Archive for the ‘fitness’ Category

Health Kick: Adaptogens

May 19, 2016

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Green smoothies, acai bowls and bee pollen shots have all had their moments in the sun. Move over and make room at the juice bar guys, because the latest trend to take over the health and wellness is community is the adaptogen.

Adaptogens are super-herbs that help the body fight the back against the stressors in our lives. They help us come back from intense workouts that over tax our bodies, and shake off the negative effects of the L -train shutdown at rush hour. They also are proven to help us sleep better, improve our sex lives and increase our attention span.

Living up to their name, adaptogens have the ability to adapt their functions to the body’s specific needs, while providing support to the adrenal glands that manage our hormonal stress reponses.While they have recently gained popularity, these power herbs are not new. In fact, they have been part of Ayervedic and Chinese medicines for centuries.

Some herbs with known adaptogenic properties are various types of ginsing, astragalus, licorice, (no, Twizzlers don’t count!) maca, and holy basil.

Many of these adaptogens are featured in Gwyneth Paltrow’s infamous “Morning Smoothie” recipe, purported to cost about $200 to make. Her smoothie contains maca, ashwagandha, ho shou wu and cordyceps, in addition to a teaspoon of moon dust, a compound available in various blends including Brain Dust, Beauty Dust and Spirit Dust, each selling for $55-$65 for a 2 oz. jar, from Moon Juice in L.A.

Don’t stress out if your adaptogens don’t seem to be working right away. It can take several weeks to feel the positive effects.

Want to learn more? Well + Good has a guide to Everything You Need To Know About Adaptogens to help you out.

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Shake It Up

May 2, 2016

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Lately, I have been feeling like my workouts need shaking up. I have fallen into the habit of taking a variety of cycling classes four times a week, and an endurance based weight circut class, followed by abs class once a week. I toss in a post-cycling pilates class when I can. I take one day off, where the most strenuous exercise I do is walk. That leaves one day per week to fit in weight training, running or another much needed rest day. With my regimen of extremely healthy eating and tough, consistent workouts, I seem to have hit a plateau, even sliding down the mountain a bit, if you will.
This week, fate seems to be taking my need to shake it up into their own hands.
About a month or two ago, one of my favorite instructors dropped many of his morning classes, two of which were mine. I found great replacements and continued my regular schedule with minor tweaks. This week, two different instructors announced their recent promotions to corporate, which means they are dropping my classes. I have been feeling like one of my other classes with a longtime favorite instructor is getting stale. The workout feels punishing and exhausting, rather than envigorating, while pushing my body past it’s limits, and out of my comfort zone. Maybe this is the universe telling me to lift more and spin less.

Truth be told, if the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again without results, I am at the precipice of crazy town. It is time to move along. 

Starting a new month is the perfect time to re-evaluate my fitness goals and how to achieve them. I am exploring new classes, other gym locations and plan to get into the weight room instead of the cycling studio a few days a week.
I don’t want to give up the blood pumping, heavy breathing and  exhilaration of cycling. I just know that I need to mix it up to get better results.

Do you ever get in a fitness rut? Share you experiences in the comment section.

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Germ Patrol

March 21, 2016

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When we think of spring cleaning, our minds immediately go to purging our closets, uncluttering our cupboards and giving things a good old fashioned scrubbing. While that is a great practice, there are little things that we often overlook that may be harboring nasty germs. When was the last time you cleaned your gym stuff?

Earbuds: They get tossed in your bag or your pocket with who knows-what-else, and then stuck inside your ears. Not only are they covered with bacteria from the bottom of your bag, or inside of your pocket, they are also covered in earwax and sweat from your ears. Take a moment to think about how gross that is, and then take action!
Use a toothpick to gently remove any visable gunk, and then wipe them down with a cloth that has been very lightly saturated in rubbing alcohol. Make sure the cloth is just damp, so that no moisture gets inside the earpiece. They will not only look and feel better, but they will sound better too!

Fitness Tracker:  We wear these items religiously on our wrists, day and night, and especially when we are working up a sweat. Do you ever think about cleaning them? Some trackers are water resistant and can be worn in the shower, like the Nike Fuel Band, while others need to be removed first. Make a habit of wiping down the band with either rubbing alcohol or a disinfectant wipe after hitting the gym. Would you take a shower and then put your used socks back on? Then don’t put your sweat covered tracker back on either. Most devices have manufacturer’s suggested methods for cleaning them. Fitbit suggests using a toothpick in the computer port in the back to gently remove any build up, and then using Q-Tips lightly soaked in alcohol to wipe the back area clean. (Are you seeing a pattern here yet?)

