Is the cold weather getting the best of your fitness goals and healthy eating habits?

Who loves to eat comforting, hot and delicious foods when the temperatures start to drop? I know I do. Just thinking about Thanksgiving dinner in a few days is making my stomach growl. I can’t wait to eat my mom’s mouth-watering apple pie (with some extra sharp cheddar cheese to go along with it!)

I’ll try not to over do it because I don’t want to be in a bad mood from eating so much! But, if we’re going to stuff ourselves, Thanksgiving is definitely the day to do it.

The cold weather seems to hurt my motivation to work out, too. I still go often, but it seems harder to get moving and motivated when it’s so chilly out.

Let’s work together and establish some goals as we approach these bitter winter months. And remember not to let yourself fall behind with your goals because you always deserve to be happy and healthy!

Happy & healthy

Goal #1: Commit to working out

I know everyone is busy, but we should never make excuses about how we don’t have time to get a quick workout in. I’ll admit that I’ve done it, especially lately, but we all have time to squeeze a workout into our busy schedules. And, it will relieve stress! It will make you happier and give you a break from all of the craziness.

Remember to balance cardio and weight training for optimal fitness. Refer back to Mistakes at the Gym and Get Active. Find a workout that suits you. for some additional reminders and workout ideas.

Goal #2: Keep on eating healthy

Trust me, I know how hard it is to refrain from eating loads of hot, delicious foods (that aren’t exactly healthy) when it’s cold out. When I’m home for the holidays, my mom will make yummy breads, pies and cookies almost daily. And I’ve already talked about how I have a weakness for her pie!

Turkey Chili

She’ll also make meals like chili, which isn’t the worst for you, but all of the ground beef loaded into it isn’t good! Chili is an extremely common cold weather food that can easily be made healthier by using lean, ground turkey instead of ground beef. Ground turkey can contain 10 to 15 percent fat compared to the 20 percent fat content in “80 percent lean” ground beef. Try substituting ground beef with ground turkey in other dishes such as meatballs and burgers, too.

Some other tips:

  • Don’t over do it (Especially on the baked goods like pie, which might be hard for me!)
  • Keep reading labels (Make sure it’s natural)
  • Use healthy alternatives when cooking (olive oil instead of vegetable oil, brown instead of white rice, whole wheat pasta)

If you need additional guidance, just comment and ask, or refer back to my previous posts about eating healthy!

Goal # 3: Stay mentally in check!

We know eating healthy and working out is good for us, but how do we mentally motivate ourselves to actually go through with it when we don’t exactly feel like it?

1. Set practical goals

Set goals that are possible to achieve. Otherwise, you’ll feel discouraged, which will make you even more unmotivated. Set weekly goals, make sure you accomplish them and then move up from there. You’ll feel satisfied and more mentally motivated to go after harder goals once you achieve the initial ones.

2. Change it up

If you stick to the same exercises and workout routines, you’re going to get bored. I’ve Kickboxing classdone it, so I know how easy it is to become unenthusiastic toward the workouts. Change up your routine and learn new exercises. This will also help you work different muscle groups and set new goals. If you’re used to only working out in the gym with weights and cardio machines, try out a class like kickboxing. Working toward new fitness goals will make you feel even more motivated, especially when you start to improve.

Change up your meals, too. Eating the same healthy foods everyday will start to become pretty unappetizing. Try looking for healthy recipes on Bodybuiling.com.

3. Motivate a friend

Invite a friend to work out with you. You’ll naturally want to compete with a partner, which will be fun and will make you work harder. You’ll also have the support to keep going and not give up. Share some healthy eating habits with a friend, too!Working out together

I also stay motivated because I know I look and feel a lot better when I eat healthy and workout regularly.

What motivates you?

Get involved. Sign up for a race in your community

Now that you’ve achieved some of your fitness goals, it’s time to venture a little more outside of your comfort zone and really put your fitness to the test… (I promise it will be fun!)

