Keep Your Mind in the Game for Maximum Benefits

After a long day at work, it’s easy to get into your workout and zone out. If you can force yourself to stay present, mindful, and mentally engaged in your workout, though, you will see better results with each trip to FitClub!

Staying mentally engaged during your workout allows you to tap into the signals your body is sending you. Is an exercise too easy or too challenging? Are you feeling strong and ready to increase the weight or the reps in your strength workout? Your body is sending you cues throughout your workout and staying mentally engaged lets you hear what your body wants you to know.

Staying mentally engaged also allows you to avoid injury. Whether you’re running on the treadmill or lifting weights, stay focused and watch your form. Concentrating on your form also allows you to get the maximum benefit from the movement.

66a6b790-a191-0131-27c0-5a0e486d64eeIf you don’t stay mentally engaged, you may find your mind fatiguing before your body. Stay mindful with the tips below, and share your own in the comments!

  1. Find a new challenge. Maybe you will consider signing up for your first 5K, challenging a friend to a healthy competition, or trying for a new personal best in the weight room. Focusing on the external motivators and actively seeking signs of improvement will give your mind a new challenge.
  2. Plan a great reward—Giving yourself something pleasant to look forward to if you complete a challenging workout will increase motivation to finish a workout. Healthy tip—don’t undo your workout with a food related incentive. Instead, keep your healthy lifestyle going by planning a relaxing bath, a new piece of workout gear for your wardrobe, or an earlier bedtime.
  3. Eliminate distractions. Cell phones are a modern day convenience, but can negatively impact your workout. If you find yourself texting or chatting on your phone during your cardio workout, you’re likely not pushing yourself as hard as you can. Think of your workout as a chance to clear your mind of unnecessary distractions and zero in on your health.
  4. Pep yourself up with a motivating mantra. At some point, your mind is going to tire of your exercise and try to convince your body to call it quits. When you feel that start to happen, be prepared with a word or phrase that will allow you to resume your focus and continue to push yourself. Whatever word or phrase works for you, no matter how silly it might seem, might be just what you need to make it through a challenging workout.
  5. Plan your playlist. Planning a playlist that will push you through a challenging workout may be what you need to beat mental fatigue. Make sure your music is upbeat, positive, and something that motivates you to get through one more rep or one more interval. Maybe you can even steal a line or two from the song for your positive mantra. If you’re using your phone to deliver your music, just make sure you ignore the phone calls.

Do You Know Your Bad Habits?

We all have bad habits that keep us from achieving our healthy goals. Recognizing your bad habits makes it easier to find a fix and realize your true potential.

Bad Habit:coconut-mocha-frappuccino
Your daily flavored coffee. Hitting the coffee shop on your way to work for a flavored coffee drink can derail your healthy goals first thing in the morning. A flavored coffee drink can contain up to four teaspoons (14 grams) of sugar, which is more than half of the American Heart Association’s daily recommended maximum of twenty four grams. A sugary drink to start your day can cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash, setting you up for difficult food choices all day long.

Fix it:
You can still enjoy your morning cup of Joe, but try to eliminate the sugar or add your own sugar sparingly. If you can’t stand the taste of black coffee, try adding milk, cinnamon or nutmeg for a healthier dose of flavor.

Bad Habit:
Sabotaging your salad. Hitting the salad bar at lunch time may seem like a healthy decision, but by the time you add croutons, bacon bits, and dressing, you’ve undone your morning workout.

Fix it:
Opt for hard-boiled eggs, grilled chicken, or beans on your salad to get a protein punch without the sugar. If you can’t eat your salad without dressing, consider trying a little oil and vinegar or order your dressing on the side and use it sparingly. A little flavor goes a long way and saves hundreds of empty calories.

Bad Habit:
Skimping on sleep. Whether you skimp on sleep to binge watch your favorite television show, surf the internet, or get to household chores, a lack of sleep contributes to weight gain and unhealthy decisions the following day.

Fix it: 
Aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night by winding down an hour before bedtime. Turn off the television, read a book, or take a bath. If unfinished household chores are keeping you up at night, minimize your to do list by focusing only on the tasks that have to be done, delegate what you can, and save the rest for when you are well rested.

