Monday, November 30, 2015
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If random people on the street were asked to do the first yoga pose that came to mind, this balancing pose would definitely be in the top five. As basic and simple as it looks, Tree is definiely not easy to hold, since it challenges your sense of balance. But don't skip it just because you always fall over! This pose promotes good posture and opens your hips, and with a few tricks up your capris, you'll soon be able to effortlessly hold this while standing in line at the grocery store.
|Sanskrit Name: Vrksasana
English Translation: Tree Pose
When doing this pose, it's important that you wear pants and not shorts, since the sole of your foot will end up sliding down your bare leg.
- Stand with your feet together. Put all your weight into your left foot and lift your right foot off the ground.
- Grab onto your right ankle with your right hand, flex your foot, and place your heel as far up your leg as possible with your toes pointing down. Place your foot wherever it feels comfortable. It's OK to rest it on the side of your knee if that's as high as your right foot will go.
- To keep your right foot planted, actively press your left leg against the sole of your right foot, while simultaneously pressing the sole of your right foot against your left leg. These two opposing forces will help to prevent your right foot from slipping down. Another trick is to draw your right knee back, which also helps open your hip.
- Press your palms together in front of your heart, and once you feel stable, you can raise your arms straight over your head. Gaze softly at a still point in front of you to help you stay balanced.
- Keep your spine nice and long and tuck in your tailbone. Focus on keeping your belly still and breathing into your chest. Stay here for five or more breaths and then repeat on the other side.
- Ready for a challenge? Try doing it with your eyes closed.
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April Will Be Your Favorite Month After Seeing Serena Williams's Bare and Beautiful Calendar Shoot http://ift.tt/1YEcLha
Serena Williams earned a spot on the much-anticipated 2016 Pirelli calendar, alongside 12 other amazing women, including Amy Schumer, Yoko Ono, and Patti Smith. The women were selected for their social, sporting, cultural, artistic, and professional accomplishments, rightfully recognizing Serena as currently the No. 1 women's tennis player.
The 43rd edition was created by photographer Annie Leibovitz, who shot the athlete's topless and powerful photo in the series of black and white portraits.
"When Pirelli approached me, they said they wanted to make a departure from the past," said Annie. "They suggested the idea of photographing distinguished women. After we agreed on that, the goal was to be very straightforward. I wanted the pictures to show the women exactly as they are, with no pretense."
This creative choice proved to be the best direction, as Serena's strength and beauty is undeniable in the raw April shot. The tennis powerhouse is equally as excited as we are that she's featured in the upcoming year's calendar, evident in her tweet from September.
While previous editions traditionally highlighted supermodels in risqué and nude poses, we love the shift toward celebrating other distinguished female icons for the upcoming year. Get ready for some major fitness inspiration all April long.
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I'm guilty of not stretching nearly as much as I should, but every time I do I'm reminded why it should be a daily part of my life. Stretching not only makes you more relaxed, but it helps keep your muscles flexible so you're less apt to experience discomfort or workout-related injuries.
You don't have to devote too much time to stretching; in fact, all you need are a few minutes before bed to make your body that much healthier. Besides increasing your muscles' strength and flexibility, these stretches will relax your body and help you get ready for quality sleep.
- Almost anyone, from runners to office workers, can benefit from stretching out tight hips. Do a few of these hip-opening stretches before you go to bed to help you feel relaxed and help reduce discomfort.
- If you haven't stretched and are ready to hit the hay, here are 10 yoga poses you can do in bed.
- Don't feel like moving your body into One-Legged Half Wheel before you go to sleep? These simple bedtime stretches are easy to do and will help you get in a relaxing state of mind.
- If you're a shower before bed kind of person, these stretches to do in the shower will help soothe tired muscles and prepare your body for sleep.
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Sunday, November 29, 2015
Bad news, restless sleepers: your nightly session of disjointed z's may be leading to more anxiety and stress during the day, according to a recent study. The small study looked at the effects of sleep deprivation on participants' anxiety levels and found they were much higher after a sleepless night than a well-rested one. Feeling on edge? Here are a few sleep habits that may be making your stress levels skyrocket.
- Hitting the snooze button: Not only is your snoozing habit disrupting your sleep cycle, but delaying getting out of bed can also cause you to rush through your morning - talk about stress. Try to forgo the snooze button and instead set your alarm for the time you have to get up. Free phone apps or fitness trackers that wake you up at the best point in your sleep cycle can help as well.
- Going to sleep at different times: Constantly changing when you go to bed or wake up can be the cause of sleep deprivation, since you're not preparing your body for sleep with a relaxing routine. Try to stick to the same bedtime and wake-up time no matter what the day in order to establish a nighttime routine that will help lull yourself into a restful sleep.
- Not making sleep a priority: Some days, you wish there were endless hours in a day, but pulling all-nighters to catch up on your to-do list isn't sustainable or healthy. Ensure you get at least seven hours of sleep every night by giving yourself a cutoff time when it comes to dealing with that stressful errand list in the evenings.
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Our new Class FitSugar, created by Becky Jennings, founder of the Balance Method, is a killer 30-minute fat scorcher - and we mean that in the best way possible. It's a full-body workout to help you through the holidays - and beyond - by revving your metabolism and boosting your spirits. Grab a set of medium dumbbells, press play, and get ready to work it!
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Saturday, November 28, 2015
These grain-free dough balls from The Frisky Lemon are perfect for your next party.
Sometimes, you just need some cookie dough, and this healthier alternative using almond meal and honey will curb those cravings! Once you've mixed up your dough, drop these balls into melted chocolate to make grain-free cookie dough truffles. They're so easy, all-natural, and so delicious.
- 2½ cups almond flour
- 3 Tbsp coconut flour
- 8 Tbsp butter, softened
- ⅓ cup maple syrup or raw honey
- 1 Tbsp vanilla
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- 1 to 2 cups mini chocolate chips, plus more chocolate for dipping (optional)
Makes 30 cookie dough balls.
Read the rest of the recipe for these indulgent treats at AllieNic's blog, the Frisky Lemon.
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The next time you're looking to tone and work your body at the same time, think about doing strengthening moves that are better when done together. You can easily flow through these movements that do more than focus on one area. It's an extra bonus that adds to your regular workout, or do three rounds of 10 reps each of the duos and you have a mini routine that hits all your muscles.
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Friday, November 27, 2015
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We're teaming up with NBC's TODAY to create a special box to help you survive the holidays. This holiday survival kit is the ultimate collection of everything you need to help make the season stress-free, relaxing, and fun, so you can enjoy more time with the people you love.
Hand-selected by TODAY hosts Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb and POPSUGAR founder and President Lisa Sugar, this limited-edition collection is full of rejuvenating products and gifts, and it's conveniently shipped straight to your home.
Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb will be revealing more about the box live on TODAY Nov. 27 - you won't want to miss this!
Order the TODAY Show POPSUGAR Must Have Box today.
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Thursday, November 26, 2015
At the end of a long day, taking a little time for some rest and relaxation can make huge difference in lowering your high stress levels - not to mention your quality of sleep. Each of these poses is worth a shot, regardless of your yoga level or experience.
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Quiet the mind. Slow down your breath. Awaken your chakras. It's time to meditate! I'll be the first one to admit that I used to be clueless when it came to meditation. I would dim the lights, make sure the apartment was quiet, and try to focus on my breath. Problem was, I was so focused on conquering meditation that my mind couldn't relax. After hearing about all the health perks associated with meditation - including stress reduction, a heightened self awareness, and being able to tune out distractions - I knew I couldn't give up. The good news is, I realized that there are many different types of meditation. This is key, because once you explore the various meditation styles, you can choose one that suits you best.
