Friday, May 30, 2008

Fitness Friday- Smokin' Lower Bod!

Everyone wants a tight booty and nice toned and lean legs. The following four exercises( all separate posts) are excellent in shaping the lower body!

Perform 3 sets of 12 repetions, 2 or 3 times per week. For best results, combine this strength training workout with 45+ minutes of cardio.

Elevated Stationary Lunges

You can already feel your buttocks getting tighter!!

Fitness Friday

Bosu Lateral Hop and Squats.

You gotta love the way the trainer says 'Buttocks'...

Fitness Friday

Stability Ball Bridge Hip Extensions

These legs and butt exercises are a progression of the core exercise the floor bridge. Make sure the shirt you are wearing is not slick, because you will likely slip off the ball.

This legs and butt exercise also works your core and lower back. Since the motion is hip extension your glutes should perform most of the work. If you only feel your hamstrings and lower back muscles work during this exercise you most likely have muscle imbalances which may lead to posture problems.

Start: Sit on a stability ball. Remember the size of the stability ball should allow your legs to be at a 90 degree while you sit upright.

Walk forward and form the stability ball bridge. Your head and upper shoulders should rest comfortably on the top of the ball. Your legs should form a 90 degree angle with your knees on top of your ankles.

Begin the motion: Draw in your core and lower your butt down towards the floor. You can stop just before your butt touches the floor, or you can tap your butt on the floor. As you raise your hips, make sure you contract your glutes.

Modifications: You can progress this exercise by positioning your feet on a controlled unstable surface such as a BOSU ball. The extra stabilization will work extra muscles. You can also add resistance such as dumbbells or a body bar across your hip.

Fitness Friday

Bulgarian Split Squats

This version of elevated stationary lunges is even more difficult than the previous.

Start: You can use a weight bench or any elevated surface which is comfortable for these. Put your rear foot up on the surface. Whatever you choose to rest your rear foot on, make sure it allows your toes to point in the same direction as your knees.

Hop your front foot forward until the middle of your knee is directly on top of your ankles. This requires pretty good balance. You can hold on to something if your balance is poor.

Begin the motion: Keep your upper body as upright as possible and lower your torso towards the floor. Try not to have any foreword motion of your front thigh.

Modifications: If you decide to perform these legs and butt exercises while you hold on to something, you should use extra resistance. If you set up close to a squat rack you can position the bar to where you can hold on for balance. If you decide to hold on, you can hold a dumbbell in the same hand as the forward leg.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Fitness Friday

The Top 20 Fitness Mistakes
Are you exercising regularly, yet not seeing the results you want? Or getting sidelined by pulled muscles and other injuries? Feeling tempted to drop out because you're so bored?

Don't give up your fitness program just yet. Maybe the problem isn't the exercise itself but the way you're exercising.

Exercisers (especially beginning exercisers) often make mistakes that keep them from getting the most from their workouts.

Cardio Uh-Ohs
1. Doing the "gym slouch." "We see many people in the gym leaning on equipment," says Debi Pillarella, MEd, a spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise. "We call it 'gym slouch': They're on the Stairmaster, [elliptical cross trainer], or treadmill, leaning over, and hanging on for dear life."

When your back is rounded, your spine doesn't get enough support. So stand erect when you're working out on one of these machines.

2. Getting a grip. Holding on too tightly to the cardio equipment lets you "cheat" and contributes to slouching. It also keeps you from moving your arms -- which can boost your heart rate and burn extra calories. If loosening your grip makes you feel insecure, try this technique Pillarella teaches at Community Hospital Fitness Pointe in Munster, Ind. "Instead of gripping, just rest your fingers, from your index finger to the pinkie, on the bars. As you get more comfortable, drop a finger. Eventually, you may have just the index fingers resting there for security."

3. Catching up on your reading. If you're doing lots of reading on the elliptical machine, you're probably not getting a good workout, says Julie Isphording, host of the radio shows Fitness Information Talk and On Your Feet.

"If you must read, stop about every three minutes and do a four-minute focus interval," she says. During this interval, "concentrate on picking up the pace, dropping your shoulders, breathing, and using your arms."