Sign up for a race or walk in your community. Since spring just began, it should be fairly easy to find one close by. Just do a simple Google search to find a race in your area.

Running a race

And remember, it’s not about winning! I have to tell myself that a lot because I’m pretty competitive. It’s about getting yourself out there. It’s about trying something new. And it’s about proving to yourself that you can do it. You can achieve you’re fitness goals!

The Black Squirrel 5K Race is just around the corner Black Squirrel 5K Logo

Since I’m a student at Kent State University, I plan on participating in the Black Squirrel 5K Race that will held at my school on Saturday, April 14. If you live close to Kent, Ohio, sign up for the race today!

Here are the details:

Event Facts

  • Who: The Kent State Department of Recreational Services is holding the second annual Black Squirrel 5K Race.
  • Who can participate: Everyone (ages 5 to 80) can participate!
  • What: The race is a scenic loop course through the Kent State University campus and is tracked with a chip timing system.
  • Where: Kent State Student Recreation and Wellness Center, located at 1550 Ted Boyd Drive, Kent, Ohio 44242.
  • When: Saturday, April 14, 2012 at 8 a.m.
  • How to register:  Visit http://www.kent.edu/recservices/blacksquirrel/
  • or register in person at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center.
  • Prices: Regular Registration price: $25.00, sales end April 10, 2012. Late Registration: $30.00, starts April 10 and ends April 14, 2012.

Prizes and Food

  • Performance T-shirts and a free buffet are included with participation in the race.
  • Door prizes with gifts from local vendors will be offered.
  • Overall male and female winners will receive cash prizes:
  1.  $75
  2. $50
  3.  $25
  • Medals will be awarded to winners based on age group.

From the Assistant Director of Recreational Services, Greg Bailey:

“We put on the race for people who value health and wellness lifestyles, which corresponds to our department mission.”

“We’re trying to offer a great race to open the springtime season and get people of all levels involved.”

Sounds like fun, right? I think so!

Races like this are great because, even if you aren’t used to running long distances, you can still participate and get excellent exercise. You have the chance to enjoy the outdoors, smell the crisp spring air, and have some fun!

Like I said before, if you don’t live in the area, there are tons of other 5K races offered in all different areas. People of all levels participate in community races, so don’t think you aren’t good enough.Marathon runners.

Change up your exercise routine a little more, have some fun, and get racing!

Mistakes at the gym

So you’ve started working out. You’ve set goals. You’ve found a workout that suits you. I’m proud!

Before you get too comfortable with your workout, though, make sure you’re doing it right! And before I go on, know that is normal to make mistakes at the gym. Everyone makes mistakes! So don’t think you’re the only one.

The warm-up

Don’t dive right into your intense workout without warming up first! The warm-up is one of the most important elements of an exercise program, particularly because it prevents injury. Warming up involves low-level activity, such as a brisk walk or a slow jog and is intended to raise total body temperature and muscle temperature to prepare the entire body for vigorous activity.

We❤ CARDIO!

cardio training

I heard a girl say this at the gym the other day:

“I’m so determined to lose 10 pounds! I’m going on an elliptical for 30 minutes every day until spring break!”

Anyone know what’s wrong with her proposed goal? (Besides the fact that she wants to lose 10 pounds in little over a week.)

She thinks, as many people do, that doing excessive amounts of cardiovascular exercise is an effective workout strategy.

Cardio exercise does burn extra calories, which helps keep body fat levels down, but limiting yourself to just cardio exercise with no strength training can keep you from achieving the best possible health and the body you desire.

So don’t be afraid to pick up some weights and start lifting! You can burn even more calories in a weight lifting session, and it leaves you with an “afterburn effect,” so you’ll keep burning calories even after you have finished working out. You can experience this afterburn effect after sprinting, too, but the typical cardio exercises most people do on a treadmill, elliptical, or bike do not involve the “high-intensity” needed to put the afterburn experience into effect.

