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Saturday, December 31, 2011

How to Jump-Start Your 2012 Workout Action Plan

f you're the type of person who likes to set New Year's resolutions each year, then you've probably already come up with some fitness-related goals to add to the list. With the holidays soon coming to a close, it can be difficult to carve out some time to plan for the next 12 months, which is why I've come up with some easy tips to help you get your workout plan underway. Just make sure your list doesn't include some of these unrealistic resolutions, which are pretty much guaranteed to fail!
running shoes
  • Get Calendar Crazy: Don't stress about filling in your calendar for the entire year, but what can be helpful is to plan out the next two or three months. Is there a yoga or spin class you've been wanting to try? Find the class time each week and add it to your calendar so you instantly block off that time. If you know you want to get back into running, carve some time out of your calendar for scheduled running sessions. Also pencil in marathons and anything else fitness-related that interests you and is happening in 2012.
Keep reading to check out the rest of the plan!
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Friday, December 23, 2011

The Burning Question: Is Doing a Detox a Good Idea?

NO: It's risky — and you don't need it.
Glenn Braunstein, MD, professor and chairman, department of medicine, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles
  • Our bodies have built-in detoxifiers.
    The liver, the kidneys, and the colon are naturally designed to remove toxins and eliminate them through our waste, so there's no need for additional help.
A (Safe!) Jump-Start Cleanse
  • It's potentially harmful.
    Many extreme programs, like fasting, juice diets, and the Master Cleanse, can leave the body weak and devoid of vital nutrients, like protein and essential vitamins, even if you do them for a short time. Colonics — which flush the colon with warm water to remove a supposed buildup of waste there — carry the risk of dehydration, infection, and even perforation of the colon wall.
Diet Tricks the Pros Tell Their Friends
  • Detoxes can create more toxins.
    Plans that severely restrict food can cause the body to burn fat for fuel. Burning large amounts of fat releases chemicals called ketones into the blood — and a buildup of these can cause bad breath, loss of appetite, nausea, and in rare cases, coma or death.
Keep reading to hear the argument for detox cleanses.
YES: Some types may be healthy.
Cathy Wong, ND, naturopathic doctor and an American College of Nutrition – certified nutrition specialist
  • A detox can help clear you out.
    A cleanse that combines vegetable-based meals with green juices can get things moving in your digestive system, thanks to its high fiber-and-water content. It may even help flush toxins. (Don't do one for more than a week or so.)
Detox Meals to Soothe Your System
  • It might make you feel better.
    Many people report that they have more energy, better concentration, less bloating, and fewer cravings after going on a detox diet.
  • It gets you into a new groove.
    Detoxes shift you away from bad habits (like excessive intake of coffee, alcohol, and fatty or sugary foods) and can help foster healthier habits even once we're off them.
Diet Crutches: What Works, What Doesn't's advice:
If you've been feeling bogged down by junk food, alcohol, additives, or extra weight, a diet of whole foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins is a good way to reboot healthy habits. But stay away from hard-core programs that require severe caloric restriction. They'll only leave you nutrient-deficient and grumpy, not to mention slow your metabolism. Skip the colonic, too, and have lots of water and fiber-rich fruits and veggies instead to keep your digestive system moving safely.
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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

3 Must-Have Items For New Year Fitness Goals

For a lot of us, the New Year equals a fresh start, and getting healthy and fit seems to be on everyone's mind. Regardless of what your fitness goals might be, it's never too early to start the journey. Here are a few items to get now, which will help ensure that 2012 is your fittest year ever!
  • Planner or calendar: There's something about scheduling a fitness date that keeps people committed. Before the New Year, go old school and treat yourself to a brand-new planner or calendar. When planning out your week, pencil in workouts the same way you do meetings, happy hours, and other engagements; doing this will keep you from double-booking and help you better organize your workouts. I'm partial to one of these handmade planners from Etsy.
  • New shoes or gear: There's no motivation to hit the gym or running trail than a new pair of shoes! In the same way that you can't wait to wear a brand-new dress, you'll be dying to break in your new shoes. If your shoes don't need to be replaced yet, treat yourself to a pair of high-quality capris or a couple of cute fitness tanks. Check out these picks of cute and fashionable fitness finds.
  • Personal training session: The beginning of a new year is a perfect time to assess your fitness level and set new goals. What better way to do that than to meet with a personal trainer? It might seem like a waste of money, but a trainer can assess where you're at, know which areas you need improvement in, and challenge you where you most need to be pushed. If you can only spring for one session, make sure to maximize your time with the trainer: ask a lot of questions and let him or her know what your expecting to get out of the session. Hopefully you'll walk away with a new workout or a plan that pushes you to the next level.
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Monday, December 19, 2011

