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).


5 Myths About Diabetes

Česky: Aplikace "rychlého" inzulínu ...1. Diabetics have to give up all sweets and desserts.

Having a diagnosis of diabetes certainly does not mean that one has to forever give up their favorite desserts or sweet treats. However, these are foods that should be enjoyed less often and in smaller portion sizes since high-sugar desserts can cause blood sugars to become more elevated. A serving size of a brownie is a 2 inch x 2 inch square and the proper portion of ice cream is one scoop or ½ cup. Cakes and pies tend to be richer in carbohydrates and should only be enjoyed on special occasions.

2. You can eat as much as you want if it says “sugar-free.”  

Sugar-free does not mean carbohydrate-free. Controlling carbohydrate intake is one of the most essential dietary modifications for diabetics to make. In efforts to reduce carbohydrate intake, many linger towards sugar-free products. These products may contain fewer carbohydrates than their regular counterparts, but they still do contain carbohydrates and portion sizes need to be  monitored. One staple of my childhood summers was Schwann’s ice cream. Schwan’s no sugar added, fat-free vanilla ice cream sounds like a perfect healthy option, right? However, a ½ cup serving contains 19 grams of carbohydrates. One serving of the regular vanilla ice cream contains 15 grams of carbohydrates. For this particular example, the no sugar added variety actually contains more carbs than the regular version. This highlights the importance to always read food labels and to compare like-products when deciding on a brand/variety to purchase.

3. You will have to start taking insulin

When someone has diabetes, it means that their body; is not producing enough insulin or not efficiently using the insulin available in their body causing abnormal blood sugar levels. Sometimes diabetic medications are needed to help the body properly use the insulin that is currently available and better control one’s blood sugars. For some people, this is not enough and these individuals require insulin shots. However, many individuals can control their blood sugars simply by eating healthier, losing weight and increasing their physical activity levels.

4. I’m not obese; I won’t get diabetes.

Diabetes comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s important to have a yearly physical with your doctor to make sure you are not experiencing any early signs of diabetes. These can include:

  • Urinating often
  • Feeling extra thirsty or extra hungry
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Cuts/bruises that are healing poorly
  • Tingling, pain, numbness in hands or feet

Gummy candy5. Diabetes is caused from eating too much candy.

Type 2 diabetes has a strong family link but it can also be triggered by environmental factors such as obesity, eating habits, meal patterns and exercise habits. Being overweight is often caused from excessive calorie intake. Sugar-packed foods and beverages such as candy and soda are a common source of extra, unnecessary calories in the diet. Following a healthy diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, beans, nuts/seeds and low in added fats and sugar can help reduce one’s risk for developing diabetes.

Becoming Stronger Than Your Excuses : Part Three

a slow cooker Oval Crock Potcrockpot

Taking on healthy eating habits, typically does not occur over night, rather it’s a gradual progression of gaining knowledge and understanding between health foods and less-healthy foods and finding strategies to make health foods fit into one’s lifestyle.

When someone states “I don’t have enough time to make a healthy meal”, my first two questions are “do you have a crockpot” and “do you have a day off during the week”?

Prepare meals ahead of time on your days off. One cooking approach I took up in grad school was cooking my proteins in bulk. On Sundays, I would bake or grill several chicken breasts or fish to have on reserve for my lunches and dinners for the next several days. Doing this saved me time and energy in preparing healthy and well-balanced meals when I would get home after a 12-hour work day as an intern. Using a crock pot is a great method for cooking for those with busy schedules. Home-cooked meals are often lower in sodium than those purchased away from the home.

Purchase pre-cut vegetables or ready-made salads. Purchasing whole vegetables and cutting them up ahead of time will save you a lot of money, but not necessarily time. What’s great about most grocery stores is that they offer pre-cut vegetables that can be thrown into a stir-fry, salad or consumed raw as a snack. Most supermarkets also offer freshly prepared salads which are often bigger (so you can use them for more than one meal) and more cost-effective than a single-serve salad purchased from a fast food restaurant.

Consistency is key. You must be consistent to make any change. This principle applies to many aspects of health. In order for a post-workout protein snack to be most effective, it needs to be taken consistently (for those participating in vigorous strength-training programs). Good habits are as addictive as bad habits. Form a new one now! Eating breakfast can jumpfood3_MP900411701start your metabolism, but it won’t have a lasting effect if you only consume breakfast 2-3 days per week. Exercise can have similar effects on muscle cells just like  Metformin, a common diabetic medication. However, these beneficial effects of exercise last less than 48 hours, raising the importance of daily physical activity. Forming healthy habits can be a challenge for some, but when we identify barriers (our excuses) we can find ways to overcome our challenges and lead healthy, active lives.

Every day is a good day. Some days are just more challenging than others.

I’d love to hear from you! Share your favorite healthy crock pot meals that you have made below in the comment section.

Photo Credit : www.crockpot.com

Becoming Stronger Than Your Excuses : Part Two

mid section view of a woman cutting vegetablesYou don’t have to go fast–you just have to go.

A friend told me a quote her mother would say, “Never start new diets on Friday.” Unfortunately, many people have this mentality that they will start their new diet or new exercise habits tomorrow or someday. And then tomorrow turns into next week and next week turns into after football season and the cycle continues on and on. Sound familiar? Bottom line is, you need to start making healthy changes TODAY. When you are not prioritizing your health, you make an easy entrance for illness and disease to come into your life.

Someday is not a day during the week. Many people like to use  the weather for their barrier to exercise. Many patients state that they will walk more when the weather gets warmer. And when I see those patients again 3-6 months later, many will claim that it was too hot to walk outside. I agree, the weather in Illinois can be quite ferocious and can throw a curveball into anyone’s outdoor exercise routine. However, there are so many opportunities to increase one’s physical activity indoors. Ten-dollar gyms have sprung up like

English: A picture of the inside of a remodele...

wildflowers, especially here in central Illinois. Most people can afford a $10/month gym membership. I’ve even had people state that they cannot afford that; but, when you look into someone’s unhealthy habits $10 is the same amount one would pay to go through a drive-thru and get a value meal or what you would spend on  a couple of packs of cigarettes.You can also take advantage of free walking opportunities such as the mall or large department stores. Wal-Mart, Lowes, and Menards are great stores were you could easily walk a mile simply by making a few laps around the perimeter.

You can feel sore tomorrow or you can feel sorry tomorrow. You have the power to choose.