Holiday Gift Guide for Health & Fitness Lovers

My Favorite Health & Fitness Products

Holiday Gift Guide for Health & Fitness LoversLooking for new ideas to elevate your wellness or shopping for a gift for a health enthusiast? I thought it would be fun to share my favorite health and fitness products on the market today!

Exercise:

The Sling Band: I’ve used several exercise bands throughout the years, but this one is the king of them all. It’s great to pack in your suitcase for travel too. Since it’s thick material, it doesn’t snap like the rubber bands and it adds way more intensity! My favorite exercises: squats, glute bridges, knee-banded hip thrusts, lateral band walks & band hip abduction.

Squat Sponge: The pads at the gym just don’t cut it for hip thrusts. This pad is thick and allows perfect cushion when performing hip thrusts or weighted glute bridges for your body.

Jaybird Wireless Headphones: I own Jaybird headphones, but any wireless headphones is an upgrade from your standard pair, especially if you are doing a strength training workout. I definitely don’t miss my arm band to hold my iPod. They also work great for interval training, running, rowing and more!

Lululemon Align Pants: I’m obsessed with these pants and I own them in 5+ colors. The fabric is great and they are the most comfortable pants I’ve found. They don’t get the best reviews online due to some piling issues, but I haven’t found it to be a problem.

Lululemon Yoga Mat: I’ve owned a few yoga mats in the past, but this one from Lululemon is my favorite. I’ve had mine for years and it still looks brand new.

Fitbit: I received an upgraded band about six months ago and I find it to be much more stylish than the other products. My Fitbit gets me up out of my chair every hour at work, creates that mental awareness of how much I’m moving and gives me a daily goal to hit my steps. I’ve found I still want to get them in, even if it’s late at night.

A Go-to Water Bottle: While I used to love my Starbucks water bottle with a straw, I’ve found I prefer one that doesn’t have a straw. It makes it much easier to travel with and doesn’t accidentally spill. I created a habit to fill my water bottle right when I get up and focus on drinking 4 bottles a day. This link has reviews on the best from 2017.

Fitness Journal – I’ve talked here or here why you should track your strength workouts. While I don’t own this journal, it would fit all my needs!

Look for discounts: Look for discounts at your favorite workout studio. For the holidays, my yoga studio discounted their 10 class punch card by $40. I treated myself early by stocking up on classes.

My Favorite Food/Products:

Balsamic Vinegar: I’ve said this before, but I will never buy cheap balsamic vinegar again. The taste with this one from Williams-Sonoma is by far worth the price, plus it lasts for months since I mainly use it on salads. This can fit in a stocking stuffer or act as a great gift!

John Boos Cutting Board: So, this isn’t food, but it certainly has helped me with all my food prep in the kitchen! This sits on my counter 24/7 and has been so convenient for chopping vegetables.

Fourth & Heart Ghee: I started using this brand a few months ago and love it. I use it to saute zucchini noodles, onion/garlic and cook plantains. Other people use it with everything they cook! It’s a great alternative to those individuals who don’t tolerate dairy products well or are looking for a dairy-free option.

Rx bar: I only eat these in emergency situations or if I’m out hiking. I find they can trigger sugar cravings if I eat them too often, so when I do, it’s a nice treat. It could be a great stocking stuffer too. Since they are made with whole foods, they can be a sticky in texture. I still enjoy them and have found them at most grocery stores.

Fran’s Salted Caramels: The best caramels I have ever eaten and they are right here in Seattle! I always give these as holiday gifts to my family members who love them. They are not cheap, but eating just one is satisfying.

Health/Travel:

Favorite Books: I’ve written a blog about my top books here. I’ll add a few others below.

Tiny, beautiful things by Cheryl Strayed – This advice column book is easy to pick up and read a few pages at a time, but most of all, it’s so inspiring to read her feedback on every unique story. It’s helped me find the positive in any negative situation.

Annual National Park Pass – This is a great gift for your outdoor lover, especially if some National Parks plan to increase their entry fees in 2018.

Strong Curves – For a new way of training, I bought this book at the end of last year and completed the 3 month program. It’s great. I’ve continued this style of training for the entire year. Be sure to ask for a squat sponge too 🙂

Passport Holder– I love this for traveling. It acts as my wallet when I’m on the road with the credit card sleeves.

Need other health ideas? try gift cards to Whole Foods, other health food stores, favorite restaurant or the spa! Many restaurants give bonuses this time of year with a gift card purchase.

