Fitness young woman doing squats in the park

Morning Quickie

Most people wake up in the morning dreading the heavy workload they may have. Whether it’s getting the kids out the door for school, a big deadline that’s due, or the every day tasks that cause us stress, we tend to wake up stressed. That can all change when you wake up and start your day with a quick workout. These mini workouts will get your blood flowing to help wake you up, feel more energized throughout the day and make you feel like you’ve already accomplished something before the day even begins.

15, 15, 15

Perform 3 sets of 15 of each of the following 3 exercises: Air squats, push-ups and sit ups. Each of these exercises is working a large muscle group and giving you a full body workout. Make sure to focus on your form and perform each exercise and repetition correctly. It’s better to perform the exercises the right way instead of quickly and risking causing an injury.

Jog/Walk around the Block

Nothing wakes your senses up better than getting outside. Pick a path that’s conveniently located around your home and just walk or run for 10 minutes. You will get some vitamin D from being outside and also get to unplug and enjoy the outdoors before being locked down to technology all day. Unplugging for an hour a day helps you to focus more and helps you to appreciate the finer things in life such as the beauty of nature. Aim for a mile and you’ll have a good start towards reaching your 10,000 steps a day goal.

Bike to Work

Change up your routine every once in a while and try biking to work. Getting out of traffic can relieve stress and biking is a great cardiovascular workout. Plan accordingly when biking into work. Make sure you wear the right clothing and map out your route. Plan to leave your work clothes and lunch at the office the day before so you have less things to carry on your ride. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water too!

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Charge Up on Sleep

Just like your phone charges each night for reliable use the next day, your body needs to charge or it will start to break down- in more ways than one! You can buy a new phone battery if you don’t take care of it, but you cannot buy a new body.  If you can in the future, then I assume it is expensive.

The good news is that once you improve your sleeping habits, many other areas of your life will start to improve. It is the gift that keeps on giving! For example, choosing the right foods, engaging in activity and concentrating at work will become much easier. When we don’t get enough sleep, then we don’t have enough energy. When the body doesn’t have enough energy for the demands of the day, it will start to crave low quality, processed foods because these foods have quick-release energy. Before we know it, sugar and unhealthy fats will become a stable in the diet just to get us through the physical and mental activities of the day.

Brian Sanderoff P.D, director of the Well Being Healing Center and Holistic Pharmacy in Hunt Valley, Maryland, states that “the reason sleep is so important is because it is when we are asleep that we create Human Growth Hormone (HGH). HGH is thought to be the “anti-aging” hormone; and is responsible for muscle building, tissue regeneration, liver regeneration, the breakdown of fat cells and blood sugar regulation.”

How much sleep we need varies between individuals but generally changes as we age. The National Institutes of Health suggests that adults need 7-8 hours each night. Here are some tips to start improving your sleeping habits today!

  • Sleep in complete darkness
  • Cool down the room, 68 degrees or below is ideal
  • Use your bed only for sleeping
  • Adopt a bedtime ritual
  • Try meditating or reading before bed
  • Find ways to handle stress or worry

Try a few of these tips out tonight and see how they improve your quality of sleep.

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Pass the (healthy) Pasta!

While pasta may be a staple meal in your home, it is important to be mindful of the ingredients included in your favorite dishes.  Here are some ways that let you enjoy comfort food while getting some extra nutrients along the way.

Add More Vegetables

Make a meat sauce with lots of fresh vegetables. Instead of using canned pasta sauce, which tends to be loaded with sugar, make a sauce using sautéed and blended vegetables. Bake, roast or grill carrots, leeks, onions, celery, peppers and tomatoes until thoroughly cooked. Use a hand blender to puree the mixture for a sauce that now has a full serving of vegetables, and no sugar!

Choose Whole Grains

When picking from different types of pasta, choose a whole grain option when possible. When compared to the traditional, bleached pastas, whole grains give you more Vitamin B and tons of added fiber.

Try Pasta Substitutions

Spaghetti Squash- Simply using a fork to scrape out the insides of the cooked squash gives it the same appearance as spaghetti. It has vitamins A and C, and magnesium and can protect against some forms of heart disease.

