Something to Chew On

A Guide to Eating Right and Living Well


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Revisiting your New Year’s Goals

Previously, this year, I blogged about strategies to take your New Year’s resolutions and turn them into lifelong habits. Some of those strategies discussed included making SMART goals (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Bound), grabbing a buddy to help you along the way, not giving up too soon on your goals and sharing your journey/achievements with others. Since I am a woman of keeping my word, I am revisiting and providing updates on my goals that I established for the year 2014.

Goal #1: Consume less diet soda.

This is incredibly embarrassing to admit, but I have had at least one diet soda every day for as long as I can remember (at least 10 years, eeek!). When I was in college, I could easily consume 4-5 diet sodas/day. Since then, I have cut back to one per day; but still was unhappy with my caffeine addiction and the fact that I was consuming chemicals and sugar substitutes as a beverage. It took a lot of courage and a lot of tries, but I finally did it! I went a whole day without having any caffeine or diet soda. I did have an 8-hour headache that tempted me all day long to go to the vending machine but my persistence and will-power overcame the temptation. The second day’s headache was much more bearable and after a few days, I was completely fine. Believe me, it has been hard but I feel so much cleaner and healthier knowing that I do not need to depend on caffeine every day and more importantly that I am no longer filling my body with chemicals from the diet soda. Giving up diet soda has been a goal I have made for several years. The fact that I knew I was going to be blogging about my journey additionally motivated me to stay on track!

Goal #2: Read more and watch less TV.

I started out really well with this goal, but like most people, after a month, I reverted back to my old nighttime TV-watching habits. I found myself saying “Oh I’ll read more this summer”, but then I realized I was only pushing back my goals with the thought “someday I’ll change.” It’s important to remember that someday is not a day during the week and to start making changes, you simply need to start them today.

Goal #3: Complete a muscle-up, body weight power clean and squat 185 lbs before the end of the year.

These are all part of my fitness goals at crossfit. In order to reach strength-related goals, it’s important to have proper programming and motivating coaches. This is one of the reasons why I love my crossfit box so much. For the month of January, I was very disciplined with eating clean, good sleeping habits and stretching both at the gym and at home. While I haven’t reached my goals with my power clean and squats, I am beyond ecstatic that I did get my first muscle-up at the end of January! Performing a muscle-up was something I really never thought I would achieve because it requires so much skill and upper body strength. Knowing now that anything is possible with hard work and dedication will help me continue to set high goals for myself.

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Spring is a perfect time to reflect on your own habits and see how well they are fitting into a healthy lifestyle. Maybe you started out on the right foot but then fell off track a bit. With Springfield Clinic’s Illinois Product’s Farmers Market starting back up and warmer weather, this is the perfect opportunity to revisit some of your old goals and make some new ones!

 


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Don’t Slack Over the Holidays

It’s important this holiday season to remain on your same exercise schedule between enjoying delicious treats.Woman Stretching

Do NOT skip your workouts. The stress of the holidays can make you feel like you’re being stretched in all directions, but try not to sacrifice your workouts. The benefits of exercise go far beyond physical changes. Exercise can help elate one’s mood and help you better handle stress and deadlines.

Regularly perform body-weight exercises at home. You don’t need a gym membership to stay fit. All you need is proper form and dedication. Try to perform 3 sets of 20 squats, 20 lunges, 15 push-ups and 1:00 minute plank holds at least 4-5 days/week. You can perform the sets consecutively, or perform one set during each commercial break of your television program.

Find the stairs and always use them. Whether you’re at work or power shopping at the mall, know where your stairs are and take advantage of a free leg workout. What I love about taking stairs is that they provide both a cardiovascular benefit and strengthen the quads, glutes and hamstrings muscles.

Squat challenge. You’ve seen them on Facebook and maybe have even pinned them on pinterest, but have you actually started any of the fitness challenges? Begin with performing 30 squats and try to add 2-3 squats each day. Keep good form by keeping your back straight, chest lifted, weight in your heels and knees in line with your toes.

Did somebody say dance party? Take advantage of the kids’ gaming system. Dance-based video games have completely changed the once sedentary nature of gaming. Dancing can burn lots of calories and what’s best about it is you can do this in the comfort of your own home, without an audience.