Cardio haters

Just like people obsess over cardio, others don’t do any cardiovascular training at all. This is a  mistake people tend make when they are trying to gain muscle. The truth is, you need to do cardio to help melt away some of that body fat so your big muscles will show!  Cardio is not only good for burning calories, it is also important for maintaining a healthy heart.

It is important to balance cardio and weight training for optimal fitness.

Bad Form

Having bad form while lifting weights is common for beginners and regulars at the gym. It’s important to use a full range of motion and not “cheat” when lifting weights. The exercise will not be effective if you don’t do it correctly!woman doing bicep curls

If you aren’t sure if you’re doing something right, ask someone who works at the gym or someone who has weight training experience. People are always willing to help at the gym!

I WANT ABS, NOW!

Do you want abs? Sure you do! Everyone wants a nice, flat stomach with some visible abs. What’s your solution to getting a toned tummy? Doing excessive amounts of crunches? I hope not!

Abs are made in the kitchen.” If your diet is poor your progress will be Woman and man with visible absextremely slow, no matter how hard you’re working.  A good diet is absolutely key to seeing your abs! If you want to show off your stomach, you need to burn fat. Doing endless abdominal workouts is not going to get you there.

A controlled diet high in whole grains (>5grams fiber per serving), lean protein (<5 grams per serving), fruits and vegetables and other non-processed foods will get you to your goal more quickly.

Abdominal workouts are important for having a strong core, and when that stubborn layer of stomach fat  burns off, having strong abs will help. But having a good diet and working out 4-5 days a week are the only ways to get those dream abs.

Finishing up

Make sure to keep these common slip-ups in mind next time you go to the gym, especially if you want to see favorable results. Be sure to break a sweat to show you’ve been working hard, too!  And always leave time  to cool down and stretch your muscles at the end of each workout.

Good luck!

Common mistakes we make while trying to get in shape: Eating the wrong way

So, you’re hooked. You want to be healthy. Great!

Unfortunately, it’s common that people will make mistakes when they are trying to be fit.

When you make fitness a goal, you need to go about it the right way.

If you want to actually see results from your fitness routine, read on.

In this post, I’ll focus eating “no no’s,” and I’ll pick up with mistakes people make at the gym in the next one!

Slip-ups while eating

Blurred grocery store and shopping cart

Eating the right way can be confusing.  It also can be frustrating when you hear something is good for you and then you find out that it isn’t good for you at all.  We hear it all the time…

Eating “low-fat”

Foods that are marketed as low-fat or fat- free are NOT good for you. They usually save you a few calories, but they replace harmless fats with low-performing carbs that digest quickly. This will cause a sugar rush and, immediately afterward, rebound hunger.

Some tricks that might get you:

  • Low-fat yogurt — Is NOT good for you!

So much sugar and other fake ingredients are loaded into the low-fat yogurt to make up for the loss of flavor from fat. Fatty yogurt isn’t very good for you either because it still contains a lot of sugar.

Vanilla chobani yogurt

Healthy yogurt choice

Your best bet is to switch to eating Greek yogurt, which is made with less sugar. Try to avoid the ones with the fruit on the bottom since that “fruit” is loaded with sugar, too!

I actually prefer vanilla Greek yogurt to any other yogurt. Give chobani a try! It’s loaded with protein, and it’s delicious.

  • Reduced-fat peanut butter –Don’t even think about it!

Regular peanut butter is good for you! You will not be doing yourself a favor by choosing a reduced-fat peanut butter. Peanuts are full of healthy monounsaturated fats so it is best to go with the natural or normal version of peanut butter. Most of the reduced fat versions have the same amount of calories because when they take out the fat they add in sugar and other gross fillers!

Granola and protein bars = CANDY

Granola bars

Let’s start with granola bars. You’re in a rush, so you grab a granola bar on the go, thinking you’ve made a quick and nutritious choice.