Quick Fixes For When You Have Overindulged

While we'd all love to be more conscious of portion sizes to help reduce holiday weight gain, all it takes is a cheese ball here, and a pigs in a blanket there, and those innocent bite-sized holiday treats can produce an explosion of heartburn and bloating in your belly. If you went a little overboard at the hors d'oeuvres table (or the main course), and are now feeling the negative side effects, here are some quick remedies to help ease the pain.
  • Walk It Off: No need for a brisk, speed-walking session, but around 20 minutes after your meal, a leisurely walk can assist in dispelling gas from your abdomen. What walking does is help to relieve overall intestinal pressure and therefore will reduce that uncomfortable bloating feeling. Walking also helps to get the blood flowing, which aids in the overall digestion process. Fresh air in itself can make you feel better too!
Keep reading for more tips.
  • Bloating-Busting Foods: About a half hour after you've indulged, if you can still stomach some food, try eating a small portion of either papaya, pineapple, or yogurt, since all of these food items are great in aiding in the digestion process. For instance, pineapple is high in the enzyme bromelain, which helps break down protein, making it easier for your body to digest your food.
  • Drink Green Tea: Help your body cut fat accumulation and cholesterol levels by drinking green tea during or after your meal. Controlled studies have shown that green tea contains certain polyphenols, or plant-based antioxidants, which help break down fat, thus helping to lower cholesterol level and BMI.
  • Refrain From Lying Down: You may be tempted to hit the sofa for some post-party relief, but don't! Wait at least three hours after your meal to avoid acid reflux since all those gastric juices will be working hard to help digest your food.
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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Celebrate Winter Solstice With Sun Salutation A

Although it feels like we were just talking about bikini workouts and sunscreen, December 22 is the first day of Winter — the Winter Solstice. You can celebrate by getting outside for a Winter run, cooking up a hearty pot of soup, or do like the yogis do: perform 108 Sun Salutations, a practice called Mala. The number 108 is considered sacred in Hindu and Buddhist belief systems, and it represents quite a physical challenge too.
If there's no yoga studio close to you hosting a group Mala, unroll your yoga mat and try it on your own. Light some candles or perform your sun salutes under the twinkling glow of your Christmas tree. Get ready to welcome Winter and say hello to the sun.
Not sure how to do a sun salute? Watch this video of the calming yoga sequence.
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Get the Bod: Katie Holmes

Katie Holmes worked out on her birthday. The actress is a huge fan of spinning, and to celebrate her b-day, we're bringing you tips from her her spin instructor, Audrey Adler. Learn three moves Audrey using a stationary bike to tone your legs and bum. This video is full of great tips to help you maximize your indoor cycling workout and take it to the next level. Bike on!
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Friday, December 16, 2011

Is Going on a Juice Fast a Good Idea?

Going on a juice cleanse, or drinking nothing but pressed juices extracted from fruits and vegetables, has been all the rage lately. The idea sounds like a good one — combat the effects of a wild night out or a life of indulgent eating with a few days or weeks of "detox" to rid your body of lurking toxins. Backed by celebrities and celebrity doctors alike, it's no wonder that drinking your diet has been gaining popularity. But is following a juice cleanse safe? Read on to learn more.
What's the Appeal?
Many of juicing's benefits are more anecdotal than scientifically based, but proponents of juicing are enthusiastic about it. Many claim that juicing vegetables and fruits allows you to absorb the nutrients easier than eating them since less digestive work is needed. Proponents also claim that following a juice-only diet can help your body detox, which may lead to more energy, clearer skin, and fewer digestive and other health issues. With high-profile juicing fans like Nicole Richie, Salma Hayek, and Gwyneth Paltrow and filmed testimonials like Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead — a documentary about a man's 60-day all-juice diet and his subsequent healthy transformation — the popularity of going on an all-juice diet has only grown.

Does It Work?
The lack of peer-reviewed studies on the effects of juicing has led to conflicting information about whether it's a do or don't. Most scientists, however, agree that going on a juice fast is unnecessary for ridding your body of toxins. Our liver and kidneys are already effective at eliminating any unneeded waste, so following a liquid-based diet won't help any more than normal.
Find out more about going on a juice fast after the break.
A juice-based diet, however, can be a good way of getting far more phytonutrients found in fruits and vegetables than you could normally eat, and going on a "detox" for a few days can also help jump-start a commitment to a healthier diet. Many experts, like Dr. Frank Lipman, tout the psychological effect of going on a juice fast, like motivating you to be healthier overall, or feeling like you can think more clearly. But if you're thinking of going on a juice cleanse to lose weight, know that weight loss doesn't happen for everyone, since many juice cleanse programs include an adequate amount of calories. 

