, then lift knee again.

Double Jump

Targets abs, butt, and legs

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart and arms by sides. Lower into a deep squat and bring hands together in front of chest.
  • Jump as high as you can and land in lunge position with left leg forward (bend both knees 90 degrees).
  • Jump as high as you can again and land in squat position.
  • Repeat the lunge-squat jump combo, landing with right leg forward. Continue for 45 seconds, alternating sides.

Lateral Lunge

Targets abs, butt, and legs

  • Step left leg out to left side, bending left knee while keeping right leg straight; hinge body forward from waist. Touch right hand to floor between feet and place left hand on top of left thigh.
  • Pushing off left heel, shuffle to right two times, ending in side lunge to right with right knee bent and left leg straight; touch left hand to floor between feet.
  • Repeat movement to left side, pushing off right heel.
  • Continue for 45 seconds, alternating sides.

Pop-Up

Targets shoulders, triceps, abs, butt, and legs

  • Lie facedown on floor, palms next to chest, toes turned under.
  • Do a push-up, using upward momentum to jump left foot in between hands and quickly stand up into a plie squat as you bring hands beside chest.
  • Reverse motion to start.
  • Continue for 45 seconds, alternating legs.

Plank-Straddle Hop

Targets shoulders, triceps, abs, butt, and inner and outer thighs

  • Start on floor in plank position with feet hip-width apart, balancing on forearms and toes, elbows directly under shoulders, palms flat on floor.
  • Hop feet out to sides into a wide V, then hop feet back to start position.
  • Straighten arms, pressing palms into floor (hands will be slightly in front of shoulders on floor).
  • Reverse motion, lowering forearms to floor. Repeat for 30 to 45 seconds.
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The 5 Most Common Running Injuries and How to Fix Them

Running may not be a contact sport, but runners can certainly rack up a slew of injuries. Here, the most common running injuries and how to feel better fast.

running 2#1: Runner’s Knee and ITBFS

Runner’s knee is often called ITB friction syndrome (ITBFS), but the two are actually different things. “Runner’s knee happens when cartilage in the kneecap is irritated, while ITB friction syndrome occurs when the tendon from your hip to the outer knee gets tight and inflamed, irritating the outer bone of the knee,” says Leon Popovitz, MD, founder of the New York Bone & Joint Specialists in New York. Combined, these two make up a majority of the knee problems runners experience.

So how do you tell the difference? With ITBFS the pain is usually isolated outside of the knee, says Dr. Popovitz. The tendon will feel very tight (almost like a cord) and pain will often radiate up into the hip. Both runner’s knee and ITBFS will flare up when you’re going up or down stairs. Or if you sit for a while you might have some stiffness and difficulty getting up.

Fix It Fast: Dr. Popovitz says the number of patients he sees with ITBFS and runner’s knee increases right before the New York City Marathon, as runners are increasing their mileage. With runner’s knee, Dr. Popovitz recommends hamstring stretches and leg lifts at home, in addition to physical therapy — though he’s aware many of his patients suffer through it until after their race. For ITBFS, the only way to cure it is to completely stop running, rest, and alleviate the tendon inflammation with physical therapy. (We know. Not something you want to hear a week before your big race!)

Meniscus Tear

The meniscus is a C-shaped disc that cushions your knees on both sides to absorb the shock in your joint and to hold your knee in place. Through sharp pivoting and turns, you can tear the meniscus — and in extreme circumstances your ACL, the ligament in the center of your knee that limits rotation and forward motion. “If you find yourself feeling suddenly stiff, or have an occasional sharp pain inside the knee with swelling, as well as your knee locking or buckling, these could all be signs of a meniscus tear,” says Dr. Popovitz.

Fix It Fast: Dr. Popovitz says that not all tears have to be repaired with surgery. But because it’s such a minimally invasive procedure, many runners choose to get it done so they don’t have to constantly worry about their limbs. Depending on where the tear is and how serious it is, smaller ones can be treated with resting the knee, frequent icing, and physical therapy.

Shin Splints

You could run 5Ks or marathons, but eventually almost every runner suffers from shin splints, often caused by overuse. You’ll know you have them if you feel a dull throbbing in your shins every time you go to lace up. However, Dr. Popovitz warns that shin splints can often be sign of an underlying issue. If you experience pain when you’re not running, especially when walking on concrete or at night, you’ll need to see a doctor for an X-ray or MRI to make sure it’s not a stress fracture.

Fix It Fast: For immediate relief, Dr. Popovitz says you can use an anti-inflammatory  like aspirin to ease any discomfort. Regular stretching, physical therapy, and running with neoprene sleeves to warm up the leg muscles also may help.

running 3Exertional Compartment Syndrome

If you’re jogging along as usual and suddenly about a mile in you feel a shooting pain up your leg, you may suffer from exertional compartment syndrome. This is when the pressure in the compartments of your leg increases to the point of extreme pain — and because your legs are encapsulated, that pressure has nowhere to go, explains Dr. Popovitz. It may not bother you in your everyday life when you’re not running, but this condition needs immediate attention.

Fix It Fast: The fastest way to alleviate symptoms of exertional compartment syndrome is to rest. In severe cases, surgery may be needed to release pressure of the muscles. Either way, make an appointment with your doctor if you notice symptoms. “Pain can be a good thing — it tells us something is not right with our bodies,” reminds Dr. Popovitz.

Achilles Tendinitis

Another common condition is Achilles tendinitis. This is when the tendon that connects your calf muscles to your heel bone becomes overused or suffers from tendinopathy — micro partial tears of the tendon, Dr. Popovitz explains. Symptoms include heel pain or stiffness after exercising, or swelling that is present all day, and gets worse during exercise.

Fix It Fast: To prevent tendinitis from occurring in the first place, it’s important to take the time to stretch before and after running. Dr. Popovitz also recommends making sure you have the right running shoes and replacing them often — every six months or 300-400 miles.

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Get Fit for Summer: The Bikini Body Boot Camp

Get ready for the beach with this calorie-scorching workout with butt-boosting, core-strengthening, and shoulder-sculpting exercises.

bikiniTrim-and-Tone Circuit Workout

Your secret to a hot body this summer? A twofer tone-up routine that intersperses high-octane cardio bursts with muscle-burning strength moves. The result: You wearing nothing but a bikini and total confidence. It all comes from the Bombshell Bootcamp cocreator Cari Shoemate, a Houston-based trainer who’s whipped hundreds of women into swimsuit-ready shape with her calorie-scorching circuit workouts. Her moves are especially effective when it’s time to don barely-there swimwear, because they focus on toning up the parts that need the most attention. “Sculpted shoulders balance out your lower body, creating an illusion of a slimmer waist and hips,” Shoemate explains. Butt-boosting exercises get you ready for bikini bottoms or boy shorts, and core-strengtheners focus on working your deep abdominals, obliques, and six-pack muscles to help you stand taller and look slimmer. Grab a set of three- to five-pound dumbbells and do our Trim-and-Tone Circuit, which includes cardio bursts and strength moves, on three nonconsecutive days a week. Then do your favorite form of cardio for 30 minutes twice a week. (You get bonus points if you make one of these sweat sessions a booty-shaping hill workout.) Proof positive that it works: Our group of testers, who followed Shoemate’s plan for a month, dropped up to seven and a half pounds and lost an average of more than two inches from their waistlines. You’ll see results just as fast, which will keep you motivated and have you rocking a two-piece in no time. See you on the beach!

Fat-Blasting Cardio Drills

Pump up this workout by adding these high-energy intervals, each designed to boost your heart rate and amp up the calorie burn. Pick one from the list below and do it for 20 seconds (go all out if you can), then recover for 10 seconds. Repeat with the same drill or pick another; keep going until you’ve done it eight times. Then move on to the strength circuit on the following pages, doing one set of each move (12 to 15 reps, unless otherwise noted) before returning to another cardio burst. Follow the chart below for the full workout.

Warm-up: 4 minutes Cardio burst 1: 4 minutes Strength circuit: 10 minutes Cardio burst 2: 4 minutes Strength circuit: 10 minutes Cardio burst 3: 4 minutes Strength circuit: 10 minutes Cardio burst 4: 4 minutes Cool-down: 3 to 5 minutes

Total time: 55 minutes

High knees Stand with feet hip-width apart, elbows bent 90 degrees at sides. Bring alternate knees up high toward chest as quickly as possible as you pump arms.

Burpees Begin in a standing position, then squat, placing hands on floor. Jump (or walk) feet back in one quick motion until you’re in a full plank position. Jump feet forward in one quick motion, going back into a squat. Return to standing. Repeat each step of the sequence as quickly as possible.

Plyo lunges Begin in a basic lunge position, both knees bent 90 degrees, front knee over ankle. In an explosive movement, jump, switch legs in the air, and land with bent knees in lunge.

Mountain climbers Begin in a full plank position. Keeping left foot stationary, bring right knee toward chest. Return right foot to start while bringing left knee toward chest. Continue, alternating legs.

Squat jumps Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms at sides. Squat down, knees over ankles, then jump up explosively, reaching hands toward ceiling. Land in squat position, knees bent; repeat.

Toe Dips

Targets abs, butt, and quads

  • Stand tall on top of a bench or stair with feet shoulder-width apart, abs engaged. Shift weight to left leg, lifting right foot behind you.
  • Slowly bend left knee, lowering right foot behind you (as if dipping toes into a pool of water). Keep left knee centered over toes. Slowly stand up and repeat for 1 minute; switch sides.

Plank Macarena

Targets shoulders and abs

  • Begin in full plank position, arms straight and wrists on floor under shoulders. Lift left hand and tap right shoulder; return left hand to floor and repeat with right hand. Next, tap each hand to opposite hip.
  • Bend arms and lower into a forearm plank; repeat same sequence of shoulder taps and hip taps. Straighten arms and repeat from the start. Continue for 1 minute.

Single-Leg Squat Kick

Targets butt and outer thighs

  • Holding a dumbbell horizontally with both hands at chest height, stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, left foot on top of bench or step and right foot on floor, feet parallel.
  • Lower into a squat; hold 2 to 3 seconds, keeping weight in front of chest.
  • Staying in a low squat, lift right leg about 45 degrees from floor, keeping weight centered over left leg. Lower right foot back to floor and squat a little deeper. Repeat for 12 to 15 reps; switch sides and repeat.

Triple Toner

Targets upper back, triceps, abs, and inner thighs

  • Sit on a bench with hands next to hips, fingers pointing forward and heels about 3 feet in front of you. Keeping chest up, back straight and knees bent, lift body off bench and slowly bend elbows 90 degrees. Straighten arms and repeat. Do 5 dips.
  • After last rep, sit on bench, contract abs and lean back slightly. Lift left leg to hip height, turning toes out. Do 5 leg raises. Switch legs and repeat for another 5 leg raises to complete 1 rep. Do 3 to 4 reps total.

Running V-Sit

Targets arms, abs, and hips

  • Sit on floor with knees bent, arms at sides. Slowly lift feet while leaning back slightly, engaging abs. Extend legs, forming a V, and reach arms toward feet; hold calves for a moment to get your balance, then release.
  • Bend elbows 90 degrees. Keeping legs extended and about 45 degrees from floor, move arms back and forth (as if running). Continue for 1 minute.

Standing Oblique Mash-Up

Targets shoulders, back, chest, triceps, and abs

  • Stand facing a wall 2 to 3 feet in front of you with feet shoulder-width apart. Place hands on wall just below shoulder height and near sides of your body.
  • Lower chest toward wall, bringing elbows close to sides; at the same time, lift left knee toward left elbow. Straighten arms and lower leg back to start. Do 12 to 15 reps, alternating sides.
  • MAKE IT EASIER: Stand closer to wall.

Scissors Lunge

Targets shoulders, triceps, butt, quads, and calves

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand with arms at sides, palms in, feet hip-width apart.
  • Lunge back with right foot, bending both knees 90 degrees; at the same time, lift left arm forward to shoulder height and right arm behind you with thumbs facing the sky. Stand up, lowering arms back to sides. (Try not to swing arms.) Repeat with opposite legs and arms. Do 10 to 12 reps on each leg.

Tilted Shoulder Raise

Targets shoulders

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms at sides with palms facing in. Engage abs and lift arms out to sides to shoulder height, forming a T shape.
  • Slowly rotate arms until thumbs face floor (as if pouring a cup of coffee). Rotate arms back and then lower to sides. Do 12 to 15 reps.
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Tri-Umphant! 10 Weeks to Your First Sprint Tri

Conquer the open water. Master the bike and the run. We’ve got everything you need to finish your first triathlon feeling strong and confident.

1triathlon0 Weeks to Your First Sprint Tri

You’ve signed up for a race — now it’s time to get down to business. Laura Cozik, a triathlon coach and the founder of the all-woman Team Lipstick in New York City, makes it simple with this beginner-friendly plan, which gets you in shape to complete a sprint tri (typically a 750-meter [half-mile] swim, a 20-kilometer [12.4-mile] bike ride, and a 5K [3.1-mile] run). Her program includes five days a week of training; use your two days off to do a low-intensity activity like stretching or to just take a break.

Training notes Before beginning this plan, you should be able to swim at least 200 yards without stopping; you’ll gradually build your endurance with a series of intervals (repeats of 100 yards or more) that will help you complete a strong half-mile swim. You can do at least some of the biking workouts with a group cycling class or on an indoor bike. Long outdoor workouts may include a “brick,” or bike-run, to help your legs make the transition to the run phase of the race (they’ll probably feel heavy for at least the first few minutes). Most important is to have fun. “Even on your hardest training days, you should never be completely out of breath or unable to keep up the pace,” Cozik says. “It’s not about shocking your body, just giving it a gentle push.”

Mastering the Transition and Gear You Need

It’s home base for your race, the spot where you’ll stash your gear and switch activities. “You don’t need to bring everything in your closet; simplify as much as possible,” tri coach Alison Kreideweis says. Here’s how to organize your stuff at the start.

1. K-Swiss Blade-light Run II shoes ($95, kswiss.com) 2. FuelBelt Super-Stretch Race waist pack ($20, fuelbelt.com) 3. Brooks visor ($18, brooksrunning.com) 4. Shimano SH-WT60 triathlon shoe ($250, bike.shimano.com for info) 5. Pearl Izumi socks ($12, pearlizumi.com) 6. Oakley Radarlock Edge sunglasses ($220, oakley.com) 7. Giant Orion helmet ($55, giant-bicycles.com for info)

Anatomy of a Wet Suit

Everything you need to know about looking like a human seal.

Why wear it? A wet suit not only keeps you from shivering (it’s ideal if the water temp falls below 75), but it can also make your swim feel easier. “Wet suits are designed to keep you more buoyant and streamlined, so you move faster,” Cozik explains.

Full or sleeveless? A full-sleeve model will generally keep you warmer and make you even more hydrodynamic. Sleeveless versions are better for hotter temperatures.

What should it feel like? Wet suits are typically formfitting, but don’t get one so tight that you feel as if it’s choking you. Some specialty shops will let you try before you buy.

How do I get out of it? The suit can require some dexterity to put on, but it’s even trickier to take off, especially when you’re in a hurry to hop on your bike. “As soon as you get out of the water, tug on the zipper and pull your arms out,” Cozik advises. “That way you’re halfway out before you reach transition.” Tug on the lower half when you get to your bike and slip off each leg, turning the suit inside out. Hint: Put a little lubricant like Bodyglide on your ankles and wrists to speed your exit.

What’s the cost? A basic wet suit runs $150 to $500, depending on the size, style, and design.

Surviving the Swim

Most of us feel comfortable riding a bike or heading out for a run. But swimming in open water can make even pool regulars panic. That goes double if the course is crowded, the water is cold, or the waves are choppy. Swim easily with these confidence-building tips.

Do at least two open-water practice swims.

For many first-timers, the idea of getting into a body of water that doesn’t have a lane line to follow and a wall to rest at can be intimidating. But practicing can help. “The first time is scary, but the second, a lot less so,” Cozik says. If possible, try to get into water that’s similar to what you’ll be racing in, whether it’s a lake or the ocean. “Even if just the color or the taste of the water is familiar, it can help on race day,” she adds. This is also a good time to try out your wet suit if you’ll be wearing one. And always swim with a partner so you’ll feel a little safer.

Stay to one side.

When it’s your turn to hit the water in the race (which is typically in a wave-type format, where several swimmers go at once), avoid the crowd by moving toward the side that’s farthest from the buoys. “Try not to get caught in the middle of the crowd, where the water can get very choppy,” Cozik says.

Do whatever stroke you need to.

Freestyle is the most popular because it’s generally the most efficient, but if you start to get nervous, do the breaststroke for a bit or float on your back, then return to freestyle.

Wear-test your outfit.

A good rule of thumb: Try nothing new on race day. Whether you’re swimming in a tri suit, a sports bra and shorts, or a bathing suit, make sure you get in the water in your outfit at least once before the race, even if it’s just to do a few laps in the pool. “My first race I wore a sports bra that ballooned with water, making it very uncomfortable to swim, and then it totally chafed me afterward,” Kreideweis recalls. If you’re large chested, try wearing two tops for extra support.

Remember you’ve got safety nets.

If you feel overwhelmed or can’t catch your breath while in the water, swim over to one of the many volunteers who are likely to be stationed along the course in boats. “Most races won’t penalize you if you stop, so take a few moments to calm down,” Kreideweis says. When you start again, distract yourself from negative thoughts by counting your strokes from buoy to buoy, singing a song in your head, or picturing yourself crossing the finish line.

Smart Nutrition Rules

Rule: Drink up.

“Fluids are your first priority,” notes Marni Sumbal, RD, a triathlete coach and sports dietitian in Jacksonville, Florida. Aim for five to six ounces every 15 minutes; stick with water on your shorter training days (one hour or less) and sports drinks with carbs and electrolytes on longer and more intense ones. The easiest place to sip is on your bike, so equip it with a water bottle cage before you start pedaling, for both training and race day.

Rule 2: Practice.

“Most people can digest anything when they go slowly; it’s when you ramp up intensity that you run into tummy trouble,” Sumbal says. Sample various sports drinks or effervescent electrolyte tablets during your training to make sure they agree with you when you race. “You’ll be pushing a little harder than normal, and this extra nutrition will help your body handle that added stress,” Sumbal explains. Look for a drink that contains about 30 to 60 grams of carbs in about 20 to 28 ounces of fluid.

Rule 3: Fuel up for the start.

About two to three hours before the race, eat a 200- to 300-calorie breakfast of mostly carbs and a little protein, such as toast with peanut butter; oatmeal, nuts, and fruit; or a hard-boiled egg, yogurt, and an orange. “That should be enough to keep you going for the next few hours,” Sumbal says.

Rule 4: Don’t overdo it.

You’ll probably burn 600 to 700 calories in a sprint race, but you can’t replace everything you’re burning. Shoot for 120 to 200 calories an hour, which you can get from a sports drink. For longer train?ing sessions or races, you may need to take along sports gels for a boost.

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Spin Tricks: The 45-Minute Spinning Interval Workout

Spinning blasts more than 500 calories in less than an hour. How to make it even better? “Turn your workout into a cardio party,” says Rique Uresti, a master instructor for New York’s acclaimed Soul Cycle studio. Get more out of your next ride with Uresti’s smart tips.