Related: Why Morning Meditation Can Change Your Entire Day
First things first, you need to find a comfortable and quiet place to sit. Some people like to lie down while meditating, but I find it tempting to fall asleep, so I prefer sitting up. Next step: choose a meditation style that interests you. Here are five that I feel are best suited for anyone new to meditation.
- Mindfulness Meditation: The most well-known type of meditation, mindfulness meditation, is about being aware of the sounds and activities happening around you. It's almost a flow-like type of meditation, because you literally just let your mind be fluid and flow from one thought to the next, not really focusing on one particular thing. For instance, if you live in a noisy city, you don't have to block out the outside sirens and screaming children, you let your mind be aware of the sounds without becoming too focused.
- Spiritual Meditation: This type of meditation is for those who regularly participate in prayer, as it's based on communicating with God. Just like the other styles, you must become calm and quiet and then begin to focus on a question or problem you might have. This style of meditation can feel not only relaxing, but rewarding as well.
- Focused Meditation: If the idea of clearing your mind of all thoughts stresses you out, focused meditation is great because you can focus on a sound, object, mantra, or thought. The key here is to just focus on one of these things and stay committed to that one thought or object. This is when relaxation music comes in handy. Even though you're essentially using your mind, you'll be amazed at how rejuvenated you feel afterwards. In our day to day lives, our minds really are in 10 different places at once!
- Movement Meditation: Movement meditation may seem intimidating, but if you're by yourself and you really get into it, it can be extremely uplifting and relaxing at the same time. Sitting with your eyes closed, simply focus on your breath and try out different gentle, repetitive flowing movements. Rather than focus on a sound, object, or thought, just turn your attention to your movement. I find a slow left and right swaying motion to be therapeutic, or you could try moving your entire upper body in a slow circular motion.
- Mantra Meditation: Mantras are words that are chanted loudly during meditation. It may seem odd to be making loud noises during a meditation session, but it's actually the sounds that become the object being focused on. In yoga, the mantra Om is regularly used since it delivers a deep vibration that makes it easy for the mind to concentrate on that particular sound.
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Wednesday, November 25, 2015
You're invited to share in our sister company ShopStyle's exclusive Friends & Family Event! Skip the Black Friday lines and shop with ShopStyle to get 10 percent cash back on all your purchases during this first ever event Nov. 23 to Dec. 7. You'll even get 10% back on sale purchases for brands and stores that are eligible. Sign up now to get 10 percent back - products eligible for cash back will be noted with a ShopStyle Friends & Family icon. What are you waiting for? Start shopping!
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Can't seem to find the healthy gift of your fit friend's dreams? We've got you covered - check out 100 of our favorite healthy products here.
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Jessica Simpson has always been vocal about her weight-loss goals, from becoming a Weight Watchers spokeswoman to showcasing her hard work in the gym with celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak. So when she debuted her new activewear line, The Warm Up, this month, she had our attention. The line, available at Macy's as part of her current clothing collection, features flattering cuts and a wide range of sizes and is made for every woman. "As with everything we do, we want women to feel good in their skin and what they're wearing," Jessica recently told us. "Our busy lifestyles can take us from the gym to errands or out to lunch, so the styles have to be cute and versatile, but entirely functional for your workouts." Her favorites: the spaghetti strap sports bra ($15, originally $32) and the "You Don't Know Squat" tank ($32).
When it comes to fitness recommendations, we'll take them from Jessica, who lost 60 pounds after her second pregnancy and continues to wow. So what does she do when she's rocking her new performance apparel line? Jessica's workout is surprisingly simple and one we all can copy. "I walk three miles a day," she says. "Eric and I love taking the kids out for long walks in the neighborhood; chasing them around our yard is a workout all its own!" She also spends time on the treadmill instead of the couch. "I love my treadmill, it's great 'me time'," she explains. "I walk and walk while I catch up on my shows."
In addition to walking every day, Jessica's strength-training routine is just as easy to emulate. To sculpt definition in her legs, she also adds squats, uphill lunges, resistance band exercises, and exercises on the BOSU. Check out some of our moves below to get legs like Jessica!
- Feel the Burn! 7 Ways to Work Your Body With Squats
- How to Do a Walking Lunge
- A 10-Minute Resistance Band Workout Video
- Work Your Entire Body With These 5 BOSU Moves
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The Perfect Health Diet ebook sale continues! Although the PaleoDork book event is over, Scriber liked your response so much that they’ve decided to contine to sell the Perfect Health Diet Kindle edition for $2.99 for another two weeks. Thank …
The post Happy Thanksgiving! Ebook Sale Continues, and Autoimmune Recovery Stories appeared first on Perfect Health Diet.
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Every Whole Foods addict knows that their weekly shopping trip is not just a time to stock up on healthy foods - it's a spiritual experience. There's not many places where health nuts can gather together to obsess over colorful produce and gluten-free desserts without feeling super judged. If you're one of these organic-loving shoppers, you consider the popular chain The Holy Grail of food stores. And even though your first trip may have been a little intimidating, (who knew that there were so many types of quinoa?) now you're practically the store's biggest advocate. Sure, you may get a little too excited over perfectly ripened avocado, but hey, Whole Foods is just that good.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2015
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This move has been called the hardest burpee in the world, but maybe that's why we love the man maker in spite of its silly name. This exercise will transform your entire body. We'll teach you the move in under one minute! How's that for quick and easy?
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Cooler temps make for stunning hikes on mountains dusted with snow or in lush forests. It's a lovely time of year for hitting the trails and discovering spots you might not be familiar with. Along with checking out local hikes in your own backyard, there are several that are worth traveling for. Get out your Danner boots, which are designed for long hikes yet also look fashionable; pack your backpack with a thermos of hot chocolate; and hit the trails.
- White Clay Creek State Park and Preserve, Pennsylvania (8 miles, low intensity): Just an hour outside Philadelphia, this trail runs along the creek and is so pretty. There's a loop extension with mile markers along the way so hikers can decide how far they'd like to go. You'll get forest views along with classic rural meadows and farmland.
- Chambers/Bretag/Palmer Trail, Garden of the Gods, Colorado (3 miles, low intensity): This low-grade hike takes you around the park and showcases the stunning terrain of the amazing red rock formations. You can also push your limits and venture into the park and explore the 15 miles of trails that fit with any hiker's comfort level.
- Robert Frost Trail, Mount Holyoke Range, Massachusetts (5.1 miles, low intensity): You'll get amazing views, woods, and caves when you take the final section of the trail. Keep it easy or change the difficulty by venturing off on intersecting trails. This is more of a relaxing hike, covering fields and woods without much of an incline.
- Uvas Canyon Country Park, California (1 mile, mild intensity): The trail is a stunning exploration of the hills south of San Jose, CA, and it's even more stunning after rainfall. The waterfall loop is what you want to check out - don't forget your camera!
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- The Pool Loop, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado (2.5 miles, low intensity): Lighter snowfall on the east side of the park makes for stunning hiking with more accessible trails that are easy to navigate. It's a good idea to check in with park rangers before taking any Winter hike in the Rockies for conditions and let someone know you're in the park. The Pool has only a 200-foot change of elevation, and it takes you to a small lake surrounded by frozen waterfalls.
- Mirror Lake Trail, Yosemite National Park, California (5 miles, mild intensity): You can take this easy loop around the lake in Winter and check out the stunning views while meandering alongside Tenaya Creek. The reflection of the snow-topped mountains on the lake is beyond beautiful. Just make sure to check snow levels at the park before heading out.