Four Ways to Prevent Falling Off the Wagon

Four Ways to Prevent Falling Off the Wagon

Four Ways to Prevent Falling Off the WagonBeing accountable to staying on track with proper nutrition habits and consistent exercise can be challenging. If you don’t have a deep reason why you want to stay on track to begin with, it’s even more difficult! It’s so easy to indulge in food temptations at work, choose takeout over cooking at home or skip a workout. It can happen to anyone. If you are finding yourself struggling to stay accountable, try any of these following suggestions:

1.) Weigh Yourself Once a Week

I started tracking my weight weekly at the beginning of 2016. While I don’t let the scale dictate my entire success, it does help me learn how my eating habits and exercise program affect my weight. Plus, it acts as a tool to see if I am seeing the results I want. While tracking your body weight is good, I highly suggest taking measurements of your waist, hips and thighs too. This is an extra tool to use to see if your body is changing even if your weight isn’t budging.

I weigh myself on the same day every week (usually Friday or Saturday morning on an empty stomach). I keep a monthly calendar and simply write down the number every week. This way, I can see a trend if I’m maintaining, losing or gaining weight. If my weight and measurements are down, I know I’m doing something right. If my weight is the same, but measurements are down, I’m still doing something right. If both numbers are up, I know I need to make adjustments with my nutrition or exercise.

Note: if your weight slightly goes up, but your measurements/body fat stays the same, there is no need to worry. There are a few factors why your weight slightly increases but your body fat stays the same like retaining water from too many carbs or salt the day before, completing a hard strength workout the day before, elevated stress or lacking sleep the night before. 

2.) Invest in a Tracking Device 

I’ve talked about this before, but I LOVE my Fitbit. It’s helped me stay consistent with getting in 10,000-12,000+ steps a day. Overall, I just move more than I normally did. I also use the Fitbit app to track my weight/body fat so I can scroll through the months to notice any trends. The sleep app is a nice perk too.

3.) Keep a Journal 

Keeping an exercise or food journal is crucial so you can understand if what you are doing is actually working. If you’re looking to get stronger through your strength program, stick with the same program for four weeks in a row and log your reps/weight after every workout. After four weeks, switch up your routine. After completing your four week program, look over it to see if your weight or repetitions improved over the course of the month. By tracking your workouts, you will easily pinpoint progress. This is the same if you are seeking weight/fat loss. Is your current program giving you results? If you don’t track, you don’t know.

Action Steps: Invest in a notebook and start logging your workouts. You can do this for endurance goals too such as improving your sprint time, 1 mile run time, or simply increasing your intensity/duration for something specific.

Many people also find logging their food in an app or journal helpful for staying accountable. It works! While I find it a bit tedious, it does have many benefits like preventing you from indulging (you have to write it down!) or simply eating less.

Action Steps: download MyFitnessPal or any other food app or get a notebook and write it down. If writing down everything seems overwhelming, start with a few items like how often you are eating out, indulging in sweets/alcohol/calorie dense foods OR positive changes like how much water you’re drinking or tracking vegetable intake.

4.) If You’re Finding The First Three Are Not Working, Hire a Coach 

The first three suggestions will not work for everyone and that’s okay. If you have tried the first three suggestions on your own but are struggling to see success or stay on track, you may want to consider hiring a coach to help you. I suggest searching for a good trainer or nutritionists in your area. Online coaching is becoming popular as well. Feel free to reach out to me directly at info@jenniferwyss.com for guidance.

How to design your own strength program

How I Design My Strength Training Workouts

How to design your own strength programStrength training can be challenging for many people, especially those who are new to exercise. If you have a gym membership, how easy is it to just jump on a treadmill? The weight room can be very intimidating too, especially when you’re around others who are fit or men who are muscular. Surprisingly enough, I am starting to see more and more women in the weight room. Last week when I was doing a strength workout, all four squat racks were being used by women. It was awesome!

My Top Five Reasons to Strength Train

  • More Mental Energy. My favorite days of the week are my strength training days. Lifting weights clears my mind the best out of all the exercise I do.
  • It Changes Your Shape. Nothing changes your shape better than lifting weights. Cardio will help decrease the number on the scale, but if you just focus on cardio, you have a good chance at losing muscle mass.
  • It Increases Your Metabolism. It’s simple, more muscle = more metabolism. Muscle burns more calories than fat, therefore helping you burn more calories throughout the day.
  • It Increases Your Self-Confidence. I lift weights for many reasons, but a big reason is feeling strong and confident. I can carry all my groceries in with one trip. I don’t hesitate trying new things. Most of all, I feel like I have the strength to protect myself or others in any situation.
  • Your Clothes Fit Better. Have you ever noticed that your weight hasn’t changed, but your clothes fit much better? This happens because you have you have lost body fat, not necessarily body weight. Muscle simply takes up less space.

How many days should I strength train? 2-3 times a week.

To truly see your body change it’s shape, you need to strength train at least two days a week. Your workout should target your entire body instead of just focusing on leg exercises or arm exercises. Ideally, 3 days a week can give you the best results.