Should You Do It?
The promise of a clearer, less foggy mind, more nutrients in your diet, and possible weight loss is enough to have many wanting to forgo the fork. And since we are what we eat, replacing processed foods high in saturated fat with fresh, organic produce can only help, and may even help determine if we are sensitive to any foods eliminated during the cleanse. But, depending on your particular program, detox diets like juice fasts may cause many different problems, like dehydration, nausea, or fatigue, and it can cause you miss out on other much-needed nutrients like fiber and protein. Also keep in mind that whatever benefits you experience during those few days of your detox diet will go away if you revert back to old unhealthy eating habits.
While some doctors believe that going on a juice fast won't do any harm, all recommend that you talk to your doctor to make sure your body is up for it. Dr. Oz recommends that you should never start a juice fast without first ensuring that you are eating a normal nutrient-rich diet for at least a month.

Getting Started
Not all juice fasts are created equal. Whether or not they are as restrictive as going on a Master Cleanse, one program may have you only ingesting fewer than 500 calories a day, while others allow you to drink as much juice as you want or incorporate eating fresh, whole foods as well. Do your research so you know whether or not you'll be getting all the nutrients and calories you need, and talk to your doctor before you start a detox program.
You don't, of course, have to subsist on only juice to feel its effects. If you're looking to add a healthy juice or two to your daily diet to boost energy or get more nutrients, try a few of these recipes below:
  • Nutritionist Kimberly Snyder's Glowing Green Smoothie
  • Green Juice With Apple and Carrot
  • Dr. Oz's Green Drink
Choosing the right juicer is also important. Read our guide to the top five juicing machines before you buy.
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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Get Fit Challenge 5: A Reader's Treadmill Workout

I really enjoy walking or running outdoors, but it's been way too cold here in VA for outdoor workouts so I've been a gym rat for the past few months. Here's one of my recent treadmill workouts. I like it because it switches from walking to running and also changes inclines, keeps your mind busy, and goes by faster than if you were doing the same pace for 40 minutes. 

Share your latest workout (cardio, strength training, warm-up) in our Get Fit For 2011 challenge group to enter to win a $100 Nike gift card and a chance to win our grand prize — a four-day fitness boot camp in LA!
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Monday, December 12, 2011

From the Community: Beat Boredom With This 40-Minute Treadmill Workout

Caught in a rut on the treadmill? FitSugar reader FitFabCities has created a 40-minute treadmill workout that is certain to get you excited about the gym again!
I'm not afraid to say it: I love the treadmill. I know, I know, my fellow runners out there probably gasp in horror at the thought of spending even 30 minutes "running but going nowhere," but I love it. I love staying dry, I love watching TV, and I really love being warm.
That said, I am willing to admit it can get a wee bit  boring if every time you hop on the old treadmill, you hit your regular three to five miles. Well that's why I love this workout; you'll be changing speeds, inclines, even directions every minute, so there is no chance you'll get bored. After all,  keeping your mind and body guessing is the best way to keep seeing results!
See this interval workout (and get a printable copy) after the break!
Here is how it works:
  • You'll warm up and alternate fast and medium running speeds every minute while also increasing your incline. Great treadmill bonus: you can add hills whenever you like.
  • Then you'll recover and move onto a section where you jog backwards and shuffle sideways on the treadmill. Tip: make sure you hold onto the arm rails until you get the hang of this exercise. (I loveit since it's great for toning the back of the legs and outer thighs).
  • Rest and catch your breath, then it's onto alternating sprints and recovery jogs.
The 40 minutes will fly by and if you're not already a treadmill convert, hopefully this workout will help you on your way! Happy running!
Printable 40 Minute Treadmill Workout
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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Why You Aren't Toning Up With Strength Training

We are pumped to share one of our fave stories from Self here on FitSugar!
If you aren't seeing the results you want and you know you're putting in the effort, it might be because you're not getting the most from your strength training workouts. Tempo is an oft overlooked, but pivotal aspect to toning and strengthening muscles.
Tempo is the pace or speed at which you move through the reps of the exercises. "Most people do not pay attention to tempo for one of two reasons; either they are trying to do too much weight and need to use momentum (to create the movement) or they are in a hurry and rushing through their exercises," says strength training expert Tim Bishop M.S., C.S.C.S., owner of sports performance facility, PerformFit and author of the new book Stronger Legs & Lower Body (Human Kinetics, 2011).
Next time you're at the gym, try this tempo timing trick Bishop shared: generally, you should count about four seconds on the down (or eccentric phase), and about two seconds on the up (or concentric phase).
Learn more about tempo after the break!
So why is tempo so important? "Proper pacing is important for maintaining correct technique," Bishop says. When thinking about the tempo of your exercise, there is the exercise's movement and its negative (i.e. the downward part of a bicep curl). Don't rush through either movement and keep muscles engaged the entire time instead of passively lowering weights, to maximize your workout's efficiency (meaning majorly toned muscles). "The down phase, or the negative, should be the focus. This is the phase of the movement that develops the most strength," Bishop says.
While Bishop notes a faster pace could be appropriate when training for explosive power, for most gym sessions, a slow, controlled tempo will ensure targeted muscles are engaged and reduce the risk of injury. "Proper tempo will work the targeted muscle much more effectively. Momentum will draw in other muscles of the body to help with the movement and will not focus on the involved muscle(s) attempting to be trained," he says.
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Friday, December 09, 2011

What's Your Favorite Way to Strength Train?

