Hydrate Right: Proactively and Consistently

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water-bottle-962934_640By Laura Petrolino

If you life in the northern hemisphere….summer is here! (YAY)

But that also means, so is the chance of heat related injuries and illnesses, such as dehydration and heat stroke. (BOO)

In general, young (or young-ish), healthy underestimate their risk of heat-related injuries, as well as the effects of them. Even mild to moderate dehydration will cause fatigue, muscle soreness, headaches, and increase overall stress on the body….which prevents recovery and can set you up for a perfect storm of future illness and injury.

Not really a fun summertime proposition. Especially when you want to be out and about as much as possible to enjoy the great weather and long days.

Consistent Hydration: Your Hot Weather Mantra

The solution is proactive, consistent hydration. You can’t use thirst as a monitor, by the time you are thirst, especially if you aren’t used to drinking a lot of fluid (a habit you should workout), you most likely are already mildly dehydrated.

Make drinking water a habit. Flavor it with lemon of lime, or even things like pineapple, orange or kiwi slices, or even cucumber (for that just stepped out of the spa feel) if you need some flavor.

Choose foods with high water content. Luckily summer is ripe (hehe, get it..ripe, like a fruit) with these. Watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes…..and many more.

Don’t Forget Electrolytes

Supplement with electrolytes. Not only can dehydration be caused from a mineral and electrolyte imbalance instead. This happens when you are drinking a lot of fluid and/or sweating hard. Make sure you supplement with sea salt and if you are really out for a long time look at electrolyte supplements like Trace Mineral Drops (I used these all the time when I lived in Florida), or NUUN.

A clear indicator for me that my electrolytes are off is increased fatigue and a feeling that I just can’t get enough fluid, no matter how much I drink.

Fido Too!

Your dog can suffer from the effects of dehydration and heat-related injury as well. So make sure if you have him or her out exercising with you, or even just home hanging on the patio…you also keep him hydrated both through fluid and electrolytes. 

Go out and enjoy summer. Run around. Hike a trail. Swim in the ocean. But do so with a water bottle near-by.

 

 

 

Dealing with Stress

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By Jaime Rice

Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.

synonyms: strain, pressure, (nervous) tension, worry, anxiety, trouble, difficulty; informal hassle

Everyone deals with stress, on some level, almost every single day. Whether it is work-related stress, personal life stress, or a combination of both, stress levels can have wreak havoc on our bodies.

According to WebMD 43% of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress-related symptoms. These symptoms can include; headaches, high blood pressure and anxiety. So the question is how do we manage and deal with everyday and/or extreme stress?

I am used to operating at a certain stress level and have been able to successfully manage that level for some time, but what happens when we are overloaded? For example, the last few weeks I have been in the process of selling a house, packing up to move, working long hours on big project, and dealing with other outside stressors. It is safe to say I reached a new level of stress, and I have noticed my body responding to the changing stress level. I seemed more fatigued, worn down more than normal and not sleeping well. I recognized what was going on and knew I needed to figure out how to get it under control before I went completely crazy.

First thing I did was focus on an outlet, something I could do to take my mind off everything and have fun. For me that is training or doing any sort of outside physical activity. I started taking my dog on long walks at the park and exploring area parks with hiking. I have to say this worked really well!

Second was realizing what was within my control and what was not. Accepting that I cannot control every little thing is very freeing. I know I can control my actions and how I respond to situations, but relinquishing the idea that I can control others made a huge difference.

Third was giving myself a break! We are often harder on ourselves than anyone else and this can add to stress levels when our expectations are not attainable or unreasonable for the situation.

Lastly, take a vacation. Whether it’s a long weekend road trip a few hours away or a week long beach trip, time away is essential to resetting your mind and body. I am planning a long vacation after things settle down and it gives me something to look forward to and get excited about.

These are only a few ways I manage stress and what works for me at the moment. Below are several links to other sites with advice on managing stress.