Zucchini Noodle- Using a peeler, zucchini can make the perfect spaghetti substitute. This option is rich in fiber and can even help lower cholesterol.

Soba Noodles- Made from buckwheat and originally from Japan, Soba noodles are high in protein and could lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Find them in the Asian foods aisle of your local grocery store.

Quinoa Pasta- Known as a super grain, quinoa tastes just like regular pasta, but has more potassium, magnesium and calcium for stronger bones and teeth.

Black Bean Spaghetti- Although the dark appearance might be something to get used to, black bean pasta has almost 20.5 grams of protein per serving.

Control Portion Sizes Determining the correct serving size can be difficult. Keep in mind appropriate portion sizes when eating pasta. Stick to ½ cup or a fist size portion of carbohydrates and pasta.

Female tourists are enjoying the forest.

Exploring the Outstanding Outdoors

We are surrounded by National Parks and other exquisite destinations with miles of countless adventures just waiting for us! Are you looking to save on a monthly gym membership by spicing up your daily exercise routine this summer? If so, I challenge you to start thinking about moving your favorite indoor activities to the outdoors this summer. By doing so, you can also incorporate a greater amount of active outdoor family and friend time on the weekends!

Outdoor Benefits

Think about the activities you enjoy doing indoors and think about how you can move the activity outdoors for a greater terrain variety and challenges, less time driving to the gym every day and even a larger increase in endorphin levels from Vitamin D.  Our bodies need the “sunshine vitamin” because we don’t produce it naturally. Did you know that as little as twenty minutes outside is enough exposure for an average adult? When you are Vitamin D deficient then you might suffer from a slight depression. However, when you combine physical movement and a safe exposer to sunlight, then you have an automatic recipe for happiness.

If you enjoy walking then try a few beginner hikes in your local area. If you enjoy being in the water then try paddle boarding, kayaking and rafting. Even if you are a winter sport snowboarder you can keep the same stance and try wakeboarding or go sandboarding.

Active Social Time with Friends and Family

Also, outdoor activities are a great way stay active with your family and friends on the weekends.  If you enjoy having your own time to dedicate to your workouts during the busy work week, then I am not saying to give that time up. However, try getting your family and friends on board with you during the weekends. You won’t ever have to hear the phrase “I’m bored” from your kids again. In fact, they might replace any whining with silent napping on the way home. Win for them, win for you!

If you want to get a group of friends or family together for a reunion then why not go camping at a National Park this year? There can be something for all ages and activity levels! Plus, if you have tech-savvy teenagers, this is a great way to encourage them to take a break from away from technology channels and spend quality time with the family.

Profile portrait of a young woman at the desk with a laptop, stretching, backache position. Business concept photo, lifestyle

Make ‘sitting’ a Thing of the Past

New research has recently surfaced that sitting for long periods of time may be as bad for you as smoking. Sitting raises the risk of disability, diabetes, heart disease and cancer, not to mention obesity. Being too sedentary, spending too much time on our behinds is a real threat to our health. And to top it off, this new research shows that even if you hit the gym or go for a run outside every day, sitting too long can still be bad for you. If you’re like the rest of the working world, stuck sitting behind a desk for 8 hours a day and/or sitting to relax when you get home, here are some tips to help get you out of the sitting rut!

Workout at your desk (or on the couch): Whether it’s doing a few squats or lunges every hour at your desk or getting up and walking around during commercial breaks, those little exercises help. Set a goal of doing some desk pushups, standing squats and chair dips every hour just to increase the blood flow in your body. If you like to watch tv at night, try doing 5 squats, 5 pushups and 5 sit ups at every commercial break. Any form of exercise will help break the sitting habit.

Walk:  Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator or simply take the long route to the restroom. Any little bit of extra walking throughout the day can help you to focus more and release some built up energy. Try going for a walk after lunch and dinner to help your food digest instead of just sitting down directly after a large meal.

Sit on a stability ball: This may seem strange to some people, but sitting on a stability ball and not wobbling around actually engages your core muscles. It can also improve your posture and help decrease some risk for injuries from sitting down in a chair.