Bad Habit:   
Stress eating. After a difficult day, it’s easy to reach for the convenience and comfort of junk food and empty calories.

Fix it:
Eliminate the junk food from your house and stock your kitchen with fresh produce, healthy proteins, and relaxing teas. Adding meditation to your daily routine can also prevent stress eating by helping you learn to manage your stress and listen to what your body actually needs.

Do you recognize any of your own bad habits in the list? If you know your own bad habits or have great ideas for breaking those habits, share them in the comments with your fellow FitClub members!

The Power of Protein

protein-muskler-1If your diet is deficient in protein, you may be sabotaging your health and fitness goals. Protein is essential to rebuild and repair muscles you’re using when you exercise and fires up your metabolism to keep burning calories all day long. Protein will also keep you feeling fuller longer and help curb those late afternoon sweet cravings by allowing a slower release of carbs into the bloodstream.

Nearly every part of your body from your hair to your muscles needs protein to grow and thrive. If you’re not seeing the results you’re hoping for after consistent exercise or notice that you’re hungry throughout the workday, you may need to add more protein to your diet.

Don’t let the complicated science overwhelm you, read below for the recommended guidelines and healthy sources of protein that are easy to incorporate throughout your day.

How much do you need?
The math on the perfect protein combination varies from study to study. Generally, though everyone should aim to meet the guidelines set forth by the Institute of Medicine. The Institute of Medicine recommends that women consume at least 46 grams of protein each day and that men consume 56 grams each day. If you’re goal, though, is to build muscle you may need even more protein.

Where can you find it?
The good news is that while you probably need more protein than you’re already eating, it’s easy to find in meals and snacks. Protein is most useful to your body following a workout so it can be used by the body to build and repair the muscles worked, so be sure your post-workout snack includes protein.

For meals:
Chicken breast and turkey breast are the two most common protein-packed meals, but to think outside the box and provide other nutrients your body needs, consider adding eggs, 2% milk, salmon, tilapia, navy beans, green beans, quinoa, or tofu to your culinary repertoire. Mixing up your protein sources will add variety to your diet and ensure that you’re also receiving a variety of nutrients other than protein that your body needs to stay healthy and fit.

For snacks:
Cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, 2% milk, Swiss cheese, edamame, and mixed nuts all contain healthy sources of protein and are easy to transport for snacks during the work or school day. Add a protein packed snack either pre or post lunch to keep you feeling fuller longer and to stay away from the sweet snacks.

Despite it’s healthy benefits and just like every other type of food, it is possible to overdo it on protein. Be cognizant of serving sizes and calories to avoid unwanted weight gain and spread your protein sources throughout your day to receive the maximum benefit from your healthy protein sources.

Is Stress Sabotaging Your Goals?

Stress is unavoidable and sneaks into every part of our day. From busy days at work to busy evenings at home, you may not even realize that stress is sabotaging your fitness and healthy living goals.dont-let-stress-sabotage-your-fitness-goals

Stress impacts everyone differently, but for many, it’s a slippery slope that begins with a worry, continues into mindlessly eating comfort food, and costs valuable sleep at the end of the day. Whatever healthy goals you had for the day fall victim to stress hormones released into the body to prepare for the threat.

While no one can eliminate stress from their lives, there are healthy ways you can work to combat that stress and set yourself up for success.

How Stress Impacts the Body   

Stress causes the body to release chemicals to prepare your body to handle the perceived threat. The “stress hormone,” cortisol, stays in the body longer than others and causes the body to store food energy as fat, particularly around the belly. It’s common to reach for the unhealthy junk food when you’re feeling stressed, but the addition of cortisol means that those extra calories will be stored by the body as fat.

As your mind spins with anxiety looking for a solution to the problem causing the stress, your motivation and willpower to eat healthy and mindfully fades. The mind wants “comfort foods” and associates comfort with the cookies or junk food that comforted us when we were children. The stress and worry may even cost you valuable sleep that your body needs to grow and repair the muscles you’ve used throughout the day, leading to another day lacking in willpower and motivation.