I hate to break it to you, but most granola bars are NOT healthy! Most of them contain candy-like ingredients and are usually dipped in a sugary syrup. They are also highly processed, contain artificial ingredients and have little fiber in them. So you end up eating a snack that is full of fat and sugar with hardly any nutritional value.

Many protein bars are also loaded with sugar and lack fiber and other nutritional factors. They are high in calories, ranging from 150 to 300 and more, and are full of artery-clogging saturated and/ or trans fat! Yuck!

How to pick the right healthy foods

The first and easiest step to making sure you’re eating healthier is to buy unprocessed and natural foods.

What should you look for?

  • White meats
  • Fresh veggies and fruits
  • Whole grain starches (without added sugar or corn syrup)

Next, you have to read the labels!

First, look at how much sodium, sugar and fat (especially trans-fats and saturated fats) the item has. Don’t buy it if it has high amounts of any of these additives!Man reading ingredients at grocery store

Make sure you read the ingredients, too. The fewer the better. If there is ever an ingredient on food that you can’t pronounce, then don’t buy it!

Avoid man-made ingredients:

  • Corn syrup
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Aspartame
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

These fake ingredients are used to make bad foods taste better. They are not good for you!  Keep your foods simple, and you just can’t go wrong!

Look for what you should avoid doing at the gym, next! I’ll talk about the common mistakes we all make in our workout routine (yes, everyone makes mistakes!)

You want to be healthy, right? Stay tuned.

Bad Mood Food

Just like certain (healthy) foods make you feel good and happy, foods can also make your moods change for the worse.

High Sugar Treats

So you’ve been eating healthier and you’re staying active. You can treat pink sprinkled doughnut yourself to a couple cookies, right? WRONG. In reality you are not “treating” yourself by eating the cookies at all.

Doughnuts, cookies and other high sugar treats cause a quick rush, then a crash. Avoid them! They lack fiber and other nutrients that help slow down digestion.

This might be hard if you’re like me and have a HUGE weakness for brownies and other baked sweets, but try to steer clear from them. Think about how you’ll feel afterward. Grab an apple, instead.

Foods high in saturated fats

baconBacon, cream sauces, fries and other types of greasy foods are digested very slowly and divert blood from your brain to your stomach, putting you in a fog. They also raise your bad cholesterol.

These foods might taste good, but I know I feel pretty gross after I eat them, especially bacon!

Try to eat unsaturated fats such as nuts, and olive, canola or nut oil.

Trans fats

These artery-clogging fats hide in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which are commonly used at restaurants for frying and in baked goods.

The evil fats hide in…

  •  Pizza crusts
  •  Cakes
  •  Pies
  •  Hamburger buns
  •  Processed foods

Researchers found in a recent study that trans fats make people more prone to depression and anxiety, anti-social behavior and feelings of malaise and exhaustion.  They also found that those who consumed more trans fats scored lower on measures of mental healthy, social functioning and daily functioning.

Try your best to avoid these fats by eating more at home, and make sure you’re using healthy cooking oils, like olive or nut oils. And stay away from processed foods!

BIG meals

Feelin’ fat and happy?  I didn’t think so.  Consuming big portions may seemhuge sandwich like a good idea at the time– when you’re hungry and the food tastes good–  but be careful. Soon after you finish, you won’t be feeling too great.

Large feasts will leave you feeling dissatisfied because they take so long for your body to digest, which means less blood for your brain and muscles.

Stay energized by eating five to six small, healthy meals a day. Try to eat three main meals of no more than 400 to 600 calories each, plus two 200-to-300 calorie snacks).  Make sure you’re eating your fruits and vegetables, along with those whole grains! And don’t forget about protein, either!

A healthy tip: Drink two cups of water before eating. Researchers suggest this will make you feel fuller faster, and a study found that you will consume 75 to 90 fewer calories per meal. (It really does make you feel fuller faster, too!)