Any comprehensive workout routine includes a few days of strength training, for good reasons. Having more muscles helps you burn more calories, not to mention the fact that a good set of muscles help your body look its defined best. When it comes to choosing how you tend to your muscles, the possibilities are endless.

For me, having a trainer was a good way to learn how to use machines and other equipment at the gym. When I'm not using those on the gym floor, I take a class at my gym that mixes cardio and strength training, and I occasionally take yoga on the weekends to build muscle while increasing my flexibility.
What about you? Whether you pump iron or are a Pilates master, what's your favorite way to strength train?
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Monday, December 05, 2011

4 Don'ts For Your Next Breakfast

When it comes to meals, breakfast is the champ. Instead of grabbing a muffin at the coffee shop to fuel your day, give the mealtime the attention it deserves. Here are four don'ts for the most important meal of the day.
Don't skip it: Eating breakfast helps jump-start your metabolism after it slows down during your sleep. Not only that, but eating breakfast is an important tool in maintaining weight loss. So don't wait until lunch to nosh; eat a filling, healthy meal early in the day to keep your energy up, brain on, and weight loss goals in check.
Don't delay: The best time to eat breakfast is within an hour of waking up, so don't delay! Unless, of course, you are working out first, in which case you should make sure you fuel up with a pre-workout snack before you go (read our tips for choosing a pre-workout snack here). Afterward, be sure to eat a protein- and carbohydrate-filled breakfast 30 minutes to two hours after a workout in order to fuel your body the right way.
Read on for more breakfast don'ts.
Don't forget the fiber (and protein): Filling up on fiber and protein helps keep you full long into the morning. Instead of grabbing a sugary pastry, which can only leave you feeling hungry sooner, not to mention cranky and sluggish, eat a breakfast high in fiber and lean protein. Try these five low-sugar breakfast ideas that are full of protein and fiber.
Don't go caffeine overboard: It's been proven that a cup of coffee a day can do a lot — like reduce risk of diseases and help your memory — but you shouldn't drink too much. Stick to a cup or two a day to keep from feeling jittery, anxious, or developing high blood pressure. If breakfast is normally a two-cup affair, try switching your second cup with antioxidant-loaded green tea instead.
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3 Good Reasons to Work Out in the Morning

Now that you've reaped that extra hour of sleep over the weekend, you may be annoyed at the fact that the end of daylight savings means that your days seem so much shorter. But instead of wasting that extra hour of morning sunlight still in bed, here are three good reasons for switching your workout to take advantage of the early morning daylight.
You may burn more calories: Research has shown that morning exercisers tend to work out harder and longer than afternoon or evening exercisers. It may be just in their personality, but scheduling has a lot to do with it, too — you're more apt to spend more time on your workout, and you may be more energetic and alert at the beginning of the day.
You'll get it out of the way: Constantly deciding between after-work plans or a trip to the gym? Can't stand a lunch workout because of the post-workout beauty routine? By working out in the morning, you won't have to think about schlepping gym bags to and from work or figuring out a time to shower before fancy dinner plans.
You'll stick to it: If you exercise in the morning, you are more apt to keep with your routine. That's because there's usually no reason to reschedule; you'll finish your workout before your day officially starts, and there's nothing like an exceptionally trying day at work to make you want to skip.
A.m. exercise may not work if you're not a morning person, but when we asked, many of you said you would be getting up early to work out in the morning. Tell us why you get up early to exercise!
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Saturday, December 03, 2011