- Grapevine Hills Trail, Big Bend National Park, Texas (2.2 miles, mild intensity): This park gets hot in the Summer and Spring, making Winter the best time of year for exploring. Take the trail through the boulders until you hit a collection of balanced rocks that are absolutely stunning. The final stretch has a slight incline, but it's worth the final push.
- Angel's Rest Trail, Oregon (4.8 miles, mild intensity): This exposed bluff is a summit that's surrounded by cliffs that also boasts a stunning view overlooking the river below. There's a bit of an elevation with this hike, but the view makes it worth it. Pack a picnic lunch and sit and take in the view before looping back down to the trailhead.
- Kazimiroff Nature Trail, New York (2 miles, low intensity): Yes, you can even get your hike on in NYC. The loop takes you through a section of Pelham Bay Park known as Hunter Island. You'll see meadows, a forest, and a view of the Long Island Sound. The rocky coastline takes you far away from the bustle of the city - without even really leaving.
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Built in the golden era of backpacking, our original Danner Light boot was constructed to be rugged, water resistant, and stable on any terrain. The new Danner Light Cascade boot holds true to those same principles and is made in our Portland, OR, factory. Updated with a full-grain, Sienna Cache leather, we've added a Dri-Lex lining for added breathability and a lightweight Vibram Kletterlift outsole. Our classic stitchown construction provides stability underfoot and a timeless design that looks as good as the trails it follows. Shop Now!
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Monday, November 23, 2015
It's a fast workout using a superset kind of style with antagonist muscle groups. Quickly move through the circuit from one exercise to the next. When you finish one round, rest for about 1 minute to let your heart rate recover, and repeat up to 2 more times.
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'Tis the season of giving - online deals have already started as part of Black Friday (Nov. 27) and Cyber Monday (Nov. 30), giving you a jump-start on holiday shopping. We've got you covered on this year's offers, from yoga classes to activewear and fitness gear. So skip the crowds and save yourself a ton of time and money - the deals ahead are sure to satisfy the fitness-lovers in your life. Or why not treat yourself to some 2016 workout motivation?
- Aloha: Get your daily dose of greens from Aloha with 40-percent-off discounts on Daily Good Greens plus free shipping on Black Friday. On Cyber Monday, Aloha is offering $6 Original Superfood Chocolate Topping Bars and free shipping all day.
- Alternative Apparel: Stock up on comfy basics from Alternative Apparel with 20 percent off all tops, starting now (use the code MONDAY20) and 40 percent off across the site on Black Friday until Nov. 30.
- Athleta: Athleta is offering 20 percent off all in-store and online purchases, from shoes and accessories to athleisure, from Nov. 27 to Nov. 30.
- Columbia: Take 25 percent off current season products from Columbia and 50 percent off doorbusters from Nov. 26 to Dec. 1.
- CorePower Yoga: Give the yogi in your life a $100 CorePower Yoga gift card for only $80.
- Dick's Sporting Goods: Save on sports gear, fitness equipment, and apparel from Dick's Sporting Goods' Pre-Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale, starting now.
- Herschel Supply: Need a new backpack or bag? Take up to 50 percent off Herschel Supply products between Thanksgiving Day and Nov. 29.
- Jawbone: If you need to shop for a friend who's always on the go, look to Jawbone's special holiday promotions, featuring special offers from Skooba Design.
- Lululemon: Update your activewear drawer with the Lululemon Black Friday limited-edition collection, available online and in stores the day after Thanksgiving.
- MPG: Shop all your stylish fitness apparel needs all weekend long at MPG, plus a flash sale on selected items on Cyber Monday.
- New Balance: From Thanksgiving to Nov. 29, receive 15 percent off your order and an additional 20 percent off storewide at New Balance.
- Nike: Give the hottest shoes as soon as they hit shelves. Nike is launching brand-new styles from Jordan, Nike Running, Nike Basketball, and more on Black Friday (10 a.m. EST) ranging from $130 to $225.
- Old Navy: In celebration of Cyber Monday, Old Navy is offering 40 percent off storewide from Saturday, Nov. 28, to Monday, Nov. 30.
- Performance Bicycle: Trying to upgrade your ride? Performance Bicycle is offering up to 60 percent off starting on Nov. 24 and running through the holiday weekend.
- Puma: Update your fitness wardrobe with 30-percent-off discounts storewide at Puma, plus an additional 30 percent off your purchase between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
- Quiksilver: Get all your last-minute ski-trip items at Quiksilver.com and take 30 percent off sitewide beginning today through end of Cyber Monday (using promo code BFHVC-3XN9XL4EXM9R).
- REI: In efforts to get customers outdoors, REI stores will be closed on Black Friday.
- Roxy: Starting at 12 a.m. (PST) on Thanksgiving, everything on Roxy.com will be 30 percent off with promo code FRIDAY30 until Nov. 30.
- Sports Authority: Cross off everyone on your list at Sports Authority with 50-percent-off doorbusters on Champion gear and buy one, get one free sports balls starting 6 p.m. on Nov. 26. through Nov. 28.
- Target: Give the gift of Fitbit. Depending on the style, holiday sales prices will range from $40 to $200 at Target on Black Friday.
- Zumba: Spot crazy savings on Zumba.com, like shirts starting at $6 and shoes starting at $37 from now through Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 26), plus free shipping.
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The next time you need a dose of dance to put you in a good mood, this Instagram account will give you the boost you need. Featuring the choreography of Homer Hans Bryant of the Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center, the account features young ballerinas showcasing killer moves, all set to everything from Beyoncé to Sam Smith to jazz. The CMCDC's mission is to "provide the highest quality of dance training and performance in an environment that celebrates the diversity of its students and the community," it says on its website, and Homer Bryant's philosophy of "trained in tradition and dipped in versatility" provides young students a way to express a variety of cultural backgrounds through contemporary and classical techniques. We dare you not to be inspired by the beautiful, fun, and creative dance clips ahead.
- 21 Photos That Show the Grueling and Beautiful Side to Being a Ballerina
- Ballerina Misty Copeland Continues to Break Boundaries and Inspire Us
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If you've been to a yoga class, you know how intense this pose is. It intensively works your abs, back, upper arms, and shoulders all at the same time. It's a toughie, but once you get the right technique and you practice it a lot, it'll get easier.
English Translation: Four-Limbed Staff Pose
- From Standing Forward Bend pose, inhale, straighten your arms and back, and look up. Bend your knees slightly and step or jump both feet back so you're in a top of a push-up position with your shoulders directly above your wrists.
- As you exhale, bend your elbows straight behind you so they brush against the sides of your body, lowering into Four-Limbed Staff.
- Keep your torso parallel to the ground and your shoulders parallel with your elbows. If that's too difficult, rest one or both knees on the mat.
- Draw your navel in toward your spine to protect your lower back, holding for five breaths.
- For even more of a challenge, straighten your arms to press back up to a plank position, and lower down again into Chaturanga for another five breaths. Repeat one more time and you'll really work your core and upper body!
Want to chisel your arms and core even more? Instead of doing regular vinyasa in your yoga class, incorporate these Chaturanga Push-Ups.
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Julia Price was out enjoying a lovely run, when it was almost ruined by a well-dressed man, eating outside on his lunch break. He yelled, "Sexy lady, hey hey hey sexy lady!" so loud, she could hear it over the music blaring in her headphones. She took the high road and reacted the same way most of us would by just ignoring him. But then he took it to the next level and said, "eff you, dumb B****!"
Oh no, not the "B" word! She tore off her headphones prepared to stand up for herself, but she didn't have to. A little boy walking with his mother and sister called, "Hey. That is not nice to say to her and she didn't like you yelling at her. You shouldn't do that because she is a nice girl and I don't let anyone say mean things to people. She's a girl like my sister and I will protect her."