How I design a program:

1.) Dynamic Warm Up (5 minutes)

2.) Core Exercises (5 minutes)

3.) Total Body Strength Exercises (30-60 minutes)

4.) Finisher (5-15 minutes)

1.) Dynamic Warm Up: Can you warm up by lightly moving on an elliptical or walking on a treadmill? Sure. But, that doesn’t necessarily prepare your body for a strength training workout. You should focus on all areas of your body: ankle mobility, hip mobility, thoracic spine mobility, shoulder mobility, as well as stability exercises to truly prepare your body for lifting weights. Your warm up is also a great indicator of how your body is feeling. If something isn’t feeling right in your warm up, it might be a sign you shouldn’t do a specific exercise that day. Read here for a basic warm up. 

2.) Core Exercises: I pick 1-2 core exercises to start my strength routine. Complete at least 2 sets of each exercise. For ideas, click here. 

3.) Strength Exercises: Now, on to the best part of your workout! This is where you can truly see your body change. Here are a few things to keep in mind when designing your program:

  • Choose a weight that you can do with good form, but challenges you. If something is easy, most likely your body won’t change. However, if you are just beginning a strength training program for the first time in years, pick up a weight that feels comfortable and make sure you are doing the exercise correctly before trying to challenge yourself.
  • Do you feel the exercise in the right place? When coaching clients, it’s easy for them to add weight to an exercise. But, if they aren’t feeling it in the right spot, it could be pointless. For example, if you are doing a lat pulldown but feel it all in your arms, you aren’t working the main muscle, your back. Most likely your weight is too heavy. Be sure to listen to your body movements and make sure you are feeling it in the right place.
  • Choose compound exercises over isolating exercises if you can only make it to the gym three or less times a week. EX: do a squat to work your legs vs. a leg extension machine. You’ll work more muscles and stabilize your core.
  • Add isolating exercises at the end of your workout if you have more time.

Each strength exercise is constructed on five main movement patterns: push, pull, squat/lunge, hinge and single leg exercises to work on your stability. This is a simple approach to creating a total body workout. Push and pull exercises have two movements: vertical or horizontal. For example, a push up or bench press is a horizontal push where a vertical push is an overhead press. You can choose one movement or both when designing a program.

Choose 1-2 strength exercises in each category:

Push: bench press, push ups, overhead press, dumbbell bench press, incline press, landmine press.

Pull: pull ups, cable rows, dumbbell rows, barbell rows, lat pulldowns, body weight inverted rows (using a TRX)

Squat/Lunge: back squats, split squats, elevated split squats, front squats, walking lunges, reverse lunges

Hinge: hip thrust, barbell glute bridge, deadlift variations, cable pull through, good morning

Intermediate-Advanced Exercises add a Single Leg Movement: Step ups, single leg deadlift, single leg glute bridge, single leg squat

4.) Finisher: If your schedule only allows you to exercise 2-3 times a week, I’d suggest doing a 5-15 minute interval workout at the end of your strength workout. Not only will you get the benefits of the higher intensity exercise, but it will help create more of a metabolic afterburn so your metabolism is elevated several hours after your workout. If you can exercise 4-5 times a week, you can complete an interval workout on a non-strength training day and complete a few isolating exercises for a finisher. For the past few months, I have been focusing on glute finishers where I’ll do several isolating glute exercises to finish my workout with a band.

Looking to start strength training? Try a basic workout here!

Dynamic Warm Up

Core Exercises

Strength Exercises

  1. Hip Thrust – 3 sets of 20 reps
  2. Dumbbell Single Arm Row – 3 sets of 10 reps
  3. Squat – 3 sets of 10 reps
  4. Push Ups – 3 sets of 10 reps
  5. Step up – 3 sets of 10 reps

Finisher: 8 rounds of rowing (30 seconds work/30 seconds rest)

Popular personal development books

Six Books That Have Changed My Life – Better Health & Relationships

I have been drawn to personal development books for the last five years. As a matter of fact, until recently, it’s all I read! Out of all the books, I wanted to share six books that have ultimately changed my life for the better.

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

Stick to a budgetThis book has completely changed my life as far as my relationship with money. While I always valued saving money every month for a rainy day, I often would spend mindlessly. I wasn’t very aware of prices at the grocery store, constantly dined out and I spent money at Nordstrom every single month…just because. After reading this book, I realized I never really knew where my money. How much was I spending on groceries, dining out, the mall or putting into my savings account? I also realized I wanted to start traveling more, but how could I afford it? Read how I transformed my budget to start traveling more here.

I read this book in 2011 and ever since then, I have made time to create a monthly budget every single month. In my monthly planner, I write down how much money I want to save in my savings account and travel savings account, as well as calculating how much money goes towards groceries, paying bills, gas, restaurants/shopping & misc. spending like toilet paper, dog food or unexpected expenses. I know where every penny goes every month. I’m not perfect with my budget and I don’t follow all of Dave’s tips. He’s a firm believer in an envelope cash system. I use my credit card for everything since it’s a cash rewards card, but I make sure I pay it off every month. Since I have unlimited bank transfers, I track my expenses as they come in and simply transfer money to my credit card from my checking account as if my credit card was a debit card. If you are wanting to learn how to be on top of your finances every month, read this fantastic book.

