inner engine fitness

building a better body

A Workout in 4 Measly Minutes

There is plenty of proof out there that exercise is amazing for us, but how come we don’t continue doing it?! The answer is that our bodies and minds forget how good it can be if we go too long without exercise. Usually we take a break out of necessity or lack of motivation and never get back into the groove. Muscle memory works for us when we’re active and against us when we drop the ball!

Yes, our bodies are creatures of habit and we can easily fall out of doing something that is great for us, but we can all fit something in when we have the time. And yes, we have 4 minutes a day!

You saw that right: 4 minutes! Tabata is a technique to amp your body and mind in just four measly minutes. The only catch is that while you’re moving, you’ll be working hard….all out exertion hard. But, we can all suffer for just 4 minutes a few days a week, can’t we?! You bet we can!

And the best part is that you won’t be able to come up with good enough excuses as to why you couldn’t get it done. Four minutes is just longer than taking a restroom break or time to check your email. Come on, you know you can do this!

So, get ready to move your body and invigorate your mind in the shortest time possible. It is sure to amp up your energy and productivity!

Here is your workout:

20 seconds of running in place, pumping your arms (as fast as you can!)

10 seconds of rest

20 seconds of push ups, on knees or toes (fast pace, but controlled!)

10 seconds of rest

Repeat the whole sequence until four minutes is up. That’s 4 sets of 2 exercises. If you make it through that and still have more time, stretch or take a walk to relieve those worked muscles, or add this on to your daily workout.

Great job! Now feel those happy endorphins pumping through your body and mind. Feel free to sit down and get some work done, or maybe take a short walk to continue the glow. Relish the fact that you got a workout in. Remember, the more consistent you are with exercise, the better your body and mind will feel.

As an important side note, make sure to vary your routine, not just doing Tabata. Going full tilt, even for 4 minutes, is no joke, so dial it down if you need to. But if some days, all you have is 5 minutes to spare, there are no more excuses to miss a workout!

I hope you enjoy your speedy workout! Now, just remember to keep on moving!!

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The Best Time to Indulge

We all love foods that are not really the best for our waistline, but what if I told you there is a better way to include the foods you love in your diet? No, it’s not too good to be true! There really is a better way!

Now, most of the time we should follow a pretty good food plan. It helps to keep our energy up and makes our bodies happy. But we all love an indulgence now and then. So, what is the best way to have your cake and eat it too? By fitting it into your weekly food plan.

The best times of the day to include a treat is early in the day or before/after your workout. Now, I know you have a couple days when you don’t work out, but on the days that you sweat the most, your fun, tasty foods will fit in nicely and your waistline will barely even show it.

The reason for this timing window is that your body will use most of what you give it when you’re working the hardest, or if you have the rest of the day to burn it off. Now, don’t get me wrong. It is important to limit your sweets to items that you really love and are worth the splurge for your health’s sake. The sugar, fat and limited nutrients in most treats make them occasional indulgences for a reason. We don’t need to load up on junk all the time. But, when you are really in the mood or the occasion calls for it, try your best to get a workout in sometime before or after your splurge and you will limit the effect that the added calories will have on your body.

When you use the calories immediately for energy, you are able to thwart a lot of the storage that would take place without moving. Your body really is amazing and will hang on to the additional calories to use later if you don’t use them right away. So, beat your body to the punch and fool it into thinking that the extra calories had a purpose: to propel you to work harder during your workout!

So, hopefully this idea will come to mind the next time you need a treat! It’s always good to have a trick or two up your sleeve for when you really want your cookies, but you don’t want to wear them! Just make sure to save the added calories for when you are really in the mood, not letting it become a consistent habit.

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Should You Supplement?

We just don’t get enough vitamins and minerals out of our food anymore! Our soil is depleted and there are many versions of our favorite foods that are made to taste better, but do not necessarily have a better nutrient profile. And so we supplement!

Most people now take a multivitamin to cover the nutritional deficiencies in their diet. A good many people just do not eat enough nutrient-dense food. And every time the public hears of a new product that will improve their health, the sales of the supplement skyrocket. But are the pills helping?