500 Calories a Day? The 3 Worst Fad Diets of 2011

From The Tapeworm Diet to The Baby Food Diet to the Cookie Diet, we've witnessed some truly bizarre weight-loss fads over the years.Thankfully, according to the Calorie Control Council's list of the top 5 diet trends for 2011, this year, the focus will shift away from extreme or restrictive diets and onto sustainable lifestyle changes that incorporate healthy eating and exercise habits.
That said, those fad diets will still be around to tempt you. Here are three you're likely to be SPAM-ed about in 2011, and why you should avoid them:
Paleo Diet
Just as it sounds, this diet insists that you should only eat foods that our Paleolithic ancestors indulged in. This includes meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, non-starchy veggies, root veggies, herbs, spices and some fruit and nuts.
Why We're Not Sold While this diet does focus on some healthy options, it also gongs some of our favorite nutritious foods including grains like wheat and quinoa; dairy; legumes and seed-based oils. That means you're cutting out low-fat cottage cheese and low-fat Greek yogurt (calcium), lentils and black beans (a dietician's best friend!), whole-grain carbs and heart-healthy oils. Sure, our bodies weren't originally designed to eat these foods, but we'd like to think we've evolved quite a bit since then.
Learn about two more diets to avoid.
HCG Diet
You take the HCG (yep, the same hormone your body cranks out when you're preggo) for 26 days while eating just 500 to 700 calories and cutting out exercise.
Why We're Not Sold Hormone injections and/or drops and calorie restriction? Well, duh, you'll lose some weight. But it's definitely extreme, not sustainable and potentially dangerous. HCG injections can trigger ovarian cysts and blood clots and can make you more fertile (hello, surprise pregnancy). And no exercise? That's an automatic red flag that there's nothing healthy about this plan. Steer clear, ladies!
As SELF has reported, cleanses and detox diets are all the rage. From chugging maple syrup and cayenne concoctions to buying into fancy juice delivery services, the idea of limiting yourself to a regimen of liquids to flush out toxins has taken off big time. With celebs like Salma Hayek continuing to swear by them — she recently told US Magazine that she's been doing juice cleanses for 15 years — liquid diets will continue to throw around weight-loss promises in 2011.
Why We're Not Sold When SELF's reporters dug into this trend, they found that docs and dietitians agree that detoxing can lead to disordered eating and may ultimately make you fatter. A lack of nutrients can make your body eat into muscle for energy, slowing your metabolism. It becomes harder to burn calories because your body conserves what little energy it gets, explains Peter Pressman, M.D., an internist with the U.S. Navy Medical Corps and a fellow of the American College of Clinical Nutrition. And about the theory that this somehow flushes out toxins? "Clinical evidence shows that the notion of a nutritional scrub is nothing more than highly profitable fiction," he says. We'll trust that our liver and kidneys can handle the job just fine.Have you ever tried a crazy fad diet?
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Friday, December 02, 2011

Is the HCG Diet Safe?

Have you been convinced by the constant barrage of HCG diet testimonials? The diet has recently become the talk of the Internet, even though it was developed over 60 years ago.
The HCG diet claims this: HCG (or human chorionic gonadotropin), a hormone found in pregnant women, is supposedly responsible for releasing stored fat to feed the baby in utero. By restricting your caloric intake while injecting the hormone or taking HCG drops daily (typically for 23 days, but many people stay on the diet until they reach their desired weight), the hormone encourages your body to release its fat stores to keep you nourished — leading to weight loss that can be as high as a pound a day. Sounds good, but is it safe? We spoke with Adam Bornstein, editorial director of, to learn more about the diet and its safety.

Does It Work?
Judging by the amount of success stories seen on TV or on the Internet, the answer is yes. Many users have said that the HCG diet is not only effective, but sustainable. Guests on a recent Dr. Oz show, for example, said that they lost as much as 50 pounds on the HCG diet. Dr. Oz's guests also explained that the diet was only difficult for the first few days, after which the pounds melted away without the users ever feeling hungry.
Experts, however, aren't so ready to give the diet a stamp of approval. For one, there are no studies addressing whether there are long-term side effects in using the pregnancy hormone, and there are no studies that illustrate if the hormone actually helps your body burn stored fat. "There's no research that can actually back up these claims. It's all hypothetical," Bornstein said. The fact that dieters lose weight quickly can most likely be attributed only the dieter's ability to stick to a strict 500-calorie diet and not the HCG hormone itself.
Read on to learn if going on the HCG diet is safe.
Is It Safe?
The issue is not the lack of research on using the HCG hormone for weight loss; the restrictive diet, too, is a big cause of concern. HCG proponents claim that the hormone not only suppresses your appetite but also burns fat stores, providing all the calories you need. But since this hasn't been proven, most experts believe you risk becoming malnourished by following the diet, which only allows you 500 calories a day of fruits, vegetables, and proteins. You may lose weight, but you're depriving your body of adequate calories (which should be at least 1,200 calories a day), and that can lead to starvation. "Your body not only needs calories, but just as important, it requires vitamins and minerals. Creating deficiencies can set you up for a variety of health problems," added Bornstein. "This is glorified starvation."
Another cause for concern — while the injections are only available by prescription, many companies offer HCG drops, lozenges, or sprays online, and the FDA has issued a warning about these products.
Bottom Line
While the HCG hormone injections are FDA-approved for fertility therapy and therefore can be prescribed by a doctor, most health experts are against using the hormone for its weight-loss capabilities. A big reason? There is not enough research proving the diet is safe (or even works). "We know what HCG does in a pregnant woman’s body, but a pregnant woman is much different than a nonpregnant woman," Bornstein said. "Your entire body functions differently, so it’s a big leap of faith to assume that supplementing with HCG will turn your body into a fat-burning furnace." Not only that, but you may be wasting your money. Buying HCG injections isn't cheap, and studies have shown that the same weight-loss effects were seen in patients given a saltwater injection. "[The HCG diet is] manipulating people to give them the sense that they’re receiving something that’s powerful and potent and effective, and in fact, they’re receiving something that’s nothing better than a placebo," Dr. Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, recently explained in The New York Times.
While it may be true that the best answer for weight loss is a sensible diet and exercise plan, the HCG diet is a craze for a reason. Tell us, do warnings about the lack of evidence concerning the diet's safety and effectiveness deter you from trying it, or are you convinced by the HCG diet success stories?
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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Right Way to Strength Train

