Does Your Fitness Routine Vacation For The Summer?

Summer often presents a difficult time of year to maintain a fitness regimen.  Much of the difficulty appears to be in maintaining a routine.  Between vacations, keeping the kids entertained on break, and other summertime events, fitness often gets pushed to the proverbial back burner.  Inevitably, September arrives and we find ourselves a few pounds heavier looking to shed the weight before the holidays.  Sound familiar??  Then please read on… 

The good news is that physical activity doesn’t necessarily have to be elaborate during busy times nor does it have to be restricted to the home or gym.   In 3 simple steps we can avoid the inevitable summer weight gain and seamlessly blend it into our summer activities.

1.)  It’s All In The Planning

Often times we plan our activities based on where we are going to eat or what we are going to see.  Although there is nothing inherently wrong with this logic, we must also consider one more factor which is how much are we going to move.  Staying fit while traveling requires regular activity combined with a bit of creativity.  Consider activity as part of your recreational planning.  Look for ways that the entire family can get involved such as family day at a local park or an early evening after-dinner hike.  If heat is a factor, consider utilizing the services offered in your city through your local parks and recreation departments such as public pools and organized group trips to various places of interest.  Vacations at larger hotels and resorts will sometimes offer sightseeing activity packages.  They usually refer to these as “adventure” tours.  These excursions can present unique opportunities for activities that can compliment a current fitness routine as well as provide enjoyment for everyone in your party.

2.)  Send Your Fitness Packing

Packing for your fitness-minded vacation can be a snap.  A workout outfit and a sturdy pair of sneakers can provide the basics of your travel gear but don’t stop there.  Other must have items to pack would include: a refillable water bottle, sunscreen, healthy snacks such as protein bars, fruit, beef jerky, and 100-calorie snack packs (for times when only gas station stops or vending machine food is available).  Most hotels have a fitness center; some are more elaborate than others.  It pays to call ahead to find out what they offer and if there are additional fees to utilize the facility.  If your hotel doesn’t offer a fitness facility or you choose not to use it, you can get a great workout just by packing a few extra items such as a jump rope, exercise bands/tubing or simple suspension resistance equipment like the I.M. Rings from BodyByJake.

3.)  Work With What You Have

You’re in your hotel room and you forgot to bring anything even remotely related to fitness and there’s no hotel gym in sight.  What do you do?  The answer is- work with what you have.  Any fitness professional will tell you that the best fitness routine will contain 3 elements:  1.) Cardiovascular Activity, 2.) Strength Training and 3.) Flexibility.  It’s possible to get all three of these critical components on vacation even without a gym or equipment. 

Cardiovascular Activity

Perhaps the easiest way to get in cardiovascular activity is through walking.  This can be done in tandem with sightseeing through walking tours or as dedicated exercise.  Walking the surrounding area of a hotel can offer the weary traveler a chance to stretch their legs, get some fresh air, and take in different scenery.  If you don’t want to leave the comforts of your hotel but are looking for a great cardio workout, try the stairs.  Moving as quickly as you can through flights of stairs can be intense, so it’s important to pace yourself.  If you can’t step away from the free HBO in your room, try jogging in place or simple callisthenic-type exercises like jumping jacks.  Both will elevate your heart rate and help you burn off those poolside mai tai’s. 

Strength Training

The notion of strength training conjures up images of pumping iron in a gym.  The truth is that strength training doesn’t necessarily have to involve dumbbells, barbells, or any sort of gym equipment.  Simple things found in your hotel room can easily double as dumbbells such as filled water bottles or other equally weighted small items.  Using your own body weight as resistance is often times the easiest way to achieve results in the absence of any equipment.  Standard lower body exercises such as lunges and squats can prove very effective for this purpose.  Basic upper body exercises such as push-ups either against a wall or the floor as well as dips using a chair or bed are also great ways to work the upper back as well as arms.  Abdominal exercises are also super easy to accomplish with the help of a few curl ups as well as alternating leg scissors.

Flexibility

Flexibility is the third critical component in a good fitness program.  It’s often overlooked many times because people don’t realize the benefit of flexibility.  However, flexibility is important as it decreases the likelihood of injury and enhances the work that we do on the other two components.  The easiest way to get this in is through stretching post work out when your muscles are completely warmed up.  Stretches for all major muscle groups should be held for 10-15 seconds without any bouncing motions.

By incorporating these 3 exercise elements into your travel plans, a vacation can be a great place to either jumpstart a fitness routine or provide you with a unique opportunity to continue with the good habits you’ve already established.  With a bit of creativity and pre-planning, you’ll be successful at avoiding summer weight gain and realize that a fitness routine doesn’t really need a vacation after all.

Not So Tricky Halloween Treats

Halloween is here.  It’s time to carve the pumpkins, don the costumes, and buy treats for the kiddies.  But here’s the thing, if you are trying to manage your weight, do you really want 5 pounds of candy sitting around your house continuing to haunt you long after the trick or treaters have left?  Do yourself favor and try a few of these not so tricky Halloween treats.

