For many of us, the holiday season is one of the most difficult times of the year for maintaining good dietary habits and overall physical fitness. Cooler weather means that you are probably not spending as much time on potentially calorie-burning outdoor activities, and the holidays themselves tend to bring many occasions for eating big meals and festive sweets. Over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, then, it is more important than ever to make fitness a regular part of your schedule—but, ironically enough, this is also the season when finding the time for fitness is most difficult; there is simply too much hustle and bustle, too much season busyness, to really commit to the gym!
How, then, might a person ensure that he or she is getting some quality exercise, even during this hectic time of the year? A good first step is to consider how much exercise a person really needs; a recent article cites a couple of baseline figures, directed primarily at women. The article cites Mayo Clinic research, which indicates that women need 150 minutes of moderate activity, or else 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (i.e., running), every week. Other sources indicate that a couple of 30-minute workouts each week is a good starting point. Of course, your mileage may vary, depending on age, physical condition, and gender, but the point is that it is important to set aside a few blocks of time for regular physical activity.
And that’s the problem, for a lot of us; during the winter months, especially, we simply do not have that kind of spare time. While there is no substitute for quality time at the local gym, there are some ways in which you can work a little physical activity into your daily life.
A good starting point: Do your house cleaning yourself. Hiring a cleaning service might be appealing during this busy time of the year, but putting a little elbow grease into cleaning your floors or dusting your cabinets can help you burn some calories—significantly.
In fact, there are many ways you can get aerobic exercise, without having to make a trip down to the gym. Even something as simple as pruning your planets before the frost sets in will help you get active, and keep fit. Over the holiday season, try to make it to the gym as much as you can—but also make sure that you are looking for easy ways to get in a few moments of exercise each day, even as you attend to the needs of your home or your family!
For additional tips and techniques for making sure you and your family stay healthy during the winter months, visit www.onlinefitnesslog.com today!
I keep talking to you about eating real food, so this Holiday Season You can make your own Healthy Cranberry Sauce from scratch that actually tastes much better than the fake stuff! To start, let’s look at the Ingredients of the fake stuff – Cranberries, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup. So, we have berries, mixed with GMO High Fructose Corn Syrup, and GMO Corn Syrup all mixed up in this gelatinized cylinder of processed diabetes juice. Yah, you like that?
So, let’s use real ingredients, no added sugar, and seasonal organic produce to make something healthy that your body will recognize as food.
Sticking to a diet is always tough, but it becomes especially difficult during the holiday season, when festive goodies, sweet holiday beverages, family meals, and Christmas parties threaten to seduce you and lure you into overeating. During the holiday season, maintaining good nutritional habits is particularly hard, and a few lapses are probably to be expected. With that said, there are a few basic tips that anyone can remember as they try to maintain their figure over the cold months of winter.
For starters, consider some of the ways in which you can keep from overindulging on unhealthy foods. You can curb temptation by enjoying snacks that fill you up—in a good way. For example, you might munch on a few fruits and vegetables before a big holiday party, allowing your body to fill up with fiber. This may have the effect of making you want to eat less, once the cookies and pastries make their appearance!
Of course, it is also prudent to be vigilant about the foods you eat at holiday parties. Dips are a good example. Not all dips are bad for you, per se, with guacamole and hummus, in particular, being rich in good, healthy fats. They are a better bet than some of the other dips that may be on offer, but be careful: While they may have the good kinds of fat, fat is fat, and calories do add up.
Cocktails, too, can be hazardous to your dieting success. A good rule of thumb is that if you are offered a drink that is brightly colored, looking like Kool-Aid, then there is a pretty good chance it is filled with sugar. Clear drinks are typically better bets.
Another diet tip, particularly useful for holiday parties: Remember that cheese, in large quantities, can really cause you to pack on the pounds. It is not just that cheese is fatty; it also slows the entire digestive process. A sliver of cheese is fine, but do not make the mistake of thinking it is okay to overindulge, simply because it is not a sweet or a pastry.
Finally, remember that when you go to holiday parties or leave to spend the day Christmas shopping, nutritious foods are probably going to be in short supply. As such, it is a great idea to fill up before you even leave your home—or at least, to ensure that you are not completely famished once those tempting foods start coming your way. Eat good, nutritious foods when you have the chance, and see what a strong effect it has on your seasonal fitness habits.