There are a couple of things to consider when figuring out if you need supplements. First of all, know that they are not regulated like medications. What this means is that they are generally considered to be safe, but the amount of vital ingredient may be less than what is stated on the label. That is crucial to your finances. Second of all, they don’t always have long-term studies to prove that the supplement does what it is supposed to do. (Some of the information about health benefits is taken from the real food, not just the active ingredient.) And even if they do, sometimes the reports are conflicting. This is even more important to your wallet and your health.

So, what is the best plan when thinking about whether to purchase supplements? The best first step is to take a close look at your diet and your health. Does your diet seem well-balanced and nutrient-rich, including some organic or local produce? Do you eat a variety of fresh foods that would cover most of the vitamins and minerals your body needs, or do you eat a lot of processed foods that have very limited nutrients? The next best step if you are concerned about deficiencies is to call your healthcare provider and get a full work-up to look at what your body may be missing. Perhaps even a conversation with your doctor would yield the answers you seek.

If you follow those steps, you will discover that you probably don’t need to supplement as much or for as long as you think you do. If you eat a variety of nutritious foods and keep processed foods to a minimum, you are already doing pretty well. If you need to work on your diet, then you should start there, not with supplements. The doctor’s appointment should shed light on any major deficiencies and will enable you to talk to your doctor about what you’re considering taking.

Whichever direction you choose, remember to pick your supplements wisely because you may not be getting everything you paid for and the benefits may not include all that the supplement suggests. When or if you decide to supplement, do your research to find reputable companies that do third-party testing to make sure that you are getting a good quality supplement. This is important for quality assurance as well as potency.

In closing, I believe supplements should be used sparingly, sticking only to those that you know you are in need of. My personal inventory is a multi-vitamin, calcium magnesium, green superfood (for insurance!), fish oil and vitamin D. I have found through the years that those are what my body needs. Good luck finding what works for you!

Here are a few articles to get you started if you’re interested in delving further:

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Vitamin-Supplements-Healthy-or-Hoax_UCM_432104_Article.jsp#.VzZdVX2UiM8

https://www.verywell.com/do-you-need-to-take-vitamins-2507776

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When Sweating Makes Me Smile

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We all have our go-to exercises. Some people love the feel of heavy weights swinging in front of them. Others love classes where high-energy moves make them feel inspired. I personally like a combination of different activities and I love to enjoy what I do.

Dancing is a go-to exercise for me. When I turn on the music, my body just starts moving. I have been like that since I was a little tyke. Nothing feels as good as shaking your body any way your heart desires. Another nice thing about this kind of exercise is that you can do it rain or shine, so turn up the tunes and start moving!

Kettlebells are another must for me. I love the feel of the weight moving around me. I used to work out with dumbbells all the time and I liked those, but I LOVE kettlebells. They add a whole new dimension to moving free weight. If you’re unfamiliar with them, try the core swing first. It was pure love for me at first swing! What’s better than working up a sweat and feeling strong?!

Walking has always been my solace. It is as natural of an exercise as it gets. When I feel cooped up or uneasy, if an issue needs more thought, or if it’s just a fantastic day, I find myself lacing up my shoes and taking to the pavement. I usually do some of my finest thinking when my body is moving and since walking is a slow-burn exercise, requiring minimal thought to execute, it is a perfect way to add some meditation to my day. Even if you just have time for a quick jaunt around the block, get out there. Your mind and body will thank you!

I added the heavy bag to my training arsenal in the last few years. It offers a great way to get rid of stress in compact form. A twenty-minute session is perfect for releasing tension and enhancing focus, not to mention the calories you torch in the process. If you want to try something similar and don’t have a bag, just clench your fists and picture the bag in front of you. Make sure to keep your body tight and use quick jabs, keeping the upper back and core engaged to protect your upper body from over-extension. It’s a blast!

Those are my favorite activities to keep my body and mind engaged. Give one or all of them a try if you’re up for it!

What are your tried and true ways to train? Let me know and maybe I’ll have a new favorite come next week!

Thanks for reading and here’s to a happy workout!

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Great Fun-ctional Ab exercises from Greatist, Check them out!