Gym Bag: We lay it on the floor, inside a locker and fill it with sweaty clothes and dirty sneakers, yet we don’t often think about cleaning it. If you use a washable bag, you are in luck. Toss it in the washer and dryer to freshen it up often. For many other bags, it isn’t quite so simple. Nylon bags can be wiped down with a soapy cloth and air dried. Wiping it down inside and out with an antibacterial wipe regularly is a good practice. Don’t forget the handles!

Yoga Mat: If you tote your own, its a good idea to keep it clean. Wipe it down with a solution of water and apple cider vinegar to disinfect it naturally and keep the rubber from degrading. Airdry it fully open and away from direct sunlight. If you use the mats available at the gym or studio that are shared by others, this might not be possible. Tote some antibacterial wipes along to give it good once over before beginning your practice.There are also special mat sprays available from a variety of sources, or you can make your own. Simply fill a small spray bottle with purified water (spring, distilled or filtered,) and a couple of drops of teatree oil and a drop of lavendar oil. Teatree oil is a natural antifungal and antibacterial and lavender helps  relaxation  and relieves tension. While you’re at it, give your sneakers a good squirt.

Phone: This is probably the most handled and germiest thing we own. It goes everywhere we go, and provides tunes to push us through our sweatiest of workouts. Show it some love, and clean it off. Apple does not advise using anything more than a lint free cloth to clean off their iPhones and iPads. Other sites claim a lint free cloth soaked in a little, you guessed it, alcohol is ok once in awhile. Apple also sells something called iKlenz spray, which is approved for use on their products. Using a screen protector is helpful as that can be wiped off, or easily and inexpensively replaced. The cases we use can be cleaned, and depending on the material they are made of, many can be removed and washed with a mild soap and water solution. Check with the manufacturer as to how you can clean your case.

Sneakers: Washing and drying sneakers isn’t a good idea, as it can damage the midsoles. If you do choose to put them in the washing machine, use a gentle cycle, and stuff them with newspaper to hold their shape while air drying. Alternatively, use a toothbrush to get the mud off of them, and a damp sudsy cloth to the uppers. Many companies from Amazon to Foot Locker sell a sneaker cleaning spray that is said to be very effective. A little squirt of mat spray (see above) or sprinkling them with baking soda after wearing them, helps to control the dampness and odor.

Now that you know what to do, get going and freshen up those germy gym accessories  today!

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The New Year’s Resolutions That Never Happened

January 29, 2016

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Every January, I enter the gym in a state of dread, knowing that it will be swarming with people who aren’t normally there. Us regulars take a deep breath, secure in the knowledge that most of them will be gone before the month is over. This year however, they never actually showed up.

Did they give up the fight for a healthier and more svelte version of themselves? Are they all at Soul Cycle? I have a theory, and its not a bad one; they set themselves up for failure from day one.

In New York, we experienced mild temperatures all the way through Christmas Eve, which was a balmy 73 degrees. Suddenly, the thermometer dipped into the teens, and those dark, dreary mornings became instantly more difficult to navigate. There was little subtlety in the situation. It seemed like out of nowhere, winter arrived. It made it’s point this weekend, when 30″ of snow was dumped on our city, virtually shutting most of it down. When you aren’t used to getting up and getting out and hitting the gym while it is still dark, trying to do it when its freezing isn’t a good place to start. Eating clean, when all we crave is comfort food, is super hard this time of year. Setting goals like that are almost certain to fail. We opt to hybernate, instead of working out.

I never make New Year’s resolutions. I just resolve to try to do my best throughout the year. Perhaps deciding to become a morning gym person is a better goal for the late spring, when it is light out, and weather is more welcoming. Eating clean, while possible all year long, is much simpler when the produce is fresh and in-season, and lighter fare is more palatable than heavier choices. Getting out and running or biking is easier to achieve when there is more daylight available in which to partake in these activities.

May I suggest resetting some of these goals in the spring, with the intent to maintain them long term? Once the habits are set, they will carry through, regardless of the time of year.

I’m not advocating putting off trying to build a healthier lifestyle. I am however, suggesting that you cut yourself some slack and just do the best you can. Resolve to do better, and build on that throughout the year. Go to the gym whenever you can, and make some healthy food swaps when available. Come spring, you’ll be part of the way there, and easing into a more rigorous program will be much easier.