1.) Microwave Popcorn Mini Bags

2.) Small Toys/Party Favors (Think Spider Rings, Plastic Eyeballs & Vampire Teeth)

3.) Peanut Butter & Cracker Packs

4.) Crayons/Mini Coloring Books

5.) Individually Packaged Rice Cereal Treats

6.) Stickers or Washable Tattoos

7.) Granola Bars

8.) Fun Decorated Pencils and Erasers

9.) Bubbles

10.) Mini Deck of Playing Cards

Warehouse stores and party supply houses are great sources for quantity shopping of small items.  If you’ve already bought several pounds of candy and are beginning to regret it, fear not!  Here are a few ideas to keep your little goblins happy and your waistline in check.

  • Avoid opening the candy bags until the first trick or treater arrives.  It’s all too easy to snack on an “already” open bag.
  • If you’ve already opened the bag and find yourself doing a little sampling, run back out to the store and pick up a pack of treat (favor) bags.  Fill the small bags with a few goodies and seal them up.  They not only look great in a decorative bowl, but the extra time it will take for you to get to the candy may help you to think about whether it’s worth it or not to eat it.
  • Remember, that a healthy lifestyle is not about what you can’t have.  That’s called a “diet.”  Rather, our focus should be on what we can have to support our goals.  Having healthy alternative snacks on hand is an important tool to help us not feel deprived during the holiday season and throughout the year.

As we begin moving toward all the parties and food-centered festivities, let’s make this time of year one that we can enjoy and also feel better about ourselves in January.

The 5 Common Exercise Myths and the Truths That Prevail

For many, the thought of exercise makes us cringe; conjuring up negative images of being sweaty, out of breath and feeling completely out of shape.  You may also be thinking, I’m too old to be active now or too busy to find the time.  Whatever your barrier is, below are five of the biggest myths that people often cite as a reason to avoid exercise:

Myth #l – Exercise makes you tired.

Truth – As their bodies get more in shape, most people feel exercising gives them more energy than before. Regular exercise can also help fight fatigue, improve your sleep, and manage your stress.

Myth #2 – Exercising takes too much time.

Truth – To maintain a healthy weight, it can take as little as 30-40 minutes per day, most days of the week.  If your goal is to lose weight, it’s advised that you aim for about 45-60 minutes each day.  But here’s the best part; it doesn’t have to be done all at one time.  Most of us can find 5-10 minutes to spare at different points in the day.  Using these spare minutes a couple times throughout the day adds up quickly and becomes a routine part of your healthy lifestyle.    

Myth #3 – All exercise will give you similar benefits.

Truth – Not all physical activities are created equal.  Each type (cardiovascular, strength, flexibility) offer unique advantages and benefits.  A good routine incorporates all 3 types and rotates through different exercises every few weeks to prevent your muscles from becoming accustomed to the same movement.  This ensures that you’ll gain the most benefit from your program.

Myth #4 –You need less exercise as you age.

Truth – We become less active as we get older and as a result should strive to ensure that we get some physical activity into our daily routine.  Everyone benefits from exercise regardless of age.  The important thing is to find the appropriate activities and intensity level based on your physical capabilities.

Myth #5 – If I focus my exercise on certain trouble spots, I will be able to lose fat from those specific areas.

Truth – The type of exercise you do does not affect the number of fat cells in a specific area.  There is no such thing as spot reduction.  Therefore 100 sit ups a day is not going to bring about a flat stomach.  It will help develop your muscles in that respective area but this doesn’t equate to fat loss.  When the body loses fat, it does so in a systemic fashion or all throughout the body at the same time.  There is no way to direct or influence the elimination of fat from specific areas outside the use of surgical liposuction procedures. 

More Truths About Exercise

A number of studies have been conducted on people who have lost weight and kept it off for extended periods of time.  Examining their behaviors, researchers found that one of the common features is the fact that most lead active lives.  Some participate in formal exercise such as classes or regular visits to the gym, while others choose to incorporate activity into their lifestyle. 

Once you’ve made the decision that exercise is no longer a task but a part of your life, consider what exercises you may enjoy.  You are much more likely to stick to a regular activity if you enjoy it.   Whichever method you choose, it’s important to talk to your doctor first before beginning any exercise routine.

With Liberty and Fitness for All

“A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step”     – Confucius

The journey to becoming healthier can seem like a thousand miles away.  But as Confucius emphasized, any seemingly insurmountable task starts with the first step.  Your road to fitness involves the same notion.  By simply taking that first step, you’ll find that it doesn’t require any special equipment or skill; just a bit of determination to reach your goals.

Where Do I Begin?

Walking is probably the simplest and most practical form of exercise.  It can be done just about anywhere, requires no equipment, money or skill, and yet reaps all the benefits of any other cardiovascular-type activity such as:

  • Reducing LDL cholesterol (“the bad cholesterol”)
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Improving flexibility and coordination
  • Decreasing body fat
  • Relieving symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Strengthening bones
  • Decreasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers

Participation in some form of regular activity may not only improve your quality of life, but may also add quantity to your years.  The life expectancy of individuals who engage in activities like walking are believed to be significantly higher than those who tend to lead more sedentary lives.

