How are your New Year’s Resolutions Going?

How are your New Year’s Resolutions Going?

Revisit your goals!

We say it often. Write them down. Cross them out. Highlight them. Whatever you can do to make them more tangible – more real. Because that is the secret…there is no magic, there is no trick (not one that works anyways) to realizing your goals. Write down attainable goals somewhere that you will walk past them several times a day, interact with your list when progress is made – or when you feel stagnant! Write little sub-goals under your major goals that will help point you in the direction of them, for instance:

Goal: Run a marathon
a.) buy proper footwear
b.) run 1/2 mile today
c.) run total of 2 miles this week
d.) run 5 out of 7 days next week
etc.

Or get creative with something like this!

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The reason we are urging you to revisit your resolutions this week is because this is the time of year when your life gets back to normal. You settle back into a routine after Summer insanity, and that is a great time to implement new habits, to set goals, to re-focus.

There is one thing in particular that we are asking you to focus in on right now, and that is to take care of YOU! So in case you have surpassed all your New Year’s Resolutions – or maybe you have just forgotten them altogether – we’ve got a whole set of resolutions for you to adopt into your routine!

1. Workout
Make your workout a priority! This one is a little bit obvious, but being consistent with your workout routine will increase your overall energy and lead to better food choices as well as better sleep.

2. Sleep
Speaking of sleep – this too should be a priority! Plan for 7-8 hours of shut eye each night, and start winding down one hour before you intend to be asleep in order to avoid sleeplessness. TV before bed is one common mistake a lot of people make, but that intense stimulation actually makes it more difficult for your mind to relax – especially those crime shows! Cut it out!

3. Floss
This is an easy way to start taking care of yourself in a big way! Have trouble remembering to work it into your routine? Try keeping floss in the shower to make it part of your bathing routine.

4. Hydrate
One of the most important things we can do to take care of ourselves is to drink enough water. Being dehydrated affects your cognitive ability, your performance, and even your skin! Feel AND look better just by drinking adequate water. Spread it out throughout the day though! Trying to catch up on all your fluids for the day at once can lead to discomfort or in rare cases hyponatremia.

5. Take a multivitamin
If your diet throughout the day does not consist of a wide variety of foods in all colors of the rainbow, most likely you could benefit from a good multivitamin supplement. Place them somewhere you will see them every day and pop one as your insurance policy that you are getting everything your body needs to function optimally.

Make yourself a priority! Remember: if your cup is empty, you cannot fill anyone else’s. If you don’t take care of yourself regularly, you won’t be able to provide adequate care for anyone else.

Kombucha Brewing At Home

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Kombucha tea is a fermented drink made with tea, sugar, probiotic bacteria and yeast and has quickly become a probiotic sweetheart.  Many have found the tangy and fizzy taste to be a nice alternative to harsh sodas and other carbonated beverages. Kombucha contains B vitamins and the probiotics/living bacteria can be a good bacteria boost for gut health (replacing intestinal microflora and breaking undigested carbohydrates into smaller molecules).  Some have said that the healing properties, from various disorders, are a result of the acid in kombucha binding with various toxins for elimination.

Kombucha uses the fermentation process, which has been used for centuries to produce things like wine, beer, sourdough, sour cream, yogurt, kimchi, tempeh, sauerkraut, and more!  Did you know vanilla is produced by the fermentation of vanilla beans?

WHAT HAPPENS DURING FERMENTATION?

To ferment kombucha, the yeast in a SCOBY (an acronym for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”) breaks down the sugar in a sweetened tea which undergo fermentation.  This in turn produces alcohol.  Some of the alcohol is converted to acetic acid which gives it the vinegar smell and also the proper acidic level to prevent “bad” bacteria from forming. (Kombucha on average is less than half a percent alcohol by volume so don’t be alarmed!)

According to wikipedia, the process for creating kombucha relies on “anaerobic ethanol fermentation (by yeast), anaerobic organic acid fermentation (by bacteria), and aerobic ethanol oxidation to acetate (by bacteria) all take place concurrently along an oxygen gradient.”  Now you know.

HOW DO I BREW MY OWN KOMBUCHA?

What you’ll need:

– 2 cups kombucha (purchased, use from a prior batch, or get some from a friend!)

– 1 SCOBY (purchased or get one from a friend!)

– 3.5 Liters of water

– GLASS container to hold 4 Liters, or more (be careful of non-glass containers as they can leach toxins into your brew.)