The man felt embarrassed as he should, and Julia turned to the little boy's mother and asked if she could thank him with a hug. James, the brave boy just shrugged and said, "Well I just wanted to make sure your heart was okay."
Um, we don't know about Julia, but our hearts are melting. After posting the moving story to her Facebook page, Julia ended by thanking the moms and dads of the world for "raising the next generation to be brave and courageous, and to be little earth angels for all. I am so touched." So are we, Julia. According to James' mom, "this is a typical day in the life of James." Hopefully this story will inspire other people to be more like James, so cat-callers beware!
Related: Before Running Alone, Read This
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Every week, it seems, there's a new study or article addressing how much exercise we need to stay healthy. Some studies bear good news: Just 30 minutes three times per week! Other studies are more damning: an hour a day if you want real results. Perhaps the most common publications are the ones trying to reinvent the mousetrap of physical exercise, hoping to offer a shortcut or a "new and improved" program that will make the workout more appealing or the commitment more manageable.
But they're all missing the point.
If all the research agrees that physical exercise is important for our well-being, and human nature has taught us that we'll probably find an excuse to avoid doing something we don't really want to do, wouldn't a more valuable question be, how can we find an exercise program that we actually enjoy?
Whether it's 30 minute bursts or multihour Saturday sessions, in a dark studio or under an open sky, breathless and high-intensity or gentle and graceful, what I've learned from all my years of sweating is that the best way to do it is however you actually want to do it.
Whenever someone asks me what type of workout they should do, whether they're hoping to lose weight, get toned, or prep for an upcoming event, my answer is always the same: Well, what do you want to do? I always, always start with desire.
I've started so many workout programs that I absolutely hated. I'm a sucker for research, though, so when I heard that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) was the latest and greatest way to do cardio, I vowed to make treadmill sprints a part of my weekly routine. Never mind the fact that I hate the treadmill. When hip-hop classes popped up everywhere, promising to sneak an hour-long workout into what felt like a party, I tried those, too. Never mind that I have absolutely no rhythm.
And guess how long I stuck with those programs? Not long. It's not the fault of the research - they're effective workouts in their own right for anyone who keeps showing up. It's my own fault for thinking I could force myself to do something that I just wasn't that interested in.
It took me a while, but once I realized the value of desire, my whole relationship with exercise changed. Instead of feeling like a chore, it became a choice. Instead of a means to an end, it became an event in itself.
I started by committing to be active in some way - any way - most days of the week. I picked the activity that felt right that day. I ignored the research. I ignored whatever new fad workout the starlet du jour was obsessed with. I didn't worry too much about the numbers, about how many minutes or calories or pounds were involved.
I began to create a list of the kinds of exercise that I actually enjoyed: bootcamp classes with friends, hot yoga, anything at the beach. Instead of following a rigid plan with certain exercises prescribed each day, I chose what sounded good that day. After a particularly stressful day at work, banging it out at boot camp helped me blow off steam. After I hit a big goal at work, I rewarded myself with a long, leisurely walk at the beach, and I didn't beat myself up for refusing to break into a run. On days where I knew my excuses were about to choke out my willpower, I got my butt to yoga, where I knew that, if I just showed up, the instructor would take care of the rest.
When I stopped thinking about it as exercise, but rather activities that I enjoyed, when I stopped thinking of it as a program that I had to follow, but rather a choice that I got to make based on how I felt that day, it became easy to stay active. From there, from letting my desire lead the way, I began to find even more activities that I liked.
After enough bootcamp classes, I realized that I could plan out my own weightlifting circuits, and I discovered how empowering it was to push myself to lift heavier weights. Walks at the beach led to runs at the beach, which led to runs on trails, which eventually led to obstacle-course races. Hot yoga led to Vinyasa yoga, and now no week feels right without a day or two on that yoga mat.
What I've learned is that desire often begets desire. If you try to force yourself to do something you hate, you're likely doomed before you even start. By answering the question of what you want to do, though - whether it's ballet or hiking or Pilates or swimming or walking with a friend or having tantric sex, for crying out loud - by starting from there, you set yourself up to actually stick with it. And if you stick with it, you just might expand on it.
Let's stop overthinking it. We're lucky to have these bodies that can move so freely and feel so deeply, and wanting to take care of them is part of our humanity. If you're beating yourself up about the last workout program that you didn't stick with, I beg you to forgive yourself. If you're thinking about vowing to start a new program that feels like punishment, I beg you to reconsider.
Yes, commit to taking care of yourself, but do so in a way that recognizes that you are, in fact, yourself. You won't find me on a treadmill or in the hip-hop class, and maybe I won't find you on the running trail or in the weight room, but as long as we're both out there, somewhere, we're getting it right.
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Sunday, November 22, 2015
I’m very excited to be part of the Paleo Dork Kindle Book Sale: The sale starts Monday, Nov 23 sometime between noon and midnight and continues through the end of day Tuesday, Nov 24. A group of great Paleo books …
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There's no need to deny yourself a late-night snack if you're feeling hungry, but you still have to think smart when it comes to eating late. Eating the wrong foods will disrupt your sleep while also adding a lot of unneeded calories to your day. Instead of just diving into the nearest, tastiest-looking item in your fridge, here are five types of foods to avoid at night and why.
- Greasy or fat-filled foods: Greasy, heavy, fatty foods not only make you feel sluggish the next morning, but they also make your stomach work overdrive to digest all that food. Stay away from things like fast food, nuts, ice cream, or super cheesy foods right before bed.
- High-carb or sugary foods: A little bit of something sweet before bed may be just what you need to rest happy, but if you gobble a huge slice of chocolate cake, the spike in your blood-sugar levels could cause your energy levels to spike and plummet, disrupting your sleep in the process. Avoid cake, cookies, or other desserts as well as carby snacks like crackers or white bread and munch on an apple instead.
- Red meat and other proteins: Like fatty foods, eating red meats late at night will sit in your stomach and make it hard for you to fall asleep while you're digesting (red meat may affect you the worst, but eating a large portion of chicken or pork would have the same effect as well). You don't have to avoid protein altogether, just make sure you go for lean and small portions, like deli-sliced turkey breast or a cup of yogurt.
- Spicy foods: Spices may be a natural cure-all for a range of ailments, but when you're craving something to eat late at night, step away from the hot sauce. Spicy, peppery foods may upset your stomach, and the chemicals in spicy food can also stimulate your senses, making it hard to fall asleep.
- Big portions: Late-night snacking shouldn't turn into a late-night meal. Keep the total amount of calories under 200 so you won't have any problems going and staying asleep. You'll also feel good knowing that you didn't undo all your healthy eating habits of the day right before bedtime.
So what should you eat instead? Small, light portions that will also calm cravings and help you sleep. Try incorporating these sleep-inducing foods or these low-calorie late-night snacks that hit all your sweet or salty cravings. And remember to limit how much alcohol you drink as well, since too many drinks can keep you up at night.
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Weird: Thinking of This Body Part Helps You Burn More Calories During a Workout http://ift.tt/1Z3YBac
Losing weight requires commitment of body and mind - in fact, just thinking yourself thin can be an important component of actually seeing pounds drop from the scale. A new study shows how mindfulness can help you perform better during a workout too.