Spinning workoutHit the Right Height “The biggest mistake people make is to set the bike seat too low,” Uresti says. When pedal?ing, the leg should be bent about 25 degrees at the bottom of the rotation. “This relieves your quads from doing all the work.”

Get Up, Stand Up When doing fast-paced runs, stay seated. To add intensity, lift your butt off the saddle for a few seconds. For hill climbs and slow jogs with heavy resistance, stand up and hold the front of the handlebars, keeping hips over the saddle to work your core, legs, and butt.

Move to the Music Good music can make any ride better, as long as you match your pedal stroke to the beat. “Keep pace first, then add resistance,” Uresti advises. Try riding to your favorite song: Pedal fast enough to stay with the beat, then add a quarter turn of resistance every 30 seconds, five times in all.

Reverse Biceps Curl Hold a weight in each hand, elbows bent at shoulder level, weights in front of face, palms out. Bend elbows to straighten arms parallel to floor. Repeat.

Triceps Pull Down Hold a weight in each hand and extend arms overhead, palms facing in. Bend elbows, lowering weights behind head, then extend arms overhead and lower elbows to chest height (weights in front of face). Return to start and repeat.

The 45-Minute Interval Spinning Workout

Rique Uresti’s favorite Spinning motto? “Tight wheel, tight body.” His 45-minute session cranks up resistance while adding speed intervals for a high-intensity workout.

 

Minutes What to Do Speed (rpm) Tension
0 to 5 Warm up; stay seated 100 Light, slowly increased to moderate
5 to 10 Increase resistance; rise out of saddle 70 Moderate
10 to 12 Decrease resistance; stay out of saddle 110 Light to moderate
12 to 15 Keep resistance; sit in saddle 120 Light to moderate
15 to 17 Increase resistance; stay out of saddle 80 Moderate
17 to 19 Keep resistance, double pace; stay out of saddle 120 Moderate
19 to 21 Keep resistance, decrease pace; sit in saddle 80 Moderate
21 to 22 Keep resistance, double pace; rise out of saddle 120 Moderate
22 to 25 Decrease resistance; sit in saddle 100 Light
25 to 30 Increase resistance for heavy climb; rise out of  saddle 70 Heavy
30 to 35 Decrease resistance; do seated arms workout 80 Light to moderate
35 to 40 Increase resistance; rise out of saddle 100 Light to     moderate, slowly adding resistance
40 to 45 Cool down; sit in saddle 80 to 100 Light

 

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Fight the Flab: The Animal Flow Workout

A no-equipment workout with cardio and toning exercises from the creator of the Animal Flow workout class at Equinox Fitness Clubs.

animal workoutAbout This Workout

Firm up with this fresh no-equipment workout that blasts even hard-to-reach bulges in record time. “You can really tone all those forgotten muscles by mimicking certain primal movements,” says Mike Fitch, the creator of the hot new Animal Flow class at Equinox Fitness Clubs in New York City. The super-low, thigh-sculpting squats and ab-chiseling crawls may look straight out of a safari, but try them twice a week this month and you’ll go wild for the results.

Vertical Frog  Jump

Targets back, butt, and quads

Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, arms by sides
Lower into a deep squat and place palms on floor between feet.
Jump as high as you can and extend arms overhead.
Land softly in a squat, placing hands on floor. Return to standing.
Do 2 sets of 12 reps.

Beast Reach

Targets shoulders, triceps, abs, hips, butt, and legs

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart and crouch down, stretching arms forward to plant palms on floor in front of you, head between arms.
  • Extend legs to bring torso forward until shoulders are aligned over hands in full plank position; simultaneously lift bent right knee to outside of right elbow.
  • Keeping palms planted, reverse motion back to crouch position and repeat with left leg.
  • Do 2 sets of 12 reps, alternating legs.

Sideways-Traveling Primate

Targets shoulders, abs, hips, and quads

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart and toes out; crouch down, placing palms on floor to right of body (left hand by right foot).
  • Keeping palms planted throughout, jump feet to right; land with left foot between hands, left knee bent, and right leg straight. Shift hips to right to reset position (left leg straightens and right knee bends), and place palms on floor outside of right foot to complete 1 rep.
  • Do 6 reps; switch directions and repeat. Do 2 sets.

Stork Seesaw

Targets back, abs, hips, butt, quads, and hamstrings

  • Stand with feet together and clasp arms behind back. Lift right knee forward to hip level, foot flexed.
  • Balancing on left leg, squat slightly and hinge forward from hips until back is nearly parallel to floor and right heel is in line with your back.
  • Return to upright stork stance; repeat. Do 12 reps; switch legs and repeat. Do 2 sets.
  • Make it easier: Place hands on hips.

Crab Flip

Targets back, triceps, butt, and hamstrings

  • Sit on floor with knees bent, feet flat, and place palms on floor behind you, fingers pointing away from body. Lift butt 1 or 2 inches off floor.
  • Raise right arm overhead as you lift hips off floor as high as possible, arching your back.
  • Lower hips toward floor and place right hand down, keeping butt lifted. Repeat with left arm.
  • Do 2 sets of 12 reps, alternating sides.

Ape Squat

Targets shoulders, back, triceps, abs, butt, quads, and calves

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, toes pointed out, and lower into a deep squat, bending knees out to sides; reach arms between knees toward floor with palms facing out.
  • Maintaining crouch throughout, lift heels off floor and straighten torso as you raise arms out to sides (rotate wrists so that palms face up) and squeeze shoulder blades together.
  • Lower arms and heels to start position.
  • Do 2 sets of 12 reps
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Yoga 101: Poses for Beginners

New to yoga? Try these basic yoga poses to get stronger and more flexible.

Mountain Posemountain pose

  • Stand tall with feet together, shoulders relaxed, weight evenly distributed through your soles, arms at sides.
  • Take a deep breath and raise your hands overhead, palms facing each other with arms straight. Reach up toward the sky with your fingertips.

Downward Dog

  • Start on all fours with hands directly under shoulders, knees under hips.
  • Walk hands a few inches forward and spread fingers wide, pressing palms into mat.
  • Curl toes under and slowly press hips toward ceiling, bringing your body into an inverted V, pressing shoulders away from ears. Feet should be hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  • Hold for 3 full breaths.

Warrior

  • Stand with legs 3 to 4 feet apart, turning right foot out 90 degrees and left foot in slightly.
  • Bring your hands to your hips and relax your shoulders, then extend arms out to the sides, palms down.
  • Bend right knee 90 degrees, keeping knee over ankle; gaze out over right hand. Stay for 1 minute.
  •  Switch sides and repeat.

Tree Pose

  • Stand with arms at sides.
  • Shift weight onto left leg and place sole of right foot inside left thigh, keeping hips facing forward.
  • Once balanced, bring hands in front of you in prayer position, palms together.
  • On an inhalation, extend arms over shoulders, palms separated and facing each another. Stay for 30 seconds.
  • Lower and repeat on opposite side.
  • Make it easier: Bring your right foot to the inside of your left ankle, keeping your toes on the floor for balance. As you get stronger and develop better balance, move your foot to the inside of your left calf.

Bridge Pose

  • Stretches chest and thighs; extends spine
  • Lie on floor with knees bent and directly over heels.
  • Place arms at sides, palms down. Exhale, then press feet into floor as you lift hips.
  • Clasp hands under lower back and press arms down, lifting hips until thighs are parallel to floor, bringing chest toward chin. Hold for 1 minute.
  • Make it easier: Place a stack of pillows underneath your tailbone.

Triangle Posetriangle

  • Extend arms out to sides, then bend over your right leg.
  • Stand with feet about 3 feet apart, toes on your right foot turned out to 90 degrees, left foot to 45 degrees.
  • Allow your right hand to touch the floor or rest on your right leg below or above the knee, and extend the fingertips of your left hand toward the ceiling.
  • Turn your gaze toward the ceiling, and hold for 5 breaths.
  • Stand and repeat on opposite side.

Seated Twist

  • Stretches shoulders, hips, and back; increases circulation; tones abdomen; strengthens obliques
  • Sit on the floor with your legs extended.
  • Cross right foot over outside of left thigh; bend left knee. Keep right knee pointed toward ceiling.
  • Place left elbow to the outside of right knee and right hand on the floor behind you.
  • Twist right as far as you can, moving from your abdomen; keep both sides of your butt on the floor. Stay for 1 minute.
  • Switch sides and repeat.
  • Make it easier: Keep bottom leg straight and place both hands on raised knee. If your lower back rounds forward, sit on a folded blanket.

Cobra

  • Lie facedown on the floor with thumbs directly under shoulders, legs extended with the tops of your feet on the floor.
  • Tighten your pelvic floor, and tuck hips downward as you squeeze your glutes.
  • Press shoulders down and away from ears.
  • Push through your thumbs and index fingers as you raise your chest toward the wall in front of you.
  • Relax and repeat.

Pigeon Pose

  • Targets the piriformis (a deep gluteal muscle)
  • Begin in a full push-up position, palms aligned under shoulders.
  • Place left knee on the floor near shoulder with left heel by right hip.
  • Lower down to forearms and bring right leg down with the top of the foot on the floor (not shown).
  • Keep chest lifted to the wall in front of you, gazing down.
  • If you’re more flexible, bring chest down to floor and extend arms in front of you.
  • Pull navel in toward spine and tighten your pelvic-floor muscles; contract right side of glutes.
  • Curl right toes under while pressing ball of foot into the floor, pushing through your heel.
  • Bend knee to floor and release; do 5 reps total, then switch sides and repeat.

Crow Pose

  • Get into downward dog position (palms pressed into mat, feet hip-width apart) and walk feet forward until knees touch your arms.
  • Bend your elbows, lift heels off floor, and rest knees against the outside of your upper arms. Keep toes on floor, abs engaged and legs pressed against arms.
  • Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.

Child’s Posechilds pose

  • Sit up comfortably on your heels.
  • Roll your torso forward, bringing your forehead to rest on the bed in front of you.
  • Lower your chest as close to your knees as you comfortably can, extending your arms in front of you.
  • Hold the pose and breathe.
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Improve Your Sweatitude: 9 Motivation Rut Busters

No more wimping out on your workouts. Here’s how to lose the excuses, make over your motivation, and finally score the body you want.

girls running“I’m too far from my goal, so why start?”

Rut Buster: How about this for an incentive: Just by walking a little more every day, you can shrink your waist in 12 weeks. When formerly sedentary women consistently tallied a weekly average of 470 steps more a day — that’s about a five-minute walk — than they had the week before, they lost a quarter inch from their waistlines without dieting. Whether you have a lot of weight to shed or a certain distance to run, break up your goal into smaller units, suggests trainer Tracey Mallett, creator of the Lose the Belly Flab DVD. Little victories, like dropping a pound a week or running an extra minute without stopping, will fuel your momentum.

“I hate cardio.”

Rut Buster: Swap endless treadmill time for circuits, suggests trainer Jim Karas, author of The 7-Day Energy Surge. According to a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, circuit training beats aerobic exercise for building upper-body strength while giving an equal boost in cardio capacity. Try Karas’s technique: Alternate one-minute sets of upper- and lower-body moves, resting for 30 seconds in between and doing each set with enough weight so that your muscles cry uncle at 10 reps.

“I’m bored with my same old routine.”

Rut Buster: Spicing up your steady sweat sessions with speed will wake up your mojo, a study in the Journal of Sports Science found. Exercisers who did 50-minute runs rated their enjoyment as much higher when they mixed in six 3-minute intervals. Is it time to expand your routine repertoire? Check active.com for sporty events near you, or get free workout podcasts at motiontraxx.com/gseriesfit.

“I don’t have the energy.”

Rut Buster: Exercising at even a very easy pace will give you more energy than if you sit it out. A University of Georgia study of people who reported persistent fatigue found that those who rode a stationary bike three times a week at low intensity got a bigger energy boost than those who didn’t exercise. In a follow-up study, the same cyclers maintained the extra oomph over the six weeks they kept exercising.

“No matter how hard I try, something always foils my workout schedule.”

Rut Buster: Get a plan and then grab a pen. People who have a process goal, such as a target number of weekly workouts, stick to their routines with significantly more success than those who focus on a big-picture outcome — such as losing 20 pounds — or go along without any specific goal, a study in the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology found; they also feel less stressed about squeezing in exercise. Next, schedule your gym time just as you would a business meeting. “That way, when someone asks if you can meet at 5, you can honestly say, ‘Sorry, I have an appointment; how about 4 instead?’” says Sherri McMillan, owner of Northwest Personal Training in Vancouver, Washington.

“I just don’t have the time.”

Rut Buster: “Most people think they need to exercise for 30 to 60 minutes, which can seem daunting, but you can actually get a better workout in just 20 minutes,” says Wayne Westcott, PhD, exercise science instructor at Quincy College in Massachusetts. The time-trimming trick: intervals. Try alternating two minutes of moderate-intensity cardio with two minutes of high-intensity intervals, Westcott suggests, for a simple-to-remember session. Still can’t squeeze in 20 in one sitting? Do one 10- to 15-minute session in the morning and one after work. A study at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh found that overweight women dropped equal amounts of weight doing one 30-minute workout, two 15-minute sessions, or three 10-minute bouts.

“I bulk up too fast.”

Rut Buster: If you want a foolproof formula for sculpting sleek limbs, “select a weight that you can lift 15 to 18 times,” says Michele Olson, PhD, a FITNESS advisory board member and professor of exercise science at the University of Alabama at Montgomery. “That amount is not heavy enough to build any bulk, but your muscles will gain greater tone and increased staying power.”

“I don’t have any indoor options.”

Rut Buster: Filter tons of DVD routines at collagevideo.com or online exercises at fitnessmagazine.com/buildavideo by searching for those that don’t require equipment.

“I’m getting nowhere, so why bother?”

Rut Buster: First of all, swap the carrot for the stick. “You didn’t gain 10 pounds in 10 days, so it might take a while to lose it,” Karas says. “Be patient and visualize yourself in leaner days for positive reinforcement.” Then look beyond the scale. “Remind yourself that the benefits of exercise — being healthier, happier, and living longer — are so much greater than the weight loss,” says Kelly McGonigal, PhD, a psychologist at Stanford University. But if downsizing is your main motive, raise your game: Pick up your walking pace or add reps or sets. “You can’t expect bigger results by doing the same thing,” McGonigal says.

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Jillian Michaels’ Bodyshred Circuit Workout

jillian michael circuit workoutBurn megacalories, blast fat, and sculpt all over in less than 30 minutes with Jillian’s new kick-butt workout. Based on Jillian Michaels Bodyshred, a high-energy circuit class offered at Crunch gyms nationwide, this results-driven combo of strength, cardio, and core circuits will leave you tight, toned, and totally ready to show off your hard work. What are you waiting for?

How This Workout Works

What You’ll Need: 3- to 8-pound dumbbells, a mat (optional)

How It Works: Do Jillian’s 3-2-1 interval method four days a week. Warm up for five minutes by jumping rope or running in place. Next, move on to the three circuits: Do three minutes of strength (30 seconds per move; repeat entire circuit once); then do two minutes of cardio (30 seconds per move; repeat entire circuit once); and finish with one minute of core (30 seconds per move). Do three sets total.

Circuit 1: Strength: Dumbbell Row in Crescent

Targets back, butt, and legs

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms by sides, palms facing in.
  • Step back with left leg, bending right knee 90 degrees and keeping left leg straight and heel lifted, body hinging forward slightly from hips, arms extended by sides.
  • Maintaining lunge position, drive elbows behind you to bring dumbbells by ribs, palms in, squeezing shoulder blades together.
  • Lower dumbbells toward floor, straightening arms. Switch legs for second set.

Alternating Side Lunge with Reverse Flye

Targets shoulders, back, butt, and legs

  • Stand with feet together holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms in front of thighs, palms facing each other.
  • Step right leg out to right side, bending left knee.
  • Keep right leg straight as you simultaneously hinge forward from hips until back is parallel to floor; extend arms directly below chest.
  • Keeping head in line with spine, extend arms out to sides at shoulder height.
  • Slowly lower arms toward floor. Push off right leg to return to start position. Switch sides.

Dive Bomber

Targets shoulders, chest, triceps, back, abs, and thighs

  • Start in full plank position with hands directly under shoulders and body forming a straight line.
  • Lift hips so body forms an inverted V and feet are flat on floor, then slowly bend elbows, lowering chest toward floor while bringing head forward.
  • In one fluid movement, push into palms as you thrust chest forward; then lift chest upward as you lower hips to the floor, straightening arms (you should be looking up and balancing on balls of your feet).
  • Reverse motion back to start position to complete 1 rep.

Circuit 2: Cardio: Jump Jack Squat and Touch the Ground

Targets abs, butt, and legs

  • Stand with feet together, arms above head.
  • Jump up, landing in a deep squat with feet about hip-distance apart. Tap floor in front of feet with right hand, keeping left arm above head.
  • Jump up, bringing feet together and both arms above head.
  • Repeat, touching floor with opposite hand to complete 1 rep.

Single-Leg Mountain Climbers

Targets shoulders, chest, upper back, triceps, abs, and legs

  • Start in full plank position, balancing on palms and toes, body forming a straight line.
  • Pull left knee in toward chest, keeping right leg extended.
  • Keeping palms planted firmly on ground and left knee tucked into chest, jump right leg forward.
  • Jump right leg back to full plank position. Continue hopping forward and back with right leg for 30 seconds. Switch legs for second set.

Circuit 3: Core: Windshield Wiper

Targets abs, obliques, and legs

  • Lie faceup on the floor, feet together, legs extended; bring arms out to shoulder level with palms resting on floor.
  • Keeping feet together and legs straight, extend legs toward ceiling.
  • Maintaining position, lower legs to the right, bringing them as close to floor as you can while keeping your upper back and shoulders planted.
  • Raise legs back to start position, then lower legs to the left to complete 1 rep.

Hollow Man Chest Flye Combo

Targets shoulders, chest, triceps, back, abs, and legs

  • Lie faceup on floor, legs extended with feet together, holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms by sides.
  • Lift your head and shoulders off floor and raise both legs 45 degrees; bring arms together over chest.
  • Maintaining position, lower arms out to sides until hands almost touch the floor, palms facing up; keep elbows slightly bent.hollow man chest fly
  • Bring arms back together over chest, keeping legs raised; repeat.
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Burn and Firm: CrossFit Circuit Workout

Burn calories and fat in just 20 minutes with this CrossFit sample circuit workout.

How This Workout Works

crossfitWhether you’re curious about CrossFit or have already been bitten by this drenched-in-sweat sculptfest, its body-transforming allure couldn’t be more off the hook. “In 20 minutes you incinerate major calories and fat, plus you boost every facet of fitness, such as strength, balance, endurance, and speed,” says Megan May, the head trainer for Reebok CrossFit 5th Ave in New York City. “You’ll really notice the change you’re working so hard for — and fast.” Start here with this six-move sampler from May, using a set of five- to eight-pound dumbbells and a sturdy chair. Do as many rounds as possible — that’s AMRAP to you newbies — of the full circuit in 20 minutes.