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The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

This book has changed my relationship with my husband and loved ones. It’s so intriguing how the author breaks down the five ways individuals receive/”feel” love. My love language: acts of services. I love it when my husband cooks dinner, washes my car or helps around the house. This is where I feel love the most. My husband’s love language: quality time. He loves it when I give him my undivided attention. We used to get in small arguments because I have a bad habit of playing on my cell phone or computer. I actually used to get mad at him because he would get mad at me. I always thought, “what’s the big deal about being on my cell phone?” After reading this book, I understood the deep meaning behind his frustration…he just want to spend quality time together! Now I make a conscious effort to speak his love language every week.

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The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

how to break bad habitsThis book has helped me in many ways in life but mostly my relationship with food. You’l learn how a habit starts, turns to autopilot then how to break the bad habit. The author explains it’s all about identifying your habit loop (cue-routine-reward). Your cue & reward will never change, but it’s your routine that needs to change in order for you to change your behavior.

What causes my food cravings? I learned a few things that pinpointed why I get cravings for sugar or comfort food by identifying the cue, my routine and reward. What’s my cue? The two most common things: what’s my mood & who am I with? Most of my young adult life, I always searched in my parents’ pantry for junk food when I was bored. I also usually consumed junk food with my family. It’s something we have always bonded over…and still do. What’s my reward? My reward was usually the desire of doing something fun together (good food = good time) or if I was eating out of boredom, I was looking for a distraction. Find a new routine – I had to ask myself what other things could I do when I’m bored that doesn’t involve eating & what other things are fun that don’t involve food with my family? I learned we could save our favorite foods for special occasions.

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Food Freedom Forever by Melissa Hartwig

I’ve blogged about my Whole30 experience here. But, what happens after you complete a Whole30? How can you introduce your favorite comfort foods back into your life without them causing negative side effects or worse, feeling out of control with your eating? Melissa creates a guide for success. What I enjoyed most about this book is it teaches you how to identify when you are starting to slip back into old habits. This will happen to anyone. She provides the four most common ways people fall off track with their healthy eating, but offers great tools to get back on track. When I completed the Whole30 in January, I felt great for three solid months. I didn’t have any strong urges for sweets, but enjoyed something when I really wanted it. It wasn’t until after my trip to NYC (aka dessert paradise) where I noticed I had moments when I was eating food that really wasn’t worth it. Sure, the food choices tasted good, but they truly fell into the average category instead of the “wow” category. Plus, the more I continued to put these things in my body, the harder it was to control my cravings. Once I noticed my cravings were really starting to elevate, I knew it was time to do a Whole30 reset to get back into check.

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The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal

how to improve your willpowerThis was one of the first personal development books I read and it still is one of my favorites. A Stanford professor, Kelly McGonigal, provides the science behind willpower, the mental traps most of us struggle with and other factors that relate to our self-control. Best of all, she gives practical steps on how to become more mindful of your actions & how to strengthen your willpower for lifelong changes. Each chapter has a recap of action steps. This book doesn’t just focus on weight loss or better health, but hits all aspects of life.

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The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

As it states on the back of the book, the author “reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us joy and create needless suffering.” He explains the four agreements: don’t take things personally, be impeccable with your word, don’t make assumptions and always do your best. It’s true, when you follow these agreements, you simply feel happier. I related to all four agreements. What happens if I don’t make assumptions about a relationship? What if I told myself I did my best? What happens when I don’t take things personally? This book was an eye opener and has really helped me transform my thoughts about myself, my relationships with friends & family, my work environment and even being around strangers.

The Secret to Success With Diet and Exercise

My Biggest Secret To Success with Diet & Exercise

The Secret to Success With Diet and ExerciseOver the course of my career, I’ve worked with hundreds of people looking to improve their diet or stick to an exercise plan. It’s hard for anyone to truly make a change, especially if they have years or decades of less than stellar habits. I’ve written about my own journey here.

So, what’s the secret for actually making a lifestyle last…well…forever?

Make your meals satisfying and enjoy what you’re doing for an exercise program. 

For diet: If you are cooking healthy meals that you don’t enjoy, your journey at cooking healthy will be short lived. The common American comfort foods are popular for a reason – they’re satisfying and they keep us wanting to come back for more! So, how can you make your home cooked meals or healthy meal dining out satisfying?