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Ditch those crunches and have some fun! This article gives you great pictures to go with each move. I love all of these exercises, but if you make it to the end of the article, I can’t do that one! Maybe you canūüėČ

Try them out and let me know how it goes!

http://greatist.com/move/abs-workout-unexpected-moves-that-work-better-than-crunches?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_content=story1_title&utm_campaign=daily_newsletter_2016-03-28_mails_daily_new_header

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Less Than 3%?

In order to achieve true health, we need to relax and unwind.

In order to achieve true health, we need to relax and unwind.

A recent study in the news analyzed how many people follow healthy habits during their daily life. By the title, I’m guessing you know how many people follow these guidelines. It’s staggering to think that with all of the available information today, we still adhere to behaviors that are less than good for us. It shows that more is needed than just information. It’s all about behavior change and we all know that we don’t like change!

The study reviewed nearly 5000 adults, a decent sample size I’d say. They looked at four behaviors: non-smoking, good eating habits, exercise level, and body fat percentage. Less than three percent of the group achieved all four healthy habits on a regular basis. That is quite a statement about our society.

I believe stress is a major player. Who isn’t strapped for time and burning the candle at both ends?! What stress does to the body is that it triggers you to eat more and get less benefit from exercise. It also creates more addictive behaviors meant to thwart the anxiety you feel constantly. As a cherry on top, your body holds onto more fat when you are constantly stressed because back in the days when you were surviving, not just living, your body needed all the reserves available. Enter again into current times and your body believes it needs to protect itself from the onslaught of stress.

This is not a recipe for success. We need to figure out ways to be more mindful and less stressed out. Obesity is at an all-time high, and is starting at a very young age. We are literally killing ourselves, even though we know the right behaviors to adopt.

So, to try to handle stress a bit more effectively, I have a few ideas for you:

  1. Take a few deep breaths before you embark on any activity you find stressful.
  2. Carve out quality time relaxing with your loved ones, perhaps walking the dog or going for a leisurely stroll.
  3. Have just one or two glasses of wine (depending on your weight and gender) to unwind from a particularly rough day at work.
  4. Keep a constant supply of fruits and veggies handy and cut up, even if you have to recruit a delivery service or the help of your family members to achieve the goal.
  5. Make sure to get AT LEAST seven hours of sleep a night.
  6. For a minimum of a half hour at night, do something relaxing that is not work-related, even if that means you don’t have an immaculate house. Read a book, have a cup of herbal tea, talk to a friend on the phone or Skype, or take a warm bath.

Do these things and then you can work up to the four healthy habits listed at the top. Health and an overload of stress are not compatible. As long as you keep pushing yourself until you’re depleted, you won’t have the energy to change for the better. The answer is to support your fragile body, not to beat it up. If we are kind to ourselves, we lay the groundwork for a healthy future. So, take the step to build your health piece by piece. Soon, together we’ll make up more than a measly 2.7%!

If you’d like to, let me know what your sticking points are in your pursuit of better health. I’d love to help you break through the barriers.

For further information about the study, visit: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/03/less-than-3-percent-of-americans-live-a-healthy-lifestyle/475065/

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Freedom to Move

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Remember the days when people were more active? Not very many people belonged to a gym, and programmatic workouts were generally for athletes, not for everyone. Daily life kept everyone moving and engaged, not just tied to computers by day and treadmills by night.

Times have changed, for better or worse, and with that change we have lost spontaneity of movement. We are so busy with our lives, checking emails, reading texts, that by the time we think about our workouts, we’re spent. We have a go-to workout that we scramble to finish or a machine we jump on for a hamster wheel session, (that is if we even have time to squeeze activity in).

I don’t know about you, but I often need a break from the mind-numbing approach to exercise. Counting reps and sets or making sure to get a certain amount of time in takes its toll after a while. I’m ready to put some fun back into moving my body. Who’s with me?!

Exercise doesn’t have to be compartmentalized and boring. We don’t have to do any more preset routines if we don’t want to. The key to staying fit and healthy doesn’t lie on Pinterest, or in a magazine or book. We hold the key to movement inside of us.