How to Cope

While it may hard to imagine at the end of a particularly stressful day, exercise is a great way to combat the stress hormones and flood your system with feel good endorphins and relaxation. Focusing on a hard workout for an hour may also help in getting your mind off the problem temporarily and allow you to come up with creative solutions and new thought patterns.

If your regular exercise routine no longer engages your mind, it might be time to try something out of your comfort zone to ensure that you’re mentally checked in during your workout. Check out a new FitClub class, try weight lifting, or run short intervals on the treadmill to ensure that both your body and mind are working out the stress hormones during your workout.

Meditation is also an effective and healthy way to not only combat stress, but also to prevent it from occurring as often or as intensely as it otherwise might. If meditation sounds foreign to you, consider joining your fellow FitClub members for a meditation class. Meditation is easier than it sounds and is known to reduce stress, promote overall wellness and help you stay mindful and focused on your healthy living goals. Check the FitClub schedules to find the meditation times and locations and start reaping the benefits of this mental workout.

What healthy tips and tricks do you use to combat stress and keep it from sabotaging your goals?

The Magic Fitness Formula and Finding the Right Fit For You

It can be difficult to read through the conflicting headlines and stats about how much exercise is really required to hit your health goals. FitClub put together a cheat sheet to make it easier to find your fitness formula.

  • Get specific about your goals. Are you trying to lose weight, improve your cs-asthma-exercise-101-722x406cardiovascular health, quit smoking, or eliminate stress? Believe it or not, the guidelines for how much exercise you need vary depending on what your goal might be. According to the American Journal of Sports Medicine, short walks can start to reduce the fat and triglycerides that damage heart health. If you’re trying to quit smoking, the Journal of Psychopharmacology finds that short bursts of intense exercise are best for eliminating a craving, while longer, sustained movement is necessary for weight loss.
  • Meet at least the minimum. If you’re trying to build a consistent fitness routine but are short on time, make a goal of achieving at least the minimum exercise required to improve your health. The public health guidelines estimate that adults need a minimum of 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise each week, which breaks down to approximately twenty minutes each day. Don’t expect to see huge weight loss progress with the bare minimum, though. Use the twenty minute rule as a starting point expand on that base as often as possible.
  • Strive for balance all day. The time you spend exercising is only one part of the right fitness formula. Incorporating a healthy diet, plenty of water, and at least eight hours of sleep ensures that you’re getting the most out of the time you spend exercising.
  • Make it a habit. Striving for the daily minimum of exercise every day not only jumpstarts your fitness, but it also starts building a habit. Getting started may be difficult, but after a few weeks of committing to at least twenty minutes of exercise each day, it will become a habit just like eating breakfast or taking a shower. The more consistent you are, the easier it will be to find that time in your day.
  • Seek support. Once you narrow down your goals and start hitting a minimum baseline each day, ask an expert to help you adjust your fitness formula for even more success. Work with a personal trainer at FitClub to meet your specific goals and push yourself to exceed your own expectations. If your goals are health related, work with your medical professionals to determine the amount and type of exercise needed for improving your health stats.
  • Listen to your body. The amount of information available can be overwhelming. Once you get started with a comfortable fitness routine of your own, your body will tell you when it is capable of more or when it’s had too much. Be aware of the physical sensations that develop from exercise. Do you feel energized or fatigued? Sore or well rested? Your body is probably already telling you what it wants and needs to get and stay healthy. Take advantage of your intuition.

How do you make sure you’re getting the exercise your body needs for health and fitness?

Meal Prep Hacks to Eat Healthy All Week

How do you spend your Sundays? If your Sundays include a little down time, turn that down time into a healthy start by prepping healthy meals and snacks to last you all week.

Why prep your meals?
It’s easy to lose sight of your healthy eating goals when your work week starts to get hectic and you’re running short on time. Instead of waiting until you’re hungry to decide what to eat, you can make healthy decisions while you are relaxed and thinking clearly. Preparing your meals in advance takes the decision-making out of a stressful week night and allows you to spend more time enjoying the fruits of your labor.