  • Add fat for flavor. Fats tend to get bad press. Remember in the early 90’s when everything needed to be low fat? All fats are not bad fats. My go-to fat choices are olive oil, ghee, coconut oil or even butter. I rarely eat vegetables raw or steamed because I simply don’t like them as much (except carrots, leafy greens & steamed green beans because they are enjoyable). I roast or sauté almost all of my vegetables with my choice of fat. This is what keeps me eating vegetables every single day. My current top four veggies choices: sautéed zucchini noodles (garlic powder, salt, pepper in ghee), sautéed mushrooms (with minced garlic, salt, pepper in ghee), roasted sweet potatoes (chili powder, salt, pepper in olive oil), roasted Brussels sprouts (garlic powder, salt, pepper, in olive oil).
  • Find healthy snacks you love. Every week, I buy a container of fresh almond butter from my local PCC grocery store. It’s expensive but it’s a 10 on a satisfaction level and it helps me from wanting to eat sugar. Sometimes I eat it on celery, while most times, I get out my tablespoon and a tiny spoon to eat it with. I eat two TBs slowly and savor. Other things I enjoy: roasted nuts, Pink lady apples, whole carrots, bell peppers, a plain rice cake with almond butter + fruit spread or my Trader Joe nitrite-free ham. All great healthy choices, but most of all, they tame my sugar cravings because I find all these snacks very satisfying.
  • Choose a variety of protein choices. Yes, there are many benefits to white fish, chicken breast or 99% ground turkey. I have many go-to meals where those choices are delicious, but I don’t eat them 24/7. Egg whites also fall into this category. I incorporate eggs, chicken thighs, pulled pork or steaks a few times in my weekly meals. Since they have more flavor because of the slightly higher fat level, they keep me on track instead of wanting to get takeout Thai, pizza or burgers. Plus, it’s a nice balance between the leaner choices I make throughout the week. Example: A few meals a week for breakfast I’ll make two fried eggs, I’ll choose the carnitas at the Whole Foods buffet for lunch and for the past month, I’ve been roasting chicken thighs for one meal a week. Since my satisfaction level is so high with these meals, I don’t find myself with sugar cravings afterwards or wishing I had gone out for pizza instead.

Bottom line: I prefer to make the healthy choices over my favorite comfort foods because I learned how to make them really satisfying. I still love going out for pizza, but I no longer want it as much as I used to.

For exercise: Ask yourself if you look forward to your next workout? If exercise feels like a chore, you might not have found what you like yet. I realize there are some people who simply don’t like exercising, but there has to be a reason to keep them doing it every week. Do they like the increased energy? Do they like how it relieves stress? Do they like how their clothes fit? Do they enjoy the personal satisfaction of completing a workout? Regardless, there needs to find a deep reason for exercising every week, otherwise it won’t truly stick as a lifestyle. Here are some my go-to workout choices and the reasoning behind it.

  1. Walking. I walk at least 30 minutes every day. For me, I have to move daily to release the small stressors in life that build up. Walking allows me to clear my head, resets my intentions and truly makes me feel better. I also like the personal satisfaction of hitting my step goal of 10,000+ steps. Lastly, it’s an opportunity to spend time with my dog. He loves his walks and when he is happy, I’m happy.
  2. Strength Training. I commit to three full body workouts a week. I try to stick to the same days every week for the habit (Tuesday, Friday, Sunday). These are usually my favorite days of the week for exercise. Lifting weights makes me feel strong physically and mentally, plus I like the challenge of trying new movements. I switch my strength program every four weeks to prevent boredom, but also to keep my body from adapting to my program.
  3. High Intensity Intervals. Again, I try to stick to specific days of the week for the habit. I take a boxing class every Thursday morning. Nothing feels better than hitting and kicking the crap out of a punching bag. I also enjoy incline walking. Recently, I’ve set the goal of trying to climb 2,000 feet in less than 30 minutes. It’s my latest challenge! I also love completing sprint intervals. All three of these workouts leave me feeling happier after ever session.

Bottom line: if you haven’t found something you like to do for exercise, be open minded and try new things. Maybe you’ll learn you love to exercise in a group setting or in the comfort of your own home.

If you are currently working on building lasting healthy habits, pay attention to what may cause you to fall off track. Are you not enjoying your workouts? Are your meals satisfying? After years of practice and learning, I’ve finally found what works for me. Don’t give up on your journey. The more your work it, the easier it gets! Remember, you don’t want to strive to be perfect. 80-90% compliance gets great results and truly helps a habit stick forever.

4 Exercises to Do Daily

4 Exercises To Do Daily

Exercise is therapeutic to me and I find a way to move daily. Whether it’s leisure walking, yoga, strength training, interval training, foam rolling or mobility drills, these movements clear my head and make my body feel good.

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Now, we don’t want to stress our body every day so doing movement like leisure walking or mobility drills is a great way to move with low intensity. The four movements below focus on improving or maintaining your mobility in your hips and thoracic spine, as well as engaging your core and helping you move in a better range of motion. They can also help you improve exercises like squats or lunges, as well as relieve low back pain.

I complete all of these movements before every strength and interval workout.

It’s my warm up and gets my blood flowing. You can also do these movements to wind down at night in front of the television. I even recorded these videos in my own living room!