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Tone the Jelly: 5 Moves Toward Terrific Thighs

The chilly, Winter weather often makes us gravitate toward warm, creamy comfort foods, and baggy, fuzzy sweaters are an easy way to hide the extra poundage in your midsection. Unfortunately, skinny jeans are all the rage making toned thighs the star attraction of wintry fashion. So step it up and incorporate these moves – from easy to difficult – into your gym routine to keep your inner and outer thigh muscles toned up.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

How Celebrity Trainers and Nutritionists Stay Healthy on Black Friday

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Don't Just Stand There! 7 Stretches For Waiting in Line

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Yoga Class Fears (and How to Overcome Them)

As one of yoga's biggest fans, I'm always trying to persuade newbies to try a class. Whether you suffer from pain, stress, or you just want to get in shape for ski season, I'm convinced yoga is the answer. The problem is, some people are afraid to try yoga. Here are some popular yoga class fears and how to get over them.
"I'm worried I'll pass gas in class"
A valid fear, but at some point, all those twists and bends are bound to get things moving, and just about everyone I know has passed gas in class once or twice. Other students are very adult about it by pretending nothing happened. There are a few things you can do to prevent this possible embarrassment. Avoid eating gas-producing and high-fiber foods like beans, broccoli, and apples before class, and finish eating one to two hours before you head to the studio so your body has time to digest. If you know certain positions are bound to result in a loud outburst, move into them slowly. You can also choose classes that are highly populated or involve loud music so if you do let one go, it will be less obvious.
Keep reading to see what other fears keep people from trying a yoga class.
"I'll pass out from the heat."
Hot yoga classes like Bikram are crazy hot — think Florida in the Summer with 100 percent humidity. If you don't do well in the heat, start out with a different style of yoga such as vinyasa or jivamukti where the heat isn't turned up so high. Drink lots of water the day you plan to take class, eat something beforehand that's full of carbs and protein to give you energy, and if at anytime during the class you feel lightheaded, sit on your mat and take a break or step out of the room for fresh air.
"I'm the only one who can't touch their toes."
Yoga classes aren't only for the lithe and limber. That's the whole point of going — to become more flexible. Don't worry if you can't touch your toes, do a back-bend, or stand on your head; most people can't. If you're really self-conscious, start off with a beginner class filled with other newbies (rather than intimidating Patty Pretzels). Since it moves at a slower pace, you'll learn the basics and become comfortable, strong, and flexible enough to try out a regular class.
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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

