Figge’s Favorite Summer Activities

Amanda Figge photoI could go on and on about how much I love summer, but one of the biggest reasons is the opportunity to be active outside. Whether you’re enjoying the outdoors to burn calories or for the sheer fun of it, take advantage of this season’s warmer weather and longer daylight hours! Sitting all day is being considered just as big of a risk factor for heart disease as smoking is. Many of my suggested activities are great for cardiovascular health and even better … can be performed free of charge!

Walking. This is one of the easiest forms of exercise. You can find nice, smooth pavements to walk on by hitting up your local park or bike trail. Have you ever tried walking during sunrise? It’s quite peaceful and can help start your day off on a positive note. Don’t forget your beloved furry friends need their exercise too!

bike photoRiding bikes. This is another low-cost method for enjoying the outdoors while improving your fitness. My husband and I recently had the opportunity to ride through a beautiful botanical garden when traveling this summer. Riding a bike can be a great way to exercise for those that cannot take the impact on their knees from walking or jogging.

Water skiing. All forms of water sports are excellent for strengthening your back muscles. If you’re going to be out in the sun all day, remember to pack a hat, sunscreen and multiple water bottles.

Hiking. If you really need to escape from the stress of day-to-day life, then I highly recommend finding a local state park to go for a hike. Being closer to Mother Nature can have very calming and meditating effects. Skip the iPod and just enjoy the soothing sounds of nature.outdoor photo

Mowing the lawn. As strangely as it sounds, one of my favorite chores as a kid was mowing the lawn. Did you know that most people can burn at least 200 calories when using a push-mower to mow their lawn? (Assuming it takes you longer than 30 minutes to mow your lawn)

Paddle boarding. This is one of the newest “it” summer activities to do. Stand up paddle boarding aka SUP is an awesome workout for your arms and core. When we went paddle boarding in the ocean, we were able to see wild dolphins and manatees swimming right around us!

Kayaking. This is a great activity that people of all fitness levels can enjoy. Since you’re seated, it is much easier to stay balanced on the water. Many marinas and docks rent out kayaks. Can you think of a better way to spend a beautiful Saturday morning?

Running through a sprinkler. This one is just plain darn fun and you don’t need kids as an excuse to do it!

Working out in the park. You can go to the gym any time during the year, but you can only enjoy workouts in the park when the weather is nice. Use the monkey bars for pull-ups and a bench for dips, step-ups or box jumps. Add a few sprints, air squats and burpees and you’ll have a total body workout in no time!

Outdoor sports. Summer is great time to join a recreation league such as softball, sand volleyball or tennis. Being active + socializing is a great way to end a long stressful day on a positive note.

 

Quit!

illegal-cigarettesPatches. Gum. Hypnotism. Medication. Cold Turkey. All of these are common methods used to quit smoking, and many people will contest that these are all methods…that simply don’t work. We all know that smoking isn’t good for you. There are no health benefits to smoking and introducing a foreign substance to the body can quickly lead to an addiction (just like people can become addicted to alcohol, drugs, caffeine, even sugar and salt). Addictions can have both a mental and physical effect which can make it ten times more difficult to break the bad habit. I’m not a smoker, nor have I ever been one. So to answer the question, “How do you quit smoking?” I went to an expert on the subject… my dad, who happens to be an ex-smoker. Dad was a smoker for almost 30 years. He has seriously tried to quit a handful of times, trying everything from Chantix to hypnotism. It wasn’t until he decided to take his own path for him to successfully kick the habit for good.

Start with one change at a time. Dad knew that there were several things in his life that made him unhealthy:

1) he didn’t exercise regularly

2) he didn’t have the world’s greatest diet and

3) he smoked. Instead of making all these changes at once and become overwhelmed with his new lifestyle, he decided to tackle one thing at a time.photo 4

Clean up your eating habits first. Dad was certainly a meat and potatoes guy… with a big sweet tooth. Since there were many areas in his diet that needed improving, he decided to focus on one thing at a time versus making large drastic changes. First, he changed the kind of milk he was drinking. Then, he started to prepare more chicken and fish for meals instead of red meat. Finally, he stopped buying chocolate to keep at home and reserved sweet treats to special occasions only. Some of these changes occurred over a week while others took a couple months.

Make fitness a priority. Once he was able to maintain his improved eating habits, he started to focus on physical activity. Dad lived only a little over a mile from work, yet he still drove every day. He decided to start walking to work . Additionally, he began to go for walks in the evenings. I’ll never forget the day that he called me to tell me he had joined a gym and was walking on the treadmill at a 15% incline.

Change your environment. This was a tough one for Dad. He states that smokers always have “places” where they smoke or at least where they associate with smoking. Slowly, Dad started to avoid these places that photo 2previously provided opportune times to have a cigarette. Instead of driving his car to work, he drove his girlfriend’s car. That way he couldn’t “hide” a quick smoke in her car since he knew she would be able to smell it. After a long day at work, it was his habit to come home and sit in the garage in his La-Z- Boy chair and have a cigarette. When he finally mustered up the courage, he took the chair to the dumpster so he no longer had anything in the garage he associated with smoking.