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Squat to Stand – complete 5-10 reps

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Key Tips:

  • Keep your heels on the ground the whole time. Don’t let your heels rise off the floor. 
  • In the down position, lower yourself down to a position that’s comfortable. If you have tight hips, it might be challenging. Lift your chest and pull your shoulders slightly down. You should feel some engagement in your upper back. Also, using your elbows, push them against your knees, letting them slightly go out. You’ll feel a good stretch in your hips.
  • In the up position, focus on feeling a good stretch in the back side of your body.

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Lateral Lunge – complete 5-10 reps each side

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Key Tips:

  • Keep your heel on the side you are lunging towards. If you are finding you can’t keep it down, lift your hips and chest so you are higher off the ground.
  • Drive the toes up on the extended leg. You should feel a better stretch in your inner thigh.
  • For a challenge, keep your hands off the floor and as you move side to side, keep your hips as low as possible. Pause for a few seconds at each side.

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World’s Greatest Stretch Combo – complete 5 reps each move

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Movement One Key Tips: Keep the front foot flat on the ground and fully extend your bag leg by squeezing your quad strong. I prefer to keep both hands on the inside of the front foot. Focus on feeling a good stretch in your hip flexor (back leg).

Movement Two Key Tips: Drive the toes up, keep a flat back and ease into the stretch. You should feel a good pull in the back of the leg.

Movement Three Key Tips: Keeping the front foot flat and back leg extended, slowly rotate with your upper back. You should keep the front of the back leg still, not letting the front of your hip rotate. For the arm reaching up, focus on reaching the hand towards the ceiling, as if you are trying to touch it. You want to get a nice stretch in your upper back.

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Inch Worm – complete 5 to 8 reps

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This is a great move to engage your core, shoulders, hamstrings and calves.

Key Tips:

  • As you walk out into a push up position, brace your core and reach your hands out as much as you can without letting your low back collapse. This challenges your core and shoulders. 
  • As you walk your hands back to your feet, brace your core again to avoid letting your hips sway back and forth. Try to walk your hands to your feet, driving your heels to the floor. If you can’t get your hands to your feet, find a range of motion that works for you.

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Struggling with keeping your heels down in these movements? Start working on your ankle mobility.

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You’ll want to focus on your front foot. Drive your knee as far forward as you can without letting your front heel lift. How good is your mobility? Ideal ankle mobility is when you can get the center of your knee past your big toe. Complete 10 reps each side for 2-3 sets.

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Three Fat Burning Treadmill Workouts Under 25 Minutes

25 Minute or Less Fat Burning Treadmill Workouts

With the weather still being too cold, I have had to keep my interval training workouts indoors. While treadmills aren’t the most liked piece of cardio equipment, you can use them to put together a short, effective workout. Like I talked about in this article, you should always prioritize your strength workouts first but if you have more time, interval training is the next piece to burning fat and increasing your metabolism. These workouts could also be done after strength training (if you can only exercise 2-3x a week), but I would do about 10 minutes of intervals.

Here are three workouts I have been doing lately using a treadmill. For you, pick three speeds/inclines that get you out of your comfort zone. I have listed mine. You’ll notice the speed and time will vary, but at the end of each interval, you want to feel like you’re working hard.

Three 25 Minute or Under Treadmill Workouts

Workout #1 – Flat Sprint Intervals 

Warm up – walk at a comfortable speed for 2 minutes

  • After each interval, I hop off the treadmill, decrease my speed to a slow walking speed and rest as long (about 30-40 seconds) as I need until I can sprint again. Including the warm up, this takes me a little less than 25 minutes. If you are finding you are needing longer rest time between each interval, subtract two 60 second intervals from the workout. At the end of the workout, I cool down until my heart rate decreases (1-2 minutes).
Speed Incline Interval Length Time
9.5 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.6 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.7 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.7 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.7 mph Flat 60 seconds
11.2 mph Flat 30 seconds
11.2 mph Flat 30 seconds
11.2 mph Flat 30 seconds
11.2 mph Flat 30 seconds
12.0 mph Flat 20 seconds
12.0 mph Flat 20 seconds
12.0 mph Flat 20 seconds

Workout #2 – Sprints with hills 

I will complete this workout on treadmills where the highest speed or incline is less than my gym’s treadmill. Again, I warm up and cool down just like the previous workout example. I also rest as long as I need with each interval (usually 30-40 seconds).

Speed Incline Interval Length Time
9.5 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.6 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.7 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.7 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.7 mph Flat 60 seconds
10.0 mph 3% 30 seconds
10.0 mph 3% 30 seconds
10.0 mph 3% 30 seconds
10.0 mph 3% 30 seconds
10.0 mph 5% 20 seconds
10.0 mph 5% 20 seconds
10.0 mph 5% 20 seconds

Workout #3 – Don’t Like to Run? Try This. 