Dumbbell Swing

Targets shoulders, back, abs, butt, and hamstrings

Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, holding a single dumbbell with both hands in front of thighs.
Slightly bend knees as you hinge forward from hips until back is nearly parallel to floor and swing dumbbell behind you between legs.
Quickly drive through heels and push hips forward to straighten legs, swinging dumbbell overhead in an upward arc, arms straight. Repeat immediately.
Do 20 reps.

Elevator

Targets shoulders, hips, butt, and legs

  • Stand facing chair, a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Place right foot on seat and bring dumbbells by shoulders, palms facing each other.
  • Stand up on seat on right leg, lifting bent left knee as you press dumbbells overhead.
  • Lower left foot to floor, then lunge back with right leg. Jump up, switching legs in midair to land in lunge with right leg forward. Repeat, placing left foot on seat. Do 10 reps, alternating sides.
  • MAKE IT EASIER: Leave arms by sides throughout.

Turkish Get-Up

Targets triceps, abs, obliques, butt, and hamstrings

  • Holding a dumbbell in right hand, lie faceup on floor with right knee bent, foot flat, left leg extended; raise right arm toward ceiling and extend left arm directly out to side on floor.
  • Keeping right arm pointed up throughout, press onto left forearm to lift torso off floor and then press into left palm and right heel to lift hips.
  • Bringing left leg behind body, kneel on left knee and then stand up. Reverse motion back to start.
  • Do 3 reps; switch sides and repeat.

Power Deck Squat

Targets abs, butt, and legs

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding ends of a single dumbbell with both hands directly in front of chest, elbows bent by sides.
  • Keeping dumbbell close to chest throughout, lower into a deep squat. Then sit on floor and, maintaining a tuck position with chin toward chest, roll onto middle of back and then upper back (don’t roll onto neck).
  • Using momentum, roll forward to return to squat, and then jump up.
  • Do 6 reps.
  • MAKE IT EASIER: Instead of jumping up, return to standing.
  • MAKE IT HARDER: Press dumbbell overhead before you jump up from squat position.

Inchworm to Grasshopper

Targets shoulders, back, chest, arms, and abs

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, then hinge forward at hips, back flat, and place palms on floor.
  • Walk hands forward into full plank position.
  • Bring left leg diagonally beneath body toward right hip. Return to plank; switch legs, repeat.
  • Alternate sides once more, then walk hands back to meet feet to return to start. Do 10 reps.
  • MAKE IT EASIER: Bend knees slightly on the walk-out.

Handstand Push-Up

Targets shoulders, triceps, and abs

  • Kneel on all fours on floor with your back to a chair. Place balls of feet atop seat and, keeping arms extended, straighten legs so that hips rise in an inverted-V pike position.
  • Slowly bend elbows to lower head near floor.
  • Push through palms to extend arms fully.
  • Do 5 reps.
  • MAKE IT EASIER: Rest knees and shins on chair or do the move with feet on floor.
  • MAKE IT EASIER: Bend knees slightly on the walk-out.
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The 8-Minute Better-Back Workout

Prevent back pain with these exercises that will strengthen and condition your back.

Cat-Cow Variation

Get your doctor’s okay before starting these strengthening and conditioning exercises.

Reduces stiffness in back and hips; relieves tension in spine

a. Cow Pose: On hands and knees, inhale and lift head while making back concave.
b. Cat Pose: On exhale, tuck tailbone, contract abs, and round back, head down.
c. Child’s Pose: Draw hips back to heels, drop chest, rounding spine, and rest forehead on floor, arms in front of you. Do 6 reps of whole cycle. Rest in Child’s Pose for several breaths.

Bridge Pose

Stretches abs, hips, quads, lower back; strengthens abs

Lie faceup with feet on floor about 6 inches from butt, arms by sides, palms down.
Inhaling, press into feet and lift lower body until knees form a diagonal with head.
As you exhale, contract your abs and slowly lower spine.
Do 6 reps.

Extended Leg Pose

Stretches hamstrings; strengthens abs

  • Lie faceup with knees bent, feet on floor; take 3 deep breaths.
  • a. Exhale and hug left knee to chest.
  • b. Inhaling, extend left leg over hip. Exhaling, hug it in. Do 3 reps.
  • On fourth rep, keep leg up and circle ankle four times in each direction.
  • Hug knee in; lower foot. Switch sides; repeat.
  • Exhale and hug both knees to chest for 3 breaths.

Butterfly Pose

Tones abs, pelvic floor, inner thighs
a. Lie faceup with soles of feet together, knees open to sides. Inhale.
b. Exhale and slowly squeeze thighs together. Do 6 reps.
Do 6 more times, taking twice as long to bring thighs together.

Cobra Leg Lift

Strengthens back and pelvic muscles
Lie facedown with elbows by sides, hands by shoulders.
Rest forehead on floor, chin tucked slightly.
Inhale and lift chest using back muscles.
At the same time, lift right leg as high as you can while keeping pelvis level.
Hold, then exhale to lower.
Switch sides; repeat.
Do 6 reps, alternating sides, lifting leg a little higher each time.

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How Lucy Liu Discovered the Right Workout for Her

After years of doing tough-girl routines like kickboxing and martial arts, Lucy Liu finally discovered the secret to shedding the last five pounds. All it took was the right workout and a little help from her friends.

Lucy Liu’s Stay Motivated Secrets

Lucy Liu is known for kicking butt in such flicks as Charlie’s Angels and Kill Bill. But offscreen she’s more likely to be getting her butt kicked — by her Pilates instructor.

“Pilates introduced me to muscles I never even knew I had,” says Lucy, who stars as Dr. Watson on the hit CBS show Elementary. “Soon I started to feel longer and leaner. Ten years of Pilates has really changed my body for the better.”

In fact, at 44 the actress says she is fitter and healthier than ever. “I’m smarter, stronger, and more confident than I was in my twenties,” Lucy says over lentil soup at ABC Kitchen in New York City. “I know who I am now, and I’m more accepting of myself.” Read on to find out how she got to her happy place — and how you can too.

You always play fierce female characters. What’s the toughest training you’ve done?

Charlie’s Angels, because it was eight hours a day, five days a week. I thought I was fairly fit when I started, but I wasn’t. The kind of moves we were doing with all the kicking — oh my god! I couldn’t even lift my legs afterward.

You work 16-hour days shooting Elementary. How do you fit in exercise?

I don’t always, but I can do Pilates at home with a ball and I have a treadmill. I run while watching Downton Abbey, and I increase the speed a little at a time, decrease it, and then raise it again. Each time, I say, “Just another 0.2 mile.” I’ve found that running is the fastest way to lose weight.

         What does working out do for you?

Pilates and running help to clear my mind, and they really strengthen me. Pilates has engaged my core and made me feel more confident in that area. I don’t have long legs, but through the combination of Pilates and running, they look longer and feel better than they ever have. And if I have time — which I don’t these days — I’ll take a yoga class, hike with [my chocolate Lab] Apple, or go for a swim.

How do you stay motivated?A group of five of us — friends and friends of friends — got an e-mail chain going, and we all set goals: an ideal weight, inches we wanted to lose, eating habits we wanted to adopt. We would e-mail, saying “I ran today” or “I ate this,” and we’d share recipes. Then we would celebrate by going to a show or taking a Pilates class when each of us reached our goal. We also celebrated mini milestones along the way to keep our motivation up.

What was your goal?To lose the five extra pounds I’ve had for years, which I did. It may not sound like a lot, but for my height, it makes a big difference. And doing it with a support group of my girlfriends made it easier.

Do you feel pressure to be a certain size?Part of being an actress is that people are going to judge you whether you gain or lose weight — it’s just sort of a given. But I’ve never had issues with food. When I was growing up, my family didn’t have a lot. So if there was food, I was going to eat it!

How do you stick to a healthy diet when you’re working crazy hours?When I’m exercising, I’m not as likely to eat sweets and junk food, because I tend to feel really good about myself and my body, so I don’t want to ruin it. I have only juice before noon, usually made with bananas and berries. If I’m really hungry I might have a breakfast burrito with spinach, a fried egg, and tomatoes. For dinner I have fish with steamed vegetables or a salad. But I also eat veggie pizza or pasta, because when you’re standing all day, it’s a workout, and sometimes you need to carbo-load.

You seem so zen despite your hectic life. What’s the secret?I’ve been meditating twice a day for about two years now. It’s helped me so much! It gives me a feeling of comfort and safety, and makes me feel as if I’m part of a bigger plan.

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The Eye-Opening Truth About Protein

We all know her: that trim, toned woman who seems to live on grilled chicken, hard-boiled eggs, and nonfat yogurt. Convinced that her high-protein plan is your ticket to a better body, you’ve been trying to work more of the macronutrient into your diet. But is it really the secret to slimming down? And how much protein do you actually need, anyway? Read on for the surprising facts, then use your newfound knowledge to get all the muscle-building, fat-fighting benefits.

Protein Facts You Need to Know

    You’re already getting enough protein.

“There’s way too much hype about protein — or rather, a perceived lack of it in people’s diets,” says Marion Nestle, PhD, a professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University. “The reality is, if you consume enough calories, you’re probably eating plenty of protein.” Most nutritionists agree that active women need about half a gram per pound a day, or approximately 65 grams for a 130-pound woman. And according to the USDA, most of us — even vegetarians — are eating 69 grams of protein daily, so we’re in the clear. (If you exercise for more than an hour five or more days a week, bump up your intake to 0.75 grams per pound.) Just don’t skimp at breakfast and then load up at lunch and dinner, because eating protein in the a.m. can help curb your calorie intake for the rest of the day.

    Protein helps you burn more calories…

Every time you eat, your body uses up energy (aka calories) to break down your food and absorb its nutrients, which boosts your metabolism. When you tuck into fat or carbs, about 5 to 15 percent of those calories go toward the digestion process. With protein, it’s more like 20 to 30 percent. That’s because protein is made up of amino acids held together by peptide bonds, which are strong little suckers. In order for your body to use the amino acids to repair tissue, transport oxygen throughout your bloodstream, and form immunity-boosting antibodies, the peptide bonds have to be broken; this means your stomach has to work harder, which takes extra energy.

    …but it can still make you fat.

That metabolism spike doesn’t mean protein is a freebie. If you overeat, you’ll gain weight no matter where your calories come from. According to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, volunteers who consumed an extra 1,000 calories a day gained weight, whether 5, 15, or 25 percent of those calories came from protein. While dieters have slimmed down with low-carb plans like Atkins, South Beach, and Paleo, their success is likely because they’ve cut calories and nixed refined carbs, not because they’ve upped their intake of protein.

Meat doesn’t beat plant-based protein.

Of the 20 amino acids that make up protein, 11 are produced by the body and nine come from food. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy contain all nine, which is why you may have heard them called complete proteins. But plant-based foods, like nuts, seeds and grains, are lacking or extremely low in one or more of those amino acids, says Margaret McDowell, PhD, RD, a nutritionist at the National Institutes of Health. As long as you eat a variety of these foods, though — think brown rice and beans or whole-grain cereal and soy milk — you’ll get the nine you need. Bars, powders, and shakes made with casein or whey, two milk proteins, are complete on-the-go options.

    You’ll get more out of your workouts if you pound protein afterward.

You don’t have to be a marathoner to benefit from a protein chaser. “Your muscles are like sponges for 30 to 45 minutes right after exercise, whether you’ve done cardio or strength training,” says John Ivy, PhD, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Texas. If you give them some protein in that magic window, they’re primed to put it to use rebuilding and repairing the microtears in muscle tissue that occur every time you work up a sweat. This makes you less sore the next day and increases your lean muscle mass, which helps your body burn calories more efficiently 24-7.

Pick a post-workout snack with 12 to 14 grams of protein and about 40 percent of the calories you’ve burned (45 minutes on the elliptical torches about 300 calories, earning you a 120-calorie pick-me-up, for example). Best bets: a cup of nonfat Greek yogurt with berries, a handful of crackers and string cheese, or half a bagel with peanut butter. Besides protein, each of these combos contains carbs, which speed up muscle mending and replenish your reserves of glycogen, a form of energy that fuels you during intense bouts of activity.

    There is such a thing as too much protein.

It would take some serious effort, but OD’ing on protein — say, eating hundreds of grams a day — can lead to trouble, according to research. Here’s why: As your body digests protein, it produces nitrogen as a by-product, which your kidneys have to work to process and eliminate as urine. Therefore, huge amounts of protein put a big-time strain on your kidneys. And they’re not the only organs affected by too much of a good thing; certain sources of protein can hurt your heart too. A recent Harvard School of Public Health study found that having one small serving of red meat a day increases your chances of dying from cardiovascular disease and other causes by 13 percent, while consuming processed meat, like bacon and hot dogs, ups your chances by 20 percent.

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The Stability Ball Flab-Fighting Workout

Do more than crunches on your stability ball. These flab-fighting exercises will work muscles from head to toe.

Exercises for the Stability Ball

There’s one cool tool you could be using to fight flab all over, but chances are you’re not. “The stability ball is an underrated piece of equipment because people think it’s good only for doing crunches,” says Nedra Lopez, a coowner of Studio by Remorca Fitness in New York City. Try her game-changing toners on the next page and you’ll be so pumped at the results that you may never hit the mat again.

Wall Curl-Up

Targets abs, obliques

  • Place ball about 2 feet in front of a wall. Lie faceup on ball with lower back on its center, knees bent 90 degrees, feet flat on wall, calves parallel to floor. Lie back on ball so arms hang behind head toward floor. MAKE IT EASIER: Touch hands lightly behind head, elbows bent out to sides.
  • Curl shoulders off ball and reach hands toward feet.
  • Reverse motion back to start.
  • Do 3 sets of 20 reps.

Butt Burner

Targets butt, hamstrings

  • Stand facing a wall with feet hipwidth apart. Bend left knee behind you with foot flexed and place ball between calf and butt; place hands on wall. MAKE IT EASIER: If ball feels too big to stay put, squeeze a rolled-up towel behind your knee.
  • Press left foot up 1 to 2 inches toward ceiling while squeezing ball with leg.
  • Do 20 to 25 reps, switch sides and repeat. Do 3 sets.

Grasshopper Plank

Targets shoulders, abs, hips, butt

  • Start in full plank position with shins atop center of ball.
  • Keeping back flat and hips facing floor, bring bent right knee out to side toward right elbow.
  • Return right leg to ball and repeat with left leg.
  • Do 3 sets of 15 reps, alternating sides.

Dolphin

Targets chest, triceps, abs

  • Get in full plank position with hands on center of stability ball under shoulders, thumbs and forefingers touching and feet slightly wider than shoulder-width on floor.
  • Slowly bend elbows 90 degrees as ball rolls forward and rest forearms on top of ball.
  • Roll ball in toward chest as you straighten arms to return to start.
  • Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

Superman Plus

Targets back

  • With your back to a wall, lie facedown on ball with hips on its center; place soles of feet against wall, legs extended and toes on floor for support, then drape upper body over ball so arms reach toward floor.
  • Lift torso off ball, extending arms overhead until body forms a straight line from hands to feet. Lower.
  • Do 3 sets of 20 reps.

Seesaw

Targets shoulders, back, hamstrings

  • Stand on left leg with right knee bent 90 degrees behind you, holding ball in front of chest with both hands.
  • Hinge forward from hips, extending arms overhead as you straighten right leg until body is parallel to floor.
  • Reverse motion back to start. MAKE IT EASIER: Place right foot on floor between reps.
  • Do 20 reps, switch sides and repeat. Do 3 sets.
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The New Fitness Rules

Think you know the drill on shaping up and slimming down? Think again. Find out how the latest science is rewriting the rule book on everything, including maximizing your fat burning and acing your running form, so you can finally reach your goal.

Should You Eat Before a Workout?

Old school: Exercising on an empty stomach will burn more fat.

New rule: Have a 150-calorie jump-start meal an hour or two before your workout.

Ever force yourself through a workout, even though you were starving, simply because you thought you would tap into those fat stores faster? Next time, eat up. The latest research in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that exercisers who ate breakfast before treadmilling for 36 minutes had a significantly higher fat-burning rate for as long as 24 hours compared with those who ate post-workout, even though both groups consumed the same number of calories during the day. Plus, a recent report in the Strength and Conditioning Journal concluded that when you start off with a grumbly tummy, there’s no fat-burn advantage: You won’t be able to go as intensely or burn as many calories, and you’ll also lose more muscle. Pre-workout, nosh on these easy eats from Nancy Clark, RD, the author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook: a banana and a half cup of plain low-fat yogurt, or a whole wheat English muffin with a half tablespoon of peanut butter.

The Best Running Sneakers

Old school: Get a sneaker that offers the most stability.

New rule: Less is more.

The shift toward minimalist footwear in the past few years has biomechanical experts rethinking what makes a good athletic shoe. “Like everyone else, I used to believe that the more motion control and cushioning a shoe had, the better,” says Irene Davis, PhD, the director of the Spaulding National Running Center at the Harvard Medical School. But such training wheels, she says, can encourage runners to strike with their heel first before pushing off the forefoot — a motion that creates a lot more impact on the joints, according to research conducted by Davis. In contrast, less built-up, minimalist sneakers and their “barefoot” counterparts, like Vibram FiveFingers, encourage a natural mid-to-forefoot strike, which creates a softer landing. A recent Penn State study suggested that minimalist footwear can help reduce injury rates among runners. Today you’ll see minimalist styles by just about every sneaker brand. That said, you shouldn’t become a convert to them overnight. A study from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse found that among runners who switched to a barefootlike shoe design, those who continued to strike with their heels (as if they were in a traditionally cushioned running shoe) significantly increased the loading forces on their lower legs. So work on your forefoot strike before swapping in minimalist shoes.

When Should You Do Ab Exercises?

Old school: Save toning your abs for last.

New rule: Engage your core throughout your workout.

Cranking out crunches after a workout is so last millennium. “The core’s biggest job is to provide a solid foundation for your extremities to work off of, so about 70 percent of your core training should be geared to strengthening the abdominals and lower back as stabilizers,” says trainer Joe Dowdell, owner of Peak Performance gym in New York City. That means doing more exercises that require you to stiffen your core as you work against resistance — such as doing planks or trying to keep your body from rotating as you pull a resistance band. “Exercises that strengthen the abdominal walls not only improve performance but also help reduce injuries,” notes Stuart McGill, PhD, a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo. To fill that remaining 30 percent of ab time, Dowdell recommends alternating in a few moves, like cable wood chops or medicine ball rotational throws, that work your core in a more integrated manner rather than just isolating its muscles with various crunches.

Do You Need a Workout Buddy?

Old school: Buddy up for the best results.

New rule: Sometimes it’s better to go solo.

There’s a long-held understanding that having an exercise partner will improve your fitness level because you’re more likely to show up when there’s someone waiting for you. But research from Santa Clara University found that, depending on your partner, you may actually exercise harder when you sweat it out alone. The key may be finding the right partner. While having a more fit pal can help push you, sticking with someone whose focus doesn’t mesh with yours can ultimately compromise your workout, warns trainer Jonathan Ross, the author of Abs Revealed. “Your workout partner has to be similar enough in style for the situation to be a win-win,” Ross says. “Chatty friends can be a distraction.” Consider partnering with your BFF on easy workout days instead.