If you are looking for a more scientific way of tracking holiday calories or want to make sure you get a healthy start to the New Year, learn more about the services offered at http://www.onlinefitnesslog.com/.
A Facebook fan recently asked me “How do I stay Motivated to Exercise?” This is a great question because almost everyone struggles with motivation and discipline from time to time. So, I thought I would take a couple minutes to address about how I manage to balance my life and all the responsibility that comes with work and family and still manage to exercise and take care of myself.
How flexible are you? In fitness, as in life, being flexible is one of the keys to success—so why is it that flexibility is often given the shaft, even by true exercise enthusiasts? For many exercisers, the important part of the workout is the strength training, or perhaps the aerobics. Make no mistake, though: Improving your flexibility, through different kinds of stretches, is as vital to your time in the gym as anything else you do!
Why is flexibility so important? For one thing, flexibility exercises come highly recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine. This organization has been advocating on behalf of flexibility training for ten years now, noting that, by doing these important stretching exercises, you can expand your range of motion and improve your physical performance. In other words, working on your flexibility will actually help you get more out of your workouts.
The inverse is also true: If flexibility improves your performance, stiff muscles prohibit you from functioning at your best. Stiffness can lead to an increased risk of injury. It can limit you in your physical movements. Sore, stiff muscles fail to adequately support the rest of your body, which means you will not be able to keep up as much vigorous, heart-pumping activity.
Finally, we might note that flexibility exercises are not just helpful for serious fitness buffs: For those who are more advanced in their years, flexibility exercises can help to restore mobility and stability, and lead to greater all-around physical strength and stamina.
Of course, as with any kind of exercise, there is a right and a wrong way to stretch. It is important to remember the concept of intensity, just as you would with a cardio workout or with weight lifting. You should stretch to the point of intensity, but not to the point of physical pain and anguish. When a muscle that you are stretching begins to shake uncontrollably, you have gone well past the point of what it safe and healthy, and it’s time to take a rest.
Another important consideration: Breathing. Take deep breathes as you stretch and flex, to ensure that your body and muscles are able to relax. This is important for keeping yourself safe and well while you work out, and ultimately for ensuring that you are getting the most out of your flexibility training.
The bottom line is that taking the time to stretch, and to seriously work on your flexibility, is not just a “warm-up,” but one of the most beneficial parts of the entire workout!
I got a comment on my L-Sit video from user Mentawais asking “can you post some videos to improve hamstring flexibility? thanks” ok, if you want to improve your hamstrings flexibility and thus improve your L-Sit, here are a few ways you can stretch your hamstrings out. You want to do this when you are warmed up, usually after workout, or after a 15 -20 minute warm up to get ready to do some L Sits or exercises that require some flexibility. If you really want to dramatically improve your flexibility, that requires real work, and you should be doing this Daily. Be careful you don’t over stretch and tear something – and as always, if you do, don’t blame me – not my fault. To start, here are typical trainer ways to stretch your hamstrings – with a stretching Rope or even a towel around your foot. Try to keep your knee straight, and hold these for at least 30 seconds. While you are at it, you probably should stretch to each side.
Gymnasts typically do things a bit more aggressively since they are used to stretching for about 20 minutes per day. Each one of these stretches can be done and held for at 30 seconds. Pike Stretch – Hurdler Splits – Right Leg and Left Leg Straddle Splits
If your goal is to be able to lift your legs in an L position, you’ll want to practice a seated leg lift as well just to get your body used to lifting your legs up while your knees are straight. Put your hands by your side and push off your fingertips and use your abs and hip flexors to lift your legs.
The autumn season is in full swing now, and we all know what that means: Colder weather, the increasingly early appearance of Christmas decorations, and pumpkin. Lots and lots of pumpkin. Go into any coffee shop or venue that sells baked goods and you will surely be greeted with a bevy of seasonal treats—many of them flavored with pumpkin.
For those seeking to be mindful of their own nutrition, there are a couple of things to remember about these seasonal foods and beverages. The first is that pumpkin rarely comes by itself; typically, it is accompanied by sugar and spices of many varieties. As you might imagine, not all of these spicy pumpkin treats are low-fat or low-calorie. A little autumn indulgence is fine, of course, but keep in mind that, while pumpkin may seem wholesome enough, pumpkin-flavored treats are not always especially good for you!
The second thing to remember about these pumpkin-flavored goodies is that, while they are made to smell and to taste like pumpkin, the reality is that very few of these items are made with real pumpkin. That’s a shame, because real pumpkin is actually very good for you, loaded with nutrients—among them dietary fiber, vitamin A, calcium, potassium, and B vitamins.
