What's Hot about Hot Yoga

It’s clear…yoga is hot! In almost every city you can find a multitude of yoga studios; many of them are offering hot yoga.

Hot yoga is basically the practice of yoga in a hot, humid room; generally between 80-95 degrees. The twist on this centuries’ old practice is intended to help warm your muscles so that you can more easily stretch and hold postures that you might otherwise have difficulty holding. I personally think the trend is particularly hot because we are moving into an era of extreme sports.

Whether pushing ourselves to extremes through programs like Insanity, participating in races like Tough Mudder, or even turning up the heat in your traditional yoga class, it seems that we have a real thirst for our exercise to be intense, challenging, and far from boring.

So I decided to give hot yoga a try. Luckily, I have a friend who opened an adorable new studio (shout out for Twist Yoga @TwistYogaLO) which made it all the more alluring to test out this trend. While I have long been a lover of yoga – although not always consistent in my practice – hot yoga is a variation that seemed a little intimidating to me. So I called a friend and experienced yogi to join me in my initial try.

Twist Yoga

To start, I wanted to make sure I was clear on what I was signing up for. Some yoga studios offer Bikrim Yoga, which is a specific class with a set series of postures that happens to take place in a hot studio. “Hot Yoga” as a more general term, can mean any form of yoga, just in a hot space.

Walking into the room for the first time, it felt as if I’d open the door to the beach. Warm, humid air hit me immediately and I felt instantly relaxed. It didn’t take long into the class for that relaxed feeling to wane into a serious workout. If you’ve never taken yoga of any kind, you’d be mistaken to think it is only about touching your toes or twisting like a contortionist. Sure, there is a great deal of flexibility that comes into play, but the strength needed to hold certain postures is the real secret. It wasn’t long before I was dripping with sweat. Ah, like a free facial!

Our instructor, Kristin Fondran, would add absolutely motivating statements such as “breathe in what you need (.ie. strength, confidence) and breathe out what you don’t (i.e. self-judging, worries).” This is where the mind part of this mind-body exercise becomes so addictive. Every “practice” (a great reminder that you don’t have to be perfect at this) ends with a relaxation that involves lying on the floor. To me it is the absolutely reward for the hard work you just put in.

Karma shirt

Overall, I would say that hot yoga may help you to feel a little more limber as compared to regular yoga. Any yoga practice should be a progression and if you don’t like it at first, give it a few more chances before you throw in the yoga mat. You should dress appropriately (cropped yoga pants and athletic tank are good…remember no shoes), bring plenty of water, and you may want a yoga towel to cover your mat – because you are going to sweat! And in ANY kind of exercise, you have to listen to your body. If you feel dizzy, lightheaded, or in general not right – just come to your mat. Yogis are extremely forgiving.

If you are a complete newbie, get there early, tell the instructor you are new and let her know of any injuries you may have. Blocks and straps are helpful yoga tools that help you achieve poses if you aren’t quite flexible enough. Humility is another great tool to bring. Leave your self-judging at the door and understand that it is ok if you don’t get everything right. You may be tempted to look around the room, but realize there might be people in the class who have done yoga for years – so don’t compare.

I have never once regretted the time I’ve taken to be at a yoga class. It really is one of those exercises that makes you feel good in body and mind. It is refreshing in a way that the treadmill is not. I don’t consider myself an expert yogi by any means and I certainly like the variety of many different kinds of exercise in my fitness plan, but yoga has stood the test of time for a reason. Hot or not, I encourage you to give yoga a try.
photo credit: Amber Karnes via photopin cc

Are Your Workouts Intense Enough to Get Results

When it comes to the secret of getting REAL results from your workout, I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. The good news is that you can get amazing results in a short amount of time! That’s great for all of you who are time-strapped with the demands of life…that’s pretty much everyone reading this, right? The bad news is that you are going to have to step up your effort.

Wait…don’t stop reading yet! This doesn’t mean you have to quit your day job and become a gym rat to have any kind of muscle definition. Hear me out…

We’ve all heard the recommendations for physical activity and we are well aware of the incredible benefits of regular exercise. Yet, only 5% of American adults actually meet these recommendations, because it can be hard to figure out how to make physical activity fit into our lives.

I’m going to break it down for you, show you how you CAN make it a part of real life, and tell you how to get the most from your effort.

Just so that we are all on the same page, here are the recommendations for physical activity.

Physical Activity Recommendations

See, if you can bring that intensity level up to vigorous, you can cut your time in half! Of course, it is good for cardiovascular benefits to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity in a session, but you can see health benefits in as little as 10 or 15-minute bouts.