How Many Rest Days Do You Need?

Old school: Wait 48 hours to recover after a strength workout.

New rule: If you’ve gone hard, you may need an extra day.

You’ve heard it plenty of times: Take at least a full day off between strength workouts to allow your muscles to rebuild and get stronger. But if you’ve taken a sculpting class that’s left you shaking, press “Pause” a little longer. One study from Brazil determined that beginners who did four sets of 10 reps of biceps curls needed more than 72 hours of rest to recover. “If you start working those same muscles too soon, you could be compromising your results and even risking injury,” explains exercise scientist Wayne Westcott, PhD, at Quincy College. That’s because after your workout, your muscles have to work hard to rebuild those torn-down tissues, which is what will ultimately make you stronger and more sculpted. “Intensity is definitely more important than frequency,” Westcott says. On those off-days, let cardio — for instance, power walking, running, swimming, and cycling — serve as an active recovery, so you can burn fat while allowing your muscles to rebuild.

How Active Should You Be?

Old school: Working out is king when it comes to staying trim.

New rule: Your whole day comes into play.

We’re not going to argue against the benefits of regular exercise and watching what you eat, but more and more experts say that you need to consider what you’re doing for the rest of the 16 waking hours a day when you’re not at the gym. “We realize now that it’s your total daily energy expenditure, not just how many calories you burn during exercise, that will ultimately make a difference in your bottom line,” says Fabio Comana, an exercise physiologist for the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Research from the National Cancer Institute found that even among those who like to work up a sweat on a regular basis, the longer they sit around, the higher their risk for dying sooner. And remember: The more you move, the more you burn. Scientists at the Mayo Clinic found that among adults of a similar size, individuals’ daily energy expenditure can differ by as many as 2,000 calories — mostly because of bursts of activity, like going to the restroom on a different floor, talking a walk at lunchtime, or standing up while on the phone.

Classic Exercises Get a Modern Makeover

Squat

Old school: Don’t bend your knees past 90 degrees.

New rule: It’s OK to go over.

If you’ve sampled the barre workout craze, you know that your booty brushes the floor during endless squat variations. Why is it suddenly cool to get way down? There has been a debate among experts, but the consensus seems to be that it is a natural human movement. “Research found that if you do a squat and force yourself to keep your knees behind your toes, as in a 90-degree bend, you increase the stress on your hips by more than 1,000 percent,” explains Michele Olson, PhD, a FITNESS advisory board member. “But if you allow your knees to come forward, you have only a bit more stress on your knees — just 20 percent or so — and significantly less pressure on the hip joint.”

How to Do a Push-Up

Old school: Do a modified, on-your-knees push-up if you can’t manage the full one.

New rule: Modify the angle, not the pose.

Always stuck doing “girl” push-ups? You’ll get better results if you take them off the floor, says McGill. “Doing a full push-up, even one that’s on an angle that makes the movement easier, is a lot more effective than trying to power through a set on your knees.” That’s because the point of a push-up, McGill adds, is to work through a full range of motion with power and speed. “You just can’t do that on your knees.” As an alternative, place your hands on a low bench or countertop and focus on keeping your body straight. Gradually work your way toward an angle that’s lower to the floor.

How to Do a Sit-Up

Old school: Don’t bother with a full sit-up.

New rule: Full-range moves hit ab muscles that your crunches may be missing.

Trainers nixed full sit-ups for crunches long ago, thinking that once you get past a certain height, you’re working your hip flexors more than your abs. But lately pros say to aim higher. In a Pilates move like the roll-up (lying faceup on the floor, peel your torso off slowly until you’re sitting upright, then reach for your toes), “you’re moving with control while rolling up through the spine as if it’s a large wheel, so the axis point keeps changing,” Olson explains. The key difference is that because your knees are kept straight and your spine is curving, the hip flexors don’t help nearly as much, allowing a greater percentage of ab muscle fibers to be recruited.

How to Do a Lunge

Old school: Keep your front knee over your toes with each lunge.

New rule: Focus instead on staying tall.

You’ve probably also heard the same “Don’t let your knee move past your toes” warning for lunges, but some experts say there’s really no magic point at which your knee reaches perfect form. “The theory is that the more forward you go, the greater the sheer force on the knee, but there’s often a trade-off, because you might be putting more stress on the hip and spine if you stop the movement short, especially if you have long legs,” says trainer Brad Schoenfeld, the author of Sculpting Her Body Perfect. Instead, Schoenfeld says, focus on maintaining an upright position — ears, shoulders, and hips in alignment — and try to sit back into the lunge rather than worrying about where your knees go.

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The Power Abs Workout

Firm your deep ab muscles to shrink your waist, improve your posture, and gain more confidence. Do this circuit workout twice, three days a week, for a stronger core.

Absolute Power

Flat abs and killer confidence have one thing in common: a hard core. That’s because the muscles that make up your middle dictate not only how you rock a sports bra but also whether you stand tall and pack a punch in kickboxing class. “Firming the deep ab muscles is the fastest way to shrink your waist and improve your posture,” says Alexandra White, a co-owner of Jumping Frog Pilates in Tenafly, New Jersey, who supplied the six turbo toners on the next page. Grab a yoga mat and do the circuit twice, three days a week on alternating days. Then flash that superfly center!

Clamp

Targets back, abs, obliques, inner thighs, and outer thighs

  • Lie faceup on floor with arms and legs extended upward; lift head, neck, and shoulders off floor.
  • Simultaneously lower arms out to sides and open legs 45 degrees, keeping shoulders and chest lifted throughout.
  • Return to start, squeezing palms together and legs together.
  • Do 10 to 12 reps.

Sprinkler

Targets back, abs, and obliques

  • Sit on floor with legs extended, thighs together and feet flexed; tilt torso back 45 degrees and extend arms out to sides, palms facing forward.
  • Rotate torso to right, sweeping left arm across body to tap left palm to right palm.
  • Return to start, then repeat to left to complete 1 rep.
  • Do 10 to 12 reps

Twister

Targets shoulders, back, abs, obliques, and hamstrings

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, elbows bent out to sides and hands touching behind head; keeping back flat, hinge forward from hips so that upper body is parallel to floor.
  • Rotate torso to face right. Pause, return to center, pause again, then rotate to left to complete 1 rep.
  • Do 10 to 12 reps.

Skinny Dip

Targets back, abs, obliques, and butt

  • Lie on floor on left side, propped up on left forearm, knees bent 90 degrees and toes pointed behind you; extend right arm overhead.
  • Lift hips off floor, then raise bent right leg a few feet. MAKE IT EASIER: Keep knees together.
  • Keeping right leg lifted, dip hip to floor.
  • Do 10 to 12 reps. Switch sides and repeat.

Jackknife

Targets shoulders, back, abs, obliques, and legs

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms extended overhead; lift right leg about a foot off floor, toes pointed.
  • Hinge forward from hips and reach hands to toes.
  • Keeping right foot lifted and back flat throughout, straighten up to standing start position as you lift arms overhead, then place right foot on floor.
  • Switch sides and repeat. Do 10 to 12 reps, alternating sides.
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Reach Any Goal: How to Strengthen Your Willpower

Strengthen Your Willpower

Turns out that for years, we’ve been going about our resolutions all wrong. That’s because we didn’t really understand what willpower is. It’s not a magical force we summon up only when we’re trying to diet or kick our butts into workout mode. Instead, willpower is something we call on throughout the day, every day, to help us decide between the black pants and the blue ones, for instance, or to try to tune out our cubicle mate’s phone conversation so we can get our work done. “Any act that requires self-control requires willpower,” explains Roy F. Baumeister, PhD, a professor of psychology at Florida State University and a coauthor of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.

Unfortunately we have only a certain amount of willpower in any 24-hour period, and it tends to be strongest at the beginning of the day. “Willpower depends on your body’s energy supply, which generally peaks in the morning,” Baumeister says. The more we use it, the weaker it gets.

And, boy, do we put willpower through its paces: We spend three hours a day struggling to resist temptations like eating, surfing the Web, and spending money, according to a new study by Baumeister. That process leaves us physically and emotionally drained, says Kelly McGonigal, PhD, a health psychologist at Stanford University and the author of The Willpower Instinct. “The brain uses more energy to curb your impulses than it does to perform other mental tasks,” she explains.

The good news is that you can conserve your willpower and use it to reach your goals, not squander it on the small stuff. Here are six smart techniques for doing just that.

    Find your focus.

Blaring TVs. People talking. E-mail and text alerts. We live and work in really noisy environments, which makes it hard to concentrate. And the more we try to tune out the cacophony, the more willpower we use up. The simple solution: Eliminate distractions rather than trying to ignore them, McGonigal says. Help yourself focus at work by using earplugs (or closing your office door if you have one), turning off your cell phone ringer, and silencing e-mail notifications. And don’t listen to your iPod on the job. A 2011 study found that subjects who were asked to memorize information while listening to music scored worse on a test than those who had memorized in silence. “A better strategy is to use music to rev up your mood, energy, and productivity and then switch it off,” McGonigal says.

    Eat for energy.

The more often you consume good-for-you food, the more willpower you’ll have. Studies show that people whose blood sugar (aka glucose) is elevated to a healthy level, as it is after regular meals, have more self-control and can more easily resist junk food. “When your blood sugar is low, it’s harder to control your impulses,” McGonigal says. Need an immediate willpower boost? “Some baby carrots or a handful of raisins will do the trick,” she says. These foods are naturally high in sugar and will raise your glucose supply almost instantly, helping fuel your brain. Even better, to keep yourself willpowered all day, eat healthy meals or snacks every four hours. Choose foods that have a combo of protein, fiber, and complex carbs, like a salad with tofu, nuts, spinach, and tomatoes, or Greek yogurt with fruit.

Plan ahead.

Cut down on the number of decisions you have to make every day and your willpower muscle will automatically get stronger. “Studies show that after you reach a decision, your self-control is worse, and after you exert self-control, you get worse at making decisions,” Baumeister says. So get to work right now at reducing the number of choices you have to make in any 24-hour period. On Sunday, plan your workouts for the week and put them in the calendar on your phone. Every few months, pull together five to 10 outfits for work so you don’t start off each day agonizing over what to wear.

How to Stick to Your Goals

    Make exercise automatic.

“Debating whether or not to work out takes a lot of mental energy,” says Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. “But when it happens routinely, like taking a Spinning class every Tuesday and Thursday, and you don’t have to think about it, it’s not so taxing.”

To start a new exercise habit, pick a time when you’ll be able to work out consistently, like first thing in the morning. “Studies show that people who exercise regularly do it at the same hour every time,” Duhigg says.

Also, build get-moving prompts into your day. If you go for a run right after waking up, “put your workout clothes near your bed, where you’ll see them first thing,” Duhigg suggests. Finally, give yourself a little reward every time you finish a workout. “Make sure it’s something you genuinely enjoy,” Duhigg says. That will trick your brain into associating the rush of pleasure that comes from a treat, like a coffee after your morning run, with exercise.

    Stress less.

Nothing weakens your resolve or zaps your initiative like stress. “Researchers are just learning how stress is tied to self-control,” Baumeister says. “Our best guess is that both things require the same amount of mental energy.” So once you become stressed, your willpower goes right out the window.

To calm down and replenish your energy, go for a walk. “When stress hits, removing yourself from the situation even briefly helps,” says Suzanne Steinbaum, an attending cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and the author of Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s Heart Book. “By changing your environment, you help change your perception and recharge your batteries.” If possible, go outside, she advises. Fresh air will help you relax and get back on track for success.

    Follow your friends.

News flash: You’re still susceptible to peer pressure. “We have evolved to unconsciously imitate those around us,” says James Fowler, PhD, a professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California, San Diego, and a coauthor of Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives.

Research found that if the person sitting next to us eats a lot, we’re more likely to overindulge as well. Even pals who live hundreds of miles away can affect our habits. “Friends share information about behavior on Facebook and Twitter,” Fowler notes. Similarly, our buds can get us excited about exercise. “If your friend takes up running and says, ‘Hey! I’ve got more energy,’ it may encourage you to start, too,” Fowler says.

Schedule workouts and healthy meals with your fit pals on a regular basis. Making the commitment to get and stay in shape together will help build your willpower and keep you motivated to reach the finish line.

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Holiday Party Strategies, Fitness and Diet

The holidays are a scary time for dieters, but you can stick to your diet though Christmas. Here’s how to regain control after common seasonal slip-ups — so you might even lose weight this year.

Holiday Party Strategies

You drank too much eggnog at the office party.

Undo the damage. You can blame your wicked hangover and pounding headache on dehydration and the toxins your body had to release to metabolize all that booze. “Alcohol also increases the secretion of acid in the stomach and irritates the stomach lining,” says Robert Swift, MD, PhD, associate director of the Brown University Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies in Providence. Relieve your misery by eating a piece of toast with honey. Greasy foods, like fried eggs and sausages, will only overtax your irritated digestive system and make it pump out more acid, Dr. Swift says. Honey is an excellent source of fructose, a sugar that research shows may help your body get rid of alcohol’s toxins more quickly. Rehydrate with plenty of water and pop an ibuprofen, which was found to relieve aches faster and better than acetaminophen in a study in the journal Headache.

Stay the course. To outsmart calories (eggnog packs more than 200 a cup) and hangovers at future fetes, order a mixed drink, such as vodka and club soda; it is low in calories (about 100), easy to dilute (just add soda), and less likely to cause a humongous hangover. “The darker the booze, the worse you’ll feel the next day,” Dr. Swift says. That’s because dark liquor contains more congeners, chemicals produced during the fermentation process that are to blame for many hangover symptoms. Also avoid screwdrivers, vodka and cranberry juice, and other drinks made with fruit, says Heather Bauer, RD, coauthor of The Wall Street Diet. The sugar in these cocktails will leave you craving more of the sweet stuff, making pecan pie, peppermint bark, Christmas cookies, you name it, irresistible.

You went overboard at last night’s holiday dinner.

Undo the damage. Even if you ate enough to feed Santa, Mrs. Claus, and all the reindeer, don’t starve yourself to make up for it. “Deprivation will set you up to overeat again,” says Patricia Bannan, RD, a nutritionist in Los Angeles and author of Eat Right When Time Is Tight. Eat a high-fiber breakfast (try a bowl of bran cereal with a handful of raisins), drink plenty of water, and work out to get things, um, moving. Munch on foods that are high in H2O (cucumbers, celery, and melon) and potassium (bananas, apricots, and pumpkin) to flush excess water out of your cells and reduce bloating, Bannan suggests. Steer clear of supersalty foods, such as pickles, olives, cured meats, and most frozen meals, as well as carbonated drinks.

Stay the course. When you’re dining at a friend’s or a relative’s, bring a healthy dish that you can dig into guilt-free. Then choose sweet potatoes over mashed with gravy, and broccoli over green bean casserole. Skip the rolls even if they’re whole wheat; chances are you already have plenty of carbs. Help yourself to a double serving of salad to fill up without filling out, and just say no when Aunt Edna insists that you have another spoonful of her stuffing (’tis the season for food pushers!). A little humor will take the edge off, so say, “Your stuffing is so good, but if I eat another bite I’ll be more stuffed than that bird!” When you play hostess, fix lighter fare (make your green bean casserole with fresh beans and sauteed onions rather than cream of mushroom soup and fried onions). And since Turkey Day leftovers are even more delectable and easier to overindulge in, send guests home with doggie bags.

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Dr. Oz 3 Day Detox

Leave it to Dr. Oz to find some way of losing belly fat.  On the 11/12/2012 Dr Oz show, he says we can reset our body to lose that stubborn fat and watch it melt away with the 3-day detox diet.

Dr. Natasha Turner appeared on the Dr. Oz show with her book called, “The Hormone Diet” which talks about how we can reset our bodies and lose the weight we don’t want. People say they have tried everything to lose weight and it’s not their fault that they still gain it even when they diet, exercise and take pills. Dr. Oz and Dr. Turner both say that’s true, it’s not their fault that they still gain weight; it’s a hormonal imbalance.

Having a hormonal imbalance will make it almost impossible to lose body fat. Dr. Oz has a quiz to find out if you have a hormonal imbalance: 1. Is your hair thinning, brittle or falling out? 2. Do you have heartburn, bloating, gas constipation or diarrhea? 3. Are you stressed, fatigued or anxious? 4. Have you been skipping meals? 5. Do you have belly fat? If you answered yes to at least 3 of those questions, you might have a hormonal imbalance and need to balance them back out in order to lose weight.

In order to balance out those hormones you need to get rid of toxins, Dr. Oz recommends a 3-day detox to do so. Some detox programs will shock your body and make it slow down, but not this 3-day cleanse; it’s just the opposite.  Dr. Oz’s 3-day cleanse will detox your body and leave you feeling great.

The 3 day detox by Dr. Oz has three elements: 1. Eliminate 2. Replenish 3. Reset.  In step one, eliminating those toxins. Our body has over 80,000 different toxins and eliminating them will help us lose weight. Step two is all about replenishing the body with nutrients. Lastly, step 3 in the 3-day cleanse is when your body resets itself, making you feel better and helping you lose weight by eating less.

In addition to the 3-day detox, Dr. Oz recommends you to take 1/2 a multivitamin in the morning and in the evening with your meals. Also he says to take a probiotic supplement with breakfast to help get rid of those toxins in your body. Finally, he says to take an Omega-3 supplement with dinner.

The 3-day cleanse is all about jump-starting your metabolism to help melt that fat away and to cleanse your body. Enjoying a green tea with stevia in the morning paired along the side of a shake consisting of water, flax seed, raspberries, bananas, spinach, almond butter, and a lemon will help you feel energized for the rest of the day.  Dr. Julieanna Hever says using a blender to mix up veggies and fruit helps us get the nutrients we miss lots of times because we don’t chew our food well enough.

Dr. Oz 3 Day Detox

How to change the game starting with your next meal. Plus, Dr Oz’s 3 Day Detox to jumpstart your metabolism.

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Get More Energy, More Life

Your Energy Makeover Begins Now

I’d just finished shaking the last drops of coffee from an upside-down mug into my mouth when I felt an overwhelming urge to cry. It was 7 a.m. on a busy Tuesday, and I’d already blown through my entire energy strategy for the day. How was I going to survive the next 15 hours of deadlines, meetings, and three go-go-go kids?

Turns out I’m not the only woman who feels exhausted before her day starts. Jennifer Boisture, MD, a psychiatrist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, has built a private practice catering to highly successful women, who, like most of us, are trying to juggle it all. “The primary complaint I hear is that they’re tired all the time,” Boisture says. “They’re fit, health-conscious women, but they still need more energy. What they’re doing isn’t working.”

Part of the problem, experts say, is that we have set the energy bar so high. “We have an increasing expectation that we can keep squeezing more and more out of our lives if we can just find the right formula,” says Mark Liponis, MD, medical director of Canyon Ranch Health Resorts. “That kind of pressure is unrealistic and overwhelming and can actually have the reverse effect, of draining your energy.” Another zapper: technology. According to a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology that compared single- and multitaskers, focusing on one chore at a time is more energy efficient. So reading your iPad on the treadmill or sending texts on your cell while banging out work e-mails on your laptop will drain your brain faster than doing each task by itself.