4. Walking with weights. Carrying hand weights when you walk might seem like a good way to add strength training to your cardio workout, but it compromises your stride. "You lean forward, and it stresses the quads, ankles, and shins, and can cause stress fractures," Isphording says. "Keep your cardio and strength training separate."

5. Thinking cardio is enough. Many people think they need only a cardiovascular exercise program. "We begin losing muscle at age 30," says Isphording. "Strength training builds muscles, which increases metabolism and burns more calories."

Strength-Training Slipups
6. Rushing your reps. Doing weight-lifting repetitions too fast raises your blood pressure and increases your risk for joint injury. It also compromises your results.

"The safest way to use strength machines or dumbbells is: in lifting phase, exhale for two counts and hold briefly at the top of the contraction, then return as you inhale for four counts," says Pillarella. "Always exhale during the hardest part of the work."

7. Giving your abs a free ride. Many people do crunches or abdominal machine workouts without ever toning their abdomens. The problem is that they're using the upper torso, neck, and head to do the work.

"Do mindful exercise," says Pillarella. "The contraction should be from the ribcage to the hip bone. Put your mind into the muscles that are working, and keep all the other muscles quiet."

8. Doing lackluster lat pull-downs. On this machine, you're seated with a bar overhead. Some people stick their heads forward and pull the bar down behind their heads. But doing it this way could injure your spine or neck -- and your back won't get that coveted "V" look.

Instead, "pull the bar down in front of your shoulders and chest, and put your mind into muscle contractions in your back," says Pillarella.

9. Using maladjusted machines. Weight machines are made for people of all shapes and sizes. You must adjust them to fit if you want to get results and avoid injury.

For example, using an improperly set leg-extension machine puts stress on your knees, says Mark Kasper, EdD, a spokesman for the American College of Sports Medicine. "Another problem with improperly adjusted machines is that you don't work your muscles through the full range of motion," he says.

Have a qualified trainer show you the proper settings for your physique, and write them down on a card that you carry to the gym.

Flexibility Flubs
10. Stretching cold muscles. Stretching before your workout puts you at risk for pulled or torn muscles. "Always stretch at the end of your workout," says Pillarella.

11. Bouncing. Bouncing during a stretch can increase your risk of straining or pulling muscles, Pillarella says. Instead, "hold a static stretch with no movement at the joints. Your body should feel lengthened but not to the point of pain."

Routine Maintenance
12. Forgetting about fun. "If you're bored with your routine, and your treadmill has faced the washer since 1980, how much fun is that?" says Isphording, "I'd never want to do your workout, either. And why do we call it a workout? It should be a playout."

Exercise with your friends or family, just as you go to movies or dinner with people. "Unless we reframe it in our minds, it will never be fun," Isphording says.

13. Doing outdated exercises. Still doing the exercises you learned in high school, like windmills and leg lifts? Some of these oldies are a waste of time; others can cause injury. Take an exercise class or work with a personal trainer to freshen your routine.

14. Getting stuck in a rut. What's wrong with doing the same exercise routine, day in and day out? "You're working the same muscles, going at the same speed, and once you get in shape you no longer breathe heavily," says Isphording. "The muscles become very efficient. They expend less energy, and you burn fewer calories."

15. Seeking a quick fix. Many people expect dramatic results from a little exercise. "Current recommendations are for 3 1/2 to four hours of physical activity a week just to prevent weight regain," says Kasper, who is a professor in the department of kinesiology at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Ga. "If you want to lose weight and you're walking 30 minutes, three times a week, without changing your diet, it will take roughly one month to lose a pound."

Want to lose faster? Exercise more.

16. Being a weekend warrior. "If you're only exercising two days a week, you'll never get where you want to be, and you'll feel awful every Monday," says Isphording. "It leads to injury and burnout, and you're missing the secret to success: showing up."

17. Taking on too much at first. "Whether on a treadmill at home or working out at an exercise facility, people tend to do too much too soon," says Kasper. "They put themselves at risk for an orthopaedic injury."