Rounding Out Your Existing Routine

Besides walking which is a cardiovascular activity, there are two other main categories which include resistance (strength training), and flexibility.  Whereas cardiovascular exercises focuses on moving larger muscle groups and heart rate elevation over a period of time such as in running, swimming, or bicycling, both strength and flexibility training have a different focus. 

Strength training focuses on the repeated movement of isolated muscle groups using either external weights or one’s own body weight as resistance.  It’s extremely helpful by preventing muscle loss through the aging or weight reduction process.  It’s also a great tool to drive vital minerals back into the bone to minimize bone loss; which by the way affects both men and women.  But here’s the best part, your body composition is largely responsible for your metabolic rate.  The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism.  Teenage boys are a prime example of this.  But what does this really mean to us?  Simply that if your goal is to lose weight, it’s going to be less of an uphill battle to not only lose but maintain your loss if you are able to keep as much muscle mass as possible in the process.   

Finally, the last category of exercise is flexibility.  The first thing we usually think of here is yoga.  And yes, yoga is certainly a flexibility exercise which can be done with little equipment other than a good mat.  However, there are other simple stretches that one can do each day to help with flexibility.  The biggest advantage in flexibility exercises has to do with injury prevention.  The more flexible you are, the less likely you’ll be to injure yourself from over pulled or strained muscles which can (and usually does) derail any fitness routine. 

Remember to warm up no matter what the exercise, never stretch a cold muscle, and repeat the motions smoothly.  And, if you’ve been working out for a while, you undoubtedly know the importance of changing up your routine to get the maximum benefit.  One of the most common things I see as a personal trainer is a concentration on one or two “favorite” exercises.  Avid runners are a good example.  Those who run on a regular basis often report not feeling like they’ve had a good enough workout unless they run.  Therefore, they tend to run (an obvious cardiovascular activity) most of the time while avoiding activities that involve the other two fitness categories namely strength and flexibility.

Go On- Take a Chance

It’s natural to gravitate towards things that you feel skilled in doing.  It gives us a sense of accomplishment and pride.  By the same token, we often avoid activities that challenge us or perhaps make us feel clumsy or awkward.  But if you step out of your comfort zone so to speak and take that first step, you just may find that a little variety can make a big impact on your overall health goals.

Lighten Up! Your Meals That Is…

Summer is here and like it or not, it’s time to start thinking about warm weather clothes, getting back into that old bathing suit and possibly shedding a few pounds that seemed to have cropped up out of nowhere.  Whether weight loss is a goal or not, this time of year marks a need for fast, easy to prepare meals, that are light and nutritious with preferably no stove or oven required.

Time is of the Essence

If you find yourself short on time, salads can offer a great way to get you in and out of the kitchen in no time.  It’s now easier than ever to prepare tasty salads at home with the help of convenient offerings in the produce department at your local grocery store.  Salads can easily be prepared using pre-washed salad greens in various varieties and pre-cut items such as carrots, celery, or even jicama sticks.  Additional ingredients that are always helpful to have on hand are pre-shredded cheeses, dried fruit such as cranberries, apricots, or raisins, and packaged nuts such as slivered toasted almonds or walnuts.  Adding meat to your salad can be a snap.  Pre-grilled chicken strips in the package or imitation crab meat are simple ways of getting in a protein punch. 

Leftover Surprise

For a unique twist on the plain old green salad, try adding that something extra with leftovers.  Yes, I said leftovers.  Now, before anyone crinkles up their nose in disgust, think about it.  Leftover beef or chicken can be easily sliced up and portioned into zip top bags before storing after a meal thereby making it readily available to add to the top of any salad at a later time. 

We eat a lot of stir-fry meals at our home for a couple of reasons.  First and foremost, they are easy.  Who’s kidding who here…stir-fry is the original one pot meal!  They are quick, tasty and you have the opportunity of introducing a variety of veggies for plenty of color which equals plenty of nutrients.  Best of all, stir-fry meals can be very light in the calorie department which is always a plus!     And in case you were wondering, stir-fry leftovers on a salad? – Why not.  Been there, done it and it’s fabulous!

Ever hear the expression – Cook once, eat twice?  I live by those words.  Who has time to cook full meals every single day-I know I don’t.  I get out of cooking any way I can by planning all meals out at the beginning of the week.  This not only keeps my diet in check but also helps me map out strategies for precooking certain foods while the kitchen is still in an uproar and I’m still in cooking mode.

Variety is the Spice of Life

A sure fire way to lose momentum in a good eating plan is to become monotonous in your food selections.  Eating the same types of foods too often leads to boredom thereby making it more likely that we will abandon our healthy intentions.  Be open to trying out new foods.  Experiment with different or unusual spices that add new flavors as well as textures to your meals.  Remember that a good diet is one that can be followed for many years to come in order to maintain a desirable body weight and optimal health.  Eating is one of life’s pleasures and who wants to eat the same boring things over and over for the rest of their life?