The lifelong secret to staying healthy and fit is to find something active that we enjoy doing and to keep doing it….period. Surely, we can find at least one activity we enjoy doing that moves our bodies. I can rattle off a bunch of activities, like walking, biking, swimming, playing with your kids, dancing, playing tennis, golf, martial arts, or any other activity you can think of. None of those are technically workouts, but they are fun, engaging, and definitely count as exercise. ¬†There is something out there for everyone, so all you have to do is look within and find what you like to do to stay healthy. Feel free to take up a new activity or switch it up constantly.¬† Join a walking group, play racquetball at the local Y, do yoga in your bedroom, or dance in your backyard. The idea is to keep the blood moving and the boredom at bay!

It’s such a shame to look at what exercise can been reduced to. Even the word workout has work in it! Now, don’t get me wrong. Workouts can be fun and they do serve a purpose, but we don’t have to be slaves to them. I personally love my workouts and try to get a few in during the week to cover my bases, but I leave myself open to spontaneous exercise on the weekends, or whenever my body and mind need a break from repetitive exercise. That way I never get bored!

Exercise should be fun and enjoyable. You should find that it takes your mind off your problems and helps you shed stress. It doesn’t have to be incredibly hard and you shouldn’t dread it. Actually, the best way to engage in it is with lightness of heart and a true fondness for movement. So, mix it up and start enjoying activity again.

It seems we’ve gotten too far from true health and fitness. Being healthy isn’t about having a perfect body, doing a particular workout, or being able to do the most push ups. It was and always should be about taking care of our personal health and well-being. It’s time to stop beating ourselves up with countless burpees and start moving because we feel good doing it. Find activities you really enjoy and that make your body sing. You’ll gain so many more benefits than you do from engaging in the exercise of repetition alone.

 

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Plant-like Humans?

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You wake up, feeling the warmth of the sun on your face. You’re ready to start the day, refreshed and invigorated. Throwing the covers aside, you practically leap out of bed and scurry to the shower, plans for your day quickly coming together.

The following morning, you awaken slowly, feeling heavy and drugged, hardly able to peel your eyes open. Reaching for your snooze button, you notice that it is raining heavily outside. When the buzzer sounds a second time, you slowly lift yourself from your bed with the promise of much-needed coffee.

What is the difference between the two days? No, it is not the presence or lack of a hangover, although that’s a good guess! It is your body’s ability to detect sunlight and how that affects your mood.

Now, obviously we are not plants, but sometimes you have to wonder if people need the sun almost as much as plants do. As illustrated by the two vastly different mornings, our energy level is heavily influenced by the sun. In addition, we get vitamin D from the big, bright star, which enables us to build strong bones and healthy immune systems. We detect light through our eyes to generate serotonin, which keeps our mood upbeat, keeping us active mentally and physically. The sun even helps us establish proper circadian rhythms so that we have optimal sleep patterns.

In fact, the sun’s rays are so important that we have come up with ways to supplement during the short winter days or virtually sunless periods of time. We have light therapy, tanning booths, and vitamin D supplements to aid us during times of diminished sunlight. People living in areas of higher latitudes are more prone to depression and SAD (seasonal affective disorder) because the amount of sun during the winter days is less than adequate for healthy humans. There are even connections between autoimmune diseases, like MS, and lack of vitamin D.

So, tomorrow when you awaken, take note of how you feel and whether strong light is streaming through your window or not. The amount of sunlight you get may just determine how energetic and productive you feel. Perhaps you’ll need extra vitamin D or a little time in your light box’s company. Help yourself out by getting the mood lift you need. And remember that even though we don’t use the sun’s energy to make our own food, we nevertheless have a strong sunlight connection with plants.

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Your Road to Wellness

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There is no one-size-fits-all exercise routine, just as there is no diet that everyone should follow. We have different bodies, needs, and desires, so we should create a healthy lifestyle plan that fits our individual nature.

Start by thinking of what you like to do. Books and magazines, blogs and tweets compete for our attention constantly, so it’s best to figure out what is worth paying attention to. By figuring out what you like to do, you can cut through a lot of unnecessary information. Narrowing¬†your scope of interest while at the same time not holding yourself back from new experiences works best. For example, if you walk every day and want to lose weight, why not find some exercises that you can add to your walk? You can stop at a bench and do some push ups and step ups. Or you can change your route to include hills or stairs and do those a few times for an added challenge. Start small and add more diversity and challenges as you get stronger.