He advises working with a qualified trainer who will do a screening, teach proper techniques, and set up an appropriate fitness program.

Sins of Omission
18. Skipping the warm-up. "Without a warmup, you're asking your body to work before the oxygen and blood flow reach the muscles," says Pillarella. "You increase the risk for injury, and with cardiovascular exercise, you raise the heart rate too fast. Before you exercise in earnest, spend 5-10 minutes going through the motions of your workout at an easy pace to raise your body temperature from the inside out."

If you don't warm up before lifting weights, meanwhile, you risk torn muscles and won't be able to lift as much weight, says Isphording. Get your blood flowing by spending a few minutes on the treadmill or exercise bike, or even walking in place.

19. Forgoing the cool-down. Don't come to sudden stop at the end of your workout. "If you don't cool down, you risk muscle soreness because you haven't flushed the lactic acid out of your system," says Isphording. "It takes five to 10 minutes at a slower pace, depending on your fitness level, to let your heart rate come down."

20. Skimping on water. Muscles need fluid to contract properly, so if you don't drink enough, you can get muscle spasms or aches.

"If you're thirsty, you're already a percent dehydrated," says Pillarella. "Drink water before, during, and after exercise."

And, Pillarella says, "unless you're a high-intensity athlete who's depleting electrolytes and potassium, you don't need Gatorade. Water is the preferred drink."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sunday May 4, 2008- Day 3
Joel and I spent the morning to ourselves today- I worked out and went to the pool for a while and he hung out and took pictures of the hotel and stuff. It was a very relaxing morning!:)
We checked out of our hotel at 11am and headed for La Fortuna. I fell asleep in an instant once we were in the car and Joel was left to navigate alone. We were expecting a 4 hour drive but actually made it in about 2.5 hours. La Fortuna is where the active Arenal Volcano stands. Its pretty amazing to think that only 60 years ago, the volcano errupted and caused a lake to form over the old city. Things are pretty built up again, but it was crazy to think that at ANYTIME the volcano could spew again!

We got to our little hotel "El Silencio Del Campo" around 2, checked in and were graciously greeted with passion fruit smoothies- delicious! Our room was a bungalow style and freestanding- very Costa Rican!

We decided to go to Tabacon, a beautiful resort where natural hot springs are heated from the volcano.

It was gorgeous- the pictures do not capture the beauty and serenity there. There were several(14?) pools all with varying temps, depending on how close it was to the volcano- the only bad thing about the hot water was that my thighs got FRIED from river rafting, so the hot water stung like crazy for about 15 seconds every time I got in a new pool.

We spent the entire evening there- people watching(lots of thongs and speedo's), pool hopping, and eating!

Monday May 5, 2008--Day Four
We had another early morning because today we went canyoneering(repelling) down waterfalls. We really lucked out becuase we had a private tour with 4 guides- how's that for 2 to 1 treatment? It was a blast and surprisingly not scary at all. Again, the scenery was gorgeous!

When we got back I took a little siesta- I do that well! Joel patiently waited for me to wake up (ok, he finally woke me up) and asked me to go to the hanging bridges with him. I told him to go alone-refer to previous posts regarding my sleep- and then as he was walking out the door I said," Wait, where are you going?" I didn't really think he would go without me-- I guess he was really bored!
The bridges were only suspended at each end- absolutely no support in the middle- and were very rickety. I suspiciously checked out each cable as I crossed praying it would not snap! It was more of a hike through the rainforest than anything- and not my favorite thing we did, but I'm glad we did it.

We then went into town and had a delicious dinner at Don Rufinos. Check out Joel's plate! Thats steak, lamb, chicken, sausage, and pork- and he ate it ALL!