Too much caffeine or alcohol

Caffeinated drinks, like coffee, have healthy benefits, but don’t go overboard. I know from personal experience that too much caffeine can make you feel nauseous and just plain gross!

Drinking too much alcohol will put you at a greater risk for cancers, high blood pressure, stroke and heart failure.

More immediately, caffeine and alcohol mess with your sleep cycle, leaving you tired and gloomy.sad man

Think twice before you indulge. It can be hard to do, but just think of how you’ll feel afterward. No one likes being in a bad mood.

Stay happy. Don’t let the kind of food you eat bring you down.

Good Mood Food

And, no, I’m not talking about Arby’s!

Certain types of food (that are healthy, of course) can actually improve your mood and state of mind. Care to hear more?

Nutrition experts say that the foods you eat can help you feel better in the short-term and the long-term.

Good mood fruits

BananasBananas

This healthy fruit contains a combination of nutrients, healthy carbs and the essential amino acid tryptophan that will elevate your mood.

Bananas are loaded with potassium, phosphorous, iron, protein, as well as vitamins B6, A and C. The natural sugars in the banana will give you a fast energy boost, and the fiber will provide more sustaining energy to keep you feeling lively.

Apples (plus some peanut butter) – Helps cure crankiness

Apple with peanut butter

Are you feeling short-tempered? It might be because you are low on food or are crashing from eating foods high in sugars or simple carbs. Apples have natural sugar, a complex carb that is great for energy. With the addition of peanut butter, it will fuel your body with protein and healthy fats. The fat in peanut butter will slow down your digestion of the natural sugar from an apple, giving you hours of lasting energy.

Snacks to keep you happy

Dark chocolate – Eat if you’re stressed

Dark ChocolateNot only is dark chocolate delicious and healthy, it has been shown to decrease levels of the stress hormones cortisol and catecholamine, too! Be careful though, dark chocolate is high in calories. Next time you’re feeling stressed or anxious, try having a small bit (about 1.4 oz) of dark chocolate.

Almonds = EnergyAlmonds

These miracle nuts contain high amounts of healthy fat, which your body can use for energy longer than calories from carbohydrates. They are also a great source of iron and potassium, nutrients used for maintaining energy levels. Aside from the energy benefits of almonds, the fat in almonds has been shown to lower your LDL (bad cholesterol) and raise your HDL (good cholesterol), leading to a healthier and longer life.

Green Veggies

Try spinach, asparagus, broccoli or peas ( and the list goes on and on!)

Stay focused and alert. Green veggies contain folate, a nutrient that helps maintain normal levels of serotonin, a mood-boosting hormone. A study from the Journal of Nutrition showed that individuals consuming low amounts of folate were 67% more likely to suffer from depression. Folate has also been shown to decrease homocysteine, an amino-acid that does damage to blood vessels and interferes with the flow of blood and nutrients to the brain. High levels of homocysteine can make you feel sluggish and forgetful. To help elevate your mood and keep your brain awake, try eating leafy green vegetables with two meals each day.

Create some healthy, ‘Happy Meals’

Spinach with chicken

Eating spinach and chicken together combine nutrients (folate, b vitamins and amino-acids) that work together to prevent central nervous system disorders. These vitamins have been shown in studies to raise moods and prevent dementia.

Salmon burger ( Yum! And it helps anxiety!)Salmon Burger

Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, nutrients that can reduce anger, irritability and depression. Omega-3 fatty acids also help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. But, make sure your salmon burger is on whole-wheat bread, which is high in the complex carbohydrates that will keep you going all day long!

Be healthy to be happy

Next time you’re in a bad mood, do not go to the freezer for ice cream or raid the cupboards for cookies. Eat healthy! I promise you’ll feel better in the long-run.

Have any suggestions on healthy foods that make you feel better? Or, how about foods you think will make you feel better but actually make you feel worse? (That post is next! Stay tuned.)