In the study, the brainwaves of athletes were tracked before and after several weeks of mindfulness training that included imagining how their limbs and organs felt in a moment, breathing through straws, and sticking their hands in ice water. Compared to before, scientists found that their brains' responses to stress tests were more controlled and proactive, which the researchers say could translate into better performance during a race or other beneficial physical results. An easy way to practice mindfulness at home? Study author Dr. Lori Haase told the New York Times that just thinking about your feet during a workout can cause you to practice mindfulness during your next workout. It's no secret that your mental state plays an important part in your physical performance, so the next time you feel your mind wandering during exercise, move your focus to your toes to reengage your mind and have a better workout overall.
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Feeling tired, bloated, and lethargic from the holidays? Many people think going on a cleanse in January is a good post-party solution for dropping unwanted pounds fast. But going on an elimination diet - where you remove certain foods, like anything with gluten, dairy, caffeine, and alcohol and focus on eating only fresh, whole foods - is more than about fitting into smaller jeans. While all-juice cleanses can be calorie restricting, a proper elimination diet ensures you eat enough of these nutritious foods to stay healthy (read more about what to expect on an elimination diet here). So if it's not about weight loss, why should you cleanse? Read on for reasons to try an elimination diet!
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Fitting in a workout around the holidays can be challenging, and that is why you need short but effective workouts. Make the most of your next sweat session with this 20-minute metabolism booster; it will keep you energized, fit, and healthy all month long. Click play to start!
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Saturday, November 21, 2015
Tight hips and a tight lower back are common complaints among runners and bikers, so here's a relaxing stretch that will stretch both. It's similar to Half Happy Baby, but with this variation, both knees are bent at the same time.
|Sanskrit Name: Ananda Balasana
English Translation: Happy Baby Pose
Also Called: Dead Bug
- Begin lying flat on your back.
- Bend both knees and hold onto the outside edges of your flexed feet with your hands. Keep your arms on the outsides of your legs.
- Gently use your upper body strength to equally press both knees to the floor below your armpits. Try not to tense your shoulders or chest, but keep everything relaxed.
- Stay like this for five deep breaths. To release, let go of your feet and straighten your legs to the floor.
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Friday, November 20, 2015
If you've ever taken a yoga class, you know that it's full of silence, breathing, and the softest playlist. Any disruptions result in death glares, especially if someone were to burst out in complete laughter. The Test Friends of BuzzFeed tried a whole different wellness technique where behavior like this is totally appropriate - laughter yoga. The instructor defines the exercise as "getting together and laughing for no reason." Although you won't break a sweat from a session, you'll definitely "break a chuckle." You'll catch yourself laughing right along while watching either because you're slightly uncomfortable, because the group's laughter is so contagious, or both. Either way, mission accomplished!
As silly as this variation of yoga may seem, the participants reported uplifting results at the end. Check out the video and try it out for yourself!
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The popular belief is that the holidays pretty much screw up our diets. All the yummy fattening foods are sometimes too hard to resist! But to our pleasant surprise, we thought wrong! Dietitian Julie Upton, MS, RD, of Appetite For Health shares with us the six holiday foods that we can all indulge in!
Holiday meals don't need to destroy your diet. In fact, there are many traditional holiday foods - from turkey and cranberries to dark chocolate and wine - that have surprising health benefits. Here are six holiday favorites to enjoy guilt-free!
Worried about weight gain this holiday season? Reach for the season's favorite fruit - apples. Versatile, portable, and delicious, apples can be one of your secret weight-loss weapons. Here's proof: researchers from the State University of Rio de Janeiro found that women who ate an apple (or pears) before each of their main meals lost more weight on a low-calorie diet than women who didn't add fruit to their diet.
Part of the reason may be that apples are a great source of hunger-fighting fiber. A medium-sized apple has just 100 calories and 4.5 grams of fiber.
For a holiday dessert that will impress your guests, try this apple raisin crumble.
Be sure to keep all your holiday desserts waistline-friendly by baking with canola oil. Not only is it among the lowest plant-based oils in saturated fat, a but recent study also revealed that subjects who used canola oil as their primary fat reduced their belly fat by 1.6 percent, most likely due to the low saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fat.
For many (like me!), Thanksgiving dinner isn't complete without stuffing. And research suggests stuffing yourself with stuffing may actually have some surprising health benefits, thanks to the main ingredient - breadcrumbs.
According to a study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, breadcrumbs are rich in an antioxidant, pronyl-lysine, that has anticancer properties. The researchers reported that breadcrumbs had about eight times more pronyl-lysine compared to the softer, inner parts of loaf. What's more, it's thought to be concentrated in even higher amounts when you cut bread into smaller pieces and brown in the oven, as when you make stuffing.
Most recipes call for white bread, but you can make stuffing from a blend of white and whole-grain bread or whole-grain bread exclusively. Breads provide 80-100 calories per slice and pack in more than 15 different vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Looking for ways to keep your stuffing slim? Cut back on the butter your recipe calls for, boost the antioxidant-packed rosemary, and bake stuffing outside of the bird (that will not only shaves calories, it also reduces the risk of food-borne illness).
Dark Chocolate (and Unsweetened Cocoa or Cacao)
There's good news for chocoholics! Dark chocolate, hot cocoa, or a delicious dessert made with cocoa (cacao) powder can be a healthy, antioxidant-packed finish to your holiday feast. Dark chocolate and cocoa powder are rich in phytochemicals that provide heart-health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and reducing risk for heart attack and stroke. What's more, research also reveals that flavanols can help keep you sharp as you age and improve your mood, and a recent study found that after drinking a flavanol-rich beverage, subjects could focus better and were more likely to answer math questions correctly.
Since all dark chocolate is not created equal, look for options with the highest cacao levels, as they should contain more of the beneficial flavanols. And be sure to choose cocoa powder that has not undergone "Dutch" processing. Look for dessert recipes that call for fruits and dark chocolate - a dynamic duo for your health. For a healthy holiday dessert, try fresh strawberries (or mixed berries) with a dark-chocolate-based dip or sauce.
Nuts are a favorite holiday snack, especially when the annual Thanksgiving football games are on TV. Pistachios are a top pick because they boast heart-healthy fats and hunger-tackling protein and fiber. One of the lowest-fat, lowest-calorie snack nuts, in-shell pistachios are the skinny nut because you can enjoy more of them (49 per ounce) compared to most other snack nuts.
What's more, pistachios are a "mindful" snack. In-shell pistachios take longer to eat, encouraging you to slow down, and the leftover shells can potentially make you more aware of how much you've eaten.
Enjoy them as a snack on their own, or try this spicy roasted squash with pistachios side dish.
The deep ruby color of fresh pomegranates not only makes a holiday table look gorgeous, but they're also a true seasonal superfood. Known for their delicious, sweet-tart taste, pomegranates are loaded with good nutrition. At about 100 calories for four to five ounces, pomegranate seeds (known as arils) are a good source of fiber and vitamin C. They also contain powerful antioxidants - including punicalagin, a compound unique to pomegranates and anthocyanin, which is responsible for giving pomegranates their red color. These seasonal gems are at peak quality from October to January, so now is the time to enjoy.
Confused about what to do with pomegranates? Their sweet-tart taste and crunchy texture make them ideal for snacking, entrées, side dishes, and desserts. For a colorful twist on a traditional holiday favorite, try this pomegranate-brussels sprouts side dish.
If you thought pumpkins were only for carving, think again! While the large varieties sold for Halloween have little flavor, the smaller, "sweet" pumpkins also known as pie or sugar pumpkins are perfect for cooking - from pies, cakes, and tarts to risotto, soups, and stews. One cup of cooked pureed or mashed pumpkin provides about 50 calories, two grams protein, and three grams fiber and is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Pumpkins provide vitamin C, iron, zinc, and potassium and are among the best sources of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene and several other carotenoids.