As for your diet, look at what you like to eat and build upon those foods instead of starting a new fad diet that excludes most of what you like. Incremental small changes are the way to make the most progress with any goal you have. You have to start with the familiar and build more healthy habits in slowly. In that way, you are going to like the process a lot more and you will stick to it instead of bingeing on what you’ve been depriving yourself of.

Health and fitness should be a journey; one with ups and downs, stumbles and celebrations that creates a template upon which you can build. If we jump right in without creating the base first, we end up faltering or most of the time failing. So, find your own beginning and create a personalized road to better health. If you need help with any part of the process, reach out to me or someone who can steer you in the right direction. You can get plenty of help along the way, but ultimately you’re the driver. Create the road that you can travel to better health.

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How Much Exercise is Too Much?

It’s a question that is all too familiar. How much of a good thing is too much? Sometimes it is hard to know, but your body will provide the answer.¬† You just have to listen to it.
The first thing you need to look at is your activity level at work. If you have a job where you are sitting all day, you are physically unchallenged all day. Mentally you may be doing somersaults, but your body is sedentary.  On the other hand, if you perform a labor job or are standing all day, you are burning more calories and are more active. This is important because when it comes to workout time, you need to address your needs carefully. If you are active all day, your body could benefit from a workout that emphasizes sitting and stretching more than high-energy activity. If you sit all day, you might need an activity that is fun and invigorating, making you feel like you can wash off the stress.  Of course these are just a couple of scenarios, so you might fall somewhere in between and need a yoga class one day and a group workout another day. Just remember not to push your body beyond what it is capable of handling, as that will contribute to injuries that will derail your efforts.
As far as diet is concerned, your calorie needs depend on a few things. First of all, you need to consider your goals.¬† Most people benefit from eating small, nutrient-dense meals that give you energy throughout the day. If you are active and burn many calories at your job or during your day, you will need more fuel than someone who sits in front of a computer for the majority of their day.¬† Higher carbohydrate diets should be for lean types that have a high-revving metabolism all day and need the extra energy.¬† For sedentary or heavier folks, cutting back on the calories, especially from carbs and fats, will be more helpful for maintaining and losing weight.¬† Focus carbohydrate foods around workout times or times of high activity because that’s when you will need them the most.

Now that we have focused on energy intake, let’s address the effects of exercise on your body. You shouldn’t punish your body with activity, just provide it with enough to stay fit and healthy. How do you know how much? Well, if you are having trouble waking up in the morning even though you have gotten at least 7 hours of sleep, your body is sore all the time, and/or you are famished more often than not, I would definitely consider dialing down the intensity and the amount of exercise you are doing. Moderation is definitely the key to a happy body. Just remember that all or nothing is not the answer. Strive for a plan that will be sustainable, regardless of the time of the year and your level of motivation. You don’t want to make yourself sick or get injured from too intense of a workout schedule, so find a few activities that work for you and give yourself choices each workout day.

So, here’s a real life example. If you’re an office worker who is sedentary most of the day, save for getting up for breaks and lunch, you could benefit from a daily walk and a few classes or workouts a week. Aim for some cardio, which is something that gets your heart going, like jogging or dancing, and some resistance exercise to keep your muscles strong. If you feel like your body is really sore one day, just walk or stretch instead of pushing through a vigorous routine. The next day you can give it your all and get back some intensity.

Make sure to find what works for you with regards to activity, food and sleep. If you slight your sleep and end up eating too much because your body is tired, you can end up injured from pushing yourself too hard on a low energy day. So pay attention to your body and be kind to it. Recovery is an important part of staying fit and healthy. A massage or a nice hot bath works wonders for soreness on a day when your body is not up for activity.

So, listen to your body and have fun. Fitness should be enjoyable and good for you. It’s great for your mood and your body, especially if you find activities that make you feel good. And make sure to pay attention to cues your body is giving you, especially in the aches and pains department. Too many days of soreness could lead to injury in the long run. Overall, balance is the key to a long and healthy relationship with movement. Figure out the right recipe today to help keep you moving tomorrow and for many years to come.

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