And yet…you have an 8 a.m. meeting and a 7 p.m. dinner reservation, and you have to pick your daughter up at soccer practice at five — which leaves 6 a.m. as the hour to squeeze in a sweat session. So what’s an energy-starved gal to do? Whether you’re training for a marathon or your day simply feels like one, these totally fresh lifestyle tweaks will do more for your mojo than a 7 a.m. cup of joe ever could.

Step 1: Boost Your Brain — Turn Off the Tube

If your typical fix for end-of-day exhaustion is to plop down on the couch for a dose of Seinfeld reruns, you’re not alone. Most people think that watching TV is a restful activity, but it may not be, says Marc Berman, PhD, a neuroscientist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. In fact, television itself can be tiring, and the older you get, the fewer and fewer stress-reducing benefits you get from a session with the boob tube, a University of California, San Diego study says.

Instead of numbing your mind as a way to rejuvenate, stimulate it. Take a walk along a scenic trail; spending time in nature helps restore people’s energy and focus, a 2008 study in Psychological Science found. What to skip when you’re low on energy? The mall. You’ll get more mental stimulation than you bargained for, which will leave you exhausted.

Step 2: Avoid the Quick Fix

It’s no surprise that the food on your plate can be the deciding factor between a sluggish and a supercharged day. But more often than not, you don’t need a total diet overhaul; small adjustments can go a long way toward optimizing your energy intake, says Ashley Koff, RD, a nutritionist in Los Angeles and FITNESS advisory board member. For starters, don’t ditch caffeine. “A small cappuccino, tea with honey, and dark chocolate, all of which contain caffeine and sugar, are perfectly legitimate ‘energy Band-Aids’ when you need a lift in a hurry,” Koff says. “The trouble comes when people rely on them daily. Spiking and plunging blood-glucose levels create an unhealthy cycle of energy highs and lows.” What’s more, the fluctuating glucose leads to murky decision making, according to a recent study from the University of South Dakota: When participants were asked whether they’d rather receive a small amount of money immediately or get a much larger amount later, those with lower glucose levels were more likely to seize the smaller sum. Clear thinking, scientists conclude, is helped by a constant glucose supply.

Another mistake: too much of a good thing. “Women think they’re making a smart choice by having a healthy turkey, lettuce, and tomato on whole wheat sandwich and a piece of fruit for lunch,” Koff says. “But three hours later they’re at their desks in an energy slump, and they can’t figure out why.” You have to spread the health wealth, Koff says, because your body can use only so many nutrients for energy at one time, meaning a portion of that healthy lunch was used to fuel your body; the rest of the protein and carbs went to energy wasteland. Instead, “have your fruit with some nuts midmorning, then eat half your sandwich at noon and the other half at 3 p.m., when you start to feel sluggish.” You’ll keep a steady stream of nutrients flowing into your blood, holding the snack attack at bay.

And finally, when it comes to boosting energy, a carb is not a carb is not a carb. When people with type 2 diabetes ate white bread for breakfast in a University of Toronto study, they fared worse on verbal-memory and other cognitive tests than those who consumed low-glycemic foods, like pasta. To give your morning a lift, try toasting a whole-grain muffin and spreading a tablespoon of filling peanut butter on it or eat it with a scrambled egg.

Step 3: Stick to Your Workout Routine

Get this: Expending energy on exercise actually creates more for you to use. “Research shows that physically active people feel more energetic overall than sedentary people,” says Patrick O’Connor, PhD, director of the University of Georgia exercise psychology laboratory in Athens. In one Australian study of 40,000 women, the more weekly physical activity they did, the more they reported feeling revved up. “It’s likely that exercise stimulates neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, and this creates feelings of greater energy,” O’Connor says. Aim for 20 to 40 minutes of cardio four or five times a week.

On the other hand, not all workouts need to be heavy-breathing sessions: Yoga is also restorative. A University of New Mexico study found that people who followed an eight-week yoga and meditation program had a significant increase in daily energy. And women who regularly practiced Hatha yoga had 41 percent less cytokine interleukin-6, a compound related to stress, in their blood than those who did not, researchers at Ohio State University found. “Because of the type of deep breathing that’s incorporated into yoga, when you do even a single pose you bring freshly oxygenated blood to your organs,” says Mary-Ann Mastreani, a yoga instructor in Irvington, New York.

For an instant pick-me-up, try performing this Easy Energy Twist at the office or in your living room:

Sit on the edge of a chair, back straight, feet flat on the ground. Inhale as you raise your arms over your head (a); exhale and bring your left hand to your right knee and your right hand slightly behind you on the chair (b). Twist to the right. Sitting tall, inhale and exhale while gently increasing the twist. Relax; switch sides. “Twisting increases blood flow and stimulates digestion, temporarily speeding up your metabolism and increasing energy,” Mastreani says.

Step 4: Listen Up

“Music makes you feel good mentally and physically,” says celebrity trainer Jim Karas, author of The 7 Day Energy Surge. “Research shows it can reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, and decrease stress hormones, and that it may increase feel-good hormones and improve your fitness per­formance.” College students zipped through a series of cognitive tasks when listening to upbeat music in a recent study from the University of Dayton. And after people worked out to music, their mental performance improved, compared with exercising song-less, researchers at Ohio State University found.

“Music gives you that extra motivation,” Karas says. “If it’s dark outside when I have to get out of bed, I crank up the music to make myself more alert.” In the morning, choose something peppy — think Beyonce or the Black Eyed Peas — because your mind needs a positive nudge, not an angry blast of heavy metal. In the evening, give Mozart a try. People with sleep problems who listened to classical music for 45 minutes before bed snoozed more soundly than those who didn’t, according to researchers in Budapest. What’s sleep got to do with energy? Plenty. Scientists at the University of California, San Diego discovered that skipping a night of sleep significantly impaired cognitive abilities in people in their 20s and 30s. “When clients tell me they need only six hours, I tell them that they’ve trained themselves to live on that,” Karas says. “But if they got more, they’d see a huge improvement in their energy.”

Step 5: Quit Freaking Out

It’s ironic that one of the biggest energy consumers of our day has nothing to do with packed schedules or sweaty workouts. Little everyday stressors, like sitting in traffic, can cause a total energy meltdown. “Not at first,” explains Kimberly Kingsley, author of The Energy Cure, “because your initial reaction to stress is that your body starts pumping the hormone cortisol into your bloodstream, giving you an adrenaline rush.” Your heart rate rises, your muscles tense, and your mind goes on high alert. But the rush is unsustainable, and before long your energy starts to crash, leaving you feeling foggy and unfocused.

In fact, 76 percent of people in the United States feel the physical symptoms of stress, including fatigue, according to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association. “The minute anxiety causes your heart to start racing and your breathing to become shallow, begin taking deep, deliberate inhales and exhales,” Kingsley says. “Focus on breathing in and out until your heart rate goes back to normal.”

Step 6: Tap Happy Vibes

When you’re feeling down, your energy tanks along with your spirits, leaving you sluggish. On the flip side, “Happy people have higher energy,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, author of The How of Happiness. When researchers at the University of California, Riverside asked people to keep a journal of their feelings, those who reported the greatest number of positive emotions also reported having the most energy day to day. “When we’re happy, we take charge, initiate conversations with people, and carry out plans, instead of being passive responders to life events,” Lyubomirsky says. “Taking action energizes us.” Pump up your own positive thinking by jotting down five things you are grateful for, she suggests. Reread your list when you need a smile. For a double dose of happiness, practice random acts of kindness throughout your week. Open the door for the person behind you at the grocery store or compliment a colleague on his or her work. Generosity toward others makes you feel happier inside today and revved up to take on the world tomorrow.

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5-Minute Workout: Brazilian Butt Lift

Lift and tone your butt in five minutes with these exercises. Brazilian women are famous for their gorgeous bodies, but you don’t have to go to Rio to get a beautiful butt. Brazilian native Leandro Carvalho brings his sculpting secrets stateside with the Brazilian Butt Lift class at Equinox Fitness Clubs in New York City. Try his five-minute routine today to shift your rear into high gear.

Plie

Minutes 0:00-1:00

  • Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, arms at sides, toes turned out
  • Tuck tailbone under and contract glutes.
  • Lower body into a plié squat as low as you can go without allowing knees to creep past toes.
  • Simultaneously raise arms to shoulder height in front of body, palms down. Hold for 2 seconds, then return to starting position.
  • After 20 reps, pulse at the bottom for 20 seconds.

Touchdown

Minutes 1:00-2:00

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed forward.
  • Squat down until knees are bent 90 degrees

Explosive Lunge

Minutes 2:00-3:00

  • Lunge forward with left leg until knee is bent 90 degrees, directly over ankle, right knee pointing toward floor.

Single-Leg Squat with Towel

Minutes 3:00-4:00

  • Stand with feet together, toes pointed forward, arms at sides with right foot on top of a small folded towel.
  • Shifting weight to left leg, bend left knee 45 to 90 degrees while sliding right leg and towel slowly out to the side as far as is comfortable for a count of 4.
  • Slowly draw right leg back to start for a count of 4 while straightening left leg.
  • Repeat for 30 seconds; switch sides.

Squat with Kick-Back

Minutes 4:00-5:00

  • Stand with legs shoulder-width apart, arms at sides.
  • Sit back into a squat keeping weight on heels, then lift right leg straight behind you, keeping hips pointing forward while extending arms.
  • Return to start and switch sides.
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The New Fitness Rules

Think you know the drill on shaping up and slimming down? Think again. Find out how the latest science is rewriting the rule book on everything, including maximizing your fat burning and acing your running form, so you can finally reach your goal.

Should You Eat Before a Workout?

Old school: Exercising on an empty stomach will burn more fat.

New rule: Have a 150-calorie jump-start meal an hour or two before your workout.

Ever force yourself through a workout, even though you were starving, simply because you thought you would tap into those fat stores faster? Next time, eat up. The latest research in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that exercisers who ate breakfast before treadmilling for 36 minutes had a significantly higher fat-burning rate for as long as 24 hours compared with those who ate post-workout, even though both groups consumed the same number of calories during the day. Plus, a recent report in the Strength and Conditioning Journal concluded that when you start off with a grumbly tummy, there’s no fat-burn advantage: You won’t be able to go as intensely or burn as many calories, and you’ll also lose more muscle. Pre-workout, nosh on these easy eats from Nancy Clark, RD, the author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook: a banana and a half cup of plain low-fat yogurt, or a whole wheat English muffin with a half tablespoon of peanut butter.

The Best Running Sneakers

Old school: Get a sneaker that offers the most stability.

New rule: Less is more.

The shift toward minimalist footwear in the past few years has biomechanical experts rethinking what makes a good athletic shoe. “Like everyone else, I used to believe that the more motion control and cushioning a shoe had, the better,” says Irene Davis, PhD, the director of the Spaulding National Running Center at the Harvard Medical School. But such training wheels, she says, can encourage runners to strike with their heel first before pushing off the forefoot — a motion that creates a lot more impact on the joints, according to research conducted by Davis. In contrast, less built-up, minimalist sneakers and their “barefoot” counterparts, like Vibram FiveFingers, encourage a natural mid-to-forefoot strike, which creates a softer landing. A recent Penn State study suggested that minimalist footwear can help reduce injury rates among runners. Today you’ll see minimalist styles by just about every sneaker brand. That said, you shouldn’t become a convert to them overnight. A study from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse found that among runners who switched to a barefootlike shoe design, those who continued to strike with their heels (as if they were in a traditionally cushioned running shoe) significantly increased the loading forces on their lower legs. So work on your forefoot strike before swapping in minimalist shoes.

When Should You Do Ab Exercises?

Old school: Save toning your abs for last.

New rule: Engage your core throughout your workout.

Cranking out crunches after a workout is so last millennium. “The core’s biggest job is to provide a solid foundation for your extremities to work off of, so about 70 percent of your core training should be geared to strengthening the abdominals and lower back as stabilizers,” says trainer Joe Dowdell, owner of Peak Performance gym in New York City. That means doing more exercises that require you to stiffen your core as you work against resistance — such as doing planks or trying to keep your body from rotating as you pull a resistance band. “Exercises that strengthen the abdominal walls not only improve performance but also help reduce injuries,” notes Stuart McGill, PhD, a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo. To fill that remaining 30 percent of ab time, Dowdell recommends alternating in a few moves, like cable wood chops or medicine ball rotational throws, that work your core in a more integrated manner rather than just isolating its muscles with various crunches.

Do You Need a Workout Buddy?

Old school: Buddy up for the best results.

New rule: Sometimes it’s better to go solo.

There’s a long-held understanding that having an exercise partner will improve your fitness level because you’re more likely to show up when there’s someone waiting for you. But research from Santa Clara University found that, depending on your partner, you may actually exercise harder when you sweat it out alone. The key may be finding the right partner. While having a more fit pal can help push you, sticking with someone whose focus doesn’t mesh with yours can ultimately compromise your workout, warns trainer Jonathan Ross, the author of Abs Revealed. “Your workout partner has to be similar enough in style for the situation to be a win-win,” Ross says. “Chatty friends can be a distraction.” Consider partnering with your BFF on easy workout days instead.

How Many Rest Days Do You Need?

Old school: Wait 48 hours to recover after a strength workout.

New rule: If you’ve gone hard, you may need an extra day.

You’ve heard it plenty of times: Take at least a full day off between strength workouts to allow your muscles to rebuild and get stronger. But if you’ve taken a sculpting class that’s left you shaking, press “Pause” a little longer. One study from Brazil determined that beginners who did four sets of 10 reps of biceps curls needed more than 72 hours of rest to recover. “If you start working those same muscles too soon, you could be compromising your results and even risking injury,” explains exercise scientist Wayne Westcott, PhD, at Quincy College. That’s because after your workout, your muscles have to work hard to rebuild those torn-down tissues, which is what will ultimately make you stronger and more sculpted. “Intensity is definitely more important than frequency,” Westcott says. On those off-days, let cardio — for instance, power walking, running, swimming, and cycling — serve as an active recovery, so you can burn fat while allowing your muscles to rebuild.

How Active Should You Be?

Old school: Working out is king when it comes to staying trim.

New rule: Your whole day comes into play.

We’re not going to argue against the benefits of regular exercise and watching what you eat, but more and more experts say that you need to consider what you’re doing for the rest of the 16 waking hours a day when you’re not at the gym. “We realize now that it’s your total daily energy expenditure, not just how many calories you burn during exercise, that will ultimately make a difference in your bottom line,” says Fabio Comana, an exercise physiologist for the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Research from the National Cancer Institute found that even among those who like to work up a sweat on a regular basis, the longer they sit around, the higher their risk for dying sooner. And remember: The more you move, the more you burn. Scientists at the Mayo Clinic found that among adults of a similar size, individuals’ daily energy expenditure can differ by as many as 2,000 calories — mostly because of bursts of activity, like going to the restroom on a different floor, talking a walk at lunchtime, or standing up while on the phone.

Classic Exercises Get a Modern Makeover

Squat

Old school: Don’t bend your knees past 90 degrees.

New rule: It’s OK to go over.

If you’ve sampled the barre workout craze, you know that your booty brushes the floor during endless squat variations. Why is it suddenly cool to get way down? There has been a debate among experts, but the consensus seems to be that it is a natural human movement. “Research found that if you do a squat and force yourself to keep your knees behind your toes, as in a 90-degree bend, you increase the stress on your hips by more than 1,000 percent,” explains Michele Olson, PhD, a FITNESS advisory board member. “But if you allow your knees to come forward, you have only a bit more stress on your knees — just 20 percent or so — and significantly less pressure on the hip joint.”

How to Do a Push-Up

Old school: Do a modified, on-your-knees push-up if you can’t manage the full one.

New rule: Modify the angle, not the pose.

Always stuck doing “girl” push-ups? You’ll get better results if you take them off the floor, says McGill. “Doing a full push-up, even one that’s on an angle that makes the movement easier, is a lot more effective than trying to power through a set on your knees.” That’s because the point of a push-up, McGill adds, is to work through a full range of motion with power and speed. “You just can’t do that on your knees.” As an alternative, place your hands on a low bench or countertop and focus on keeping your body straight. Gradually work your way toward an angle that’s lower to the floor.

How to Do a Sit-Up

Old school: Don’t bother with a full sit-up.

New rule: Full-range moves hit ab muscles that your crunches may be missing.

Trainers nixed full sit-ups for crunches long ago, thinking that once you get past a certain height, you’re working your hip flexors more than your abs. But lately pros say to aim higher. In a Pilates move like the roll-up (lying faceup on the floor, peel your torso off slowly until you’re sitting upright, then reach for your toes), “you’re moving with control while rolling up through the spine as if it’s a large wheel, so the axis point keeps changing,” Olson explains. The key difference is that because your knees are kept straight and your spine is curving, the hip flexors don’t help nearly as much, allowing a greater percentage of ab muscle fibers to be recruited.

How to Do a Lunge

Old school: Keep your front knee over your toes with each lunge.

New rule: Focus instead on staying tall.

You’ve probably also heard the same “Don’t let your knee move past your toes” warning for lunges, but some experts say there’s really no magic point at which your knee reaches perfect form. “The theory is that the more forward you go, the greater the sheer force on the knee, but there’s often a trade-off, because you might be putting more stress on the hip and spine if you stop the movement short, especially if you have long legs,” says trainer Brad Schoenfeld, the author of Sculpting Her Body Perfect. Instead, Schoenfeld says, focus on maintaining an upright position — ears, shoulders, and hips in alignment — and try to sit back into the lunge rather than worrying about where your knees go.

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31 Instant Health Boosters, Improve Your Life Easily

Try one of these tips each day — you’ll feel better and get fitter and smarter in just one month.

 1. Give lip service.

Thirty minutes of making out can improve allergy symptoms. Research shows that kissing reduces the amount of chemicals your body releases in response to allergens.

2. Turn up the heat on your sheet.

Bedding contatins thousands of dust mites that can irritate sensitive skin and exacerbate eczema, according to a new study. Wash sheets in H2O that’s at least 140F to make sure you kill the critters.

3. D-stress.

Getting plenty of calcium and vitamin D can decrease your risk of developing a stress fracture by 20 percent. Active women should strive for 1,000 IU of vitamin D and 2,000 milligrams of calcium daily to keep their bones strong, experts say.

4. Get your head examined.

Melanomas found on your scalp or neck almost double your risk of dying compared with those detected elsewhere on the body, report researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. Because they’re often hidden by hair, malignant moles and other skin abnormalities are typically detected too late for treatment to be effective. See your MD for an annual skin check.

5. Clean up your mouth.

Two ounces of yogurt a day (the typical container holds six ounces) may protect you from gum disease, a recent study in the Journal of Periodontology shows. The “good” bacteria in yogurt helps fight germs in your mouth.

6. Play red light, green light.

For increasing your endurance, four to six 30-second bursts of all-out cardio are just as effective as up to an hour of training at a lower intensity. Short on time? Use intervals to get stronger more quickly.

