Lifestyle Wellness May Be the Key to Cardiac Health

When you think about cardiovascular health, do you imagine a surgical suite or a doctor’s office? If so, you may be excited to learn about Praire Heart Institute’s Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program is now available at FitClub South.  In February 2018, leaders from FitClub and Prairie threw themselves into the lifestyle by participating in training in California.  The program is Medicare approved for those suffering from cardiovascular disease and in need of cardiovascular rehabilitation.  This nine week program can take up to twelve participants and meets twice each week in lieu of what we might think of as traditional, medicine-based cardiovascular rehabilitation. dean-ornish-heart-health-lifespan-900x600

FitClub’s Andrea Bryne, R.N., shared her insight into the program. Whether you’re suffering from cardiovascular disease or you’re seeking a healthier lifestyle to prevent disease, the principles of Ornish Lifestyle Medicine is the best place to start.

The program is designed for those suffering from existing cardiovascular disease, but the fundamentals of the program can be easily adapted for anyone seeking better heart health.  Unlike traditional cardiovascular rehab, which has a very low post-treatment compliance rate, ninety percent of Ornish program participants continue to follow the lifestyle after formal program management ends.  The total mind-body wellness approach to recovering from cardiovascular disease has been scientifially shown to reverse the damage done prior to entry in the program.

It’s not easy, though.  Program participants must quit smoking prior to being allowed into the program. They must commit to a lifelong exercise and diet program that includes formal stress management, small group support, and tracking their attempts at maintaining the lifestyle.  The team of experts from Prarie and FitClub review the members’ tracked components and offer insight and feedback to ensure that everyone is meeting their goals and adhering to the total lifestyle approach to a longer, healthier life.

The Diet
The Ornish diet is a plant-based, no meat diet that also includes 10% healthy fat. In lieu of giving up favorite comfort foods, group members are encouraged to experiment with new foods to develop recipes, share favorite foods at members’ potlucks, and use creativity to recreate favorite dishes with plant-based ingredients.

The group is taught about tracking and considering macro-nutrients for the greatest benefit, but the program does not require counting calories.  Auggie’s Front Burner in downtown Springfield has even held Meatless Mondays to celebrate healthier lifestyles and create dining out options to those living a healthier, cardiac focused lifestyle.

The Exercise
Ornish group members are required to commit to a lifelong exercise habit and quickly begin to enjoy the process when their hearts begin to repair.  Many report feeling better right away.  The program can meet the participants where they are in their current level of fitness and provide avenues and support in improving and maintaining cardiovascular fitness.

The Stress Management
Andrea calls the stress management component the “egg in the cake” because it’s the egg that really brings the entire experience together.  The heart is an emotional organ that responds to all of the stress that we take in throughout our lives.  The program requires participants to take at least one hour each day to participate in stress reduction therapies, including meditation, postures, or imagery.  For example, the participants are taught to visualize healthy blood flowing through their healthy, healing heart.

The Results
Participants in the Ornish program show almost immediate improvements in health.  The group support allows for them to work through the challenges in shifting their lifestyles, discovering and sharing new favorite recipes, and holding one another accountable to a healthy lifestyle.

If you or your loved ones are in need of cardiovascular rehab, check out Prarie’s Ornish Program at FitClub South!


Should Every Workout Cause Soreness?

It might be time to retire the old cliché, “no pain, no gain.”  If you find yourself disappointed when an otherwise great workout doesn’t leave you hobbling and feeling sore the next day, you might be doing more harm than good to your body.  While occasional soreness can be an indication that our workouts are effective and challenging, not every workout should hurt the next day.back20pain20man_thinkstockphotos-511484476_square

