Archive for the ‘fitness’ Category

Give It Up

February 18, 2015

It is February. It is freezing in most of the country. Those New Year’s resolutions seem so far away, even if it has only been 6 weeks.

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I don’t know about you, but my resolve has weakened a bit. It started with broken cookies. (Insert shameless plug: those homemade graham crackers from indigo jones eats are amazing!) With a double boiler full of melted dark chocolate on the stove from morning until night, I confess that I took to dribbling a little on my fat free Greek yogurt in the morning. Without going any further, I will just state that you would be amazed at what tastes great dipped in a little chocolate.

There have been birthday dinners, followed by an extreme desire to stay in and binge watch series on Netflix and Hulu.

Something has to give, and I think I just found it.
Today, Christians observe Ash Wednesday,which marks the beginning of Lent; a period of “fasting” which extends until Easter Sunday. This is typically a time when they give up something they enjoy for 40 days. Although this time frame is longer, Sundays appear to be fair game.

While I am not Christian, and do not wish to exploit a meaningful religous practice, the idea of giving up something for Lent is kind of appealing to me. It is a good long period of time to let a bad habit go, be it a food, drink, or doing something we know is not good for us. Why not designate this period as a non-denominational time of cleaning up our collective acts? My list of things I could give up is a little longer than usual, but picking just one, and commiting to it could make a big difference in my life.
The idea that it takes 21 days to form a habit has been widely disputed by experts, but certainly 40 days should be enough to at least get on the right track, right?

So who’s with me? What are willing to give up for 40 days to get on track for a better, healthier lifestyle?

photo: glasshouse images

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Image Issues

February 16, 2015

Cindy Crawford is arguably one of the most beautiful women on the planet. At 49 years old, she is still posing in a bikini with the confidence of a 20 year old, and from most accounts, looking pretty damn good doing so.

Recently, this unretouched photo from a 2013 Marie Claire photoshoot leaked and has been taking the internet by a storm. It features Ms. Crawford in a bikini, looking a lot more average than we expected.

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Ah, the wonders of Photoshop! Celebs have even taken to using it to touch up their Instagram selfies. The blatant overuse of this tool has given us a false sense of what people really look like, and has caused some damage to our self esteem in the process.

As regular readers, you know I work out hard and often, and try to eat as healthfully as possible. I hate the idea of looking good for my age, and want to just plain look good. I am forever comparing myself to other women, often those half my age, and trying to fine tune my body to fit the image of attractiveness I see out there. Although I am in pretty good shape, I am self conscious in a swim suit, and I constantly obsess over every little imperfection.

Seeing Cindy Crawford raw and unretouched made me instantly feel better about myself. It made me realize that a good part of the things I try so hard to perfect, aren’t perfect on the celebrities I see either. Many stars have admitted to wearing double Spanx that are so tight they can’t eat or use the bathroom at red carpet events. We have all seen photoshop fails where the pictures are so over edited, that the model appears deformed, but we forget that all magazine photos have been retouched to some extent. Those jiggly parts are simply removed, and skin is smoothed over to look almost poreless. While it is nearly impossible to spot reduce in real life, it’s super easy to do with Photoshop. And all of this retouching has created an unrealistic view of what is beautiful. It holds us to a higher standard that apparently, even supermodels can’t achieve.

Seeing Cindy Crawford looking a little “soft” shows us another side of beauty that is more about feeling comfortable in your own skin, albiet skin that is a little puckered and blotchy.

photo: Marie Claire

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How To Stay Healthy

February 5, 2015

It’s the height of cold and flu season, and germs are absolutely everywhere. We all know that we should wash our hands thouroughly with soap and water and avoid touching our faces as a precaution. We also know the subway pole at rush hour is probably more germ ridden than a public toilet seat, but sometimes we have to touch it anyways.

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But what else do we touch that could potentially be a cesspool of germs?

When was the last time you wiped down both sides of your cell phone, and your earbuds? Do you wipe the light switches and door knobs in your home? How about the refrigerator door handle? Do you ever clean the remote control, or the railings of your staircase? Your key- board and mouse? A no brainer.

You can’t control the air quality when trapped in a plane or train, but you can take a few minutes to disinfect your seat, armrests and tray tables. So what if someone looks at you like you are crazy? If it keeps me healthy, I can take the smirk of a stranger. When I boarded a flight last summer that didn’t smell so good, the row behind me was happy to take a disinfectant wipe when they found traces of vomit on their seats. I can’t even think about what is there that we don’t see. (Shudder.)