Take a stand: If sitting all day is a problem, try working and standing for part of the day. If you don’t have access to standing desk, just try standing for a few minutes every hour, walking around while answering the phone or checking your emails.

Use these ideas to counteract the negative effects of too much time on your behind. You should set a goal of standing up at least once an hour, if not every half hour, and moving around.

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Oil: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

So we’ve all heard by now how fat is bad and can lead to higher cholesterol, blood pressure and larger waistlines. But if oils and fats are bad, why are avocados high in fat but also good for us? That’s because not all fats and oils are created equal! Instead of simply cutting fats and oils out of our everyday life, we need to learn to make healthier substitutions and choices to get the most benefit out of the good fats. To put things simply, here’s how things break down:

Good Fats

  • Polyunsaturated fats: These are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, aka essential fatty acids since our bodies don’t produce them, we have to get them from food. They can actually help lower your total cholesterol level.
    • Examples: Soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, walnuts, Sunflower sesame  and pumpkin seeds, flaxseed, fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines), soymilk, tofu
  • Monounsaturated fats: These fats can not only help lower cholesterol and lower your risk for heart disease or stroke but they increase your HDL or good cholesterol. They are typically in liquid form at room temperature and are typically plant based liquid oils.
    • Examples: Olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, avocados, olives, nuts, peanut butter

Bad Fats

  • Saturated Fats: Saturated fat increases total cholesterol and LDL or the bad cholesterol. Meat, seafood, and dairy products are all sources of saturated fat. Dietary Guidelines recommend no more than 10% of your daily food intake come from saturated fats.
    • Examples: High-fat cuts of meat (beef, lamb, pork), chicken with the skin, whole-fat dairy products (milk and cream), butter, cheese, ice cream, palm and coconut oil, lard
  • Trans Fats: These are known as hydrogenated oils because they are made with more hydrogen to keep them solid at room temperature. They’re found in many processed and fried foods. A product is “trans fat free” if it contains less than half a gram per serving so watch out for these! If you see the words hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated, or shortening, steer clear of it.
    • Examples: Commercially-baked pastries, cookies, doughnuts, muffins, cakes, pizza dough, packaged snack foods (crackers, microwave popcorn, chips), stick margarine, vegetable shortening, fried foods (French fries, fried chicken, chicken nuggets, breaded fish), Candy bars

Instead of cutting fat out of your diet entirely, try swapping out the unhealthy fats for the better ones. Again, some fat is actually a good thing and does have some benefits. Watch your intake and keep these quick tips in mind:

  • Keep total fat intake to 20-35% of calories
  • Cut out Trans Fats
  • Limit saturated fatsEat omega-3 fats every day
  • Fish, nuts, flax seed and some oils fit into this category
  • Replace mayo with avocado spread they are filled with heart and brain healthy fats and can add variety to a boring sandwich
  • Use olive oil over butter or margarine
  • Use canola or vegetable oil when baking
Fresh homemade lemonade in glass with lemon, orange, ice and mint. Ingredients for lemonade.

Get hydrated!

With water taking up half of our body weight, we all know just how important water is and making sure we are getting enough in our diet.  Water is important for every cell and organ in our body to function properly. Water helps us regulate body temperature, lubricate our joints and rid our body of waste. The problem is, how do we know were getting enough water for our body to function normally? Here are some tell-tale signs of dehydrations:

  • Dry mouth
  • Sleepiness or fatigue
  • Extreme thirst
  • Headache
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Darker than usual urine

Typically you want to try to stay well enough hydrated to where you don’t experience any of the above symptoms. Most people drink only when they are thirsty but thirst is one of the first signs of poor hydration. Most recommendations say to stick between 6-8 glasses of water a day but each person has different hydration needs. Some things that factor hydration are exercise, temperature, and certain medical conditions that deplete our bodies of water faster than normal. To keep your body hydrated without these symptoms, try these simple steps.