This poses an opportunity: Instead of consuming all of those sugary, artificially pumpkin-flavored treats, why not make some seasonal items of your own—and take full advantage of the nutrients found in actual pumpkin? When you go to pick up a big pumpkin for carving, or for home decorating, it would be the easiest thing in the world to also ask for a small, sweet pumpkin to use in your holiday baking.
The Internet is full of recipe ideas that involve pumpkin. Remember that there are plenty of health-conscious and low-calorie options for pumpkin-related foods. For example, you can effectively make a pumpkin pie without the crust—just call it pumpkin custard—and cut your carbs by quite a bit. You can also try adding a bit of pumpkin to hearty vegetable soups—a great and healthy way to get a bit of seasonal flavor.
In the end, it is rather remarkable how pivotal a role pumpkin plays in our holiday baking and eating—and how little we understand pumpkin’s true nutritional value! You can change that, this holiday season, by seeking some clever ways to bake with real pumpkin. It’s tasty, and your body will thank you for it!
Most of us know by now that getting fit all boils down to a simple balancing act: You need to watch what you eat, not necessarily going to any great extreme but simply moderating portions and getting plenty of nutrients; and, you need to get some exercise. Of course, this is much easier said than done! One of the hardest parts about it is coming to the realization that the quality of your workout hinges on what you’re eating directly before and directly after it.
A lot of fitness novices make this mistake: They assume that, since they are seeking to burn calories during their workouts, it is prudent to abstain from eating beforehand, and then to keep from splurging directly after. Part of this is true—going on a food bender directly after you exercise can undo some of the positive benefits of your physical activity and your calorie burning—but ultimately, your body needs food, and all the more so when you are engaging in strenuous activity.
The bottom line is this: If you do not eat something before you work out, your body will not have the energy it needs to perform at its best. You will crash halfway through the workout, and not get as much out of it. And if you do not replenish your energy by eating something after a workout, you could end up with sore muscles or other physical maladies.
The next question is this: What should you eat? Certainly, you should not eat a big, heavy meal before you go to exercise, and in fact, you should have your workout at least four hours after a big meal, to give it adequate time to digest. Do have a snack before you work out, however—something that is rich in protein and in slow-release carbohydrates, which will give your body some much-needed energy. Good examples include: Peanut butter on whole wheat bread; a piece of fruit, ideally a banana; or some cereal with oats, nuts, and/or raisins.
After the workout, your body will crave some replenishment—and eating the right things can help you prevent the risk of muscle aches or soreness. A good protein, like lean meat (chicken, especially) or eggs, can prove very helpful.
Last thing: Remember that hydration is key—before, during, and after the workout. This is another important way in which you can keep your body nourished, and ultimately get the most out of your exercise sessions.
Ex-elite gymnast Alan Valdes demonstrates the L-Sit to Straddle Press-Up Handstand, a great parallel bars exercise!
Parallel bars are an awesome bodyweight training tool for practicing your hand balancing, and this week we’ve got two incredible exercises for you to try out: the L-Sit to High Hip Tuck; and the L-Sit to Straddle Press-Up Handstand. Whether you are a gymnast, bar athlete or general bodyweight enthusiast, Parallels are an excellent place to work on your strength, coordination, and stabilization while building some seriously cool skills!
This is a special post for me, since we are featuring my own gymnastics/parkour coach Alan Valdes. As I tell you guys all the time, I owe so much to the coaches that I’ve linked up with in my own journey through bodyweight disciplines. It’s always been a big belief of mine that the best way to learn something is to seek out the best person in that field to learn from. I’ve been fortunate enough to have some really incredible coaches. Alan has played a major role in my progression and continues to push me on a daily basis. He also happens to be in our upcoming hand balancing DVD (which I’m completely psyched about – more on that later!)
The All-Important Hand Balancing Grip!
When learning to hand balance, the hand’s connection with the surface you are balancing on plays a major roll with the success of your balance.
The L-Sit Position
When balancing on a flat surface, you can use your fingers to help keep you from “over balancing” or toppling over forward. Eventually, through consistent practice and specific technique, you’ll find the “sweet spot” that allows you to hold a solid balance as long as your endurance allows.