Sunday, May 18, 2008


This was pretty much the BTE, or for those of you non-acronym type people, Best Trip Ever. We highly recommend Costa Rica! I'm going to blog in installments, otherwise I would be at my computer for hours!
Friday May 2, 2008- Day One
We got up at 1:30 AM, yes AM, to catch our 5:30am flight out of Chicago. Why didn't we drive down to Chicago the night before? I had so much work to get done that I could not commit to leaving at a reasonable hour- either way we would have missed out on our ZZZ's.
We got into Costa Rica around 11:30am, did the immigration stuff, waited for our bags for 45 min (they didn't make it), went through customs, and got our rental car. We were off! Joel pulled out the map and knew exactly where he wanted to go. The weather was a little overcast and rainy- typical for Costa Rica this time of year. I just sat back and enjoyed the ride, appreciating another culture and way of life. I was amazed at their simple, humble way of life. People walked everywhere, piled 3-4 poeple on a single bicycle, and their homes, which I am sure suited them just fine, to me, looked like shoebox shacks. It again opened my eyes to how truly blessed we are!
Anyway, we drove to the Waterfall Gardens and spent the afternoon there. They had exhibits with all the types of animals you would/could find in the rainforest like, birds, snakes, frogs, bats, monkeys and geckos. Our favorite exhibit was the birds. Joel was literally attacked by one of the birds while he was taking pictures (and illegaly feeding them to attract them)- it was so funny!

We drove to our hotel, checked in and walked the grounds. It was gorgeous! Old Spanish style with wood, stone, rod iron, and brick, set on a golf course with a cute little chapel where a wedding was taking place. Perfect. To add to it, we had access to the Executive Lounge, meaning free food and drinks with our stay.

Thats where my love for plantain(fried bananas) and guacamole began. I think I had it EVERY DAY, atleast twice. MMMMM.

Saturday May 3, 2008- Day Two
We awakened at 5:20am because we were getting picked up at 6 to go white river rafting. We were the first to be picked up and had to make 2 more stops in San Jose to get others in our group. San Jose, the capital, was buzzing at 7am on Saturday morning- we were shocked! We asked the driver why and he said most people work Saturdays too. Most jobs are 6, even 7 days a week! Crazy!
We met up with a bus that had about 20 other people, and began our 3 hour drive to the Caribbean side of the country for the rafting. We arrived at about 9:30 and stuffed ourselves with a delicious traditional Tico breakfast of rice and beans with fruit.
We were ready to hit the river! The rafting was soo much fun. Joel and I were at the front of the raft, which I think is the best. You get to take the brunt of the rapids and set the rowing pace...and you better not be afraid of getting wet! Our guide was incredible-he had been doing this for 18 years, so he knew what he was doing! One time he took us down a rapid and then cued us to row causing the boat to turn around so the front of the boat was facing the rushing water. He had us paddle into the rapid, where the front of the boat was rapidly submerging. Yep, we were sinking!! Just as Joel and I were going to be floating with the river, the guide brought his oar out of the water and the pressure of the rapid coupled the full-of-water raft made us do a quick 180. Joel flew out of the boat!! It was hilarious and happened so fast I didn't even realize he was gone!
The scenery was amazing- infact, indiginous indians still inhabit the area we rafted. There were several waterfalls, narrow canyons, and gorgeous greenery. The entire length of our trip was 18 miles. By the end we were tired and hungry, but had a blast!

On the bus ride home... I was beat!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Fitness Friday

The ABC's of weight loss...

A is for attitude. A can-do attitude will help you get over the inevitable hurdles of weight loss. Anticipate slip-ups -- they happen. But instead of letting them derail your weight loss efforts, learn from them and get right back on track. You don't have to be perfect to lose weight and be healthy. Just keep your eye on the target and keep moving forward, one step at a time.

B is for breakfast. It really is the most important meal of the day. Don't leave home without eating something nutritious to get your metabolism perking and give you energy for the day ahead. It can be a banana, low-fat yogurt, cereal, last night's leftovers, etc. A small meal that contains both fiber and protein can keep you feeling satisfied until lunchtime.

C is for calories. They do count. Get into the habit of reading food labels to help you make healthy choices. And keep in mind that all the information listed there is based on the portion size the label specifies (which may not be the size of the portion you usually eat). Monitoring your portions and learning more about the calories in the foods you enjoy will help you meet your goals.