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Unbelievable

January 22, 2016

We try to keep up with the innovations and discoveries in the health and wellness genre, as recent studies reveal better ways of eating and exercising all the time. While many findings are premature and only point to certain conclusions, they come from reputable sources and are worthy of a look-see.

Some, however sound too good to be true, perhaps because they are.
My Facebook feed is full of people posting that certain things are good for their health, because they so desperately want them to be. Diet soda better than water? A glass of wine the equivilent of an hour in the gym?  A chocolate bar a day for weight loss? Pretty doubtful. Yet these are actual headlines that have popped up recently, that people have taken seriously.

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The University of Alberta, in Canada found that rats who consumed one glass of red wine per day had similiar benefits to an hour of exercise. Hmm. Although many studies have lauded the resveratol found in red wine, we find this one a little hard to swallow. Compared to an hour in the gym doing what? Drinking wine?  I love a glass of red as much as the next guy, but I don’t think I am going to give up on the gym quite yet.

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That study that found that drinking diet soda is better for weight loss than drinking water?Funded by an organization that has Coke and Pepsi execs on the board. The researchers were also paid a stipend by the group, and the lead author was paid by the British Sugar Bureau. Of the 55,000 studies carried out, only the information from three of them were used. Only one of the three was able to show a weight loss benefit for the diet soda drinkers, as compared to those that drank water. Credible? We say highly questionable.

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John Bohannon, a journalist embarked on a prank study which bestowed the virtues of eating a chocolate bar a day to promote weight loss. While the news from the faux German study swept the world, the conclusions were, in fact unfounded. You can read Bohannon’s account of the hoax here.

Like with anything else in life, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Before you settle in for a night of Netflix, accompanied by a glass of wine, a bar of chocolate and some diet soda thinking it is a magic bullet for weight loss, I’d like to chat with you about purchasing a certain bridge in New York.

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Where Does Fat Go?

January 15, 2016

Congratulations! You’ve been working out, watching what you eat and you are starting to see the some reduction in body fat. Great, but where did it actually go?

Common knowledge often subscribes to the theory that we convert the fat to energy and release it as heat, hence the term “burning fat.” A recent study shows that we don’t burn fat, but exhale most of it as carbon dioxide. A small percentage gets released leaves our body through fluids, such as sweat, urine and tears. Its all very scientific, and this video from SciShow explains the process much better than we ever could.

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Unrecipe of the Week: Nut Butter

January 11, 2016

 

1635400235_compI loathe peanut butter. I always have and always will. I remember being at a friend’s house when I was a little girl, and the babysitter said that we couldn’t leave the table until we finished our lunch. Not wanting to insult her “cooking,” I sat there for hours until she finally sent us away. I just couldn’t bring myself to eat that sticky muck, slathered with jelly and smeared inside that gummy white bread that stuck to the roof of my mouth and was so hard to swallow. I still don’t really care for the stuff, but I have managed to make amends with almond butter. Pure, salted almond butter with nothing else in it. I put it on an apple or a banana to add protein to my meal. When it is in its purest state, I can eat it with a spoon right out of the jar if I let myself.

I think the key here is purity. When you can taste just the freshly roasted nuts, and the consistancy is not gummy, it can be delicous. The common commercial brands contain sugar, molasses, hydrogenated vegetable oil, and mono and diglycerides. This contains just nuts. It doesn’t really need anything else.

You can buy great alternative nut butters in many supermarkets that are pure, and some supply the machine to grind your own peanut butter. I am partial to Trader Joe’s brand of almond butter. You can also make your own in a matter of minutes if you have a food processor or a super strong blender.

Homemade Nut Butter:

Place roasted nuts* into the bowl of the food processor. Pulse the nuts until they are completely chopped. Continue running the machine constantly for several minutes, pausing to scrape the sides with a rubber spatula. Process until the nuts go from grainy, to smooth. This could take about 5 minutes, depending on the amount of nuts, and the strength of the machine. If you like it chunky, add a little more of the nuts at the end, and pulse until they are finely chopped and distributed throughout the nut butter. Store nut butter in an airtight jar and refrigerate until ready to enjoy!

If you like salted nut butter, you may add a little and process until mixed. If your nuts seem very dry, you can add a little neutral flavored oil and continue to pulse, however, if you are patient, it should smooth out without any additional oil.