Warm, moist environments are breeding grounds for germs. Run your washing machine through a cycle with a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar and hot water to clean the machine itself. You can do the same with the dishwasher.

Walk into the gym at the begining of a class, and everything seems clean and fresh. Check it out at the end of the class when the weights, bikes and mats are covered with sweat. Arrive a little early and wipe down your equipment before using it. Trust me, it’s gross.

Many viruses are airborne. If someone is coughing or sneezing near you, try to hold your breath for at least 10 or 15 seconds and turn away, to avoid breathing in the recently released germs.

Much of our immunity is in our stomachs. Your gut has a barrier of healthy bacteria that can prevent the absorbtion of pathogens. Probiotics can enhance this barrier. In addition to taking a probiotic suppliment, you can eat more fermented foods, drink kumbucha, or eat plain yogurt.

Of course the stronger your immune system is, the healthier you will stay. In addition to employing Howard Hughes like tactics to avoid germs, it’s important to maintain good health by eating well, staying hydrated, getting exercise and sufficient sleep.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Fitness Falsehoods

January 28, 2015

 

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You are almost one month into the new year. So, how are those resolutions coming?

Yeah, it’s been cold. Yeah, it snowed. We all need carbs to survive a natural disaster, right? (I know I do!)

Sometimes we talk ourselves into believing that things are going better than they really are. Here are a few of the fitness falsehoods that people use to justify how things really are.

Some of my favorites:

“I weigh more because muscle weighs more than fat.” Ah, sorry, but a pound of muscle weighs a pound and a pound of fat weighs…you guessed it, a pound. You can’t convert fat into muscle. It’s simply not possible. It’s like turning water into wine. You can, however, burn off fat and replace that space with muscle. You need a healthy diet and training program to do that.

“I can’t lift heavy weights or put too much resistance on my bike or I’ll bulk up.” Oh, if it was that easy! Most women generally don’t have enough testosterone to build gigantic muscles on their own. It takes a lot of heavy lifting to build any muscle. Tossing around those 2 pounders aren’t doing much for you, and using cardio equiptment with out any resistance isn’t going to get you results either. I bet your purse weighs more than those little dumbells you are curling with. If you want the rewards, do the work.

“I’ve been walking and I’m not seeing results.” Chances are, you aren’t walking fast enough to make a difference. Slow walking, or using cardio equiptment without speed and resisistance doesn’t burn enough calories to offset your latte. Assuming you are healthy, you need to ramp it up to see results.

“Lots of crunches will give me flat abs.” Lots of crunches, and other (better) abs exercises will build abdonminal muscles, but if they are hidden under a layer (or 2) of fat, you won’t see them. There is an old saying that 80% of great abs are made in the kitchen and 20% in the gym. Sadly, it’s true. Revamp your diet, and reap the benefits.

“This week is a bust. I’ll start my diet on Monday.” We’ve all been there. But why wait until Monday? You are just one meal away from getting back on track. Which do you want more? To have a six pack, or to consume one? Make a choice and move on.

Vintage photo: Glasshouse Images

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Obesity and Cancer

January 14, 2015

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Look out tobacco, there is a new risk in town. Yes, something else is running so rampant in our society, that it is about to replace tobacco use as the leading cause of cancer.

According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, obesity is poised to overtake tobacco as the number one modifiable factor in cancer risk.

While most everyone is aware of the link between smoking and lung cancer, very few know about the connection between cancer and being over wieght.

Tobacco use has dropped over the years, largely due to the restrictions on it’s use throughout the United States, and many other countries. The obesity rate, however continues to grow. According to Dr. Clifford Hudis, a physician at Memorial Sloane Kettering and a former president of the ASCO, current projections state that 60% of all  residents of southern states will be obese by 2030.

While more research needs to be done, cancer risk is just another reason to maintain a healthy weight. Adjusting one’s diet is a key factor in overall good health and may contribute to warding off cancer, in addition to hypertension, diabetes and arthritis.

To help support life saving research and clinical trials, please consider contributing to our Cycle for Survival team. Every dollar raised goes to help fund this valuable work. This week, every donation will be matched, doubling your impact.

http://mskcc.convio.net/site/TR/CycleforSurvival/AG_Cycle_Event?px=1218161&pg=personal&fr_id=2340

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Resolutioner’s Etiquette

January 12, 2015

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It is that time of year again, when everyone vows to workout, joins a gym and then….you know the rest.