Pick a date and stick to it. Throughout this process, Dad had slowly been weaning himself down on how many cigarettes he smoked each day. He had a hiking trip planned in Roosevelt Park in Georgia. This was his ultimate test. The hike would take 2-3 days and there wouldn’t be any places to buy cigarettes throughout the hike. He chose this as his Day 1…his first day without smoking. When he completed his hike three days later, he had gone three days without smoking and hasn’t turned back since.

It has to come from within. Dad said that the more people told him to quit smoking, the more he became resistant to the idea. He could not have pursued this fully until he decided that he was going to do it for himself…not because someone else told him to do it. Having a plan of action really helped too. With each new healthy change he incorporated into his life, he gained more and more confidence that he could do this for the long run. Four years later, Dad still remains smoke-free and believe me, if Dad can do it…then you can do it too

 

 

 

 

 

Start Making Healthy Changes Now

Woman Tying Measuring Tape Around Her WaistI am not an advocate for “quick fixes” like weight loss supplements, juice cleanses and the like. While quick fixes may result in fast weight loss, these results are only temporary and chances are, your depressed metabolism will cause you to rapidly gain the weight back…and then some. Seven-day or 21-day weight loss plans typically instruct you to drastically cut caloric intake and often severely limit the variation of food in your diet. Once these week-long or month-long fast diets are over with, most people resume their previous eating habits and unfortunately circle right back to square one with their weight loss efforts.

What’s unfortunate is these quick diet plans do not teach you how to eat for the long-run. You can’t drink a “body by Vi” shake forever; eventually you’re going to have to learn how to make real food for your meals. Research has shown that a multitude of different diets such as low-calorie/low-fat, high-fat/low-carb, Mediterranean diet, vegetarian diet, paleo dietetc., can all help individuals lose weight. Sometimes, losing weight is not the problem; it’s keeping the weight off. This fact stresses the importance of lifelong habits that one must take on, not quick diet fixes, in order to maintain their weight loss efforts. Here are some “quick” healthy changes that you can make today and turn into lifelong habits.

1. Start your day with protein. Breakfast is the most commonly missed meals reported by Americans of all ages. And when we think of breakfast, we typically think of a large bowl of sugary-sweetened cereal and a tall glass of orange juice. Breakfast meals high in these simple sugars can lead to a quick drop in energy come 9:00 a.m. Try to find ways to incorporate more protein with your breakfast meal. Add nuts into oatmeal, make a veggie omelet or pair fruit with high-protein Greek yogurt.

imgres2. Switch to water. Water is essential to one’s health and its benefits far surpass the simple purpose of hydration. Drinking more water is a habit I have been working on for quite some time now and it’s really sticking. As ashamed as I am to admit it, I previously was consuming about 4 diet sodas per day. To wean myself off of the diet soda, I would tell myself for every soda I consumed, I would have to drink a bottle of water. Now I keep a water bottle with me at all times so there are no excuses for not drinking enough water.

3. Stop serving multiple starches with meals. This is an easy fix that will help you naturally control your carbohydrate intake with your meals and make them more well-rounded. Our typical American western diet revolves around meat, potatoes, bread or some other starch like noodles and rice or corn and peas with most of our meals. Begin your meals by choosing a healthy lean protein, add one starch (preferably a healthy starchy vegetable like sweet potatoes or butternut squash) and fill the rest of your plate with non-starchy vegetables and fruit, if preferred.

4. Bring your own snacks to work. It seems almost every week, someone brings in a new “Pinterest-inspired” sweet treat to share with everyone at work. Sure, these decadent treats look great, but consuming these items regularly as snack choices can lead one to a spike in blood sugar followed by a drop in energy. Plan ahead and make sure you always have healthy, nutrient-dense snacks packed with you for your workday. If you feel bad about turning down your co-worker’s cheesecake bites, you can politely decline by saying you had already packed an apple with almond butter for your snack today. Or a simple, “No thanks, but thanks for asking,” always does the trick too!

exercise_02F026015. Exercise. Daily physical activity is one of the most important keys for a healthy metabolism and weight management. It’s time to put the “excuse book” away and start moving today.

Let’s Get Fit

gymsIt’s that time of year again. Group fitness classes are packed, parking spots are limited and time limits on cardio equipment are more heavily enforced. It’s the New Year and everyone is hitting the gym. The New Year’s gym trend occurs all over. When I was teaching in college, students would line up outside the fitness studio at least 30 minutes before class began to ensure they would get a spot. Instructors loved having the large class participation and, quite honestly, it was a huge adrenaline rush. However, after spring break had come and gone, class sizes usually dropped down to less than 50% of the previous quarter’s numbers.