– 1 cup of white sugar

– 8 bags of black tea (steer clear of flavored teas like Early Grey that contain oils which will disrupt the brewing process)

Let’s brew:

1. Bring 3.5 liters of water to a boil

2.  Stir in 1 cup of sugar until dissolved

3.  Add 8 tea bags and pull pot from heat

4.  Allow to fully cool.  You now have sweetened tea.

5.  Remove tea bags and pour sweet tea into your brewing jar.

6.  Add SCOBY to your brewing jar and cover with t-shirt or paper towel material and secure with a rubber band.

7.  Brew for 7-30 days.  Many find 7-14 days to be the right strength for tastes before it becomes too vinegary.

8.  After brewing period, pour into serving jars, growlers, etc.  You can either place directly into the refrigerator or you can leave in a warm and dark place for 1-3 days to add more fizz to your drink.  After the 1-3 days, put in the refrigerator.

Congratulations, you have kombucha!

WATCH THE HOW-TO-WITH-HEATHER HERE:

Want to store your SCOBY?  Cover your SCOBY with brewed kombucha and store in a sealed glass container in your cupboard for up to 30 days.

Want to share a SCOBY with a friend?  Peel away a layer of a thicker formed SCOBY or after fermenting your tea, leave some in an open glass container and a new SCOBY will form!

Junk Food Disguised as Health Food

Health Food might be the largest growing industry with regards to groceries on the shelves. It seems like every week there is some new product out there making outrageous claims and taking up residence on the fancy shelves nearby the organic produce…that’s how you know it must be good! Right?

Well let’s talk a little bit about some wolves in sheep’s clothing, junk food disguised as health food, and foods that were designed for one specific population or usage but are being used too generally by the public and regarded as “healthy”.

Clif Bars: Perhaps these bars have pictures of cliff-hanging rock climbers on them because you’ll need to participate in that level of adventurous activity to burn off all the sugar lurking in these! The “Crunchy Peanut Butter” flavor has 17g of added sugars (see label: first ingredient is brow rice syrup. A sneaky way to say added refined sugar.)! Although the rest of the ingredients are not too bad these bars are not an ideal way to spend 250-300 calories. Instead try an RX Bar. They contain no added sugar and any sugar in the bar comes from natural sources like dried fruit.

Slim Fast: “Meal replacement” shakes took the dieting world by storm during the 1990s and 2000s. They’re quick, easy and promise convenient, steady weight loss. However, we now know that they are more likely to leave you hungry continuously because chewing is an important process for feeling satisfied from the food you eat, AND check out this number from Slim Fast’s flagship Chocolate Milk Shake: 18g added sugar in the only 190 calorie shake! That’s nearly half the calories from processed sugar. Not only will you still be hungry, but you are in for a sugar crash!

Sabra Hummus: Read your hummus label carefully! Chickpeas, Lemon juice, EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil), Tahini. That is all it should contain aside from added spices for flavor. Sabra and many other varieties of hummus in the grocery aisles are made with vegetable oil which is significantly less healthy than EVOO, and contain preservatives like potassium sorbate. Additionally while many people think of hummus as a high-protein snack it only packs 2 g per 70 calorie serving, which is ok! Not everything you eat needs to be high protein, but it is important to know what you’re in for.

Whole Wheat: Many people think of “whole wheat flour” or “whole wheat bread” as a health-food, but standards for what passes as “whole grain” are quite low. Most of these products are just about as “healthy” as white bread or white flour. Most “whole wheat” is just as processed and refined, has a nearly identical glycemic index, low fiber content, and likely has sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and/or hydrogenated oils. *Hydrogenated or Partially-hydrogenated oils (mono and diglycerides) are essentially Trans Fats that don’t have to be labelled. AVOID THEM. Nature’s Own is one popular bread brand out there with many ugly ingredients lurking within the label. Instead search for a “sprouted” whole grain bread like Food for Life’s Ezekiel 4:9 or Angelic Bakehouse bread (both found many places now including Costco!).

Peanut Butter: Peanuts. Mashed. That is what makes peanut butter. Maybe salt if you like. Unfortunately though, most peanut butters have added sugar and palm oil or some other oil added. Instead of always choosing foods based on the pretty front label drawn up by their marketing team, start choosing based on the backside of the label mandated by the FDA. It is also important to note that peanut butter is predominantly fat which makes it a satisfying snack that gives you energy, but it doesn’t really fall under the category of a “high protein” food.

Sports Drinks: One 32 oz classic Gatorade contains about 52g of sugar! Keep in mind that Gatorade was designed for elite athletes competing at a very high level for sometimes several hours in the heat (originally from Florida). This drink is not designed to quench the average thirst of the average person. Many forms of Gatorade have unsavory additives and artificial flavors or colors, and even G2 which boasts about half the sugar achieves this by adding an artificial sweetener. We’ve suggested avoiding artificial sweeteners in the past, but if you’re going to choose a product that contains them, at least make sure it doesn’t ALSO contain 20g of sugar for goodness sake!

Try this electrolyte recipe instead:
http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2017/06/16/water-outperforms-sport-drinks.aspx

Deconstructing the Plank

This week we are going to completely break down another one of our most basic moves – the plank! Most people are aware of the planks most central component: a strong core. This week you will discover that there is MUCH more to it than that alone, but let’s start here.