In fact, a recent study at the University of Utah proved that higher intensity activity is associated with lower BMI (body mass index), where lower intensity activity didn’t have the same reduced risk of overweight and obesity. One researcher said “The intensity of the activity matters more than the duration.

Now, we can’t all jump into Insanity-level workouts (although I have to say those videos are amazing!), but the goal is to increase your intensity small bits at a time. Instead of going for a leisurely 30-minute walk, research suggests you are better off jogging for 5-10 minutes, running for 1-3 minutes, and back to jogging or walking. Throwing a few bursts of high-intensity exercise adds more interest to your workouts too, and it allows you to finish in shorter amount of time or in fewer days each week.

As always, you need to listen to your body anytime you are working out. Challenge means work, but it shouldn’t mean pain. Yes, you can be sore the next day, but the soreness should be in your muscles not your joints. If you aren’t sure about form or proper intervals for intensity, seek the help of a trainer or exercise professional. But, if you are sick of not seeing any results for that daily walk you’ve been doing for months, for your standard 3-mile jog you’ve stuck to since the new year, or whatever work out you’ve been stagnating on, it might just be time to increase your intensity!

So back to the “How am I’m going to fit this into my real life?” question.  Here’s how! Pick 4 days this week. It’s better to space them out throughout the week, but really I’m not going to be picky here. Let’s say you choose Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. On Tuesday and Thursday, you put on some running shoes during lunch or after work and go for a 30-minute walk/run. Alternate walking for 5 minutes followed by running for 5 minutes until your 30 minutes are up. Then on Saturday and Sunday, go for a 10-minute walk followed by the 10-minute Full Body Mix workout. (See spelled out plan below) 

Sample workout plan

 

In 30-minutes or less 4 days per week, you’ve done it! Increase the amount of time in vigorous exercise and you can cut that time even further…or see results faster. Your choice! Drop a comment below if you give this or another workout plan a try.  Do you have your own way of ramping up your intensity? I’d love to hear it.

Edited photo original credit: Louish Pixel via photopin cc

 

Is the Weather Making You Fat

The East coast just got get hit with yet another. ruthless. winter. storm. Newscasters say this is the 15th storm this winter leaving many of you longing for the days when that grey snow melts away and you can enjoy being outdoors again.

60% of the country is dealing with snow, which means that many of us are struggling to stay fit. (if you agree - Share on Twitter!)

Having recently experienced a weekend limited by snowy and icy conditions in the Pacific Northwest, I can sympathize with the limitations the weather puts on your attempts to be physically fit. Aside from trying to entertain stir-crazed kids, it is easy to find yourself in a state of hibernation. I myself, watched TWO movies in one day – I mean, when was the last time I watched ONE movie at home? Were my closets completely organized? Were all of my well-intentioned projects completed? Did I spend the day creating scrapbooks for my children? No! But I found time to watch TWO movies! That’s not to mention the bored snacking that goes on when you are stuck inside. I understand the lure of hibernation. Really, I do.

But here’s the real kicker (and gift) about living well. You don’t have to be perfect! You just need to spend most of your time in a way that supports health. So while I really loved the time curled up with my kids and husband watching movies, I also really valued the time sledding with them, going for a walk in the snow with a friend, and carving out time for ME to exercise. When you are faced with the MANY days indoors that this fierce winter has demanded, you can’t stayed curled on the couch every snow day.

I know, I know…your workout choices are limited. No doubt.

Just because you can’t get to the gym, doesn’t mean that exercise is no longer an option. It’s always wise to have a plan B for exercise. In case you are fresh out of ideas, I want to share with you a super simple plan B. So simple, you’ll think “why didn’t I think of that”.

 10-minute solution - The Weather-Buster

 

This workout is perfect for a hotel room or snow day when you need a quick burst that requires no equipment, no electricity (maybe you want to print this one in the future?) and no trainer. All you need is your own commitment to make it happen. In just a few minutes, you can go back to that movie… until you feel the need to repeat the workout again. Oh, and when you are done and have so much time on your hands, leave me a comment, pin it, or tell your snowed-in Facebook friends about it. I can’t wait to hear what you think of this one?

10-minute solution - The Weather-Buster

Want more 10-minute solutions? Want other workout ideas? Let me know…I can’t read your mind! :) Just leave a comment below. 

 

snow day photo credit: mnotta via photopin cc

10-minute solutions photo credit: nicola.albertini via photopin cc

Your Choices Make a Difference

It’s January and many of you are working hard to make healthy changes. Whether you made New Year’s resolutions or you are simply back in the swing of a regular routine and feel the need to (ahem..) repent for culinary sins over the past several months, you are working hard.