Note: Treadmills vary with incline. Luckily at my gym, the treadmills go all the way up 30%. Most treadmills go up to 12-15%. Remember, find three inclines that push you outside your comfort zone. If you find the highest incline doesn’t challenge you, try increasing your speed or trying Workout #2. I will complete Workout #2 when I visit my parents using their treadmill. Rest as long as you need after each interval. I usually drop the incline to 10-12% after each interval and when my body feels it’s ready to complete another interval, I increase the incline back to where it needs to be. If your legs are tired, I would decrease the incline to more of a flat incline during every rest period.

Key tip for incline walking: Brace your core and pump your arms. By avoiding holding onto the rails, you’ll work your abs, glutes and legs much more.

Warm up – 2 minutes at a comfortable pace

Speed Incline Interval Length Time
3.4 mph 24% 60 seconds
3.4 mph 24% 60 seconds
3.4 mph 24% 60 seconds
3.4 mph 24% 60 seconds
3.4 mph 24% 60 seconds
3.4 mph 27% 40 seconds
3.4 mph 27% 40 seconds
3.4 mph 27% 40 seconds
3.4 mph 27% 40 seconds
3.4 mph 30% 30 seconds
3.4 mph 30% 30 seconds
3.4 mph 30% 30 seconds

 

How to do a perfect push up

How to do Perfect Push ups

Push ups are a fantastic strength exercise for building upper body strength, core strength and transforming your arms. Plus, you can do them anywhere! Most importantly, you want to make sure you are doing them correctly to avoid an unwanted injury.

Three common mistakes with push ups: 

1.) Low back sag – many times when this happens, your core and glutes are not assisting you with the exercise.

Key tip: squeeze your glutes and brace your core as you lower down and push yourself up. If you find this is challenging, place something between your legs, squeeze it and imagine you cannot let it drop the floor. This will naturally help you engage your glutes and core. Still too hard? Try elevating yourself so you are no longer on the floor, but using a bench, bar, etc. 

2.) Hand and shoulder position – many people like to place their hands wide and when they lower down to the floor, their elbows stick out to 90 degree angles. This puts your shoulders in a bad position and can eventually lead to an injury.

Key tip: focus on keeping your hands 45 degrees from your ribs. Your elbows should slightly tuck back instead of out. 

3.) Reaching with your neck – this is another common mistake I see often and it puts your neck in a bad position since it causes forward neck posture.

Key tip: focus on leading with your chest and keep your head still, as if it cannot touch the floor. By keeping your head back, you’ll keep your neck in a better position. 

In this video, you can notice my head reaches towards the floor and my elbows flare out instead of back.

What about girl push ups? Please don’t do them. By performing push ups from your knees, you put yourself in a different position where your core and glutes don’t work. You also shorten your hip flexors.

If you can’t do a push up from the floor, try elevating yourself to a higher position and focus on getting your chest to meet the bar, bench, couch or whatever else you are using. Remember, imagine your whole body coming down and up in one (head down through glutes).

Range of Motion is Key

To see your body and strength transform, you’ll need to make sure you are challenging your range of motion. If you are doing a push up on the floor, but can’t hit your chest to the floor, put yourself in an elevated position so you can get the full range of motion.

Many times when coaching, I have individuals use a bar for push ups to work specifically on a full range of motion. As they get stronger, the bar gets placed lower and lower until eventually they are doing push ups on the floor!

The Perfect Push Up

  • Elbows tuck back and flare out at 45 degrees
  • Head down to glutes comes up in one (glutes/core engaged)
  • Head stays still

 

 

Yes, You Can Enjoy Your Holiday Treats & Stay Fit Too

Yes, You Can Have Your Holiday Treats & Stay Fit Too

The holidays are here and we all have our own holiday traditions to celebrate. We all know it can be challenging to maintain your weight and weight gain is common during this time of year. But, it doesn’t have to be this way and by focusing on a few solid strategies, you can enjoy your treats and stay fit too.

Schedule Your Workouts Like an Appointment 

How to Maintain Your Weight During the Holidays

Exercise is essential to maintaining your weight over the holiday season.  Don’t look at exercise as a punishment for enjoying your favorites holiday treats, but more as a way of feeling good physically and mentally. The holiday season is busy and stressful for many people and it’s very easy to make it appear that you don’t have time for your normal workout routine. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, focus on what you can do for your exercise program. Take a look at your schedule week(s) in advance and plan your workouts like an appointment you can’t miss. No excuses allowed. Don’t pick days that *might* work because this makes it easier to possibly talk yourself out of skipping it if your day doesn’t go as planned. Remember, workouts don’t have to be an hour long to be effective. Simply find a way to consistently move at least three times per week.