Coming from someone who is there all year long, year after year, I am here to tell you that you are annoying. While us regulars applaud your new found commitment and wish you lots of luck sticking with it, most of you are in our way, doing things that inhibit our workout, and taking up valuable space on equipment and in classes.

In an effort to have us all live happily over the next few weeks when most of you will go away as quickly as you arrived, let’s go over the ground rules once again, okay?

Know which classes require pre-booking (cycling) and which you can just walk into. We don’t take kindly to you stealing the bike we got up at the crack of dawn to book, only to have you waltz out 10 minutes in when you’ve had enough.

If you are new, get to class a little early to get help setting up, so the instructor can get things started on time.

Don’t do your own thing in a group fitness situation. There is a group for a reason. It’s very distracting to watch you flailing away at your own speed when we are doing drills. In a class like spinning, reduce your resistance to make it easier, but keep up the pace.

Don’t just stand around fiddling with your phone, or chatting with friends. You are in the way. And as for that phone, don’t even THINK about talking on it. Most gyms have a policy against it, and most people really don’t want hear you talking on it. If you are in a class, leave it elsewhere.

Pick up your towel. Even in a full service gym with lots of staff to do it for you. It’s rude, and inevitably, someone else will have to move it or climb over it before they can get to it.

If you should actually break a sweat, wipe it up! I mean, yuck!

Don’t spread your stuff out on the locker room bench so that nobody can sit on it or put their stuff down. And speaking of sitting on it, please don’t do it bare back, if you get my drift.

If there is a row of cardio equiptment, don’t take the treadmill or elliptical right next to someone else if there are lots of open ones. It’s just creepy.

Don’t leave your stuff all over the weight area to stake your turf and then not use said turf. Also, don’t do few reps and then sit there and play with your phone and your hair while others are waiting for that equiptment.

If you wear something to workout in, please wash it. Even if it doesn’t seem to smell bad and you think you can wear it again, you can’t. Trust us. The new sweat reactivates the old sweat, and the stench is stinky squared.

Please put your bag, coat, and coffee cup in a locker. Your stuff laying all over the place when it’s crowded is a nuisence, and a hazard.

When your coffee inevitably spills, please wipe it up.

It’s great that you have a workout buddy. Can you actually work out?
We don’t want to know about your date, your friend, your boss, your new shoes or hear you recite your last 7 text messages. Like, ok? OMG,that’s awesome.

We were newbies once, and we pushed through, so if you do it right, you can too.

Here are a few suggestions for success.

Schedule your workouts like you would a haircut or a dental appointment, and show up.

Try to workout at a similar time of day to start creating a habit. It will make it easier to maintain.

Set realistic goals: start with twice a week for a couple of weeks, then add another day. If you commit to too much too soon, you won’t be able to handle it, and you will become a New Year’s Resolution statistic.

If you can afford a personal trainer for a few sessions, get one. They will help you learn proper form, create a well balanced workout for you and get you off to a good start, injury free.

You probably aren’t burning as many calories as you think. Don’t undue your good work by treating yourself to a fattening snack. If you don’t adjust your diet, you won’t see results, and you will get discouraged.

Missing a workout or eating something you shouldn’t doesn’t mean it’s all over. You are only one meal or one workout away from being back on track.

See you at the gym!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Our Crystal Ball: Fitness Edition

December 18, 2014

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There are trends in everything, from fashion and interiors, to cosmetics, food and even fitness. As the new year approaches, here are a few of the the fitness trends lurking in our crystal ball:

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Treadmill workouts:
We have been inundated with indoor cycling studios for the past few years, and if you have ever tried to book a class at Soul Cycle, or a Saturday morning ride with Wil Ashley at Equinox, you know just how popular and almost cult-like spinning has become. The great music, high intensity intervals, encouraging (and sometimes intimidating) coaching, and a high calorie burn are some of the reasons people flock to studio cycling. This year, we expect to see the phenomenon spread to running, with indoor treadmill workouts starting to appear around town. Equinox launched it’s Precision Running series a few months ago, and new studio, Mile High Run Club is already getting some buzz. Watch for more and more studios and classes to start popping up around town in the new year.

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Recovery and Rejuvenation:

We hit it hard everyday… running, spinning and doing high intensity metabolic training with weights. This results in fatigue, sore muscles and plain old exhaustion.

This year, expect to see classes that focus on aiding recovery, using foam rollers, therapy balls and other tools to help undue the knots and kinks from working out through myofascial release  I love Laura Ward’s Pilates /Bartenieff Fusion which gives me a great stretch and release after one of the afore mentioned cycling classes.