And change can be hard. But this is the hardest part….the starting, the initiation of change. This is when you pull on every ounce of motivating fiber to NOT hit the snooze button when you should wake up for that early morning workout; or to KEEP ON DRIVING past that tempting drive-through when you are exhausted on a Friday evening with no idea of what you will make for dinner.

So I wanted to share a little inspiration to keep you working hard and to know that every healthy decision you make is worth it. My sister shared this video with me and I instantly knew that the whole world should view it. Really. And I’m not a forwarder of emails. This one deserved an exemption and deserves to be shared…because you are working hard, and you should continue to work hard. Your last 10 years are SO worth it.

 

Photo collage including:

photo credit: kaneda99 via photopin cc
photo credit: Arya Ziai via photopin cc
photo credit: UrbaneWomenMag via photopin cc

The Key to Health and Wellness is Simplicity

This is the time of year that every television network features their wrap up shows of 2013; a recap of news-making events, famous people who have passed on, and inventions/discoveries that will change our future. It is also the time that people predict trends for the upcoming year.

Well, here is my prediction for 2014. I believe that 2014 will be the year of Simplicity or getting back to basics.

Over the past year, more and more people have begun to question where their food is grown, what it is really made of, and how certain ingredients affect our health long term. Food companies are beginning to take note, advertising a return to simplified ingredient lists. Commonly used ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup and GMO’s are beginning to be voluntarily removed by companies due to the pressure from consumers. Remember, you vote with your dollar every time you shop!

Non-food companies have taken a cue from the simplicity movement too. A perfect example is the FDA’s recent inquiry over the benefit and long-term effect of antibacterial soap. Do the added ingredients really work better than good old soap and hot water at killing germs and what is the long-term effect of having SO many antibacterial products in our world?

Whether it is soap or food, we are starting to wake up to the notion that the things we use and ingest everyday need more thought. It is easy to look for the convenience of products, the “quick fix” that items promise and the solutions we’ve been sold.

To be sure, life will not become simplified overnight. We will still have more emails than we can comfortably read and respond to in a day, more things on the to-do list than we will likely accomplish and no matter what goals we are aspiring to, there will likely be an app for that; but there are certain areas of life for which we are stopping to take a long, hard look and choosing to simplify.

I personally am THRILLED about this trend. I have always said that the key to wellness is simplicity. Not to say that achieving wellness is easy, but that living well is about simple things – eating whole foods with limited ingredients, limited processing and less additives; and finding ways to be more active throughout our entire day. It’s about drinking water. It’s about balancing work and play, including rest and relaxation. It’s about restoring basic sleeping routines and rhythms to rise with the sun and not fall asleep with electronics. It’s about connecting with people in real conversation, not just through posts and tweets. It’s about paying attention to what gives us energy and happiness and what drains us.

That is the secret to wellness and I’m excited that 2014 gives hope for a return to simplicity.

If you need help finding wellness and restoring simplicity in your life, I’m here to help. Sometimes the only thing standing in your way of true success is finding someone who believes in you and can show you the steps to make wellness real in your life. Don’t let 2014 be another year of missed opportunity. If you are ready to simplify, find sustainable energy and realistic balance, sign up for my personal health coaching. To find out more, click here.
photo credit: Claudio.Ar via photopin cc

21 Ways to Stay Fit this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving can be a foodie’s favorite day and a dieter’s dread. It all comes down to how you look at this holiday. While significant weight gain never occurs from one meal or one day, there are several small choices we can make to curb the damage that this feast can do. I have a list of simple ideas that will help you stay slim.

21 Easy Ways to Keep Fit this Thanksgiving

Whether you choose to follow all 21 tips or select your top few, make a choice to enjoy the holiday for what it is – a celebration of abundance and realize that we all have more than we need. Wishing you a day full of thanks!

 
photo credit: laffy4k via photopin cc

10-Minute Solutions Full Body Mix square

A lack of time is the number one reason people give for not exercising. With the holidays upon us, the demands on our time are even greater, making getting in the necessary physical activity all the more difficult.

Rather than write-off exercise until you are faced with a resolution on January 1, learn to make the most of limited workout time by increasing the intensity. Recent research indicates that high intensity workouts have better results than lower intensity exercise, such as going for a walk. So, ramping up your effort might save you time AND give you the results you want more quickly. Bonus!

I have created a sample workout that is perfect for beginners to advanced exercisers, because you do the number of reps you can in the allotted time and repeat the circuit for added challenge. This simple 10-minute plan meets the needs of even the tightest of schedules, so there are no excuses. Start at your level of fitness and increase slowly making an effort to push yourself, but not past the point of pain or injury.