Diets don't work. There are hundreds of diets that will help you lose weight, but what good is losing weight if you gain it right back? Eating crazy food combinations or eliminating food groups is not the way to keep weight off. Instead, choose a nutritionally balanced plan with enough calories to keep you from feeling famished (like the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic eating plans).

Eating regular meals is essential. Experts agree that you should go no longer than 4 to 5 hours between meals. Otherwise, intense hunger can trigger a binge. Some experts believe dieters have better control if they eat several mini-meals throughout the day. Choose the meal pattern that works best in your lifestyle, but make sure to eat at least three meals per day.

Fiber is nature's weight loss aid. It comes in two forms, soluble (the gummy type found in oatmeal and beans) and insoluble (the type found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains). Both are important to good health. Soluble fiber can help to lower cholesterol; insoluble contains indigestible fibers that add bulk to our diets. Both forms of fiber swell in the stomach and help to create a feeling of fullness. Most high-fiber foods are also high in water and low in calories, making them must-have diet foods.

Gum chewing may be just what the dentist ordered. Chewing on a piece of sugarless gum can help cleanse the mouth of bacteria, satisfy a sweet tooth, and reduce the urge to eat. Keep a pack of sugarless gum handy. The next time you have the urge to reach into the cookie jar, try a piece of gum instead for a zero-calorie treat.

Heart-healthy foods should fill your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. Choose foods that are low in saturated and trans fats. Enjoy plenty of naturally fat-free, low-sodium fruits and vegetables. Choose healthy fats such as canola, olive, and vegetable oils. Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like walnuts, flaxseed, and salmon and other fatty fish. Choose low- and non-fat dairy products, as well as the leanest cuts of meat (round and loin) and skinless poultry. Beans, nuts, and whole grains round out the list of heart-healthy foods.

Invest in a pedometer and track your steps each day. The goal is to walk at least 10,000 steps -- the equivalent of 5 miles -- daily to thwart weight gain (and promote weight loss). Challenge yourself to increase your steps each day, even if you can't get up to 10,000. Every step counts; remember that your goal is simply to improve your fitness level.

Just do it! Get into a routine that includes regular physical activity. Not only does exercise energize you, it burns calories, improves balance and coordination, and relieves stress. When you don't have time for a formal workout, try to squeeze in at least three 10-minute chunks of physical activity. (Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise routine.)

Key to an effective exercise plan is variety. Try something new -- maybe Pilates, yoga, or water aerobics. Having fun and trying new things will keep you interested and enhance your commitment to exercise. Another key: starting your day with activity is one of the best ways to make sure it does not get squeezed out of your schedule.

Low blood sugar is often the cause of between-meal cravings, especially for sweets. Eating meals and small snacks that contain lean protein and fiber every few hours helps keep blood sugar levels steady. When sweets cravings strike, try to satisfy them with naturally sweet foods such as fruit (accompany it with a little low-fat yogurt for protein).

Mindful eating means taking time to savor every bite. Turn off the distractions, and concentrate on the aroma, texture, and flavor of food. Becoming more mindful when you eat will give you more pleasure from your meals. The bonus: You'll also be more in tuned with your body's signals of fullness, and you'll be less likely to overeat.

Nighttime snacking, for most of us, is a habit that can undermine weight loss success. That's because the calories we eat after dinner tend to be empty ones, from chips, cookies, etc. Brushing your teeth after supper will help you make dinner the last meal of the day. If you need a little something at night, try to satisfy the urge with few calories -- have a stick of gum, one piece of hard candy, or a cup of hot tea).

One more scoop, one more cookie, one more glass of wine -- "just one more" can add lots of extra calories. Controlling portions is fundamental to weight loss success. You don't need to give up your favorite foods, but you do need to keep track of your portions. At home, use smaller plates and keep food at the stove instead of on the table at mealtime. When you go out to eat, order a soup and a salad instead of an entrée, or take home half your meal in a doggie bag.

Protein is the "secret sauce" to weight control. Include a source of protein -- lean meats, low-fat dairy, beans, or nuts -- in all meals and snacks to help keep you feeling full for hours.