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/07/11/10-practical-ways-to-handle-stress/

http://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-management.htm

http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/tips-to-control-stress

 

 

 

Easy Mexican Rice

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By Lisa Rhea

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This one-pot dish is the perfect side for a Mexican meal!

Looking for the perfect Mexican rice dish? Look no further! This healthy one-pot recipe is simple to make and delicious. It really doesn’t get any easier – just throw everything in a pot, boil, and in 20 minutes you have the perfect side dish for any Mexican meal.

Ingredients:

1 TBSP olive oil

1 cup long-grain rice (*not instant) I like use basmati or jasmine rice.

2 cups fat-free chicken broth

1 can black beans, drained.

1 can fiesta corn, drained

1 can diced tomatoes OR 1 cup salsa

1/4 cup taco sauce (optional if using salsa)

garlic salt to taste

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a large pot, starting with olive oil. Bring to boil, then turn the heat down, cover and simmer for approximately 20 minutes or until rice is tender.

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I like to top with grilled chicken, fresh tomatoes, avocado, light sour cream, taco sauce and guacamole salsa.

 

 

 

Celebrate Gym Independence Day

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fireworks-1759_640By Laura Petrolino

The Forth of July holiday is just around the corner and many of you will probably be on the road, visiting family, camping in the great outdoors, or enjoying numerous other adventures where a gym might not be readily available.

Have no fear, our fit-minded friends….because we encourage you to take the long weekend on full throttle and celebrate your independence from the gym right along with America’s own Independence Day.

Find a place outside or in a room you can clear some space and get a great workout on with the “1776”

Set One:

  • One burpee
  • Seven push-ups
  • Seven squat jumps
  • Six burpee

Set Two:

Set Three:

Set Four:

  • Seventeen roll-ups (roll from lying down to standing up)
  • Seventy-six walking lunges

Repeat two times and then go out and watch some fireworks!

 

Making Aesthetic Athletes

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By Jaime Rice

 

For the past several months my work schedule has been anything but routine. I could work 80 hours one week and 45 hours the next. One thing was certain, I did not have a set work schedule with set hours. Having a crazy work schedule directly affected my ability to train, the intensity at which I was able to train and my overall mental and physical fatigue. This past week was the end of the super long work days, at least for a while, and the beginning of getting back into my training routine.

My fitness/gym ADD kicked in a I decided I wanted a new challenge, as if I did not have enough on my plate, but what can I say, I get bored easily. I have experienced this before when I decided I wanted to powerlift while competing in bodybuilding. I wanted to prove you can do both and don’t need to be pigeon-holed into one fitness path.

With that being said, I still want to actively powerlift –that is my main focus, but I also want to be a hell of a functional athlete. Oh – and I want to look like a bikini girl. Why can’t I have it all?? I have fitness goals that I still want to achieve. For example, I eventually want to run a half marathon but powerlifters don’t run right? This one does, and I believe you can do both with a well thought-out and planned program and proper nutrition.

Lisa told me she wanted to make a program to create Aesthetic Athletes, a hybrid of all fitness. For example; CrossFit, bodybuilding, powerlifting, runners, etc. Naturally I jumped at the chance to be her “guinea pig” for the program. We want to see what we can accomplish in 4 weeks’ time. Typically you would need 12-16 weeks to see true transformation, but I am working with a limited timeframe and going for 4 weeks first and continuing as my work schedule allows.

Lisa’s programming concept combines heavy lifts, some accessory work, functional fitness circuits and conditioning. Calories are kept high, but food is clean. Rest is ample to allow for recovery. And most important for keeping a feminine physique, core work is controlled and focused on an engaged TVA and overhead lifts are not too heavy, to avoid a widened waist and oversized traps. Ideally, this will be the be the ultimate hybrid of all my goals.