This 10-minute plan works all major areas of your body while getting in a cardio workout. It really is the best way to get maximum results in a short period of time.

The Full-Body Mix 10-Minute Workout

I have links to video explanations of some of the exercises, in case you are unfamiliar with the movement or proper form. There are a few ideas to increase the intensity too. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Push ups

Spider plank (although keep your rear end in line with your body – straight as a board, just like a regular plank)

Butt kickers

Jump squats (make sure to keep your knees behind your toes)

Triceps dips 

Hop over the line (AKA Lateral hop – this example is a more advanced example of clearing a raised bar, but you can hop over a jump rope, imaginary line, or something substantial like a yoga brick. Choose the intensity that works for you.)

Jabs

High knees

 

 

 

Edited photo credit: nicola.albertini via photopin cc

Using Exercise Buddies to Maintain Motivation

We are entering some dangerous times, my friends. Not only are stores teeming with Halloween candy and other fall “treats”, but October is also the month with the lowest gym attendance of the entire year. While you can’t out-exercise a bad diet, it seems that any fitness momentum new exercisers gain over the summer months tends to wane a little as we enter fall. Cooler temps and fewer daylight hours can bring on new barriers. And let’s be honest, it isn’t going to get any easier as we enter the heart of holiday season.

It a crucial time to step up your fitness routine by finding an exercise buddy. Yes, the secret to staying fit isn’t a new gadget or fitness routine, rather it is increasing your accountability to help you KEEP exercising. I know for myself, when I’m in the habit of exercising, I don’t like the feeling of missing a day. I’m more sluggish, irritable, and I don’t have the same enthusiasm for doing other tasks in my day. But, get in a workout and magically I’m happy me again. However, when I miss several days in a row, it is really hard to back into the routine. Just getting through that first workout can be the hardest step. Staying consistent with exercise prevents the need to muster up motivation to dive back in, AND it is one of the best ways to reap serious fitness benefits from your workouts.

Yet, we are prone to slack off when there is little accountability. I have noticed in working with clients that those who choose online methods of losing weight or choose to exercise alone are more likely to have higher body mass indexes (BMIs – a measure of appropriate body weight) and are more likely to drop out because it is less embarrassing to fail in private.

A recent survey showed that 77% of adults prefer to exercise alone. I get it. You are busy and you have to fit in exercise when you can, not when your buddy can meet up with you. Or you might be cutting costs by nixing the gym membership. You can still improve your odds of fitness success.

Adding the power of an exercise buddy can come in many forms. It could be a friend who meets you for a walk every day or the personal trainer that you hire at your gym. It could also be your sister in another state with whom you trade workout success stories or your Facebook friends that follow your progress as you train for your first 5K. The point is to tell the world about what you are doing. Don’t exercise in secret. Heck, start a blog about it or just challenge your spouse to get in more steps than you do each week. Once you have other people aware of your fitness goals, they will not only help you to stay on course, but they can also celebrate your success with you making the positive reinforcement for your fitness even greater.

So, if you don’t already have one, find an exercise buddy this week. Help each other to stick to fitness throughout the holiday season and you’ll be ringing in the New Year with one less resolution!
photo credit: Edson Hong via photopin cc

Fitness Identity Sabotaging Success

 

We all have an image or an impression of ourselves in our mind. Call it self-esteem, self-awareness, or an internal identity, but we all have it.

We determine what kind of person we are – ex.” I am considerate”, “I am shy”, “I am a social butterfly”. We have assumptions about our appearance – ex. “I have big thighs”, “I have no rear end”, or “Everything I eat goes straight to my middle”. And we hold beliefs about how we behave – ex. “I would never do that”.

Yet, sometimes our mental identity can limit us.

I caught myself the other day replying to a friend in a way that revealed a lot about my identity. She commented that she sees me running in our neighborhood and said “you must be a runner.” I almost instinctively fired back with “well, I run, but I don’t consider myself a runner.”

Why not? Doesn’t the mere act of running make someone a runner? I my mind I thought a “runner” was someone who was long and lean (I was not born with a “runner’s body” at 5’ 3”) and liked to run 8, 12, maybe 20 miles at a time. If that is the standard, then I certainly am no runner.

But determining that I am not a runner does the same work to one’s psyche that a positive affirmation can do. When you tell yourself something enough, eventually you’ll believe it.

Telling myself that I’m not a runner limits me from considering more challenging races, pushing myself to run farther than I might have tried in the past, or even seeking out advice of run clubs and coaches…since a non-runner wouldn’t need that.