Look Forward to Your Splurges 

Everyone has a certain “bliss” point. Some people may love their cocktails, while others like sweets or savory meals. Regardless what you love, have a plan for when you want to enjoy it. This goes back to looking at your calendar and writing in your fun activities. This helps you stay aware of days where you may indulge in something more calorie dense and it can help you say no to something tempting that may come up unexpectedly. I love looking ahead because it reminds me it’s important to make a good choice today because I know I will really enjoy (fill in the blank here) at my holiday party on Saturday.

Ask Yourself if It’s Worth It 

Temptations are everywhere this time of year. Whether it’s holiday parties, treats at work, or special “holiday” items that only come around once a year, it’s hard to say no. I’ve been there before where I found myself eating everything that crossed my path for years during the holiday season. In order to break this cycle, I had to start focusing on what foods I truly enjoyed and which foods I could easily pass on. Create a short list for yourself of foods or drinks that are too good to pass up. Also, think of items in the past that weren’t “blow your hair back” good and practice saying no this month.

My worth it foods: our family holiday cookies, homemade pie, Christmas Eve and Christmas day dinner, or a meal at one of my favorite restaurants.

Not worth it items: most store bought items, fast food and most alcohol.

Practice Consistency

The holiday season can really challenge your healthy habit consistency. Weight gain or weight loss occurs when you are consistent. During the holidays, if you find yourself consistently indulging and skipping your workouts, most likely you will start the New Year heavier than before the holiday season. However, if you consistently stick to your good habits during the holidays, but savor your favorites, you will start the New Year without any setbacks. Here are a few things to keep in mind this month.

  • Make 80% of your meals filled with a good source of protein & vegetables.
  • Stick to your workout calendar.
  • Find work-arounds when something doesn’t go as planned.
  • Bring your water bottle with you everywhere you go.
  • Find ways to decrease your stress that don’t involve food or alcohol (hot bath, tea, a good book, phone a friend, listen to relaxing music, etc.)
  • Learn what to say to friends or family members who pressure you to indulge when you really don’t want to.

Find Go-To Emergency Meals

Since the holidays are so busy, plan in the back of your head what you could eat in case you find yourself doing last minute holiday shopping, working late or anything else where you are not wanting to cook. It’s okay if you don’t want to cook a healthy meal, but don’t let it be an excuse to cave into comfort food. The old me always ordered pizza or went out to a comfort food restaurant. This is where having a go-to emergency meal is essential and if you do decide to make something from home, make it as quick as possible.

At home ideas: reheated leftovers, canned tuna/chicken, an omelet or lastly, a good protein shake. Keep veggies in the freezer (or in the fridge) that you can easily whip up for a side.

Have a few go-to restaurants: Preferably, pick somewhere where you aren’t tempted by comfort foods. I can definitely make a good choice at a Mexican restaurant, but if I’m tired or stressed, I will eat the free chips that come out right away. However, Chipotle works great for me because I have to buy the chips and it’s a no brainer to pass.

My two go-to places: Whole Foods Salad Bar or Chipotle (salad, chicken, salsa, fajita veggies and a side of guacamole)

 

The Best Strength Exercise You Aren’t Doing

If you have experience weight training, you are very familiar with the squats, split squats, deadlifts, lunges and step-ups. These are staple moves whether you are following a workout DVD, taking a group fitness class or exercising on your own. While these are great exercises to master, incorporating different movement patterns is essential to a balanced strength program. Whether I’m working with a client or talking to a friend about exercise, most of them aren’t familiar with a lateral lunge or lateral movement.

Do you find yourself moving laterally? If not, the lateral lunge is a must for your weekly strength sessions.

Coaching Cues

  • Initiate the movement by driving your hips back. Your knee (of the side you’re lunging towards) should be in line or slightly behind your big toe.
  • Push your heel (of the side you’re lunging towards) through the floor. Often I see the heel lift when individuals try this exercise.
  • Always work your range of motion. The goal is to sink your hips low enough that it’s level with your knee.
  • Brace your core as you start to stand up and transition your weight back to the starting position.

Where should you feel this? Your glute (hip) on the side you’re lunging towards, inner thigh and core are all working in this movement.

Before adding weight to this exercise, focus on getting into a good range of motion first. Once you can get into an ideal range of motion, choose one of the following exercises.

Goblet Lateral Lunge

20161101_111257This is the first progression from body weight lateral lunges. Holding the weight in a goblet position helps you sink into a good range of motion, while also engaging your core.

Complete 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps each side.

 

 

 

Single Arm Lateral Lunge

20161101_111250

The second progression is taking the weight onto one side. This forces your shoulders to stabilize while challenging your core even more.

Complete 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps each side.

 

 

 

Lateral Lunge with a Pause

20161101_111304 Another great progression from the single arm example above. This exercise still forces your core to stabilize, but challenges your hips with the pause at the bottom. I always focus on letting the weight touch the floor for 1-2 seconds. Then, drive the force up through the power of your hips. It’s a tough move, but effective.

Complete 2-3 sets for 6-10 reps each side.