7. Reboot your brain.

Mundane tasks, such as entering data into a spreadsheet, can switch your mind into default mode, making you more likely to mess up within about 30 seconds, scientists say. Feel like you’re operating on autopilot? Snap out of it by going for a quick walk down the hall.

8. Debug your desk.

As many as 283 species of bacteria can thrive in ordinary office dust, including nasty streptococcus, the main cause of strep throat, and staphylococcus aureus, which can lead to MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant staph infection, according to a recent report. Wipe down your workstation, keyboard, and phone regularly with a disinfectant such as Formula 409 Antibacterial All-Purpose Cleaner or Lysol All-Purpose Cleaner.

9. Shrug it off.

Strengthening your trapezius muscle, which runs from your shoulders to your neck and upper back, can reduce chronic neck pain by up to 80 percent.

10. Juice Your Looks

A diet rich in vitamin C and linoleic acid (a fatty acid found in many vegetable oils) can reduce the appearance of wrinkles, dryness, and thinning skin, according to a study.

11. Get Sappy

Spending just 30 minutes a day consciously thinking of a loved one can promote mental and emotional well-being, say University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers. Cultivating the feeling of love and compassion stimulates the brain to make new connections and neural pathways.

12. Chill Out

Just two to three minutes under cool water in the shower can boost your mood. The cold may cause the brain to release feel-good hormones.

13. Go Slow-Mo

Doing tai chi regularly not only improves your endurance and flexibility but may also help control blood sugar and improve your immune system. The exercise increases levels of certain bacteria-fighting T-cells in your body, research shows.

14. Be a Dairy Queen

Women on a low-calorie diet who took supplements to up their calcium from 600 milligrams a day or less to 1,200 milligrams a day lost an average of 10 pounds more than those who didn’t boost their intake, according to a new study. Your brain may be able to detect low calcium levels in the body and tries to compensate by increasing your appetite for foods rich in this mineral, experts say. Skim milk, low-fat cheese, and fortified OJ are all good sources.

15. Straighten Up

Tension in your neck may affect how your body regulates blood pressure, animal studies indicate. At work, sit with your back firmly against your chair, your feet on the floor, your knees slightly higher than your hips and your chair close to your desk.

16. Go Green

Drinking green tea with your antibiotics helps the medication destroy harmful bacteria up to three times more effectively, researchers found.

17. Grab Some Garbanzos

People who regularly consume beans typically weigh six pounds less than those who don’t, even though they take in more daily calories. Researchers believe this may be because the legume eaters get more fiber but consume less fat, especially saturated fat, than those who shy away from beans. Throw a handful into salads, soups, or pasta sauce for an extra boost of protein and fiber.

18. Chomp Cravings Away

Chewing gum after lunch can curb hunger, a recent study shows. But pick your stick carefully. Ingesting too much sorbitol, a common ingredient in sugar-free gum, can cause diarrhea and abdominal pain. We like sorbitol-free Ice Breakers Ice Cubes White sugar-free gum.

19. Reach New Heights

Wearing a pair of moderately high heels (2 to 2 1/2 inches) can strengthen your pelvic-floor muscles, which can improve your sex life.

20. Munch a Bunch

About one cup of red grapes a day can help suppress the abnormal cell formation that leads to most types of breast cancer, according to a recent study in Cancer Prevention Research. Resveratrol, a natural compound found in grapes, grape juice, and red wine, may prevent estrogen from reacting with DNA molecules, which can lead to cells becoming cancerous, scientists say.

21. Run For Your Life

Joggers have a 40 percent lower risk of dying than people who don’t lace up their sneakers, according to Stanford University researchers. Runners are less likely to have cardiovascular problems or develop disabilities as they age. Motivate yourself to become fit by training for a 5K.

22. Be a Cookoo For Coconut

An oil high in fatty acids made from coconut oil has been shown to burn fat and promote weight loss, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. People who consumed four to five teaspoons of this type of oil (in baked goods and through cooking) every day for 16 weeks lost almost four pounds more than those who used olive oil.

23. Get Crackin

Adding one egg a day, yolk and all, to your diet can increase good HDL levels without increasing bad LDL cholesterol levels. Low levels of HDL have previously been linked to memory loss.

24. Strike a Pose

Relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation help your body beat the symptoms of stress before they harm your health, according to researchers at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.

25. Tap Into The Magic of Mushrooms

White button mushrooms can boost your immune system by improving how your T-cells work, according to recent preliminary studies. T-cells are the white blood cells that help protect your body from harmful intruders.

26. Try The Silent Treatment

Being exposed to just 35 decibels of noise (about the sound of people talking softly) while in bed could raise your blood pressure by six or seven points, according to a recent study. Snooze more peacefully by investing in a white-noise or sound machine like the Obus Forme Sound Therapy Relaxation System ($30, amazon.com).

27. Get Your Game On

Playing video games with a lot of action sequences can sharpen your visual skills by 20 percent, according to research from the University of Rochester in New York.

28. Hit The Sauce

People who munch on apples, eat applesauce, or drink apple juice are 27 percent less likely to develop metabolic syndrome — a combination of health problems, such as increased blood pressure and blood-sugar levels, that can lead to heart disease and diabetes, research shows. Other studies suggest that eating apples may reduce your risk of breast cancer.

29. Take a Nature Break

Heading outdoors for 30 minutes when the sun is shining can make you happier and improve your brain’s ability to process new information, according to a study at the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics.

30. Go! Go! Go!

If you feel the urge, race to the restroom. Having an overly full bladder can increase stress on the heart, upping the odds of a heart attack in those at risk, a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology shows.

31. Fly Away

Women who take at least two vacations a year are more happily married than those who rarely get out of town, because they are less likely to be depressed, tense, or tired. Book your summer trip now.

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10 Tone-Up Tweaks to Get a Better Burn

woman doing bicep curlsIt happens to the best of us. Your gym routine becomes just that — a routine. Bust out of your plateau and burn more fat with these strength training tweaks from the pros.

Make Every Day Your Best Burn Yet

Supercharge your gym routine by ditching the moves that have stopped delivering results and replacing them with ones that will challenge and build more muscle. Start with these total-body toning tips from some of our favorite trainers.

Arms: Change the Weight

Dumbbell curls are great for your arms, but unless you’re changing up the sets and reps, your biceps will get accustomed to the level of stress you’re placing on them, meaning you’ll stop seeing the sculpting results. “Few people use the proper weight and even fewer graduate the amount of weight being used during arm exercises,” says Richard Miller, owner and CEO of GymSource in New York City.

When you curl the same weight for a long period of time, your body send nutrients to the muscle you’re working to help recover. If you pick up an 8-pound dumbbell every time, your muscles aren’t experiencing varied stress and won’t add new nutrient masses to that area, making your arms fall flat. Use this cheat sheet to know when it’s time to step it up a notch:

  • You should feel fatigue at 15 reps or fewer. If you don’t, add more weight.
  • Aim to increase weight by less than 10 percent. If you normally lift 8-pound weights, up it to 10 pounds and so on.

Arms: Decrease (or Eliminate) Rest Time

Not only do you need to switch up your routine every few months, Miller also suggests powering through an entire arm series without resting. “The idea is to work with a variety of moves that touches multiple areas of the same muscles and deplete these muscles to near exhaustion.” There’s also a bonus: By eliminating rest time your chances of injury decrease because in order to complete so many sets, you’ll need to use a lighter weight.

Try doing one or two biceps movements, like a reverse curl (where the palms are face down holding dumbbells) or a hammer curl (palms face inward holding dumbbells). Without resting immediately go into two to three triceps exercises (such as bent-over triceps kickbacks or one-arm triceps dips). You’ll not only tone more, you’ll keep your heart rate up, torching more calories as you go.

Back: Kick It Up with a Kettlebell

Kettlebells are so effective because they rely on acceleration as well as deceleration to help tone muscle. “The off-centered weight of a kettlebell will force you to use more stabilizer muscles and work the targeted muscles through a longer range of motion,” says celebrity trainer Michelle Lovitt, whose clients include Courteney Cox and Julianne Moore. Since you need your arms to hoist the kettlebell in the air, you’re targeting two zones with one area.

Back: Build More Muscle with Drop Sets

This method feels like you’re cheating because you get to drop the weight as you go, but really you’re doing it to ensure proper form so that your body can reap the full benefits of the move you’re doing. To do your own drop set you’ll need three sets of weight. Once you max muscles out with a specific weight, drop it and pick up the next weight down. After another set, use the lightest weight and finish the reps. Try doing a drop set with this move to get started:

  • One-Arm Dumbbell Row: Stand behind a bench; lean forward with your left hand on the bench while raising right leg straight out behind you. Keep right arm along side, holding a dumbbell in right hand with palm facing in. Draw right elbow up toward ribs, keeping arm closer to side. Hold for 1 count and lower. Repeat 10-12 reps on each side, going directly into a set of 10 push-ups after.

Butt: Change Up Your Cardio

Sorry, elliptical fanatics — it’s time to shake things up. “Oftentimes people on the elliptical aren’t working as hard as they think,” says Jade Alexis, trainer at Reebok Sports Club in New York City and FITNESS advisory board member. “Your body adapts and gets very efficient at doing the same type of movement over and over again.”

Challenge your glutes with machines like the StepMill (a stepper where there are actual steps to climb rather than two pedals that you push up and down), which incorporates muscle building and cardio at the same time. While the StepMill looks similar to the StairMaster, the low-impact infinity steps require you to constantly climb and lift your foot at every rotation so you engage your core and work your legs and butt the entire time. Make sure you use the bars for balance only. Holding on too tightly will compromise how many calories you’re burning and prevent you from getting a great burn. Make it harder: Place feet at a 45-degree angle to the side for a minute climb, then switch and do the other side. Don’t belong to a gym? Use a step deck (pictured) instead.

Butt: Correct Your Form with Resistance Bands

Squats are the tried-and-true exercise when it comes to working your glutes, quads, and hamstrings, but if you’ve long stopped feeling slightly sore then you need to focus on your form. “A common issue with people with flat feet, overly tight adductor, or weak glutes is a collapse inward of the knees when you squat,” says Ashley Borden, FITNESS advisory board member and coauthor of Your Perfect Fit.

To keep your knees in line, tie a resistance band around your ankles and position it just above the knees. As you squat, start with knees a bit wider than hip width apart, weight in your heels first, toes second. As you squat down, press weight back through your heels and make sure your knees are pushing against the band. If the band slides down your legs, your form is off. Make it harder: Once you’ve mastered the squat, stand on the resistance band holding one end of band and a dumbbell in each hand (wrap ends of band around dumbbells and place palms over), arms by sides. Squat, keeping knees behind toes, and hinge forward slightly from hips.

Thighs: Sculpt Quads with Skater Squats

If you rely on single-leg squats to work on strength and balance, challenge yourself with the skater squat. It’s an explosive plyometrics exercise that improves the stability of your hips and torso, leaving you with trim thighs and more power.

1. Stand upright with your feet together, arms straight out to the sides.
2. With your right leg, take a wide step to the right. Bend your right knee as you cross your left foot behind you. Squat down on your right leg, keeping your body weight over your right heel and your chest up.
3. Lean forward slightly, swinging your left arm in front of your hips and your right hand behind you for balance. Immediately come out of the squat and step out to the left with your left leg.
4. Repeat the same movement to the left, crossing your right leg behind you. Always remember to keep your body weight over your front leg’s heel to protect your knees during the downward phase of the squat. Repeat alternating sides as many times as you can for 20 to 30 seconds.

Thighs: Improve Range of Motion with a Foam Roller

When quads and hip flexors are tight prior to a strength-training session, it can lead to pesky muscles strains and injuries. Borden recommends using a foam roller for tight hamstrings to perfect your stride and stop lower back pain. Here’s how to use one:

1. Place the roller underneath the area of the thigh or hamstring you want to focus on and gently lower your body down, keeping your hands on the ground for balance.
2. Using your own body weight, slowly roll one of your thighs or hamstrings along the roller. It should feel like a deep tissue massage, a little painful but in a good way. If it’s too painful, place both feet on the ground to relieve some pressure.
3. Roll out your body for 10 swipes on each leg before you start training.

Abs: Plank, Pike, Power

If conventional crunches aren’t leaving you with the tight tummy you want, it’s time for a completely different sit-up. “A traditional crunch uses predominantly the rectus abdominus, which is the largest and more external of the abdominal muscles,” Lovitt says. She recommends moves that factor in more of your body weight for an effective burn.

Get an envy-worthy stomach by getting off the floor and grabbing a stability ball with this move:

1. Lie on top of a stability ball with your shins on the ball, walking your palms out until your hands are underneath your shoulders in a push-up position.
2. Keeping your legs straight out, tighten your core and slowly use your abs to raise hips and pike up in a jackknife or upside down V position.
3. Slowly lower your tailbone back down into a push-up position and repeat move for 10-12 reps.

Abs: Fight Flab with The Hundred

Take a cue from Pilates and master this classic warm-up pose. It uses your body to generate natural resistance and offers killer results (it’s said to be more effective than crunches!). Try our modified version of the move below:

1. Sit on floor with knees bent, feet flat, holding a heavy weight in each hand, palms facing floor.
2. Lean torso back 45 degrees and lift arms forward, keeping them straight, about a foot off floor so weights are on either side of thighs.
3. Keeping abs tight and back straight throughout, pulse weights up and down 1 inch — that’s 1 rep.
4. Do 20 reps. (Build up to 40, depending on your fitness level.)

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5 Minute Abs! Take The Time

1. Moves for You

We’ve got three variations of three moves – one each for beginners, intermediate exercisers and the more advanced.

Follow the rep scheme for your fitness level. Rest 30 seconds between exercises, and if you have more time available, repeat all moves once or twice from the top.

BEGINNERS: Do eight to 10 reps of each move.

INTERMEDIATE: Do 10 to 12 reps of each move (with the exception of the birddog; see description for details).

ADVANCED: Do 12 to 15 reps of each move.

2. Birddog: Beginner

Start on all fours. Lift your left arm straight in front of your body while raising your right leg straight behind you. Return to the beginning, then switch sides to complete one rep.

3. Birddog: Intermediate

Start on all fours. Lift your left arm straight in front of you while raising your right leg behind you. Hold for eight seconds before completing with your opposite arm and leg lifted. Repeat three times.

4. Birddog: Advanced

Begin on all fours and lift your left arm in front while extending your right leg behind you. Move your arm and leg over to the side as far as you can go. Return to the start and repeat with your opposite arm and leg to complete one rep.

5. Crunch: Beginner

Lie on your back with your hands placed gently behind your head, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Contract your abdominals to lift your head and upper back, then slowly lower back to the starting position.

6. Crunch: Intermediate

Lie on your back with your legs bent and calves raised parallel to the floor. Lift your hips from the floor and direct your knees towards your chest. Slowly lower back to the starting position.

7. Crunch: Advanced

Lie on your back with your knees bent to 90 degrees and calves raised parallel to the floor. Contract your abs to lift your upper back from the floor; at the same time, raise your hips from the floor to direct your knees towards your chest. Slowly lower and repeat.

8. Obliques crunch: Beginner

Lie on your back with your hands behind your head and legs bent as shown. Lift your upper back from the floor and bring your left elbow towards your left knee. Lower and repeat on the right to complete one rep.

9. Obliques crunch: Intermediate

Lie on your back with your legs bent, calves parallel to the floor and fingertips placed lightly behind your head. Lift your upper back and direct your left elbow towards your right knee. Lower and repeat on the other side to complete one rep.

10. Obliques crunch: Advanced

Lie on your back with your knees bent, calves raised parallel to the floor and hands placed lightly behind your head. Contract your abs to lift your upper back from the floor; at the same time, reach your left hand to the outside of your right knee. Lower, then repeat on the opposite side to complete one rep.

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Your Circuit Training Routine: Twice as Toned in Half the Time

Multitask with this firm-and-burn fast workout that combines your cardio with your strength training. You’ll tone up and work off mega calories, all in less than 20 minutes.

Get Results, Fast

The New Approach
Simply by upping the pace, you can shave off more inches in less time, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. In just one hour a week you’ll get all the cardio and toning benefits that used to take three-plus hours (two toning sessions and five 30-minute cardio workouts).

Do the following high-intensity circuit without pausing three times through, three days a week, and you’ll be showing off a sleeker body by the end of the month.

What you’ll need: A pair of 3- to 5-pound dumbbells.

Why It Works
“All these brisk moves target both the upper and lower body, which keeps your heart and muscles stoked at the right intensity,” says workout designer Michele Olson, PhD, an exercise physiologist at Auburn University Montgomery in Alabama.

The Payoff
“Not only will you burn close to double the calories — 171 versus 96 — in less time,” says Olson, “but you’ll also firm everything from shoulders to calves, so you can check off your sculpting session, too.”

Squat Hop and Press

Targets: Shoulders, abs, hips, butt, and legs

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, a dumbbell in each hand, elbows bent so that weights are in front of shoulders, palms facing in.
  • Squat, keeping knees above ankles. Press into both feet to hop up, bringing right foot over to meet left and raising weights straight overhead; land standing with feet together, knees slightly bent, arms up, palms forward.
  • Quickly step right foot out to shoulder width and  lower hands back to starting position.
  • Do 8 reps. Switch legs; repeat.

Runner’s Lunge

Targets: Shoulders, arms, chest, abs, butt, and legs

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, a dumbbell in each hand. Bend elbows 90 degrees so that forearms are parallel to floor, elbows by sides, palms in.
  • Lunge forward with right leg as you bring left hand up to shoulder level in front of you and drive right arm behind you (as you do when running).
  • Hop up and switch arms and legs to lunge forward with left leg.
  • Do 16 reps total, alternating sides.

Speed Skater

Targets: Shoulders, back, arms, abs, butt, and legs

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms extended out to sides at shoulder level.
  • Hop straight up, landing in speed-skater position: right foot widely crossed behind left foot, knees bent, hinged slightly forward from hips, right arm crossed in front of body, left hand behind butt.
  • Hop back to starting position (feet shoulder-width apart, arms out to sides at shoulder level).
  • Switch sides; repeat. Do 16 reps total, alternating sides.

Plie Squat Row

Targets: Back, arms, butt, and legs

  • Stand with feet more than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed out slightly, holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Bring weights up on either side of chest, palms facing each other, elbows tucked in and back.
  • Squat, keeping back straight and knees above ankles, and lower weights between legs.
  • Press through heels, contracting glutes to stand back up and pulling weights back to starting position at sides of chest (as if rowing).
  • Do 8 reps

Cheerleader Raise

Targets: Shoulders, arms, abs, and legs

  • Stand with feet slightly more than shoulder width apart, right hand on hip, a dumbbell in left hand.
  • Raise left arm diagonally to the left, palm forward.
  • Engage abs and bend left elbow and right knee so that they meet in front of you. Return to starting position.
  • Do 8 reps quickly. Switch sides; repeat.

Kick-and-Punch Combo

Targets: Shoulders, arms, abs, butt, and legs

  • Stand with feet together, knees slightly bent, a dumbbell in each hand, elbows bent near hips, weights in front of chest with palms facing each other.
  • Simultaneously kick left leg forward (really push through ball of left foot), foot flexed, and punch right arm straight forward at shoulder level, palm down.
  • Switch sides; repeat. Do 16 reps total, alternating sides.