To be fair, I have seen ALL KINDS of body sizes and shapes run. Even challenging races such as marathons have participants who you wouldn’t think of a “runners” completing the race. In fact, marathon finishers will often tell you that a majority of the success is all mental.

We have to be careful about the fitness identities we hold so that they don’t limit. Mentally talking ourselves out of trying new exercise options, holding back on our efforts to do what we have always done will just make exercise boring, less rewarding and can often diminish our success.

My full fitness identity is that I’m a curious fitness advocate who loves to try, explore, and experience variety in activities. What identity are you holding that either hinders or helps you reach your fitness goals?

 
photo credit: HckySo via photopin cc

Busting through Barriers to Exercise

We all know of the multitude of benefits from exercise and yet on a day-to-day basis, it can be a challenge to get in the recommended 150 minutes of moderate activity we are supposed to get each week (in case you didn’t do the math – that’s 30 minutes 5 days a week). And that is just the minimum amount recommended.

There are so many excuses reasons that come to mind for why we just don’t seem to move enough. We have good intentions, but sometimes our notion of what is acceptable exercise can be the limiting factor.

Many people think they have to go to a gym and exercise for 30 minutes to an hour for the activity to be worth anything. We get confused by messages telling us to exercise at a certain heart rate zone for fat-burning, or to lift heavy weights for minimal reps, or workout in intense intervals…and so on. While some of this information is valid, it leads to overwhelm. We get a complex about how we work-out that can lead to NOT working out.

Research shows that the less restrictive the fitness regimen, the more likely you are to continue.

I am a strong proponent of scheduling exercise on your daily calendar, so it doesn’t become an afterthought for when you have “free time”…because there is no such thing. Yet, being able to adjust for life’s unexpected schedule changes is a skill that will allow you to adapt fitness into a realistic lifestyle – and throughout many different stages of your lifespan.

Simplifying or being flexible with the when, how long and in what way you exercise opens the door to options, rather than spotlighting all of the barriers. If you are used to exercising in the morning, be able to adjust for an afternoon workout when work demands call for an early-morning staff meeting. If you prefer to walk with a friend, be willing to walk solo when that friend is unable to show for your normal time. If you are in the habit of doing laps in your pool, be able to pick up an indoor sport like basketball during the winter months. Lastly, if you are used to running for exercise, be able to find an alternate exercise when you experience an injury, rather than being sidelined all together (with your health provider’s approval, of course).

As you are able to focus on options rather than an “either-or” predicament, you’ll find that being active is a much more realistic and enjoyable part of your day. After all, some movement is better than none at all.

If those barriers continue to percolate to the top of your mind, here are some possible ways to bust through.

Common Barriers to Exercise

Possible Barrier Busters

  I don’t have the time
  • Break up exercise into smaller increments of time (example: walk for 10 min. in the morning, 10 min. at lunch and 10 min. after dinner)
  • Do jumping jacks during commercials of your favorite show
  • Walk around your child’s soccer field while he/she has practice
  • Walk the length of an airport concourse while on a layover
  • Do a 4-min Tabata workout, even when you don’t have time for your full workout routine.
  I can’t afford a gym membership
  • Walk in your neighborhood or in a nearby mall
  • Do flights of stairs at work or in your home
  • Make use of a local park or playground for activity
  • Look up resources available through your local Parks and Rec department (some even have pools or free/low-cost exercise classes)
  • Utilize hiking trails in your community
  I’m not sure what exercises to do
  I’m self-conscious around fit individuals
  • Workout with a buddy who is similar in size or look for a female-only gym/exercise class
  • Invest in new workout wear that makes you feel confident
  I can’t seem to get motivated to exercise
  • Find an exercise buddy and commit to holding each other accountable
  • Try a different kind of activity that seems more enjoyable like Zumba, swimming, or yoga
  • Get your mind off of exercise by listening to upbeat music that you like or an audiobook you’ve been meaning to read
  • Set a goal like participating in a race that requires a training schedule to keep you on track
  It’s too hot, cold, wet, or otherwise   uncomfortable to   exercise outside
  • Dress appropriately and hydrate as needed.
  • Have indoor options for plan B (and maybe C or D) exercise
  • Who says you can’t exercise in the rain? As long as you are safe, challenge yourself to be uncomfortable. Moving beyond what you are used to doing might give you new results.

Challenge yourself to think alternatively to exercise, have an activity-focused mindset and break through any barriers! Let me know how you break through barriers or which ones still stand in your way.

 

 

photo credit: Abdullah AL-Naser via photopin cc

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