Using parallel bars or parallettes with your hand balancing adds a whole new dimension (literally!). Not only does the use of parallel bars change the wrist position (which may make it more comfortable for some) but the PBs open up an entirely new potential for some advanced movements – such as the L-sit to High Hip Tuck and the L-sit to Straddle Handstand Press-Up featured in this video. Due to the fact that you can now grip the bars, it’s a little easier to new reach new levels. Now you can really move your body through space in ways that would be more difficult, or even impossible, if you were limited to a flat hand position on the ground.
The Biomechanics of Balancing on Parallel Bars
PB L-Sit Transition 1
PB L-Sit Transition 2
PB L-Sit to Straddle
PB – Handstand Press-Up
The biomechanics of the L-Sit to Hip Tuck and L-Sit to Straddle Handstand Press-Up are tricky. The poor leverage of the prime movers makes both of these movements very difficult. What exactly does that mean, though? Let’s break it down:
In traditional resistance training, we are accustomed to lifting objects through space while holding onto them. In bodyweight training, though, it is more how we grip an immovable object and move our own bodies around it. Think about it this way. In a dumbbell front delt raise, we would grip two dumbbells and lift them up to shoulder level. In this example we would continue past the shoulder level and stop when the DB’s are over head. So in order for that movement to happen, the front medial delt, with some pec major and bicep, have to activate. Now if we re-engineer this and the dumbbells become an immoveable object (i.e. like the parallel bars), we would now be moving our entire body as if we are doing a front delt raise, but with our own body instead of the dumbbells!
Let’s break it down even further and look at the muscle action in the movements featured in the video. You’ll see how the muscles are actually at a mechanical DISADVANTAGE. Starting with the wrist, the forearm flexors and stabilizers have to make a solid connection with the bar and even allow the bones of the forearm to move past a neutral position to a laterally flexed angle at the wrist. The tricep has to stay fully engaged to keep the elbows locked (a bent elbow is considered incorrect form). It’s the roll of the bicep, however, that does something amazing. We know that the bicep bends the elbow, but it also raises the arm from the shoulder. Since the arm is fixed, the bicep has to begin to raise the entire body from the shoulder (with the help of the deltoid). Now the shoulder girdle becomes the anchor for the erectors of the spine to continue to raise the hips.
If you are doing the High Hip Tuck version, you would tuck the knees up towards the chest and the heels up towards the glutes, with your hips continuing to rise until they are above the shoulders. In the Straddle Handstand Press, you would keep your legs straight, opening them into a straddle position until your hips are stacked above the shoulders and the body has found its balance. Then begin to pull your legs back together as they rise up into a full handstand.
Whether you are doing the High Tuck or the Handstand Press-Up, you want to hold the static as long as you can keeping perfect form, before slowly returning to the starting position. The center of gravity is constantly changing, so the body has to make countless micro adjustments to maintain its balance. Maintaining complete control throughout the exercise is key. This is a true feat of strength, balance, stability and coordination!
Practice, Practice and More Practice!
Keep in mind that both of these movements are advanced hand balance exercises.
High Hip Tuck: Hold this static as long as you can keep perfect form!
The L-Sit to High Hip Tuck is a precursor to Straddle Handstand Press-Up, and you’ll want to master the first before moving on to the next. In the video we also show you an example of a wall-assisted exercise that will help you build the strength and skills needed to control the ascent and descent of your legs with the Handstand Press-Up progression. I also suggest looking at some of the other hand balancing videos on the GBT site to help you build up to these progressions (some of them are listed below to get you started). Remember that hand balancing is a discipline all on its own and the only way you’re going to get good at hand balancing, is to PRACTICE HAND BALANCING! It’s that simple.
We’ve been telling you about our upcoming full-length video on Hand Balancing, and we are excited to be getting closer to its release in early 2013. The video will have plenty of conditioning and skill building exercises in it, and will take you all the way from beginning techniques to the very advanced moves.
To get everyone in a Hand Balancing state of mind as we get ready to release the DVD, we’ll be doing some fun photo contests over on our Facebook page. Be sure to check it out – it’s easy to enter (and win a free DVD!) or just enjoy checking out all the hand balancing pics we’ll be asking everyone to upload.
Hand balancing has a direct carry over into all elements of athleticism. Not to mention that it’s really fun. And, oh yeah, it looks pretty damn cool! Keep up the practice and stay tuned for more to come.
Handbalancing is an art that requires lots of practice. Check out some of these other hand balancing tutorials as you work on progressing your practice:
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