5 Tips For Strength-Training Newbies

Aside from toned and sculpted muscles, strength training can also make you a better runner, cyclist, or swimmer. Increasing your muscle mass also increases your metabolism since muscles burn calories at a higher rate than fat. These are all great reasons to include strength training in your routine. If you're new to the scene, here are some helpful tips for beginners.
  1. Start off nice and easy: You may have a goal of doing 50 push-ups or five pull-ups, but building your strength takes time. At first, start with lighter weights and less reps, and gradually increase as your body is ready.
  2. Learn proper form:When starting out, it's important to learn proper form, which ensures that the exercises you're doing are effective while also preventing injuries. To do this, it's best to set up a few sessions with a personal trainer; aside from proper form, they'll also personalize your routine and show you moves to specifically target your weak areas.
  3. There's more to strength training than dumbbells: Hand weights are inexpensive and easy to use and can strengthen every part of your body, but you'll get more out of your session (and prevent boredom) by mixing up your fitness equipment. Take advantage of your gym and use the machines, resistance bands, exercise balls, medicine balls, kettlebells, battle ropes, and TRX training system — whatever they have. Also peruse the class schedule and try out classes with name like Body Pump, Body Blitz, Cardio Sculpt and anything else specifically designed to tone and define muscles.
Continue reading for more essential tips and for links to five strength training workouts.
  1. Don't just target your trouble spots: If you have a little junk in your trunk, it makes sense to want to devote your time to squats and lunges, but when strength training, it's important to target all your major muscle groups, even the ones you don't feel need attention. Constantly working a few areas will create muscular imbalances in your body, which can result in muscle strains or injuries. It's OK to focus on your butt and thighs for one workout, but the next time you strength train, do moves that target your arms and upper back, then the next day work your core. If breaking up your workouts by body part seems confusing, follow a routine that works your entire body each time you hit the gym.
  2. Mix up your routine: Once you learn a few signature moves, you want to keep your muscles guessing by doing your workout in a different order each time. As you learn new moves, start incorporating them for even more variety.
Need some ideas? Here are five strength training workouts to try:
  • Full-Body Circuit Workout With Weights: you'll need a set of dumbbells for this workout
  • FitSugar Circuit Workout: these moves require no equipment at all
  • Glutes and Hamstring Workout: you'll need a set of dumbbells, an exercise ball, and a resistance band for this lower-body workout
  • Core Exercises For Runners: target your midsection with these five dynamic moves
  • Arm Plan: basic yet effective moves to target your arms and upper back
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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

6 Things I Always Do Before Heading Out For a Run

After noshing on a little preworkout snack I always do six things before heading outside for a run.
  1. Check the weather: It may look like blue skies, but that can change any second, especially in Vermont. Before getting all layered up, I take a peek at my local forecast map to stay on the lookout for any precipitation or storms headed my way so I can dress accordingly or plan to run later.
  2. Make sure my iPhone is charged: Since I love listening to music on speakerphone (it's safer than wearing earbuds), a charged iPhone is a must, but more importantly, I carry it with me on every outdoor run just in case I need to call for help (a morbid thought, I know, but better to be safe than sorry).
  3. Hit the ladies room: Nothing is worse than that uncomfortable feeling of needing "to go" halfway through my run, so I always hit the loo one last time before heading out.
Continue reading to find out the other three things I always do before heading out for a run.
  1. Stash tissues: While I'm in the bathroom, I grab a few tissues and stuff them in my right sleeve by my wrist. It makes them easy to grab, which is key since my nose tends to run while running, especially in cold weather. I stuff used tissues in my left sleeve so they don't contaminate the clean ones.
  2. Hit the stairs: Warming up is essential, especially now that it's getting chilly. I could walk briskly outside, but I find jogging up and down the stairs in my house is the best way to warm up. It not only gets my heart pumping, but it also works the muscles I use when running. I do the stairs for a couple minutes, enough to get my heart rate up, but not enough to start sweating. Then I head out the door.
  3. Tell someone I'm going: I'm so paranoid that I'll be out for a run, will twist my ankle and fall to the ground in pain, and won't be able to get home. Whether I'm running on my neighborhood streets or on the woodsy trails near my house, I always call my hubby as soon as I head out the door. I tell him where I'm running and what time I'll be back. He can expect to receive a call or text once I return, and if he doesn't, he knows to call and make sure I'm OK. If I don't answer, he'll know something is wrong. Knowing he's looking out for me while I'm outside running always makes me feel safer.
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4 Things I Wish I'd Known at the Start of My Weight Loss Journey

No stranger to the Freshman 15 in college, in fact, I experienced something closer to the Freshman 30. It wasn't until I saw a photo of myself heading into my sophomore year that I realized I was carrying quite a few extra pounds and that it was time to do something about it. It took me a very long time to lose the weight (we're talking not until after graduation), all because I thought I knew what I was doing. Boy was I wrong. Here are four things I wish I had known at the start of my weight loss journey.

You Can't Eat Peanut Butter Out of the Jar
While peanut butter is full of heart-healthy fats, it's not void of calories — one tablespoon contains 105. I found myself spooning it straight out of the jar, wondering why my jeans weren't any looser. This is important to remember with all healthy foods: just because they aren't considered junky, doesn't mean you can eat as much as you want. Be aware of portion sizes when it comes to whole grains, nuts, seeds, and health food store snacks.
Keep reading to find out what else I wish I had known about weight loss.
Being Vegan Doesn't Automatically Cause Weight Loss
My two roommates in college were tall, skinny, and vegan, so I thought eating a plant-based diet was the key to dropping pounds. I may have ditched animal products, but I ended up eating tons of pasta, bread, french fries, and dairy-free ice cream instead. Had I focused on fresh fruits, veggies, legumes, and whole grains, a vegan diet might have helped me reach my weight loss goal, but my junk-food vegan diet actually caused me to gain weight.
Walking Isn't Enough
Walking is definitely a better workout than just sitting on the couch, so I thought strolling through the mall and walking to class would do the trick. But walking isn't a major calorie burner like running. When it comes to losing weight, you need to burn or cut out 3,500 calories a week to lose a pound. A 30-minute walk only burns around 122 calories, which is well under the 500 it takes to affect a weekly weigh-in. If you want to lose weight, you'll need to kick up the intensity and the length of your workouts.
One Workout Doesn't Mean You Can Eat All You Want
After hitting a Step class with my college roommate, we'd hit the dining hall and fuel up. We worked out so we deserved it, right? Little did I know I was undoing all the good I had done and actually eating way more than I had burned, which was making the scale numbers go even higher. If you need a little workout reward, don't do it with food. Download some new songs on iTunes, pick up a fitness mag, or buy yourself a new top to motivate you to get to the gym.
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Monday, November 21, 2011