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Body Weight Training:

Lately I seem to be reading more and more about body weight training, which relies on your own body to provide the burn. Bypassing weights and machines for old school rounds of burpees, pushups, lunges, and squats is taking off, and classes that include 30-60 second rounds of each of these exercises in quick secession are trending upwards. Look for adult “playgrounds” to emerge, with jungle gyms and other simple equipment suitable for pull-ups, climbing and suspension training.

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Wearable Tech and Digital Engagement:
It seems everyone has a wearable technology device on their wrist, tracking activity, calories, steps and even sleep. As technology improves, and more companies enter the arena, we will start seeing even more digital engagement. Apple’s Health app becoming standard on all iPhones, is just a start, and the much anticipated release of the Apple watch could be a major game changer in 2015. Designer takes on wearable technology, from notables such as Tory Burch for Fitbit, will make health and fitness tracking fashionable.

Shorter workouts at a higher intensity:

High intensity interval training (HIIT) has been the big thing for a while and will continue to gain momentum. With life getting busier and busier, people are looking for more bang from their gym time buck. Tabata reared it’s head a couple of years ago, and variations of the 4 minute rounds of super high intensity 20 second intervals with 10 second recoveries have been appearing in fitness classes everywhere, including cycling, running and strength training disciplines. Compound movements are stepping into the forefront now, shortening workouts by combining moves that target multiple muscle groups. Think squat or lunges with bicep curls and presses, or plank variations. Circuit training classes, such as Equinox’s MetCon3 or Stacked, combine compound movements with plyo movements to get the heart rate up, as well as build strength. Shockwave, adds rowing intervals to mix, leaving participants breathless and into the coveted anaerobic zone, which builds muscle and increases stamina through oxygen depletion.

 

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Morning Yoga Raves:

Early morning dance parties, featuring healthy juices, yoga and meditation instead of cigarettes, drugs and alcohol, are taking place in big cities across the globe. Start your day with an underground party before work, for an uplifting, social and spiritual awakening. Watch for this trend to spread as an alternative to the current club scene.

Stay tuned for more predictions in the world of food, fashion, and fitness for the coming year.

Photos: Glasshouse Images

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Don’t Start the New Year Fat

December 15, 2014

Girl in party hat, blowing up balloon

It’s holiday season, which often means  lots of celebrations. Celebrations mean food and alcohol, late nights, and skipped workouts.

Today, I overheard a conversation between some women on the mat while stretching after spin class. It went like this: Person 1;” I can’t wait until January, so I can stop eating too much and get back to normal.”

Person 2: “I know, right? I got on the scale and couldn’t believe my eyes. I will get on track after the first of the year.”

Male person 3: Why not just reel it in now?

{crickets}

Sorry ladies, but the guy is right. It’s easy to over indulge at a party, and it’s also perfectly ok to do so once in a while. But every meal is not a party, and there is ample opportunity to practice good judgement to offset the less healthy treats you will be partaking in later.

It’s a slippery slope. We get off track, and then adopt a WTF attitude for the rest of the week, or the entire holiday season.  I’ve been there. I get it. But this year, I am committed that I am not going to enter a new year feeling bad about myself. I want to start the year off on the right foot.

There is no time like the present, and I have been more diligent than ever to amp up my workouts, and eat healthfully and mindfully when I am home, knowing full well that when I go out I am going to enjoy myself. This doesn’t mean starving myself between treats. That never ends well. It does mean viewing my meals as fuel and nourishment, and not just stuffing cookies in my face. With the recent launch of indigo jones eats, I have been elbow deep in cookie dough and chocolate for days on end. It hasn’t been easy not to sample every batch, but I know I feel better by not doing so.

Here are a few of my personal strategies to manage holiday indulgences:

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1. Know when the parties are, and that is when you are going to throw caution to the wind and imbibe in whatever you want. All other times, eat healthfully.

2. In between, set strict eating guidelines, and stick to them. I have been eating a very high protein, low fat, low carb diet. I make sure that I have the right foods on hand so that I don’t grab the wrong thing when I’m hungry, by default. When I have a craving, I remind myself that I can have whatever I want at the upcoming party. So far, that tactic is working.

3. I consider what the upcoming event might be. Should I eat something first, so I am not at a cocktail party or an open house, eating fattening nibbles instead of a healthy meal? Is it a sit down event with a menu. Can I make a healthy choice for the main course, and then share a dessert?