Quit those old habits that caused you to gain weight, and replace them with healthier ones. Simple changes -- like lightening your coffee with low-fat milk instead of cream, switching to light mayonnaise, avoiding fried foods -- can help create healthier eating patterns that foster long-term weight loss.

Rely on friends, family, and/or an online community to help you in your weight loss efforts. Your motivation is at an all-time high when you start a weight loss program, but after a few weeks, it often starts to wane. Let your supporters help you get through the rough times.

Supplement your healthy eating plan with a once-daily multivitamin for nutritional insurance. Despite your best efforts, it can be hard to get all the nutrients you need every day. Taking a multivitamin will help fill in the gaps.

Track your eating patterns and physical activity every day. One of the tips of the "successful losers" tracked in the National Weight Control Registry is the importance of journaling food intake and activity. Entering this information into your online journal or in a notebook is a powerful motivator to help keep you working toward your goals.

Uncle Sam's latest dietary guidelines promise to make us happier, healthier and thinner. Tips from the government's recommendations (the 2005 Dietary Guidelines and MyPyramid) include:

Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Eat more whole grains. At least half of your servings of grain foods should come from whole grains.
Enjoy three servings of low-fat dairy each day (yogurt, milk, or cheese).
Limit saturated and trans fats, sugar, and alcohol.
Watch the sodium content of your diet. Eat less processed food to reduce sodium.
Get plenty of exercise -- at least 30 minutes a day.

Volumetrics is the art of eating foods high in volume, or high-water foods. Fruits, vegetables, and soups are all examples of high-volume foods that are super-nutritious, satisfying, and low in calories. Dieters should make sure their plans are full of these healthy foods so they can feel full while still losing weight.

Water is your body's preferred form of fluid. It is thirst-quenching and naturally delicious without one single calorie. You need some 6-8 glasses of water or fluids each day. Recent studies suggest that we should let thirst determine how much we drink each day. Foods that are high in water (soups, Jell-O, produce) also count toward our fluid requirements. Many dieters find drinking water helps keep them from overeating.

EXcuses should be excised. Do you really want to lose weight and improve your health once and for all? Then stop making excuses and just do it! Sure, that's easier said than done. But you need to stop finding reasons why you can't start moving a healthier lifestyle, and start listing all the reasons why you should. Don't put it off until tomorrow. Start today, by doing something positive -- just one small thing -- toward your health and weight loss.

Yogurt used to be thought of as health food. Now it lines the grocery shelves in a variety of forms. It's portable, convenient, full of nutrients like calcium and protein, and it makes an excellent snack or mini-meal. The French swear by it, and so should you. Low-fat yogurt is filling and nutritious, but keep in mind that it can be loaded with sugar. So read labels to make the best choice.

Zip in your step is what you'll get once you start eating more healthfully and getting regular exercise. Losing as little as 5% to 10% of your body weight can help you feel better and improve your health. Just think of the weight you'll lose as bricks in a backpack. Lightening your load a few pounds at a time can be invigorating and energizing.

Monday, May 12, 2008

He can see!!

Joel got his glasses today... He looks pretty smart if you ask me!


We made it back alive! This was our favorite trip together, hands down! So much to do, so much to see, yet still so relaxing and refreshing. I told Joel that I would revoke part of my previous post and publicly apologize... so Joel, I am sorry for my lack of faith in your planning becuase you did a fantastic job (ego stroke, but also the truth)! Most of our "adventures" were half day- still leaving plenty of time for R&R.
Here are some pics from my camera- Joel has the motherload though- 700 more pics!

Arenal Volcano- This is still a very active volcano- in the day its not much to look at, but we went "lava chasing" at night- you could actually see the bright red/orange lava running down the volcano!

Fresh fruit, gallo pinto (rice and beans), and traditional TICO food- amazing!

Ocean meets rainforest- gorgeous!

Comfy little hammock at our hotel- it overlooked the ocean on the other side.

I know you might all pee your pants in excitement ;) waiting for our other pictures, so I will do my best to get them up quickly!