How to Burn More Calories on Your Next Run

Running is an awesome way to lose weight because it burns mega calories and tones your lower body. If you want to burn even more calories the next time you are on a run, try these three tips.

  • Raise the incline: Running on a flat surface for 30 minutes burns 270 calories*, but if you raise the incline up five percent, you'll burn 363 calories. Raise it even more to 10 percent, and you'll burn a whopping 420. If you're not on a treadmill, incorporate natural hills into your run.
  • Increase your pace, even a little: A 30-minute run at a pace of 10 minutes per mile will burn 270 calories, but if you run a little faster at a pace of nine minutes per mile, you'll burn an extra 30 calories. You can also include bursts of sprinting intervals, running as fast as you can for 30 to 60 seconds, and then taking two minutes to recover by running at a slower pace. Each 60-second sprint running at an eight-minute per mile pace will burn 13 calories. The same amount of time running at a slower 10-minute per mile pace burns nine calories. It may not seem like a huge difference but those extra calories burned will add up over a workout.
  • Push yourself an extra five minutes: Sticking with your run for an extra five minutes will tack 49 calories on to your total calories burned. Do that five runs in a row and that's an extra 245 calories — it's like a whole workout full of calories burned!
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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Will Yoga Help Me Lose Weight?

Trying to slim down and wondering if yoga is the answer? In order to lose weight, you need to burn calories, and like anything physical, doing yoga can help you achieve that goal, but it depends on what style of yoga you do. You want to choose vigorous vinyasa, power, or ashtanga classes rather than slower-paced styles such as kripalu or iyengar. These classes move quickly so they really get your heart pumping — you can burn over 400 calories per 90-minute class! These styles also incorporate poses that strengthen your muscles, and more muscle mass also contributes to your caloric burn.
What about Bikram? While this style of yoga involves practicing in a super-hot room so you sweat your butt off, sweating alone isn't what results in dropping pounds. You'll experience water weight loss, but as soon as you rehydrate with a few gulps from your water bottle, you'll "gain" it right back.
Keep reading to find out how to get the greatest calorie burn from yoga.
In order to see results, practice 90-minute classes three to five times a week. Although yoga is an awesome total body workout, weight loss might happen more gradually than you want. In order to lose weight faster, I recommend supplementing your exercise routine with heart-pumping cardio sessions such as running, cycling, or hitting cardio classes at your gym.
Aside from burning calories and strengthening your muscles, yoga also helps you focus on having mind and body awareness. When you bring your attention inward, you may notice a shift in your perspective about how you treat your body and what you put into it as fuel. Doing yoga regularly can inspire you to take care of yourself as you become more aware of your physical and mental states.
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What's the Best Piece of Fitness Advice You've Ever Received?

When starting any new fitness routine, you often look to the experts for tips and advice. But the sheer amount of advice out there can be daunting for any fitness newbie.
Beginning runners, for example, often find taking up the pastime difficult because the sheer amount of advice out there gets confusing, according to a New York Times article. Figuring out the best running form, the type of shoes to buy, or the best time to work out can be confusing for a novice, and running studies have confirmed that there isn't just one answer for everyone.
Every piece of advice you hear may not work for your specific situation, but a tip from a friend or a helpful magazine article can be just the motivation you need during workouts. Whether it's a pre-workout snack recommendation or a pal teaching you correct push-up form, what's the best piece of fitness advice you've received?
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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Quick Tip: Buddy Up For a Private Lesson

Private lessons aren't something you sign up for on the fly. While they are effective, they can be an investment — thousands of dollars spent in the pursuit of a healthier lifestyle.
Many gyms or studios, however, have an option where you can sign up for personal classes with one or two other people. Whether you're jonesing to take a few sessions with a personal trainer or want private Pilates lessons, gather a few friends to split the cost. You'll still get the personal attention, but without the price tag.
Have you ever taken a "private" class with friends?
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