We define the core as any and all muscles that attach to and/or stabilize the spine, which technically probably includes a near majority of the muscles in your body! Your core connects your lower body to your upper body. Most of our daily movement either emanates from the core or moves through it. Being able to actively “turn on” your core is vital for obtaining good posture, is key in balance and stability, maintaining a healthy back, and in everyday activities. Being able to quickly activate or “turn on” your core muscles is often the difference between sustaining injury or not when lifting and/or moving some everyday object or having to react quickly like catching yourself during a trip and near fall.

Now as we talk more about what goes into a quality plank it may help to imagine a soldier – standing at attention.

Their back is tall, ears aligned over their shoulders, legs straight. They are standing at a-TENSION! “Chin up, chest out, shoulders back, stomach in.” Flip them down on the ground with arms forward and you have a beautiful plank! The next time you plank, think to yourself, “if I were flipped up onto my feet, would I be standing tall and straight?” PUSH through your heels in your plank to create tension. Pretend a cat is climbing up your leg, digging in its claws (we know, ouch!). Instinctively your muscles would tighten, pulling the knee cap “up” on the thigh – the front of your leg is now “engaged”.

Next, pretend your pelvic bone is a bowl. Slightly tip the bowl backward like you are trying to pour water out of your back side (gross image, but bare with us). This engages, or creates tension in the external obliques, rectus abdominis, glutes, and hamstrings. Check out this great article to get more in-depth with pelvic tilt!

Hopefully by this point in the article, you have gathered that planking includes alignment and tension throughout the body! This continues into the upper body. Be sure your elbows are securely under your shoulders. Turn your palms down, and spread your fingers for the most sensory input (no prayer hands!). Push your body up into your upper back, or in other words lift yourself through the shoulders – don’t allow them to collapse together on your back. Your head should be aligned with spine – think about giving yourself a double chin. If there were a pole on your back it should make contact at the back of your head, shoulders, and tailbone.

Now that you’ve found all this tension in your body it is time to find a little movement! A strong plank is in part created by proper breathing, meaning breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. When you breathe deeply, you should feel your entire rib cage and belly expand to its fullest extent. When exhaling all the way you activate your deep core muscles, which is exactly what want to be calling upon during planks! So many of us are chronic “mouth breathers” which can lead to a whole host of issues like exercise induced asthma, sleep apnea, chronic hyperventilation and even increased allergy symptoms. Now, take a DEEP breath…or MANY deep breaths!

So that’s it. Nothing to it, just: TENSION (stand tall), feet dorsiflexed, quads/front of legs engaged (cat claws!), slightly tip the pelvis (belly button to spine and close to nose) for core activation, elbows under shoulders, chest into upper back, head alignment, BREATHE!

Go forth…and plank

Deconstructing The Squat

The squat is the perfect analogy for life. It’s about standing back up after something heavy takes you down.”

~ unknown

When most people think about squats, what do they think about? Quads? Maybe glutes too? However, this foundational movement goes MUCH deeper than that! A weighted squat is quite literally a total body exercise, and this week we are going to break it down piece-by-piece for you:

START FROM THE GROUND UP
Not the other way around!

Instead of picking up weights, making sure they are secure and then bending your knees dropping into your squat, bring your attention FIRST to your feet! Weightlifting experts suggest focusing on broadening the foot, spreading the toes laterally, and making as much contact through the floor as possible. Imagine someone has placed several playing cards under different parts of your foot, and you are trying to prevent someone from pulling them out! You might be surprised to find how much more active engagement you feel throughout the muscles of the lower body. Ready? Yes you! Imagine those cards under each corner of your foot – now squat! Just a few, don’t burn yourself out – we want to take a moment to do just a few bodyweight squats with each paragraph to solidify what you’re reading and make it more real.

Next up are the ankles! Take a look at the graphic above. Notice the angle at the ankle – it is not 90 degrees with the knee directly over the heel, because that would shift your center of gravity too far to the back making it impossible to hold weight safely. Ankle mobility might be the most common limitation people face when it comes to getting into a deep squat. Try drawing the alphabet or big circles in both directions with the ankles, really pushing the range of motion and moving slowly throughout the range. Maybe move your ankles for a minute or two, then try another couple of squats – try thinking about pulling the front of your shin down towards the tops of your feet (but don’t pop up off those heels!)