If you like flavored nut butters, you can add in some cinnamon or melted chocolate at the end, and mix it thoroughly.

*I roasted my own raw almonds,but you can buy them already roasted. Just look for dry roasted nuts with no added ingredients except salt, if you like salted nut butter.

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In Good Health: Fitness Trends To Watch in 2016

January 7, 2016

 

7091300071_compAs one year comes to a close and the new year begins, we view the clean slate before us and resolve to eat better, exercise more and take better care of our bodies than we did the previous year. The new year’s resolutions will come and go, but trends in health and wellness will continue to manifest throughout the year.

In 2015, we saw a new crop of juice bars, boutique fitness studios and athleticwear brands mulitply like rabbits across the country. Superfood juices became superfood bowls, and those that dared to eat carbs ate avocado toast. Exclusive, expensive and specialized studios popped up everywhere, with a better, more novel way to ride a bike, lift a weight and burn a calorie. These once unique boutique gyms soon started to spread their wisdom and some, like Soul Cycle, have become more prevelent in the New York City landscape than McDonalds.

Last year, we went hard. HIIT, or high intensity interval training was the common denominator in many of the hottest workouts. Gasping for breath and dripping with sweat were key determinators of a great workout. While we still see a preponderance of high intensity experiences leading the way, a few key factors will change.

This year, competition will take over the scene, with gyms like Orangetheory and Flywheel using leaderboards to track anything from speed, watts, mileage and heart rate across all participants. Full service gyms, like luxury player Equinox, are getting into the act with their specialized cycling programs being rolled out across the chain.

The concept of “Go big or go home” will take on a new sense of importance, with rest and rejuvenation becoming just as important and going all out in the gym. This will manifest itself in interesting ways, from planned active recoveries to a influx of regeneration activities breaking into the scene. Meditation studios, such as MNDFL are cropping up, as are sensory deprivation and cryotherapy outlets. L.A. leads the way with a new facility called Wanderlust Hollywood,which challenges members to “find your true north, and cultivate your best self,” through yoga, meditation, food, festivals and mindfulness.

We are discovering the benefits of sleep are much greater than we thought, and getting a full 8 hours could become way cooler than staying out all night.

If you can’t get to the gym but still want the experience, no worries. Peleton’s special bike allows you to stream into a class taking place in real time in their NYC studio, or select one from their extensive library. The Daily Burn allows you to stream classes with some of the top instructors in the fitness world today, and choose from a variety of genres to tailor your at home workout just for you. Watch for this concept to grow, allowing people to access the best class experiences when and where they wish to have them. Think of it as the Netflix effect.

Functional training, and bodyweight training are also gaining popularity. They require no fancy equipment, and train us not just to lift a heavy weight, but to be able to get our bags in the overhead compartment of an airplane without help, and lug our groceries up a few flights of steps. What’s the point of building muscles if you can’t use them?

Where we once we willing to scramble from studio to studio to get in our workouts, we are now looking for a more wholistic approach that gets it done all in one place. With fitness publications striving to answer the age old question of which should come first, cardio or strength training, these classes throw caution to the wind and mix it up. (Also, please stop writing those articles. I’m pretty sure that unless you are training for an elite event, it doesn’t really matter. Just do it!) From Equinox’s cutting edge introduction of Shockwave a couple of years ago, which incorporated rowing intervals with strength segments, to Barry’s Bootcamp which uses the treadmill, these classes aren’t exactly new on the fitness horizon. They are, however gaining momentum. Watch for more of these hybrids to pop up, and new combinations to emerge. Rowing and weights, cycling and yoga, boxing and pilates? Who knows what the next big idea might be!

Speaking of boxing, that is another form of training that seems to be having a resurgence. Whether it is true boxing from Aerospace or Shadowbox, or boxing inspired workout classes, like Equinox’s new The Cut, there seems to be renewed interest in this genre. Victoria’s Secret models swear by it, and from the looks of some of the participants, if you want to be strong, lean and cut, this could be the ticket.

Group reboots, which include training programs, nutrition and lifestyle coaching are gaining momentum. With goal setting, accountablilty and the support of a team driving their success, these specialized programs have proven to be very effective. Look at Barre 3’s 28 to Great, Anna Kaiser’s Transformation, and Equinox’s ETC as examples.