  • Start your morning right by drinking a glass of water as soon as you wake up
  • Keep a water bottle with you everywhere you go and mark each time you have to fill it up
  • Add flavor like slices lemons, cucumbers or limes to your water so you don’t get bored with it
  • Drink a glass of water before each meal to help when hunger sets in and to keep you feeling fuller. A lot of times we may think were hungry but were actually just thirsty!
  • Make sure to drink water before, during and after your workouts so that dehydration doesn’t lead to dizziness or a possible injury
  • Eat something spicy! The increased spice will not only help you to reach for more water but the spice can also help boost your metabolism
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Summer of Cycling: Bike to Work

June is Colorado Bike Month and Bike to Work Day is Wednesday, June 26th. Everyday around 10,000 people bike to work in Denver. This year, they are expecting that over 30,000 Coloradans will take on the challenge of riding to work. If you are going to be one of the participants taking on this challenge, there are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind.

Safety First: In Colorado, bikers have to obey the same rules of the roads as drivers do. Biking next to cars can be scary at first but if you’re wearing the proper gear, injuries can be prevented. Statistics show that most bike accident fatalities are caused by bikers not wearing helmets. In fact, wearing a helmet can reduce the severity of a head injury by 88%. Always remember to wear your helmet and use proper signals when turning to let the cars around you know to avoid injury.

Hydration is Key: Especially in the hot summer months, it’s important to drink as much water as possible. When your exercising outdoors, it’s even more important to keeps those hydration levels up. Make sure to drink water before, during and after your ride to work. Keep a water bottle attached to your bike at all times and even a hydration pack for easy access as you ride. There will be plenty of food and water stations out for you to stop at and even get a quick tune up if needed. For a list of stations and to map out your ride, check out the Bike to Work Day Site.

Be Prepared: Bring a change of clothes and lunch to work the day before to help lessen the load you’ll be carrying on your ride. Especially if you don’t frequently ride into work, you’ll want to have your bike be as light as possible. Knowing that your meals are ready to go after a hard workout and where the showers are located in your office will take a lot of stress off of you on the day of. If you do have to bring a change of clothes, keep them in zip lock bags to avoid getting any sweat or water on them during your ride.

Check the Weather: In Colorado, we tend to have cooler mornings and warmer afternoons. Make sure to bring a light jacket for your morning ride and breathable sweat wicking clothing on your ride home. If you are new to bike riding, there are compression shorts that have a bit of padding in the glute area to relieve some of the pain from sitting on a bike seat for a longer period of time. Shorts or pants that are tight around the ankle are also recommended so that they don’t get caught up in the bike chain. Lastly, the brighter color of clothing, the better. This way, other commuters and motorists can clearly see you to avoid accidents.

Enjoy the Ride:
The most important thing is to have fun on this ride. There will be plenty of other riders out and it’s a great time to meet people and meet the local organizations and sponsors in the community. Take in the beautiful scenery that Colorado has to offer and enjoy a day outside of traffic!

Young sportive couple working out together on the quay, near the sea. Attractive man jumping with skipping rope, while his girlfriend watching at him and cheerfully smiling.

Cardio Intervals for Exercise

Did you know that alternating between high and low intensities for 20 minutes is more effective at burning calories than 20 minutes of steady state exercise? Once you are able to complete steady state cardiovascular exercise for thirty minutes or more, start to gradually introduce interval training to your workout. Interval training is a fitness training approach in which low to moderate intensity intervals are alternated with higher intensity intervals. Interval training has been proven to be one of the most effective forms of training for weight improvement because of the fat burning benefits even hours after your workout. So, how do you safely introduce cardio intervals to your workouts?

  1. Choose your exercise equipment.

It is safest to introduce cardio intervals on exercise equipment that creates less impact on your joints, such as the bike, elliptical or rower. Cardio machines make it easier to control the intensity and help individuals keep the correct form during high intensity intervals. If you prefer to exercise outdoors, then you can with your bike or on foot. However, if you start on foot be careful and make sure you don’t create unnecessary stress your joints.

  1. Choose your interval time and recovery time.

After your five to ten minute warm up, start to alternate between your high and low intensity intervals for a total of twenty minutes.