Plank Twist and Push-Up

Targets: Shoulders, back, arms, chest, and abs

  • Get into full push-up position (hands below shoulders, back straight, abs engaged), holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms in.
  • Lift right leg, rotate right hip and pull knee in toward left shoulder. Use a small hop to switch legs.
  • Do 4 reps total, alternating sides, and return to starting position.
  • Do a push-up.
  • Complete series 8 times.

Step-Up and Row

Targets: Chest, abs, butt, and legs

  • Stand facing a step or low bench with a dumbbell in each hand, hands in front of thighs, palms facing you.
  • Step up with left foot as you pull weights straight up toward shoulders, with elbows higher than wrists. Lift right knee 90 degrees in front of you.
  • Step down, right foot first, and lower weights.
  • Switch sides; repeat. Do 16 reps total, alternating sides.
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Walk Off 350 Calories in 45 Minutes

Talk about an efficient lunch break—The Biggest Loser trainer, Bob Harper, designed a walk-it-off routine, blasting 350 calories in 45 minutes.

Pick up the pace

Do a warm-up walk for a couple of minutes; strike with your heel first, then roll into the forefoot, keeping shoulders relaxed and letting arms swing naturally. Then up the pace—you should feel winded but still be able to speak in short bursts—and begin your first four-minute walking segment. The quicker (not longer) your steps, the better the burn.

Add a power minute

After each walking segment, complete a power minute. You have three options: jumping jacks, sprinting, and walking lunges. You can pick just one to repeat—but for the best results, do all three. “When you vary your moves, you avoid that dreaded shape-up plateau,” explains Harper.

Sprinting

Pounding the pavement can help lower your level of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone that’s linked with weight gain. While running, you really want to get your heart rate up there—you should be breathless when you ease back into your walk. Remember to keep your chin up, allowing your gaze to fall naturally a few feet in front of you. Relax your shoulders, and keep your head in line with them so your center of gravity stays at your core. Continue sprinting for 1 minute.

Jumping jacks

Crank up your cardio with this school-yard staple. Stand with feet together and arms down by your sides. Quickly bring arms out to sides and up overhead, while jumping your feet wide apart. Return to starting position and repeat for 1 minute.

Walking lunge

This move targets your entire leg, from the butt to the calf. Step your right leg forward two feet and lower until both knees are at 90 degrees; don’t let the front knee go past your toes. Push into your right heel, lifting your left leg up while stepping it forward; repeat the lunge. Continue to alternate legs for 1 minute.

Keep ‘em coming

Power through at least five workouts a week: Walk briskly for four minutes, do a power minute, and repeat nine times. Make sure to keep your core engaged to limit stress on your knees and joints, says Harper.

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What To Look For In A Yoga Mat?

A yoga mat enhances your yoga practice by providing a comfortable surface that also supports your stability during poses. The options in yoga mats continue to expand, with differences in materials, size and surface. Convenience is also a consideration, especially if you practice yoga at a studio or bring your mat along on trips.

Size

The standard width of yoga mats is 24 inches, but you will find wider versions that are 36 inches wide. The length varies, with some brands offering short or long versions to accommodate people of varying heights. A 68-inch length is standard with longer mats available up to 84 inches long. When choosing the size of the mat, consider the type of yoga moves you do and where you practice. If you want more personal space in a yoga studio, choose a larger mat. A yoga mat that is at least as long as you are tall ensures your entire body is on the mat during lying poses.

Surface

The surface of the mat affects how well it works for you personally. Yoga mats feature a stickiness on the surface to give you traction during poses. Avoid mats with too much stick, as this makes it difficult to hone your own balance. The extra help from the mat’s stickiness takes away some of the physical and mental challenge of yoga. The texture of the mat also prevents slipping and gives you traction during your yoga poses. Certain mat materials have a natural texture to them while others have a raised pattern impressed in the mat. The texture and overall feel of the mat is largely a
matter of personal preference. Some people prefer a smooth surface while others enjoy texture.

Type of Material

Yoga mats come in a variety of materials, each with different qualities that affect the overall yoga experience. PVC or vinyl is the traditional material for mats. This material provides a natural stickiness and is durable. PVC also has more of a spongy feeling to it. Eco-friendly materials appeal to many people who practice yoga. The options include organic cotton, jute and recycled rubber. Try out mats made from different materials to determine which one feels most comfortable to you.

Convenience

The extras that make a yoga mat more convenient round out the list of features to consider. If you carry your mat with you, check out how well it rolls. A mat with sweat absorbency is beneficial for those who take hot yoga classes or tend to sweat during yoga practice. Antimicrobial yoga mats are available for those who are concerned with bacterial growth. An easily washable mat adds to the convenience.

A personal preference is the new BeBalanced Yoga Mat that that uses NEGATIVE ION technology that helps assist your body’s natural energy field and helps to achieve optimum performance www.bebalancedproducts.com
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The 10 Healthiest Foods on the Planet

These 10 superfoods are proven, expert-beloved disease fighters and energy boosters. Add them to your meals and get on the fast track to a super-healthy body.

Lemons

Why They’re Healthy:

– Just one lemon has more than 100 percent of your daily intake of vitamin C, which may help increase “good” HDL cholesterol levels and strengthen bones.
– Citrus flavonoids found in lemons may help inhibit the growth of cancer cells and act as an anti-inflammatory.

Quick Tip: Add a slice of lemon to your green tea. One study found that citrus increases your body’s ability to absorb the antioxidants in the tea by about 80 percent.

Broccoli

Why It’s Healthy:

– One medium stalk of broccoli contains more than 100 percent of your daily vitamin K requirement and almost 200 percent of your recommended daily dose of vitamin C — two essential bone-building nutrients.
– The same serving also helps stave off numerous cancers.

Quick Tip: Zap it! Preserve up to 90 percent of broccoli’s vitamin C by microwaving. (Steaming or boiling holds on to just 66 percent of the nutrient.)

Dark Chocolate

Why It’s Healthy:

– Just one-fourth of an ounce daily can reduce blood pressure in otherwise healthy individuals.
– Cocoa powder is rich in flavonoids, antioxidants shown to reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol and increase “good” HDL levels.

Quick Tip: A dark chocolate bar contains about 53.5 milligrams of flavonoids; a milk chocolate bar has fewer than 14.

Potatoes

Why They’re Healthy:

– One red potato contains 66 micrograms of cell-building folate — about the same amount found in one cup of spinach or broccoli.
– One sweet potato has almost eight times the amount of cancer-fighting and immune-boosting vitamin A you need daily.

Quick Tip: Let your potato cool before eating. Research shows that doing so can help you burn close to 25 percent more fat after a meal, thanks to a fat-resistant starch.

Salmon

Why It’s Healthy:

– A great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to a reduced risk of depression, heart disease, and cancer.
– A 3-ounce serving contains almost 50 percent of your daily dose of niacin, which may protect against Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss.

Quick Tip: Opt for wild over farm-raised, which contains 16 times as much toxic polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) as wild salmon.

Walnuts

Why They’re Healthy:

– Contain the most omega-3 fatty acids, which may help reduce cholesterol, of all nuts.
– Omega-3s have been shown to improve mood and fight cancer; they may protect against sun damage, too (but don’t skip the SPF!).

Quick Tip: Eat a few for dessert: The antioxidant melatonin, found in walnuts, helps to regulate sleep.

Avocados

Why They’re Healthy:

– Rich in healthy, satisfying fats proven in one study to lower cholesterol by about 22 percent.
– One has more than half the fiber and 40 percent of the folate you need daily, which may reduce your risk of heart disease.

Quick Tip: Adding it to your salad can increase the absorption of key nutrients like beta-carotene by three to five times compared with salads without this superfood.

Garlic

Why It’s Healthy:

– Garlic is a powerful disease fighter that can inhibit the growth of bacteria, including E. coli.
– Allicin, a compound found in garlic, works as a potent anti-inflammatory and has been shown to help lower cholesterol and blood-pressure levels.

Quick Tip: Crushed fresh garlic releases the most allicin. Just don’t overcook; garlic exposed to high heat for more than 10 minutes loses important nutrients.

Spinach

Why It’s Healthy:

– Spinach contains lutein and zeaxanthin, two immune-boosting antioxidants important  for eye health.
– Recent research found that among cancer-fighting fruits and veggies, spinach is one of the most effective.

Quick Tip: Spinach is a healthy — and flavorless — addition to any smoothie. You won’t taste it, we promise! Try blending 1 cup spinach, 1 cup grated carrots, 1 banana, 1 cup apple juice, and ice.

Beans

Why They’re Healthy:

– Eating a serving of legumes (beans, peas, and lentils) four times a week can lower your risk of heart disease by 22 percent.
– That same habit may also reduce your risk of breast cancer.

Quick Tip: The darker the bean, the more antioxidants it contains. One study found that black bean hulls contain 40 times the amount of antioxidants found in white bean hulls.

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Yoga Poses to Lose Those Flab Abs

Transform your abs with this 10-minute yoga workout from our resident yoga guru, Kristin McGee.

I’ll admit it: During the summer holidays I often end up picking family time over gym time, so I usually start the Fall with a slightly softer tummy. My yoga mat is the first place I turn to get back on track. I love this sequence—Dog Split to Lizard Lunge to Twist to Downward Dog to Jump Lunge—because it works all the major muscles in the ab region plus packs in some cardio to burn off the extra fat on top.

Go through the sequence 3 to 5 times, 3 days a week, giving yourself a day’s break in between (for faster firming, you can add in 2 more days of doing the routine without the Jump Lunges). I do this series in the morning to boost my metabolism—and to remind myself that I’m on my way back to a super-toned middle.

How to do it:

kristin-dog-split

1. Begin on hands and knees. Exhale, lifting knees, pushing hips toward the ceiling, and straightening arms and legs to come into Downward Dog. Inhale, lifting your right leg as high as you can while keeping it straight.

lizzard-lunge-kristin

2. Exhale, stepping your right foot forward to the outside of your right hand, bending your right knee to come into Lizard Lunge.


kristin-mcgee-twist

3.  Inhale, lifting your right hand out and up toward the ceiling; look up to the right.


mcgee-downward-dog

4. Exhale as you lower your arm, returning your right hand to the floor; step back into Downward Dog. Repeat the first 4 steps on the left side.


kristin-jump-lunge

5. Inhale, jumping right foot forward and between your hands to come into Lunge. Immediately jump left foot forward into Lunge while moving the right foot back; that’s 1 rep. Continue for 10 reps, then return to Step 1 and repeat entire sequence.

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Negative Ions Are So Vital To Your Daily Life. Energy Level Up

Have you been getting your daily dose of negative ions?   You have to!!  They make you look and feel better.

We need exposure to negative ions to be more positive in our life. I know, it sounds a little backward at first, doesn’t it? Negative ions are invisible molecules that clean the air around us by attaching themselves to positive ions (from dust, smoke, electronics, car exhausts, our breathing, etc.), so they’re not just floating around for us to breathe into our system. Generally the more populated a city is, the fewer negative ions and the more positive ions.  This is why I love golf so much or any form of outdoor activity that gets me to grass, water or the mountains.  These are negative ion hotbeds.

Negative ions help relieve stress, increase vitality, strengthen the immune system and so much more.That’s why we all feel so incredibly good after being at a waterfall, in the mountains or at the beach. The human body is meant to be absorbing negative ions on a regular basis, so it’s no wonder why there are so many health problems related to fatigue, depression and immune disorders. It’s no wonder why so many people find it incredibly hard to let their true nature shine. Most people aren’t exposed to nearly enough negative ions. All the technology around us has virtually eliminated the positive ions in the air — unless you live at a beach with no cars or electronics or out in the wilderness or mountains, etc.).

Often people think they can escape pollution by staying indoors. It’s quite common for indoor environments to be just as, if not more than, polluted as outside. When you look around most bedrooms or offices, there are at least a couple of electronic devices. Think about it … laptops, mobile phones, televisions, lights, heaters, electric blankets and so many of the countless electronic gadgets available these days. They all release positive ions galore! Even man-made fibers in carpets, clothes and furniture all reduce the level of negative ions and increase the positive ones in the environment. The house you live in or the place you work at could very well be more polluted than outside! Combine this with other pollutants (if you live in a populated area) and you can almost guarantee that you’re getting exposed to way too many positive ions. This over-exposure to positive ions contributes to the body being in toxic overload, unless small steps are made to make your environment richer in negative ions.

Here are some tips to help bring more negative ions into your life:

-Use Himalayan rock salt lamps or an ion generator or purifier in your house and in your office, if possible. These lamps and purifiers mop up positive ions and help bring back natural harmony to your environment.
-Place potted plants (real ones) throughout your house and office. It’s very common for modern houses to be more polluted than outside, so enjoy bringing the beauty of nature into your home.
-Connect with nature. Get barefoot and walk on raw earth. The earth is charged with negative ions! Our feet are conductors to absorb negative ions, so go outside and experience a lovely barefoot walk. Simply walking on the earth is so healing.
-Spend time at the beach or a waterfall. There’s a reason why we feel so good after being at the beach or at a waterfall. Because of the crashing pure water, these precious parts of the planet are especially charged with negative ions.
-Use natural, preferably organic deodorants, body washes and creams. You can even use Himalayan rock salt soaps, which are quite mainstream now.
-Use organic sheets, towels, clothes and dishwasher and laundry detergents, if you really want to go the extra distance in your efforts to increase negative ions and decrease positive ones in your life.

-Use negative ion products such as bracelets, necklaces, yoga towels, yoga mats, basically any product that includes negative ions in their composition.  It will help energize you and allow you to perform exercise and daily activities in a more focused and energized way.  

Make the incorporation of including negative ions in your daily life as if you are taking vitamins or eating the right food.  You will exercise longer and harder, feel more rested and generally more in tune with life.  It’s your mini way of visiting the mountains or the beach.

So, if you’re not feeling as good as you know you could feel, it may be as simple as looking at the environment you’re in and making some small changes here and there. To me, it’s all about getting back to our true nature, which is full of joy and vitality. We’re meant to connect with nature, not pollutants, so in gratitude for the body we have been blessed with and in gratitude for the amazing planet we live on, do yourself a favor and bring some negative ions into your life.  You will look and feel better.

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What to Drink When Your Working Out

As much as 60% of your body is made up of water and when you work out, you can lose quite a bit. The American College of Sports Medicine notes that drinking water helps functioning of the joints and body tissues, the regulation of body temperature, and the transportation of nutrients. But some of us don’t drink enough, says Nancy Clark, R.D., a sports nutritionist and author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guide Book. Here’s how to get it right.

Choose the right beverage

Sometimes the simplest solution is the best, and that’s true when it comes to choosing a workout beverage. “If you’re an average person, then water after a workout is just fine,” says Clark. But if your workout is more intense and you spend more than three hours at a time doing it, then Clark recommends chocolate milk. “It’s got sodium and calcium, which we lose when we sweat. It’s also got carbs to refuel and give energy, and the protein also helps to repair any damage.” If milk or water isn’t your thing, sports drinks,  coconut water, or other beverages are fine. Don’t worry too much about electrolytes; Clark says food can provide those lost in sweat.

Consume the right amount

Clark says there isn’t a set amount of water that you should consume during exercise, rather, she recommends you “drink to thirst.” But there are ways to calculate your sweat rate, which involve weighing yourself before and after you run, and doing a few calculations. Clark says that if you lose a quart of sweat in an hour then you should be drinking about eight ounces of water every 15 minutes. If you want to skip the math and you tend to sweat a lot, 4 to 6 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout is a good rule of thumb.

Don’t drink too much

It’s actually possible to drink too much fluid, although this is uncommon. More of a risk during marathons and triathlons, athletes who consume a lot of fluid (even sports drinks), but not enough sodium can develop a potentially life-threatening condition called hyponatremia. (A women died of it during the 2002 Boston Marathon.) Symptoms include bloating, nausea, confusion, disorientation, and seizures. But really, over hydration is “rare,” says Clark. “Most people don’t drink enough.”

Pack in some protein and carbs

While exercising is good for you, it’s common to incur some minor cell or tissue damage after a workout. Proteins can help repair any damage, so Clark recommends rehydrating with a protein-rich drink after an especially intense workout.  But it’s not just about protein, she says. Because you expend substantial amounts of energy when exercising, “you want about three times more carbohydrates than protein,” which is why she recommends flavored milk as fluid replacement.

Know the risks of dehydration

Any number of problems can result from not drinking enough water; perhaps one of the most common is fatigue. If you don’t drink enough water then “your blood gets thicker from lower water content and your heart has to work harder, which means you get tired,” says Clark. “A dehydrated person will get fatigued.”

Drink before and during exercise

Clark recommends drinking fluids before you even begin to exercise, especially if you’re doing something that requires a lot of stamina. “You need to start drinking about one and a one half to two hours before running a marathon,” she says. Also, drinking fluids during a workout isn’t a bad idea either. “We don’t drink enough during exercise and that puts you in a hole when you finish and then you have to rehydrate,” says Clark. “It’s better if you don’t put yourself in that hole in the first place.” While it might be cumbersome to carry water with you on a run, it’s worth it, she says.

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Fashion and Fitness, They Now Go Together

Fashion and fitness. Never used to be much of a subject.  You really didn’t worry about what to wear when working out.  Now most of us do.

There are so many great clothes now for working out plus they’ve been made to look great.  Companies like LuLuLemon changed the way we look when getting on a sweat.  Enjoy these super videos about fashion and fitness and then finish with a summer workout video.

 

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The Best Fat-Burning Breakfasts

You know that eating breakfast jump-starts your metabolism. But did you realize that certain a.m. choices can crank up your fat-burning even more? The key: eating a breakfast that’s high in Resistant Starch (RS). Found in foods like bananas and oats, RS actually signals your body to use fat for energy.

Blueberry Oat Pancakes with Maple Yogurt
Resistant Starch: 4.6g
Ingredients: Old-fashioned rolled oats, low-fat cottage cheese, eggs, vanilla extract, blueberries, cooking spray, Greek-style low-fat yogurt, maple syrup
Calories: 410

Banana and Almond Butter Toast
Resistant Starch: 5.6g
Ingredients: Almond butter, rye bread, banana
Calories: 280

Breakfast Barley with Banana and Sunflower Seeds
Resistant Starch: 7.6g
Ingredients: Water, pearl barley, banana, sunflower seeds, honey
Calories: 410

In a Rush?
Reach for a Resistant Starch-packed banana and one of these on-the-go options—you’ll still get the healthy carbs and calories you need to start your day in slim-down mode!
Order to go!
• Panera Bread Strawberry and Granola Parfait: 310 calories
• Dunkin’ Donuts Ham, Egg White, and Cheese Sandwich on a Wheat English Muffin: 300 calories
• Jamba Juice Coldbuster Smoothie (16 ounces): 250 calories
Keep a stash in your kitchen:
• Aunt Millie’s Whole-Grain Blueberry Muffins: 170 calories
• Kashi TLC Pumpkin Spice Flax Crunchy Granola Bar: 170 calories
• Amy’s Kitchen Breakfast Burrito: 270 calories

Insider secret
Choose a banana that’s tinged with a little green for even  more Resistant Starch. Once the fruit ripens, the starches in it turn to sugar, and the amount of Resistant Starch it contains drops.
An underripe banana has 12.5 grams of RS (enough to take care of the minimum 10 grams of RS daily that’s recommended in The CarbLovers Diet); a ripe one has 4.7 grams.