Most people fail to get enough deep orange veggies in their diet, so pumpkin should be a seasonal staple in your kitchen. The dietary guidelines emphasize the importance of getting five to six servings a week of red or orange veggies for their anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and heart-health benefits.
For a tasty and healthy start to your day, try these mini pumpkin muffins.
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Thanksgiving just doesn't feel like Thanksgiving if there isn't a huge plate of creamy mashed potatoes on the table. Filled with butter, cream, and more butter and cream, it's not exactly the most waist-friendly dish when you go in for seconds. A simple way to lighten up the dish without sacrificing flavor is to be picky about what variety of potato you use.
Instead of oft-used Russet potatoes, go for Yukon Golds or Yellow Finns. It might seem peculiar that switching out the type of potato makes a difference, but these smaller varieties are naturally creamy and sweet, and their skins taste like butter, which allows you to cut down on the amount of butter and cream you would normally add to the dish. When shopping for Yukon Golds or Yellow Finns, look for smaller ones that aren't much bigger than one inch in diameter. Also, the more yellow the potato, the better: it's the vitamin A contained in the skin that give these potatoes their golden hue. There's potassium in the skin too, so when making your mashed potatoes, don't peel! Since the skins are pretty thin in these potato varieties, they won't detract from the creaminess of your dish when you leave them on.
More healthy tips for your mashed-potato endeavors:
- For added nutrition, add sweet potatoes to mashed potatoes.
- Substitute reduced fat or lowfat milk for the cream, or try making them with evaporated skim milk instead.
- Cut back on salt by seasoning mashed potatoes with garlic, onion, and herbs.
- Omit dairy altogether and mash in chicken broth instead.
- To lower the carb counts in your potatoes, substitute some cauliflower for the potatoes in the recipe.
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No roux for you? Try these five wheat-free alternatives for thickening your gravy this Thanksgiving. We'll school you on preparation, flavor notes, and brand recommendations, so you will feel confident trying out these new starches. Take a look, and tell us which is your go-to gluten-free starch.
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If you're a fan of omega-3-rich salmon, you might want to know about a new ruling by the Food and Drug Administration, which just approved a new genetically modified salmon as safe to eat.
The new AquAdvantage salmon is a type of Atlantic salmon that features genes from Chinook salmon along with a gene switch from a sea animal called the ocean pout, to make it mature faster than normal salmon. This allows farmers to raise the fish to be ready for consumption in half the time a non genetically modified salmon would be.
The approval of the AquAdvantage salmon has been in the works for years, which the FDA says is because this is the first approval of its kind. "The F.D.A. has thoroughly analyzed and evaluated the data and information submitted by AquaBounty regarding the AquAdvantage salmon and determined that they have met the regulatory requirements for approval, including that food from the fish is safe to eat," it said in a statement. Opponents and consumer groups, however, argue that the safety studies done on the fish were inadequate, and wild populations of salmon might be affected if this new fish were to escape to the wild. Even more worrisome for those who want to know what's in their food: the FDA says that, like other currently genetically engineered foods, the fish will not have to be labeled as GMO once it's on the market.
Genetically modified foods have been hotly debated for several years, with many oppontents arguing that GMO foods aren't safe and that more transparency about genetically engineered ingredients is needed. Whatever you think about GMO food, this latest addition to the food chain probably won't be available for another two years, according to The New York Times.
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Thursday, November 19, 2015
Rest assured, your turkey can be served as is, but the rest of the traditional Thanksgiving menu is not Paleo-diet friendly. If one or more of your guests live by these caveman rules of eating, a typical Thanksgiving table can seem like a danger zone. Learn which traditional dishes are hands-off for the Paleo set, and how you can make them enjoyable to every seat in the house.
- Mashed Potatoes: Although some potatoes are Paleo friendly, it's the rest of the ingredients that raise red flags. Try this lower-carb version of mashed potatoes with a few swaps: use cauliflower florets (about 16 ounces) and cut out the potatoes completely; instead of the butter, use an equal amount of coconut oil, and coconut milk can also be subbed in for the Greek yogurt. Just mix and you're cooking like a caveman!
- Gravy: Turning gravy Paleo is easy - just sub out the milk and flour. Milk can easily be substituted with egg yoke and flour with Arrowroot, a gluten-free thickening agent.
- Green Bean Casserole: Use Paleo guests as an excuse to mix up the traditional green bean casserole. This coconut almond version uses - you guessed it - coconut oil and coconut milk. Not a huge coconut fan? No worries. The shavings are almond, and neither the coconut oil or milk exude an island flavor.
- Cranberry Sauce: For an easy swap, boil your cranberries in freshly squeezed orange juice instead of sugar water. For each pound of raw cranberries you cook, use one cup of juice. The sauce will be so sweet your guests won't notice a difference.
- Stuffing: This Thanksgiving favorite doesn't always need bread. Try this stuffing recipe made with sausage to taste more like the real thing. It's loaded with heart-healthy antioxidants like apples and walnuts to counterbalance all of those yummy starches.
- Candied Sweet Potatoes: This recipe can stay relatively true to its original, as long as you swap out the sugar for pure maple syrup. Your non-Paleo guests are sure to support that. Try this maple roasted recipe as is. Since some Paleo eaters are iffy on the yams, you can cook the entire dish with sweet potatoes instead.
- Pumpkin Pie: One of the most difficult dishes to transform is pumpkin pie. Crust, cream, and fillers are all obstacles that can be near impossible for a Paleo posse to dodge. This vegan pumpkin dessert is served as a custard and considered almost as cute as it is tasty. Your guests will love its elegant nature to end the meal on a light note. It may even take a place in your recipe book.
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Give the gift of fitness without breaking the bank. These 15 affordable picks are all $10 or less and the perfect thoughtful gift for your whole healthy squad.
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I am psyched to share this workout with you guys today! It's a fun one (yes, even with burpees) and starts out tough with three minutes of non-stop work for the first round. The time spent in each circuit decreases by one minute for each subsequent round for three total rounds.
I completed this workout during Chase's naptime and it only requires one set of dumbbells. It's a quick workout but seriously challenging thanks to plyometric exercises that made me sweat like crazy and challenging upper body exercises.
You'll notice that the number of reps you're completing stay the same. Keep things simple, but focus on form and challenge yourself! Each circuit pairs an upper body exercise with a super-sweaty plyometric exercises that will get your heart rate up! Take breaks as needed and honor your body. If you keep things moving and give yourself a one-minute break at the end of each round, this workout should take you approximately 20 minutes to complete.
Below you will find exercise demos of each exercise in the three circuits.
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Want to make the most out of your morning, no matter how late to work you are? These morning tricks will set you up for success. Altogether they'll just take up five minutes of your time, so you can add them into even the most hectic morning routine.
1. Don't snooze: It's easier said than done, but trust us, this works. Forgoing the snooze button and getting up as soon as your alarm goes off will help you feel less tired.
How to do it: Set your alarm for the time you want to get up, not an earlier time just so you can hit snooze. Using a fitness tracker or smartphone app that tracks your sleep cycle can help rouse you out of slumber when you're not in your deepest sleep.
2. Stretch: Feeling groggy? Try waking up your body with a few stretches that will also aid digestion and help you become more flexible (an important aspect of staying injury-free, no matter how active you are).
How to do it: The good news is that you can do these soothing, energizing stretches right in bed to ease you into your morning routine.
3. Set an intention: Even the most meditation-averse among us can benefit from thinking positively. No need to spend five minutes trying to concentrate on thinking about nothing (although, if you want to, it works) - a pause to think about what you want to accomplish during the day is all you need to help you start off on the right foot.