How to prep to eat all week.
Meal prepping in advance is easy if you have a plan. Spending a few minutes planning what you’ll want for meals and snacks before your weekly trip to the grocery store eliminates the guesswork, ensures you stay on track and on budget, and eliminates inconvenient midweek trips to pick up forgotten items. When you know in advance what you plan to make for the week, just find some spare time on a Sunday and bake, mix, and freeze anything you can to make dinner easier and far less time consuming.

Try it this week.
A few meals you can prepare in advance include:

  • chicken2bsalad2bhoney2bwere2bhealthy-108 Imagine starting a weekday morning with a healthy, fiber dense breakfast that’s ready to eat when you wake up. A few minutes of meal prep the night before ensures that you have a healthy breakfast waiting in the refrigerator.
  • Salads are the perfect meal prep lunch or dinner because they are easy to prepare, full of valuable nutrients and filling veggies and easy to transport for a weekday lunch. Keep your salad dressing separate to avoid lettuce and veggies getting soggy before you are ready to eat. Or better yet, skip the dressing altogether and add fruits or olive oil for flavor without the artificial sugars and preservatives.
  • Baked chicken. Chicken can be baked and then easily portioned into ready to go containers to either be reheated and served with a vegetable or thrown on top of a salad you’ve already prepped, making your meal prep twice as efficient.
  • Fruits and veggies. Wash and cut fruits and veggies on Sunday nights so you have healthy, ready snacks on hand when hunger strikes. Just knowing you don’t have to wash and cut your veggies or fruits when you’re already hungry eliminates the convenience of reaching for a junk food.
  • Prep your grains. Quinoa and couscous are both easy to prepare ahead of time and store in the fridge until you’re ready to eat. Making a pot of either healthy grains on Sunday night ensures that you have a ready to go option in the fridge to add to your baked chicken, a healthy omelet, or throw into a salad.

Meal prepping may make your healthy eating goals easier and will definitely help you avoid the fast food drive through on those nights that you’re too tired to cook. Share your meal prep hacks and tips in the comment section below!

What You Track Matters

Do you have a system for tracking your food and workouts? If you haven’t already started, tracking your goals would make a great addition to your healthy New Year’s Resolutions. Whether you’re into the tech-savvy apps or better with a pen and paper, it’s easy to find a system that works for you and to begin reaping the benefits of tracking.tracking

Why tracking helps you reach your goals:

  1. Increased accountability. It may seem like you’re making healthy decisions and working out as often as possible, but if you’re not keeping track of what you’re eating and how many calories you’re burning, you may be cheating yourself without realizing it. Keeping a food log and a workout log allows you to see what works for you and what doesn’t, and gives you a more honest approach to fitness and weight loss. It’s much easier to remember to make healthy decisions all day when you stay honest and put it in black and white.
  2. Determining patterns. Are you more likely to enjoy your workout in the morning or in the evening? Keeping a workout log that includes the time of day that you worked out and how you felt during and after your workout, may help you realize what better works for you. It might be easier to set the alarm for an hour earlier when you know you have a pattern of feeling better all day after a morning workout.
  3. Measuring progress. The scale is only one way to measure health and fitness progress. Keep track of how many reps you are able to complete, how long you ran on the treadmill, or how you felt after yoga class and look back after one month to get a real sense of what progress you’re making. If you continue making sustained progress on strength and endurance, the scale will catch up.

How to do track for health:

  1. Find an app or a small notebook and get started. Your tracking system doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, just something that works for you and is easy to stick with. Be sure your system of choice is something you can have handy all day so you don’t forget about the snack you snuck at work in the afternoon.
  2. Experiment with details. Don’t just note that you worked out, note the details, too. Keep a log of exactly what you did at FitClub, including the number of reps, the amount of weight you used and how you felt during and at the end of your workout. Did you have any pain or soreness during or after your workout? Did you feel more energized throughout the day? Did you sleep better? These details will be important when you look back next month to reflect on healthy patterns that work for you.
  3. Stay consistent. Healthy living requires consistency, and so does tracking. After a month, you’ll want to look back on your notes and see your achievements and progress. Stay honest and consistent and let the progress motivate you to keep going.

Do you track your workouts or food? What works for you?