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Bob Harper’s Skinny Rules

The simple, non-negotiable principles for getting to THIN!

If there’s one thing Bob Harper doesn’t like, it’s anything complicated. But  what he also doesn’t like is trying to take the easy way out when commitment and  hard work are needed. So he’s pulled together 20 simple rules for weight loss that reflect all the  above. “They aren’t easy,” he told us about his rules in a recent phone  conversation. “My publisher really pushed back when I first came up with these.  But after years of working with Biggest Loser contestants, I know what  needs to be done when it comes to losing weight.” However, what doesn’t need to be done is working out for six hours a  day as the contestants do on the ranch. “That’s unrealistic,” says Bob. “This is  for people at home and nutrition is key, along with working out.” To help you  with that, Bob also supplies menu plans and recipes.

Just to whet your appetite, here’s an excerpt from the book that  includes some of Bob’s weight loss insights followed by a recipe:

SIMPLE HYDRATION TIPS

  • Make it your premeal policy: drink a large glass of water before every meal.  No excuses.
  • End the day with preparation for a good start to the next: put a large, full  glass of water on your bedstand every night and drink it when you wake up, every  morning.
  • Get a little extra bang for your effort: mix a pitcher of water with a  noncaloric vitamin and mineral supplement. I like ElectroMix (one little packet  makes a quart), and having the pitcher all mixed and right in front of you will  make it that much easier to pour yourself a glass when you open the fridge at  every meal; I usually drink mine when I work out.

JUST HOW MUCH PROTEIN IS ENOUGH PROTEIN?

The official answer is: no one really knows. The FDA says protein should be  10 percent of your total daily calories. The National Research Council says 8  percent. The National Academy of Sciences: 6 percent. I’m going to give you what  we might call the Skinny Recommendation: take your weight and divide it by two  — that’s how much protein you should be eating in grams every day. If you’re  200 pounds, try to get at least 100 grams. I’m not saying it’s 100 percent  scientific, but more and more research shows that consumption of a high-protein  diet with reduced high-carb foods results in better weight control metabolism.  I’m saying it works. For me. For my clients, my contestants, and for you.

THE POWER OF PREPARATION

The other night I got home late from work. I was hungry and tired–two danger  zones for binge eating, right? My secret saving grace? Preparation. I already  had a huge bag of chopped salad ingredients in the refrigerator, so I just  dropped the greens in a bowl, dressed with them with Galeo’s dressing, my  favorite, and topped them with cubed chicken I’d cooked the weekend before. Then  I added a lot of cut-up veggies–some cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes and red  onion. Total prep time: just a couple of minutes, which is about all the  bandwidth I have left at the end of a long day!

If you chop and bag veggies and a protein ahead of time, you’ll be setting  yourself up for success big-time. And don’t be shy about experimenting with what  might seem oddball vegetables in a meal like this. Treat finding new vegetable  combinations you like as an adventure!

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5 Great New Classes to Get You Fit

Does your usual workout seem like a scene from the movie Groundhog Day—just more of the same old, same old? Then try one (or all!) of these five fun, fresh classes that some of the fitest women in Hollywood are taking. Not only will they breathe new life into your gym time, helping you stay motivated, but they’ll also keep your body burning more calories all year long.

SoulCycle

Calories burned: 500–700 per 45-minute class
Celeb poster child: Kelly Ripa
Think high-octane spiritual journey on a stationary bike. Illuminated by candlelight, you’ll spend 45 minutes doing a mix of heart-pumping cardio and full-body toning peppered with empowering affirmations that’ll make you feel unstoppable. Ride on!
You’ll find biking bliss in California, Florida, and New York; more studios (Connecticut and New Jersey) are coming this year. To locate a studio, go to soul-cycle.com.

Barre classes

Calories burned: 400–500 per 1-hour class
Celeb poster child: Zooey Deschanel
This barre-based toning done in micro-movements (up an inch, down an inch) targets the butt, legs, and core so you can sculpt a dancer’s body. Most classes last about an hour, incorporate upper body work, and use props like exercise balls and hand weights. Trust us—you’ll feel the burn.
Plié in studios like Pure Barre (purebarre.com) and Cardio Barre (cardiobarre.com) or at gyms like Equinox (equinox.com) and Crunch (crunch.com).

TRX suspension training

Calories burned: About 500 per 1-hour class
Celeb poster child: Jennifer Lopez
Since each of the kick-butt moves you do with the adjustable TRX straps can be made easier or harder by simply changing your body angle (genius!), anyone from couch potato to star athlete can get an amazing head-to-toe workout. One hour-long class and you’ll be hooked.
Tons of clubs across the country offer strap sessions that range from circuit-style cardio to strenuous strength-building; check your local gyms to find one.

Barry’s Bootcamp

Calories burned: 800–1,000 per 1-hour class
Celeb poster child: Katie Holmes
Low lights and loud music set the mood in this hour-long class, which pairs treadmill intervals with strength-training (you switch every 15 minutes). Yep, it’s hard-core, but the atmosphere is actually supportive—no mean drill-sergeant instructors here.
Right now you can get your boot-camp on in California, New York, and Norway; a Nashville location opens this spring. Go to barrysbootcamp.com.

CrossFit

Calories burned: About 200 per 20-minute session*
Celeb poster child: Cameron Diaz
Super-short (usually 20 minutes or less) and intense, these workouts may have you climbing ropes and sprinting one day, then doing handstand push-ups and lifting weights the next. Many of the hardest routines are named after women (Angie, Diane). We love this woman power!
No matter where you are, you’ll likely find a CrossFit “box” (read: studio). Game? Check out crossfit.com.
*estimated, as CrossFit does not calculate calories burned

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Degerm Your Gym Bag To Stay Healthy

If you’re tossing warm, damp gear in your gym bag after working out, you could be giving millions of germs a free ride home with you. “It’s the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive,” says Kelly A. Reynolds, PhD, a microbiologist and associate professor of public health at the University of Arizona. The results could sideline you with everything from colds and flu to a nasty staph infection. Don’t throw in the towel, though. Here’s how to sanitize the worst gym-bag-germ offenders.

Workout clothes and swimsuits

Why they’re germy: You ball them up—still damp with sweat or pool water—toss them into your bag, and leave them in there for several hours or even days.
The cleanup: Put clothes in a plastic bag or stash them in a separate mesh pocket, then wash them as soon as you can. No time for laundry? At least hang them to dry so bacteria and mold don’t multiply.

Water bottle
Why it’s germy: Those with pull-up tops are the worst offenders; if you use your hands to open them, you transfer germs into the little crevices around the spout—and into your mouth.
The cleanup: Avoid touching the spout by pulling up the top with your teeth. And after each use, wash your bottle in the dishwasher on high heat. Or avoid the issue altogether and get a screw-cap bottle.

Gym bag
Why it’s germy: In addition to putting all that icky stuff inside it, you often put the bag down on the gym or bathroom floor, which is home to scores of creepy crawlies.
The cleanup: Regularly empty your entire bag, and air it out. Wash it weekly in the hottest water it will take or wipe it down with a disinfecting wipe. And don’t put it directly on the gym or bathroom floor—hang it up or put it on a towel on the floor.

Yoga mat
Why it’s germy: You sweat your way through sun salutations, then roll up your wet mat, carry it home, and forget about it until next week’s class.
The cleanup: After class, clean it with a disinfecting wipe. (Keep a few in a zip-top bag in your yoga bag.) Or dry it with a clean towel before rolling it up, then wipe it down when you get home.

Flip-flops
Why they’re germy: You wear them in the shower, sauna, and locker room—all places teeming with fungi and bacteria.
The cleanup: Put them in a plastic bag before popping them in your gym bag. (That goes for your sneakers, too.) When you get home, spritz them with a disinfecting cleanser and let them dry completely before repacking. (Be sure to let your sneakers air out, as well.)

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Check out the new ION Slip proof Yoga towels from BeBalanced.

http://www.BeBalancedEnergy.com   They have great new fashion watches too with ion technology.

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10 Benefits of Coconut Milk To Stay and Improve Your Health

America’s toughest fitness trainer Jillian Michaels, recommends

coconut milk for your milk alternative and to add to your protein shake.
Coconut milk is extracted by grating mature coconuts and squeezing them by using cheesecloth or both bare hands. This milky white liquid is called santam in Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, and gata in Philippines. It is used in several food recipes like sauces, delicious curries and desserts. Apart from making foods tastier and creamier, coconut milk is also a healthy addition to various food preparations.

Nutritional Values of Coconut Milk:
Following are the nutritional values present in 100 grams of fresh coconut milk:
Calories – 230
Proteins – 2.3g
Fat – 23.8g
Carbohydrates – 5.5g
Dietary fiber – 2.3g
Sugar – 3.35g
Vitamin C – 2.8 mg
Vitamin E – 0.15 mg
Vitamin B1 – 0.026 mg
Vitamin B6 – 0.033 mg
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) – 0.183 mg
Folate – 16 mcg
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) – 0.76 mg
Iron – 1.64 mg
Selenium – 6.2 mcg
Sodium – 15 mg
Calcium – 16 mg
Magnesium – 37 mg
Phosphorus – 100 mg
Potassium – 260 mg

Benefits of Coconut Milk:

Following are some of the health benefits of coconut milk:

  1. Helps to maintain blood sugar places:

    Glucose intolerance may cause manganese deficiency in your body. Coconut milk is a rich source of manganese. Whole grains, legumes and nuts are some other excellent sources of manganese.

  2. Keeps skin and blood vessels flexible and elastic:

    Copper is a very important mineral for most of the bodily functions. Copper and vitamin C help to maintain the flexibility and elasticity of the skin and blood vessels.

  3. Aids in building strong bones:

    Coconut milk is not rich in calcium, but it is rich in phosphorus. Phosphorus is an essential nutrient that the body needs for strengthening bones. It is must to take phosphorus with calcium particularly to prevent bone loss because it supplies phosphate to the body.

  4. Helps to prevent anemia:

    Lack of iron is the most common nutrient deficiency among the people throughout the world. Iron deficiency in body does not allow the body to develop enough hemoglobin for keeping sufficient oxygen levels in red blood cells, resulting in anemia. Each cup of coconut milk supplies the body with nearly a quarter of daily value of iron.

  5. Relaxes muscles and nerves:

    Whenever you feel muscle cramps or muscle soreness, have some food along with coconut milk. It is rich in magnesium and can help you in relieving the problem. One of the functions of magnesium is it acts as a gate block in many nerve cells. If magnesium is not present in body, nerve cells become very active because of calcium that activates nerves. Excess contraction of muscles is caused by over-active nerve cells.

  6. Helps in Controlling Weight:

    This can be good news for people who are trying to reduce weight. Coconut milk makes you feel full very quickly because of high concentrations of dietary fiber.

  7. Decreases the risk of joint inflammation:

    Selenium is an important antioxidant. It controls the free radicals and thereby helps in relieving the symptoms of arthritis. It is observed that people with low levels of selenium may suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.

  8. Helps in lowering high blood pressure:

    People who are concerned about their blood pressure will not face any problem consuming foods containing potassium. Potassium helps in lowering blood pressure levels in the body.

  9. Helps in maintaining healthy immune system:

    Coconut milk helps in warding off colds and coughs by keeping the immune system healthy. It supplies vitamin C to the body which boosts the immune system.

  10. Promotes the health of prostate gland:

    Zinc plays a vital role in promoting the health of prostate gland. A preliminary study showed that it slows down the activities of cancer cells.

I hope the above mentioned information helps you in understanding the relation between health and coconut milk. It can also be consumed by people with cow’s milk allergy. It is free from gluten and soy. Hence people who are allergic to these substances can also use coconut milk.

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Burn Fat With Ballet

Everywhere you look, folks are bellying up to the barre. And no wonder: Ballet-inspired workouts blast fat, focusing on lower-half results such as ab-, bum-, and leg-shaping. Get slim and trim with this 30-minute routine. Here’s the secret: Most exercises involve “micro-movements,” in which you move just an inch or two. “They take out the momentum, forcing you to stay in the contraction, which tires muscles faster, giving you faster results,” says former dancer Carrie Rezabek Dorr, the woman behind the superhot Pure Barre class and this 30 minute workout.

Hundreds

Warm up first with 2 minutes of standing knee lifts. Next, lie on your back, draw knees up, lift head and shoulders, and bring chin to chest, coming into a tight ball. Keeping your upper body lifted, extend legs toward ceiling, or, for more of a challenge, at a diagonal; extend arms (as shown). Pump arms up and down 4 times, then hold arms still and curl torso a tiny bit up and down twice. Repeat series 10 times.

Push ups

Get on hands and knees, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width. Bring feet toward your seat and tuck tailbone under. Bend elbows out to sides, lowering chest toward floor, then push back up; repeat 15 times. Next, lower halfway down and hold; do 15 little pulses (pushing up and lowering down an inch) before coming all the way back up.

Tricep dips

Sit with knees bent and feet hip-width on floor, hands behind you on either side of hips, fingers forward. Lift hips off floor and shift weight back. Bend and straighten elbows 20 times, leaving feet flat, then come onto heels and repeat. Staying on heels, walk feet forward (keep weight shifted back) and do 20 more dips.

Extension parallel

Stand with back at fist’s distance away from barre, feet hip-distance apart, knees slightly bent; reach back with wide arms and grab barre. Extend left leg (knee toward ceiling) and flex foot (as shown). Do the following moves for 30 seconds each: Lift and lower leg a couple of inches; make small circles as if tracing a dime in the air with heel. Repeat circles in other direction, and point toes and do small leg lifts. Repeat series on opposite side.

Plie & releve

Stand with one hand on barre, the other on hip. Bring feet wider than hip-distance; turn toes out slightly and bend knees (keep knees behind toes), pushing hips back to sink seat to knee level. Do the following moves for 30 seconds each: Bend knees a bit more, lowering then raising an inch; lower again and hold, slightly pressing knees back then releasing (as if pulsing). Rise on toes, then lower and raise an inch; lower an inch and hold, pressing knees back, then releasing them.

Standing straight leg

Stand with right hand forward on barre, knees slightly bent, heels together, toes apart. Wrap left arm around waist and grab barre. Extend left leg diagonally back with toes pointed; tuck tailbone. Do the following moves for 30 seconds each: Lift and lower left leg a couple inches; hold left foot a few inches off floor and make dime-size circles with leg. Circle leg in opposite direction; flex foot, then lift and lower a couple inches. Make dime-size circles; reverse direction.

Semi-fold over

Face barre, feet hip-width, knees slightly bent; stack bent forearms on barre. Walk feet back until body is folded 90 degrees at waist; rest head on arms. Keeping hips level, extend right leg straight back with foot flexed (as shown).  Do the following moves for 30 seconds each: Raise and lower leg a couple inches; make dime-size circles with leg. Reverse circle direction; point toes, then lift and lower a couple of inches. Make tiny circles with leg; reverse circle direction.  Repeat series on opposite side.

Tap & curl

Sit with knees bent, feet hip-width on the floor. Grab beneath thighs with elbows wide, then round back, bringing lower back toward mat; tuck tailbone. Do the following moves for 30 seconds each: Extend arms straight by hips, tap fists twice against mat, then lift fists.  With arms still, lower and raise upper body an inch; with upper body still, tap fists twice against thighs, then open arms out. Lower and raise upper body an inch; extend arms up and tap fists toward each other twice, then open. Hold arms still and lower and lift body an inch.

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Get Toned With Tennis

Up your game

Ever watch a tennis match on TV and wish you could hit like that? Then steal these pro secrets from Tracy Austin—yes, that Tracy Austin, the two-time U.S. Open champion and host of Tennis Channel Academy. Play at least once a week, more often if you want to get better faster.
Bonus: Spending extra time on the court swatting that little yellow ball will give you toned legs, sculpted arms, and a killer core, too.
Another insider secret: Running a couple of times a week will boost your stamina on the court and help supercharge your tennis game.

Never outgrow lessons

Even the best players get coached, so don’t swear off lessons as soon as you can volley and serve. An instructor  can help nip bad form (like wrong grip) before it becomes ingrained, Austin says. Proper technique can help prevent common injuries, too—for example, making sure to swing from your shoulder instead of your forearm (or wrist) can help prevent tennis elbow. She can also give you strategy pointers. To find a certified pro, ask your local tennis club.

Serve strong

Get strong triceps and legs to be able to propel up and out into the court, throw the ball, extend your arm, and wield the racket.
The trick: Add triceps extensions and squats to your usual routine. Also, make sure your racket is the correct size. When gripping the handle, your fingers should point out in front of you. There should be a finger’s width between your thumb and the fingers wrapping around the other side.
Another key: an accurate toss. If you’re right-handed, picture a clock above you and hit the ball at one o’clock (lefties aim for eleven). And to gain speed, keep your arm loose instead of tensing up.

Don’t try to cream it

“People think it’s about how hard you hit the ball,” Austin says. “Really, it’s about getting more balls into play.” So forget smashing the ball whenever you swing. To improve accuracy, spend time rallying with your friends or opposite a ball machine.
Your aim: to hit the ball so it crosses just a couple of feet over the net on the return.

Meet your match

No doubt, the more you play, the better you’ll get. Just be sure to play the most with that friend who is roughly at your level—you’ll go toe-to-toe with her, fighting for every point. But you’ll also benefit from regular games with someone who’s better than you, Austin says. “She will constantly target your weaknesses, forcing you to practice under pressure until you improve.” You’ll be dealing with greater challenges—stronger serves and faster balls, Austin notes—which will make you a more amazing player.

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4 Bad Habits Keeping You From Reaching Your Fitness Goals – Fitnessprospector.com

You may think you’re right on track with your fitness regimen, but if you’re not seeing the results you expect, these surprising bad habits may be to blame. Sure, there’s something to be said for a steady schedule, but do you remember to switch it up every once in a while? From unreasonable goals to dull solo workout sessions, here are four bad patterns to avoid if you’re hoping to improve your fitness routine.

You make unrealistic gym plans: If you don’t have the time or physical energy to run for an hour, then don’t try to force it. Remember that every little bit counts and making yourself do too much can be the quickest way to get injured — or make you give up altogether.

You only exercise solo: Including friends in your fitness routine can be a great way to stay motivated. Not only will they keep you accountable, but they can also share tips and tricks of their own. Hesitant to reach out? Learn the benefits of a workout buddy and ask pals to join your plan.

You stick to what you know: Stepping outside your comfort zone and surprising your body with new, challenging exercises helps you to break through plateaus and stay in shape. It’s important to mix up your fitness routine: fresh workouts keep you from getting bored, and you’ll have the chance to work different muscle groups for a well-rounded routine.

You ignore hunger signals: If you don’t properly fuel your body, you won’t be able to push it during tough gym sessions. Learn what to eat (and when) before working out so you have plenty of energy to maximize your fitness potential.

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