How to do it: Use this positive affirmation guide as a starting point for finding a thought and setting an intention.
4. Breathe: You can try this while you're saying your positive affirmations to save time, but whatever you do, start the morning with a few deep breaths from the diaphragm.
How to do it: Use this breathing technique when you're lying in your bed before you get up.
5. Hydrate: The first thing you should think about when you wake up is water. Overnight, your body loses hydration, so replenishing fluids helps wake up your body (and metabolism) while flushing out toxins.
How to do it: Drink an eight- or 16-ounce glass of cold water in the morning as soon as you get out of bed, or opt for a mug of hot water with lemon.
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Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Q: Is everyone this hungry going through weight loss?
The post Q&A Wednesday: I’m Losing Weight, But I’m Starving! appeared first on A Black Girl's Guide To Weight Loss.
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Jessica Simpson's Activewear Line Just Launched and We're Adding Everything to Our Wish List http://ift.tt/1MnzxUN
As if we needed more fitness gear to add to our overflowing holiday wish lists, Jessica Simpson's new activewear line, Jessica Simpson The Warm Up, is now available at Macy's. Style and function meet in affordable pieces (prices range from $24-$49) that were designed for performance and all body types, with sizes also offered in plus. Not only is the athleisure wear fashionable enough to wear straight to happy hour, but the line's seamless tanks optimize comfort while sports bras feature removable cups and bottom bands that reduce riding up. Meanwhile, all leggings and bras are made with soft Extraordin-Air fabric that stretches with you and wicks away sweat.
More celebrities seem to be taking their passion for fitness to the racks, but our closets aren't complaining. We may have just found our next workout ensemble.
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Have you guys ever done an AMRAP workout, where you do "as many rounds as possible" in a set amount of time? It's one of my favorite types of workouts because you can do it together with people of all fitness abilities (you're all working together for a set amount of time, so it doesn't matter how fast or slow you go or how much you're modifying - you're all in it together!) and because when you're racing against the clock to get as many rounds in as you can, the time goes so much faster - and you work a lot harder.
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A post-Thanksgiving hangover is about as predictable as dealing with Black Friday crowds at the mall. If you're tired of feeling sluggish the day after Thanksgiving, follow this easy-to-prep meal plan to beat bloat and feel back on track by the end of the day.
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When seeing Victoria's Secret models on the runway, it's easy to scowl in envy and even easier to presume that body disorders are responsible for their lean bodies. Anorexia and drugs are commonly associated with the modeling industry - how else could they score those washboard abs and flawless figures, right? VS Angel Bridget Malcolm challenges these stereotypes by proving skinny can indeed equal strong - her Instagram account is proof of living an active lifestyle. On a recent photo, the Australian model commented on this kind of negative backlash, urging people to end "skinny shaming."
"Can we STOP with the skinny shaming please? I am extremely fit and healthy and am not in the slightest way anorexic. I have worked hard to look like this and am proud of my body. I may not be the curviest but I am a woman who has every right to look the way I do. Maybe today take a look inside yourself and wonder why you feel the need to shame strangers over the Internet about their bodies. Peace and love to you all - let's change the conversation."
Bridget's powerful statement and Instagram photos illustrate how there is not a single body type that defines what being fit is and that all shapes and sizes, regardless of one's weight or height, should be celebrated for their efforts. We so often bash skinny as unrealistic portrayals of "real" women, but we have to remember that thin is also included on the spectrum of natural body types. While we don't doubt that Bridget has amazing genes, she also works hard to stay strong and in shape.
So before jumping to conclusions when seeing the next ad, check out some of Bridget's Instagram photos and videos ahead.
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A little burpee and back squat WOD #Futureofcrossfit #littleathletePosted by Nick Nuzzolo on Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Rarely is CrossFit associated with anything besides pain and grueling conditioning but this little girl's kid version of the workout is too cute for words. The uploaded Facebook video shows the future athlete dropping it to the floor for baby burpees (check out her adorable form) and a series of modified barbell squats. Apparently it's never too early to start training!
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If you count yourself among the Lululemon-obsessed, you'll be happy to hear about its superluxe Black Friday limited-edition collection. Available online and in stores the day after Thanksgiving, the collection features eight new all-black pieces, all featuring a 360-degree reflectivity "Ravishing Reptile" design to keep you safe during dark cold-weather runs. While prices for smaller pieces, like the ear warmer, start at $38, the main stars of the collection are the reflective Pace Tight ($298) and Speed Tight IV ($198). If you're willing to brave the Black Friday lines to drop hundreds for a pair of leggings, check them out in more detail here. If not, you'll be happy to know that we've rounded up 10 stylish brands that aren't Lululemon - at every price point.
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Tuesday, November 17, 2015
After mentioning the completion of my first 5K a few weeks ago, I received some questions regarding my training. I thought it would be most helpful to just lay everything out in post form for ease of reference. FYI: I've always been a physically active person but never by means of running. This information is meant for novice runners like me whose goal is to run an entire 5K. If you have any running experience you may find these tips to be too rudimentary. On your mark. Get set. Let's go!
1. Runner-friendly apps. When I signed up for the 5K, I had no idea how to train for a long distance race. I had no internal gauge to determine how fast or how far I was running. (Spoiler alert: I was slow and not running very far at all.) Steve downloaded 5K Runner onto my iPhone and I used it for the first month or so of my training. It's basically an audio coach that talks you through a walk / run / walk workout three times per week. For the first 2-3 weeks, I was extremely discouraged. I could finish the workouts but felt completely spent during and after. My breathing was erratic when I ran. My legs hurt like crazy all the time – even on my rest days. I was seriously doubting my ability to run 3+ miles without stopping to walk when I could barely finish a 1-mile walk / run at a snail's pace. I said things to myself like, "I'm just not a runner." "Something isn't right. My legs aren't supposed to hurt this badly." "It doesn't feel natural when I run." "I can always back out." I even half-wished I would pass out like I used to so I would have an excuse not to run.
But somewhere around the 4-week mark of training, I noticed a shift. I had more control over my breathing. My legs weren't hurting as much. I was experiencing natural "highs" after my runs which kind of made me look forward to the next run. Instead of focusing on how far away I was from my goal, I was able to reflect on how far I had come.
The kids and I visited my grandparents in Florida in early August. I mistakenly forgot to pack my phone. My first thought was, "Well, guess I won't be able to run because I can't run without someone / something telling me when and how." It was a lame excuse and I knew it but that was my rationalization. Then I saw my grandma (who had a knee replacement last year) waking up early every morning to meet her girlfriends at the neighborhood pool for water aerobics and I thought, "If she can do that, I can make an effort to run a few times this week." And so I did.
Without my 5K Runner app, I decided to borrow a wristwatch from my grandma and run until I needed to walk. To my surprise, I ran for 11 minutes without walking! It was the longest continuous run I had completed. I walked for two minutes then ran for another eight. My phone showed up in the mail a few days later but I ditched the 5K Runner app and stuck to my 20-25 minute wristwatch workout, running until I absolutely had to walk, walking for 1-2 minutes then finishing with a shorter run. By the end of my visit, I could run ~15 minutes without stopping to walk.
When I returned home, I added Map My Run to my phone to document my routes, distances, splits and overall times. I was running 2-3 times per week. Seven weeks into my training, I was able to run two miles without stopping to walk. That was the moment when I actually believed I could reach the 3.2-mile mark if I kept at it. I gradually added snippets of distance to those two miles and I completed my first unofficial 5K two and a half weeks before the race.