I started with a Fit test, Lisa provided, and I gave her my current weight and measurements. My weight is lower than it is normally – only because last week my literally kicked my butt and I was not able to eat as much as I would like. Here are my numbers:

Bodyweight: 120LBS

Height: 5’3”

Measurements: 34.5/ 25.5/ 37

 

Fit Test:

Mile Run: 7:04

400 Meter Sprint: 1:20

Max Pull-ups (consecutive/strict): 8

Max Toe to Bars (consecutive/strict): 8

Max Pushups (consecutive/past parallel): 25

Burpees in one minutes: 25

This was a lot harder than I anticipated! I only allowed myself 1-2 minutes of rest in between each exercise in order to get a true test of my endurance. I never run a 400-meter sprint, only 300 meter, therefore I am not sure if this is a good time. The same goes for burpees, I never do burpees because they are evil. Overall I am pleased with the numbers, but I know I can do better, especially with pull-ups and push-ups. I am looking to double my push-ups and at least get 12 pull-ups.

The next 4 weeks will be challenging to say the least! Not only am I still doing my powerlifting programing, I will add a nutritional plan and endurance cardio to my routine. I am not going to lie, the nutrition will be the hardest for me as it usually is for everyone but I am excited to see the transformation and see how my numbers improve.

Lisa, Laura and I believe you don’t have to be stuck or forced to have only one fitness discipline. Unless you strictly want to be a Cross Fitter, Powerlifter, Marathoner, Yogi etc everyone could benefit from aspects of each type of training. This could be crucial if you suffer an injury or some other outside force that prohibits you from running, doing Cross Fit, or whatever is your choice. You don’t stop training, seek out what works for you, Pilates or Yoga, always adapting your abilities.

This is The Skinny and the Thick of it version of making a powerlifter into an aesthetic athlete while maintaining strength. Stay tuned for, what I hope, is an awesome transformation in whatever form that will turn out to be!

Train to Beat Back Pain

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IMG_9665By Lisa Rhea

Pregnant or not, back pain affects so many people and often leads to inactivity. But many times, the cure is actually exercise.

Strengthening your core and posterior chain can make the world of difference for many with back pain, and is completely safe (for those cleared by their doctor to exercise) during pregnancy.

Today, I’m focusing on some of my favorite exercises the posterior chain. This is especially important during pregnancy, when core function becomes limited. While there are several core strengthening exercises that are safe that I recommend for pregnancy (which I’ll share next time), training your glutes during pregnancy is one of the best ways to ward off back pain.

Last pregnancy I gained 35 pounds, and my baby weighed 8 pounds, 8 ounces (born on his due date!) yet I never suffered from back pain. I was able to remain active up until he was born and had a very comfortable pregnancy.

This pregnancy so far, at 23 weeks in and on track to have another big boy, I have yet to have any problems. While I certainly limit impact exercises and have restrictions due to safety concerns, I’m getting a good workout in five days a week. I’m on my feet and out and about, chasing my little one around, all without discomfort.

One thing holds true for both pregnancies – I do a lot of glute activation exercises, squats, thrusters, sumo deadlifts and step work. Even if you haven’t been exercising or weight training, I recommend adding bodyweight versions of these exercises to your daily routine to help curb pregnancy back pain.

Glute Activator

This is my favorite sequence for firing up my glutes. I do this at the start of every workout so that I can make the mind-muscle connection with my posterior as I do other exercises. Alone, completing several rounds is a great workout as well.

When I use this as a warm-up, I do 2 rounds of 10 reps for each exercises /each leg. I also do this routine a couple times a week for 3-4 rounds of 10 reps each exercises/each leg as part of my main workout.

The key is to go slow, focus on squeezing your glutes and pausing a bit at the top of the motion.

For more great glute exercises, check out my post Got Glutes? A Quick Guide to a Better Backside – to modify the floor exercises for pregnancy, simply place your shoulders on a bench or bosu ball.