Get Active. Find a workout that suits you.

Exercise is so important to your overall health and wellbeing. Again, you’ve probably heard People Exercisingthat a million times, so I’ll quickly tell you why it’s important then jump to the good stuff about finding a fun workout that YOU will enjoy.

Why is exercise important?

Exercise will…

  • Improve your mood
  • Boost your energy
  • Help you sleep better
  • Enhance your sex life
  • Combat health conditions and diseases
  • Control your weight
  • Put some fun into your life!

Why wouldn’t you want to workout after reading these amazing exercise benefits?

Well, some people hear these benefits and go running to a nearby gym to sign up for a membership because who wouldn’t want to experience the wonders of working out?

Sadly, the majority of the people who do this stop going to the gym after a couple of weeks. Why? Because they aren’t doing something they enjoy.  They come to the conclusion that they hate working out and will never do it again.

Find something that you like and move!

Like to dance?

Dancing is a great way to get fit, and it’s fun.

By dancing, you can burn calories and get your heart rate going.

Dancing also, improves your flexibility, increases strength and gives you an opportunity to develop strong social ties, which contribute to self-esteem and a positive outlook.

A dance to try

ZUMBA

Dancing/ ZumbaZumba  is an aerobic dance class set to South American beats. It is safe for a range of ages and fitness levels because the steps can be modified so that it’s very low-impact.

Benefits include:

  • Calorie burn
  • More stamina
  • Increased bone density
  • Improved balance and muscle tone
  • Less body fat
  • Lower blood pressure

Sign up for a dance class like Zumba, or do your own dance routine. Just get moving! You’ll feel great afterwards.

Go for a swim

Yes, this might involve going to a gym or having your own personal pool, but it definitely doesn’t have to.

Swimming in ocean

Swim in a lake during the summer, or in an ocean when you’re on vacation. It can be a lot of fun if your friends or family members join you. It can also be relaxing if you decide to go out for a dip, solo. Oh, and when the waves get crazy in the ocean, that’s when you’ll get a real workout. Just be careful because it can get pretty dangerous out there. You can also get a great tan!

Why swim?

Swimming has loads of benefits that will leave you feeling happy and healthy.

Swimming offers something no other aerobic exercise does: the ability to work your body without harsh impact to your skeletal system.  –Michael Franco, Discovery Fit & Health

When you swim, you have the ability to do more with less. The human body becomes much lighter when it’s submerged in water. When you’re swimming with the water all the way to your neck, you only have to bear about 10 percent of your own weight.

Swimming will most definitely lead to results, such as:

  • Increased muscle tone and strength
  • Improved flexibility
  • Weight loss/weight control
  • Improved asthma symptoms
  • Improved cholesterol
  • Lower risk of diabetes
  • Lower stress, higher spirits (endorphins)
  • Can make you live longer

Box 

Have some built up aggression you want to relieve?

Try a kickboxing class

Kickboxing targets your arms, shoulders, abs, thighs and butt in one workout.Boxer gril

Kickboxing classes can differ slightly, but most involve learning basic fighting skills that will give you an incredible workout at the same time. (Trust me, it is so much fun!)

The kickboxing class I do is called Max-Fit (located in Jamestown, NY at Gaffar Adam’s Karate Academy and Fitness Center). We usually start out by jumping rope (cardio). We also do many exercises that target our abs, as well as push-ups and other activities. During the second half of the class, we learn punching and kicking techniques and combinations and apply what we learned on striking mats or punching bags.

If you really put effort into it, it’s an intense workout! Each class is different, and that’s why I love it. You really get a full-body work out.

Kickboxing is a personal favorite, along with the elliptical and a quick sprint on the track!

Still not satisfied with the whole working out thing?

Only you know what you like. Get moving, and do what you enjoy.

Have any suggestions about workouts you like that others may want to try? Feel free to suggest. I’d love to try it out!