Moving up the leg to the knees now. Many people struggle to keep their knees in line with their ankles/toes as they get deeper into their squat. This is most commonly due to inner thigh weakness, glute weakness, hip tightness or all three. Find a mirror! Watch your knees on the way down and continue to hold them in line – pay attention to whether you start feeling your squats in different areas! Ask a coach to assistance if you find your knees continue to fall in towards each other; there are a few ways to work through this common movement dysfunction. The Split Squat is one excellent example of a unilateral exercise that can help us identify instability and weakness. During split squats and side lunges take care that you don’t allow your knee to fall inward by engaging the outer glute and pressing through both the inside and outside of the foot. Hip lifts and single-leg hip lifts are also great exercise to help develop stable glute strength. Now you know what comes next – put it to work! Focus on the position of your knees while squatting and try keeping them pointing directly in line with the toes! Maybe try a few squats with your feet narrow, wide, in the middle, turn the toes outward a little. See what feels most comfortable.

Speaking of hips! The very first step for the squat is to send the hips back – THEN begin sitting. Too often we start bending our knees into our squat before we have even begun to send the hips back and this sets us up for dysfunctional movement right off the bat. Alright fine, maybe just one squat this time…start with the hips!

So that pretty much covers your lower body – but we haven’t even got past the hips yet! What happens above them is just as important for your squat form especially if you are going to be carrying weight. Squat Holds and Quad Rocks (see a trainer for demonstration) is a great exercise to help get you into the habit of engaging your core muscles during the squat. A quad rock IS a squat if you turn the movement vertical, however this variation drastically reduces the amount of weight you have to move. Often we forget about the upper body here and just focus on the legs, but especially if we are loading the squat we MUST have core engagement to ensure the safety of the spine. Tuck the chin in (double chin) to keep the spine straight all the way through the top, and don’t forget to pack those shoulders!

So there you have it folks – the squat in 500 words or so. There is even more that we could say if we wanted to continue delving into this movement, but let’s allow this to sink in and if you like seek out some one-on-one time with a trainer to fine tune your squat.

Diet Myth-Busting!

This week we are busting diet myths! First up, it’s…

EAT LESS, WEIGH LESS.”

While that CAN be true in some cases, usually people don’t want to lose weight – they want to lose fat! So, if you are comfortable depriving your body the nutrients it needs, feeling hungry all the time, and losing muscle, water and bone density – then this is the diet for you! In order to maintain muscle and proper body functioning (especially for people involved in strength training several times a week like our Ellipse members!) you need to eat at least a certain number of calories in the proper ratio of protein, fat and carbohydrates.
Now of course if an average person was eating 3,000 calories a day sure, cutting their calorie intake a little will probably help them lose some weight. For most of us however, when we “diet” we tend to cut out entire macronutrient categories (*cough cough* carbohydrates), and slash caloric intake below a baseline level needed to ensure your body doesn’t enter “starvation mode”.

LOW-FAT, LOW-CARB, SUGAR-FREE, DIET, LITE”

These are marketing terms dreamed up in a corporate office to sell cheap (in quality and ingredients, not always in price) products to the incredibly large market of people desperate to lose weight. We’ve discussed the downside to artificial sweeteners in the past, but products with these labels tend to be highly processed, and are often just junk food disguised as a guilt-free indulgence – however, they are anything but. Low or Fat-Free products often have added sugar to make it taste good enough to eat (see the classic example of fat-free frozen yogurt)

EAT SMALLER AMOUNTS FREQUENTLY TO BOOST METABOLISM.”

The truth is the number one way to boost your metabolism is by increasing the amount of muscle you have – that’s about it. Constant digestion has a negligible effect on your metabolism and might even do more harm than good for your teeth and intestines. Eating a healthy snack (think: Veggies and Hummus, Fruit and Greek Yogurt or Peanut Butter, etc) between meals however can help you to stay more satisfied during the day and prevent overeating at meal time.

EATING PROTEIN AND CARBS SEPARATELY AIDS IN WEIGHT LOSS.”

This one is patently UN-true because in fact the best way to ensure efficient digestion of protein is to pair it with a high-fiber carbohydrate. Many of the healthiest protein options come pre-paired with carbohydrates already like beans, nuts, seeds etc.

EATING FAT MAKES YOU FAT!”

This one is very important because many people striving for a healthy diet almost totally abstain from dietary fat, which is to their detriment because many vitamins (A, D, E and K) REQUIRE fat to be absorbed into the body. Also adding small amounts of healthy fat (EVOO, Coconut Oil, etc) to vegetables makes most people much more likely to eat them, and help you feel full! (Think: apple = still hungry vs. apple + peanut butter = energy + satisfaction)

DON’T EAT AFTER 8 PM!”

This might be good advice, but not because late night calories are really any worse than daytime calories. Most of the time late night snacks are our worst ones. High fat, high sugar snacks that don’t actually serve any purpose to sate hunger. Try not to go more than 5 hours without eating during the day to avoid being famished late at night, and try to contain your eating hours roughly within a 12-hour window – that alone might help you save a couple hundred calories per day!

Consider these myths BUSTED