  • High-Intensity Interval Time: The amount of time you spend exercising at higher intensity, such as a 70-100% effort.
    • You will want to focus on bringing your heart rate up safely and keeping correct form.
    • Usually a 30 seconds- 1 minute interval
  • Low-Intensity Interval Time: The amount of time you spend exercising by at a lower intensity, such as a 30-60% effort.
    • You will want to focus on recovering by bringing your heart rate down and taking deep controlled breathes.
    • Usually a 1 minute- 3 minute interval
  1. Third, adding intensity effectively.

The most common two ways to effectively increase your intensity is by increasing your resistance and/or your speed. I recommend first increasing your resistance and then increasing your speed for the safest results. For example, add resistance to your stationary bike and pick up the speed for 30 seconds. Then, take the resistance you added back off the bike and ride easy for 1- 2 minutes during your low intensity interval.

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Healthier Choices To-Go

Everyone has those days where the meal planning didn’t get done, there was not enough time to go to the grocery store, your kids have a late night practice or you just don’t feel like cooking at home. We get it, it happens to everyone. However, what we want to try and avoid is making the worst decisions when stopping at fast-food restaurants. Some of the tips and choices below will allow you to still get that quick meal in without all of the added guilt, try them out!

Skip the Sauces: Going light on the sauces and dressings can make a big impact on the calorie content of a meal. Mustard is usually the best dipping sauce in terms of being healthy. Ask for burgers, salads and sandwiches ‘dry’ or with the sauce on the side to help manage intake.

Make it a Small: When ordering a combo meal, fast food places may try to upsell you for a minimal charge, don’t fall for it! If you get a combo meal ask for the small serving of sides and drinks. That way, you still get the sides you love, but don’t get the chance to over indulge.

Say “No” (Thanks) to the Soda: This is a hard one, because a drink usually comes with the meal. Skip the soda and try unsweetened tea, hot tea, coffee, soda water – if you still need that carbonation, or just  a cup of water.  Removing soda from the meal takes out unnecessary calories and sugars, that I would rather use on actual food!

Eat When Relaxed: This is another tricky tip to follow, especially if you are in a rush. I know I get fast food when I am in a bind, its past bed time and have two screaming toddlers in the back seat. I find all too often gorging down the meal while driving, just so I can get home and get everyone else taken care of, knowing this is my only chance to get some food down. This is called distracted eating. I recommend skipping the upset stomach later by waiting to eat when you can sit down at home or park the car and have everyone eat in a somewhat relaxed manner. This way your stomach has a chance to tell your mind it is full.

Some ‘healthier’ option ideas next time you are at McDonalds

(McDonalds Healthiest (CNN, 2017))

Kids: 4 piece chicken McNuggets, apple slices, low fat yogurt stick and low fat milk.

Vegetarians: Fruit and yogurt parfait (snack/mini meal); or Southwest salad (no chicken) with Newman’s Own creamy Southwest dressing

Vegans: Southwest salad (no chicken or cheese) with Newman’s Own low-fat balsamic vinaigrette; or side salad with balsamic vinaigrette and hamburger bun; and a “Cutie” (mandarin orange)

Calorie Counters: Southwest grilled chicken salad (without dressing); or bacon ranch grilled chicken salad (without bacon and with half a packet of Newman’s Own ranch dressing); or Egg McMuffin (without Canadian bacon or butter); and fruit and yogurt parfait (snack/mini meal size)

Sugar Conscious: Chicken McNuggets (six pieces) with spicy buffalo dipping sauce; or Egg McMuffin (without Canadian bacon or butter)

Gluten Sensitive: Southwest grilled chicken salad (without dressing or tortilla strips); or Egg McMuffin (without muffin and butter)

Athlete: Artisan grilled chicken sandwich; or fruit and maple oatmeal without brown sugar; and fat-free chocolate milk jug

Low Carb: Artisan grilled chicken sandwich (without bun); or Egg McMuffin (without muffin and butter); or cheeseburger (without bun); side salad with Newman’s Own low-fat balsamic vinaigrette