First and foremost, I commend anyone who is focusing on making their life healthier by becoming more physically active. But a healthy, long life is not made by only going to the gym three months out of the year. If you are embarking on a new fitness journey, here are some key tips to remember:

Do NOT compare yourself to others. Even to this day, I still catch myself doing this from time to time at Crossfit. I’ll watch fellow crossfitters, whom I see as equal athletes to myself, deadlift more, row faster and perform more burpees than me. Something I tell my fitness participants in spinning class is “Don’t compare your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 20” and these words could not be any truer in my situation. Comparing oneself to others is one of the biggest fitness/health mistakes one can make as it often overshadows our own accomplishments and feats. When I started Crossfit 6 months ago, I needed a band in order to do a pull-up. Today, I can knock out 5 unassisted, strict pull-ups and I often overlook these strength gains I have made by too frequently comparing myself to others. When you’re in a class or working out on your own, don’t compete against the person exercising next to you. If you’re going to compete against someone, compete against yourself. See if you can push a little harder or match your previous workout’s accomplishments and remember the person working out today is much healthier than the person who was sitting on the couch yesterday.20110952-crossfit-fitness-trx-training-exercises-at-gym-woman-and-man-side-push-up-workout

It’s okay NOT to do what everyone else is doing in class. In any fitness class, you are going to have a wide variety of people with different fitness and experience levels. A great fitness instructor will demonstrate several modifications for an exercise so that everyone can equally participate in class. Stick with the variation that comfortably challenges you. Typically there are at least three levels of modifications for most exercises, and your instructor should show all varieties and perform the middle modification for the majority of the class. If you feel that there were not enough modifications given, talk to your instructor during one of the drink breaks or after class. Their job is not to “get paid to work out” rather they should be providing guidance, knowledge and motivation to group fitness participants.

Bring water. Water is essential when someone is exercising. A good rule of thumb is to take a drink of water every 10-15 minutes (or even more often when exercising intensely) when working out. Remember to continue to drink water after your workouts since a large amount of fluid is lost through perspiration. I took my first spinning class over 7 years ago. I specifically remember thinking, “This can’t be that hard, I ride my bike outside all the time. Why would I need a water bottle?” Four minutes into class, I was seen racing to the vending machines to purchase a water bottle.

Wipe down equipment before and after you use it. You are never guaranteed that the person before you wiped down the piece of equipment after they had used it. This is why I always wipe down my weight or cardio machine before I begin my exercise. With cold and flu season in full swing, the gym is a breeding ground for sickness with so many people together in an enclosed setting.

Photo Courtesy: http://www.123rf.com/

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.

Figge’s Favorite Things (Part Two)

Happy Holidays and welcome to the second part of Figge’s Favorite Things. Here is the second half of my personal list of favorite things to keep you happy and healthy this season.

7. Amy Dixon-home fitness workouts Amy Dixon has always been one of my favorite fitness experts. I have had the pleasure of meeting her at several fitness conferences and learn more from her with each new session that I go to. Whether you’re an avid athlete or beginner to exercise, Amy and her team demonstrates a variety of levels and modifications to guarantee you will have a safe and effective workout. You can find her DVDs on her website or at select Costco stores.crockpot

8. Crockpot I never thought I needed a crockpot until we received one as a wedding gift. This kitchen must-have saves valuable time for making healthy and delicious meals.

9. www.steepandcheap.com This is a great website for your outdoor adventure needs. Don’t wait too long on the deals, because they are only available for a limited amount of time.

photo 310. DIY projects Last year I made my very first appearance in the DIY world. My first project I selected was from Michaels and was a Family Name banner.To my surprise, it was quite rewarding and made awesome gifts. DIY projects can save you a lot of money in gift-giving and provides opportunities to test your creative skills.

11. CrossFit Instinct. My crossfit journey began a little over four months ago. A co-worker had asked me if I would join her in one of the free Saturday morning classes they offer and I have been hooked ever since. Excellence shines in the coaching staff and programming at Crossfit Instinct. In just a few short months, I have accomplished fitness goals that I never thought imaginable such as unassisted pull-ups and dead-lifting over 150 lbs.65 Check out a free on-ramp class for yourself and see what your body is capable of doing!

12. Mindless Eating by Dr. Brian Wansink. In this book, Dr. Brian Wansink addresses the environmental cues that cause us to overeat or have bad mindless eating habits. By making readers more aware of their surroundings, we can turn our bad mindless habits into good, healthy ones.

13.Dr. Dan’s Cortibalm: The winter months  are always difficult on my lips. Between walking the dog, snowboarding and other fun outdoor activities, my lips are always chapped, cracked and can even bleed sometimes. Dr. Dan’s Cortibalm lip ointment has been a lifesaver. Typically lip balms make my lips peel even more, but this special formula leaves them soft, smooth and protects against the harsh weather.

photo 114. PuppiesBecause who doesn’t love puppies?

In case you missed itFigge’s Favorite Things (Part One).