 Invest in some home equipment. Some of my favorite home equipment pieces are my BOSU ball, yoga mat and pull-up bar. With the pull-up bar, I can work on strict upper body strength. My BOSU ball provides opportunities for quick, intense cardio and core stabilization exercises. Having a yoga mat at home helps remind me the importance of daily stretching and mobilizing.

Park farther away. We’ve heard this recommendation time and time again, but do you actually do it? Whether you’re out shopping, going to church or an appointment, try to park further back in the parking lot to help increase the amount of steps you take each day.


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Pu-Pu-Push it Real Good!

If you had only 20 minutes to workout, what would be the best exercises to do to fill that time frame? Is it a crunch? How about the treadmill? Or does it possibly include that funny leg machine (a machine I particularly do not care for, but that can be explained in another blog post)? While the best workouts challenge all the major muscles of the body, there are a few exercises that rise triumphantly to the short-time-to-workout challenge. They include the Push-Up, the Plank and the Squat. Unfortunately, many of us developed an adverse relationship to these exercises from the days we took elementary PE. Learning the benefits, variations and different levels of application of these exercises will hopefully reignite your passion for these exercises.

Anatomy of a push-up

Proper Push-Up Techniques

Proper Push-Up Techniques

The push-up is a phenomenal exercise. It challenges the core, chest, triceps and even the front part of the shoulder. There are hundreds of variations and modifications to this exercise making it effective for exercisers of all fitness levels. Taking your knees to the ground shortens the lever length, which can make this exercise easier. To make it harder, try having your feet suspended in TRX bands. Don’t have the bands? No problem. You can simply elevate your feet using any raised platform or add additional movements with the exercise. Try a combination of push-up + jump knee tuck or push-up + jumping jack feet. Remember to breathe throughout the exercise; inhale on the way down, exhale as you push-up.

Modification Tip: If doing push-ups on your toes is too hard, but doing them on your knees is not hard enough, try this tip: begin in the up-plank phase on your toes. Lower your body into the push-up position. Then drop your knees to the floor to assist with the pushing up phase. Our muscles can take on a greater load during the eccentric movements of exercise (the going down part of the push-up) so this is a great way to effectively challenge your upper body muscles. Here is a great list of additional push-up exercises to try.

Drop it like a squat

Even as little tots, our bodies naturally follow proper form for a squat. As we get older, we tend to bend over to pick up things, versus squatting down. Remember to keep your chest elevated and your back flat when performing a squat. A simple technique to help you do this is by looking up rather than looking straight ahead. Maintain a straight back as you push your hips backwards and bend into the squat. Sometimes our anatomies get in the way of performing a good squat. Having your heels slightly elevated can help your body achieve the perfect squat. (Ladies, this is why squatting in heels is easier!)

baby-squat

Squat Tips

If you haven’t performed a squat in a long while, begin with your own body weight to help you establish good form. Our legs contain the largest muscles in our bodies. This is why it is important not to skip leg day because a large portion of our metabolically active tissue is found in our leg muscles. Leg muscles need to be challenged—and adding weight will not make your legs big. What you will notice is that they become more firm and sculpted. Here is a great leg workout created by Amy Dixon. I have personally taken many of her workout sessions at fitness conferences and love every single one of them!

Squats also come in myriad variations. You can narrow your stance (similar to chair pose in yoga) or turn your feet outward and sit straight down for a plié squat (dancer’s squat). Performing the squats with more weight or more quickly or adding a jump can all increase intensity. Here are some more squat ideas to try.

“Walk the plank!”

The plank is an exceptional exercise because it targets the core, as well as the upper and lower body. It doesn’t require a gym membership to perform, and the many variations of the plank will never leave you feeling bored with this exercise. The plank can be performed on your toes or knees. You can also move up and down with your upper body for another challenge (plank push-up).

To target the obliques, try a side plank variation. In the side plank position you can dip your hips down and up, curl your top arm down underneath you and back up or raise your top leg for added challenges. The question is, are you ready to challenge yourself?

This is why we plank.

This is why we plank.

Plank walkup to pushup

Plank walkup to pushup

 

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