4. For every cookie, candy, or cheesy, carb-y whatever, ask yourself if it’s worth the calories. Why waste them on a mediocre, stale pastry, when you can walk away and feel good about your self control, and the way your pants fit? If the answer is yes, by the way, go for it!

5.If it’s special, if it’s decadent, if it’s out of this world delicious…eat it, savor it, enjoy it and don’t look back. After all, you only live once.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Can You Exercise and Still Gain Weight? SPOILER: YUP!

November 19, 2014

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Did the New York Times act responsably when they wrote about a recent study of weight management and exercise?
The article, entitled “Exercising but Gaining Weight,” takes a look at research conducted at Arizona State University, following 81 healthy, but sedentary women who were overweight.

The women participated in a supervised exercise program where they walked on a treadmill 3 times a week for 30 minutes, at a pace that represented 80% of their maximum endurance.

They were told not to alter their diet or eating habits during the 12 week study. At the end of the study, all of the women had significantly increased their aerobic fitness, but many had also gained weight attributed to fat, not added muscle.

Are you shocked? I certainly am not. The average 150 pound person would burn about 142 calories walking briskly for 30 minutes.A 200 pound person might burn about 172 calories in the same time. Do the math, and at best, these people would have lost between 1.4 and 1.7 pounds over the 12 week period. That’s it. Less than 2 pounds!

I would venture to guess that the increase in activity led them to be a little hungrier, and maybe a little more tired, causing them to eat a bit more and move a bit less throughout the day. It’s no surprise to me, that these people gained weight.

I see woman at the gym struggle through a cycling class, only to spend the next hour or two at the juice bar, replacing practically every calorie they burned with carbs. Exercise isn’t a magic pill. Slow, consistent cardio doesn’t burn much fat. To see results, it takes a combination of strength training and cardio with intervals to spike your heart rate.
What you put into your body is of even greater importance. Moving more and eating more, especially more of the wrong foods, is going to cause weight gain. It’s that simple.

A congratulatory post workout snack at Starbucks would run about 600 calories for a tall Pumpkin Spice Latte and a muffin. Try that three times a week and see where that gets you.

I calculate a 6 pound weight gain from that alone!

It doesn’t take a degree, or an elaborate study to come to these conclusions.

Did the Times do a disservice to it’s less fitness conscious readers by printing this study? Does it send a message that exercise isn’t going to help you lose weight so you shouldn’t bother?

While I am sure people are using this study to validate their sedentary existence, I am not going to give up my gym membership just yet.

Read the article in it’s entirety here:

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Know When to Say When

November 6, 2014

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When it comes to exercise, more is not always more. I, like many of us, worry that skipping a day will slow my progress. I go hard most days,and I am well read enough to know that the real change occurs during recovery. I always take one full day off from the gym each week; sometimes two. During those days I walk as much as I can, and try to be active, without actually working out.
When I left my cycling class on Tuesday, I was drained. I followed it up with a Pilates mat class, which served to loosen up and stretch out some of the muscles that were screaming for relief. I vowed that Wednesday would be my active recovery day.
Fast forward to Tuesday evening, when a broken pipe in our building started flooding the studio.
Plumbers arrived late that night and after a lot of banging and some nasty sewage odors, deemed our water off limits.
Wednesday morning arrived and every muscle in my body was sore.  I was moving at a snail’s pace. Without the use of the kitchen or bathroom, I sauntered off to my oasis: the gym.
I figured that as long as I was there, I might as well do something. After an hour of weight training and some foam rolling, I hit the shower. I was dehydrated and hungry which didn’t exactly help my situation.
That evening, we had an event to go to. While we said we would have a quick glass of wine, shake some hands and leave, we ended up staying for few hours, standing in high heels on marble floors.
By the time we left, my legs and my back and shoulders were screaming. It was too late for dinner, and I ended the day with unhealthy snacks.
Like a zombie on auto pilot, I hit my cycling class this morning. Despite being tired,sore and not so well fueled, I took a few Advil and pushed through. Since returning,I have finally given in to the exhaustion.
The moral of this not so short story? LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! Pushing past it yesterday didn’t do my any favors. My performance at the gym today was subpar and my productivity this afternoon is well below that. Muscles and minds need a little reprieve to reboot and power back up. Overworking any of those can lead to burn out or injury.
Powering through a tough workout is often mind over matter. When the discomfort sets in, we need to convince ourselves to keep going unless we feel ill or injured. But by the same token, we need to know when to say “when.”
Tomorrow,without a doubt, is a recovery day.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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