Technology will continue to grow as we monitor our stats, track our progress and compete against our peers. Whether it is apparel, accessory or equipment based monitors, this area will only get bigger, and more complex as new technology is developed. Watch for new developments to continue to astound us. Chances are, whatever you want to track, there is an app for it.

Stay tuned as we delve into our predicitions for the new year in wellness and food!

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The Big Chill

November 4, 2015

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We are no strangers to workout related aches and pains around here. In fact, B and I could probably employ our own sports medicine expert to help us through our near constant parade of pulled “thises” and super tight “thats”. Almost everyone I know who is serious about their fitness seems to go hard most of the time, and suffer the consequences later.

Submerging your body into a bathtub filled with ice is one way athletes have dealt with the situation, but the treatment sounds way worse than the symptoms it is designed to treat.

Enter cryotherapy, which rapidly deep freezes the body and proports to not only rid one of those nagging aches and pains, but also to improve sleep quality, increase metabolism, slow aging, reduce inflammation, and even cure cellulite, all in the space of three short, albiet agonizing minutes.

At New York City’s KryoLife, adventurous souls step into a liquid nitrogen chamber or cyrosauna, that is minus 264 degrees, causing the body temperature to drop to as low as 32 degrees. The effect on the body mimics hypothermia, without the risk of frostbite. A three minute session costs $90, which supporters claim is well worth it.

At this time cryotherapy is not approved by the FDA, and the medical community has not endorsed it without further study.

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Body Love

August 26, 2015

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Body acceptance is a hot topic these days. The media is reaching out to encourage women everywhere to love their bodies, regardless of how they look. Body shaming, and setting an unrealistically high (and often photoshopped) bar for beauty is the subject of many news stories and ad campaigns.

I completley agree. Women should be able to go to the beach without panicing about their “beach body”(something I am completely guilty of). A jiggle here and a bump there shouldn’t keep women from enjoying their lives. A few extra pounds or a little “junk in the trunk” is nobody’s business but our own. Every story about women being fat shamed, or called out by total strangers for exposing thier stretch marks from childbirth on the beach makes me cringe. It is time that society comes to terms with our imperfections being part of who we are and move on.

Ok, so here comes the kicker. I mean, you knew there was going to be one, right? If we should love our bodies regardless of thier flaws, than shouldn’t we love them enough to take care of them? And by taking care of them, I don’t mean going on an all kale diet, exercising three hours a day, or being a size 2. I don’t mean never leaving the house without full pagent makeup and a fresh blowout. I do mean eating healthfully most of the time, getting a moderate amount of exercise and maintaining a weight that prevents chronic and serious illnesses to manifest. I would never, ever make a rude comment to someone of any gender about their weight, or how they look. It is rude, and frankly, none of my business. But, I have a hard time condoning a lifestyle that allows people become so over weight that they develop heart problems, hypertension, diabetes or even joint issues as a result of over-indulgence in food, and a lack of significant movement. Just walking at a moderate pace is considered exercise, yet I watch people circle the parking lot, looking for the closest possible parking spot so they don’t have to walk a few extra feet. Should we tell those women (and men for that matter)that it is ok and they should love their sick, unhealthy bodies as they are?

It is all a self fulfilling prophecy. Once the health issues begin to set in, physically being able to exercise becomes more problematic. Once the bad eating habits form, it is very hard to break them. You don’t just wake up one day and decide that you aren’t going to eat all the foods you are used to and stop cold turkey. Super clean eating requires discipline, both in choosing to avoid the unheatly items,and in buying and preparing the right ones. There is not a fast food, convenience store version to fall back on. I get it. Its not easy. Busy women with families and jobs don’t always have time to exercise, and commuting by foot or by bike is often not an option. So is the solution to say its ok, you are beautiful anyways? Isn’t that a twisted way of objectifying women? As health care costs rise, isn’t it cheaper to eat well, and less time consuming to exercise than take time out for frequent doctor visits and sick days?

BTW, skinny shaming people, such as celebs like Amal Clooney and Guilianna Rancic is just as offensive. Sometimes being overly thin is a natural state, but it can also signal health issues. We are very quick to say “eat a sandwich” to someone who is very thin, but not so quick to accept someone saying ” put down the cookie” to someone who is over weight. Until we can come to terms with the equality of the situation, we aren’t ready to embrace body love fully.

Are we, the media and society in general doing women a great disservice by focusing on accepting how our bodies look, vs.how our bodies function?

Sound off in the comments below!

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