Squats

Squats are definitely my favorite, I must admit. They simply work the best for completely working your lower body. Good form is essential and it’s never to late to learn. Check out Squat School with Johnny Griffiths for several great coaching cues to get your squats in check.

During pregnancy, some women have very loose joints. I have never noticed any difficulties with controlling my movement during squats, but if you feel unstable, consider doing box squats, as shown here. Simply choose a box that is your desired depth of squat, and align your feet at the base. Lower down slowly, until you’re sitting on the box, then quickly rise back up. Remember to keep your knees out, chest up and focus on keeping tension in your glutes.

Deadlifts

Deadlifts are excellent for working your entire posterior chain, but the form can be tricky if you’re new to lifting. One excellent option is to use a kettlebell. This removes the bar placement confusion. While I typically prefer conventional deadlifts myself, during pregnancy, I turn to sumo deadlifts as they provide room for my belly during the movement.

Keeping your knees out and your hips open, be sure to control the decent and squeeze through the glutes on the way up. One common mistake is to spread your feet so wide that you’re not actually sitting back at all and unable to open the hips.

Thrusters

Looking for a great full body conditioning exercise that will hit both your glutes and your core? Look no further. Thrusters are an excellent compound movement that will get your heart pumping without any jolting impact. These involve a squat, and again, if you’re not secure in your squatting, use a bench or box.

I like to use a barbell, but many prefer dumbbells, which allow for a neutral grip (palms facing in). Use whichever you are comfortable with. You don’t want to load the weight too high, given the vulnerability of the shoulder joints. Again, the goal is to control the movement.

Step Repeats

A great cardio option for building your glutes is stair work. This could be on the step mill inside, or my preference – on a long set of stairs outside. To get the focus on your rear instead of your quads and calves, be sure to keep your weight in your heels as you step. Leaning forward and/or skipping steps can also increase tension in the posterior.

If pregnant, be sure to hold on to the railing if unsteady and be conscientious of any pelvic pain. For some, single leg/alternating leg movements can cause pelvic discomfort. If you’re feeling pressure on your pelvic floor, slow down and avoid all impact. For me, there’s a point during my second trimester where I have to stop running and start walking. I just take shorter rest breaks and receive the same cardio benefit.

 

Give these a try and let me know if you have any questions. Stay tuned for my pregnancy core training recommendations next time.

 

 

 

 

Prepare to Succeed With Diet Staples

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avocado-829092_640Laura Petrolino

Life.

It happens.

And sometimes things just don’t go as planned. This can be very frustrating when you are focused on maxing out your fitness goals. Because let’s face it, success in anything you do requires a certain amount of consistency.

That’s why preparation is your best friend. Especially when it comes to a healthy diet (and mostly making sure you eat enough, often enough to keep your blood sugar stable, energy high, and prevent you from turning to foods that aren’t nutrient dense and aligned with your goals.

This means something different for everyone, but here are a few staples I always keep on hand and ready to go:

  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Liquid egg whites
  • Cooked turkey breast or ground turkey patties (either in the fridge or ready for quick defrost in the freezer)
  • A crunchy veggie like carrots or celery to snack on while I’m cooking food (when I’m famished) this helps keep my blood sugar up and give me something to mentally support hunger.
  • Avocado
  • Nut butter
  • Protein Powder
  • Sweet and baked potatoes (a quick microwave of these gives me some quick carbs)
  • Cream of rice and instant oatmeal (same as above)
  • Frozen veggies (to add some quick greens to meals)
  • Lara Bars (great for on the road or travel as a back-up. I carry with a ziplock of protein powder. Grab a cup, crumble up Lara bar add protein powder and a bit of water and you have delicious cereal and a great snack)

I don’t personally like bars (other than the Lara Bars, which I use sparingly) or jerky, but those are other options many use successfully.

The most important thing is find what works for you and be prepared with things on hand. Know a lot of quick meals that you can make out of your essentials. And always reach for protein first.

What are your staples?