2. Runner-friendly gadgets. Starting out I ran with my phone in hand and the volume on high so I could hear the audio coach. Steve made fun of me and quickly bought an armband holster for my phone. (For the record, he's the gadget lover in the relationship. I avoid them at all costs.) I tried adding a pair of basic ear buds from our junk drawer but I was continually adjusting them so they wouldn't fall out, which they did regardless. And what to do with the dangling, bouncing wires?! It was annoying. Reluctantly, I shelled out money for wireless bluetooth earphones. They made me a gadget lover. They didn't fall out (they come with ear buds and ear loops in various sizes for a custom fit) and they blocked out the sound of my ragged breathing. Not being able to hear myself breathe made such a difference to me! It's as if I couldn't hear how tired I was. The wireless aspect was completely freeing, too. I could focus on my form and pace instead of wrangling wires.
3. The right footwear. As mentioned above, pain in my legs from the knees down was my biggest hurdle early on. I had expected some pain but this was almost unbearable at times. I tried improving my gait by emphasizing a midfoot strike. It definitely felt better than my natural (i.e., very wrong) side-to-side stride but I was still in pain.
I did some reading online and determined improper support of my high arches was partly to blame. It probably didn't help that I didn't own true running shoes. I read a bunch of reviews online and ordered a pair of Brooks Pure Cadence 2 running shoes. I didn't care what color they were. I just ordered the cheapest ones in my size from Amazon. I loved them right out of the box. There was no break in period, no blisters. With proper cushioning in all the right places, my gait improved even more. Maintaining proper running form required less effort and felt "natural" for the first time in my life. (I followed these guidelines for proper running form.) The pain in my knees, shins and feet improved almost immediately. My arches never felt better.
However, the pain in my calves did not improve. In fact, I even experienced intense swelling at one point. My legs never swelled during any of my pregnancies, but the pain reminded me of how my legs used to feel after a 12-hour workday standing in the pharmacy while pregnant. Back then, I wore compression stockings for relief. I wondered if it would be weird to wear them while running. A quick Amazon search revealed that compression socks for runners actually do exist! I had no idea. I snagged a highly rated pair of performance run socks in pink. (Because it was the cheapest color and I don't care what I look like when I run.) THESE SOCKS WERE GAME CHANGERS! For me, the claims of more comfort, less fatigue and quicker recovery completely held up in real life. It should come as no surprise that my first run in the socks was the 11-minute wristwatch run I mentioned in #1. Sometimes I even wore them for comfort on rest days. #sohot
4. Ideal running conditions. At first, I ran whenever I had a break in my schedule. The kids were home from school for the summer and squeezing in a run wasn't always easy. I ran when I could. It didn't take me long to figure out I was NOT a night runner. I didn't like not being able to see what was around me and I had trouble falling asleep afterwards. Running in the stifling hot summer afternoons was excruciating. Also, I learned that running shortly after eating gave me intense runner's heartburn. For these reasons, I made every effort to get my runs in first thing in the morning. Later on as summer dwindled and the temps cooled, I was able to go for pleasant afternoon runs but morning time really was my running sweet spot.
When I started training, I had visions of running in all these cool places around my city. But what I realized was that if the location required me to get in a vehicle, I was less likely to run. It seemed like too much effort. Eventually, I settled on a route in my neighborhood. (After all, a legit running club runs through our 'hood every Tuesday.) It's mostly flat and quiet with little to no traffic and the kicker is that it's just steps from my front door.
I had a few friends offer to run with me but I never took them up on it. For one, I thought I was so terrible that I would hold them back. But mostly I preferred running alone. It was me time, albeit grueling. (That might be an introvert thing.)
So, yeah, my ideal running conditions involved cool temps in the morning, an empty stomach, my trusty neighborhood route and just me. That's when I felt and did my best. (Luckily, the conditions of the real race were quite similar.) Once I tried a different route on a HOT afternoon and it went horribly. There were hills, a construction zone, heavy traffic and no shoulder to run on. I walked a lot and it took me >45 minutes to finish. I vowed never to take that route again.
5. Patience. I don't like doing things I'm not good at. It's one of the reasons I didn't attempt to run before this summer. (Fear was the other big factor.) I'm old enough to know that accomplishing a lofty goal requires hard work and time. I knew training for a 5K would be strenuous physically. I knew I wouldn't be able to run 3 miles overnight. I gave myself ten weeks to train for the race. Still, I expected to see results sooner than I did. I had no choice but to be patient with my progress. I'm not going to lie. The first month sucked. Big time. I couldn't run longer than a minute without needing to stop and walk at least the same amount of time or longer. The entire time I was running, I couldn't wait to walk. I told Steve I would rather go through another au naturel birth than run a 5K. That's where #6 came in and kept me going.
6. Inspiration. I found inspiration everywhere. For starters, Steve organized the Lift Up Autism 5K. I watched him spend so much of what little free time he had setting up an event website, getting people registered, creating the race route, organizing a group of volunteers, contacting sponsors, etc. all for a good cause and I wanted to support him. I also found it extremely inspiring to read about others' first 5Ks. There's a lot to be found by googling "first 5K race." Dipping into others' experiences helped me focus on endurance, reaching that 3.2 mile mark and finishing strong with a smile on my face.
I thought about my childhood neighbor and friend who now has the extremely challenging job of raising three children, two of which are severely autistic.
I thought about my dear girlfriend who experienced a traumatic labor and delivery which ultimately resulted in her losing her baby the same day he was born.
I thought about my own son, Layne, who was once on the autism spectrum and has grown into the most intelligent and sweetest ten-year-old I know.
I thought about my kids seeing me cross the finish line.
When my legs wanted to stop I thought about all the chronically ill people who would give anything to have healthy, tired legs.
During one run in Florida, I had just reached my goal for the day when a golf cart passed me carrying a severely disabled elderly woman. I was so ready to quit but I ran another two minutes just for her.
During a run in my neighborhood, I passed an elderly woman who frequently runs in the area. She looks as if she's been a runner all her life and has the injuries and crippled posture to show for it. I had only planned on running 2 miles that day but ended up running 2.5 in honor of her.
During a week that Steve was out of town for work, the only way I could get in my run was to push Mabrey in a (non-jogging) stroller. The stroller is over a decade old. It's the only stroller we've ever owned. The wheels are terribly squeaky and I fear it could collapse at any moment. That stroller was all over the road that day! I kept thinking it was too hard to run behind but then I thought about Mabrey and I wanted her to see me do something difficult. I finished a 5K run that day. Mabrey had no clue. She just liked going fast. The next time I ran stroller-less, it was so easy relative to that stroller run.
You get the point. Inspiration is everywhere if you want to find it. It's yours for the taking. Use it to do good, hard things.
I completed a total of three 5K runs before the actual race. I posted a PR of 25:09 on race day. Out of 70 participants, I placed second. I was the first woman to cross the finish line. And I did it with a smile on my face.
After the race, my sister (who is an avid runner and has completed several marathons) asked me if I was hooked. I'm not entirely sure what my relationship with running is from here on out. I feel great. I'm probably in the best conditioning shape of my life. The fighter in me wants to get my time down but I don't want chronic injuries. That being said, I ran a mile "for fun" this past weekend and posted my best mile time ever – 7:14. I read somewhere that a 37- to 41-year-old is in the top 1% of their age group if they can run a mile in 6:48 or better. I turn 37 next month. I kinda want to try. For fun.
For me, the weirdest part about all of this is that I run for fun now?! Who am I.
Reading others' experiences inspired me so much and I want to pay it forward. Have you ever completed a 5K? What were your training must-haves? One more thing: Do you use a music app or create playlists for running / working out? That's the one thing I haven't been able to nail down. Any songs you would recommend? I'm all ears. Hehe.
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