  • Maintaining fitness is as important as improving or increasing fitness. Stick to a normal routine to maintain fitness and add new workouts, weight, reps or speed a couple times each week to continue to build on your baseline.  As your fitness level improves and your strength increases, it’s important to incorporate one or two days each week focused on maintaining your current fitness level. As your fitness improves gradually, listening to your body will tell you when it’s time to increase distance, pace or reps.
  • Sore muscles heal during periods of recovery. While some recovery time is necessary in any fitness routine and healthy lifestyle, you don’t improve your fitness by spending more time in recovery than exercising.  Slowly introducing your muscles to new types of workouts, or slowly and methodically adding time or reps to your workout ensures that your muscles grow stronger with minimal discomfort instead of debilitating soreness.
  • Slow, consistent improvements are easier to maintain. You workout to feel good, right?  In order to build a lifestyle of healthy habits, you have to let yourself actually enjoy the process.  If every workout leaves you feeling lethargic, sore, and unable to move without significant pain, it’s going to be much harder to motivate yourself to build a consistent, lifelong exercise habit.  Instead of trying to reach all of your fitness goals too quickly, set realistic goals for yourself and look for small signs of progress regularly. Don’t let sore muscles sideline your motivation and lead to injury. Instead, when your workouts begin to feel easy, try to stick to increasing your workout load by no more than ten percent. Try adding ten percent more time, distance, or weight to your current fitness baseline and let then let your body gradually adapt.
  • Consider your muscles when you’re planning your meals. The healthiest lifestyles consist of a balance between healthy meals and healthy workouts.  Certain foods promote healthy, strong muscles and will help your muscles adequately repair from a hard workout.  Vigorous exercise creates tiny tears in your muscles and as those tears heal, the muscles grow back stronger and leaner than before.  To help facilitate that healthy growth, make sure your diet includes enough protein.  The Harvard School of Public Healthrecommends a minimum of 46 grams of protein for women and 56 grams of protein for men.  If you’re lifting weight or performing vigorous cardiovascular exercise, you may need even more.  Adding hard boiled eggs, lean chicken, or beans to a post-workout salad can help you achieve your weight loss goals, reduce muscle soreness, and help you build leaner, stronger muscles.

What are your thoughts on soreness?  Necessary or inconvenient?

Three Reasons You Should End a Bad Day With a Trip to FitClub

Bad days happen to everyone.  Whether it was work, a difficult family conversation, or an unexpected bout of bad news, resisting the temptation to hit a drive through and crash on the couch might be the key to overcoming your bad day. FitClub has three reasons you should exercise before you end that bad day with unhealthy decisions.14394812369184

  • Don’t take it home. A bad day only becomes worse when you take it home and into your relationships. Research suggests that this is more than just common sense, but actual science.  Researchers at the University of Central Floridastudied college students working full-time and taking full course loads.  Their research found that the students that were more active for sixty minutes each day during stressful periods reported significantly less frustration among the people they shared their homes with.  Making time for yourself at FitClub before you take your bad day home with you doesn’t just benefit you, but also your loved ones!
  • Endorphins are good for you. According to Mayo Clinic, endorphins are a naturally occurring chemical in our brains that “enhance the sense of well-being.” Whether you have a predisposition towards anxiety and depression, or just need an endorphin boost to alleviate the physical and mental distress of a bad day, endorphins are the healthiest and most readily available chemical to course correct your mood.  Take your frustration out on the treadmills or weights and bounce back faster, stronger, and healthier.
  • Your self esteem can suffer when you have a bad day. Imagine having a difficult conversation with your boss, and then hitting the drive through on your way home and eating too many calories, grease, and unhealthy trans fats.  How do you really feel about yourself when it’s time to go to bed? Not only do you feel mentally drained and down on yourself for your bad day at work, but now your self-esteem has dropped further because you know you made an unhealthy decision for your body, too. Exercise not only promotes a healthier body and improved fitness, but it shapes the way we think about ourselves. Do you have higher self-esteem when you crush a hard workout or when you tank out on the couch, full of grease for a television binge?  Course correct your self-esteem before you hit your bed after a bad day and wake up feeling strong, confident, and capable.

The key to taking advantage of FitClub after a long day at work or during a difficult period in your personal life is to always be prepared for your workout.  Prioritizing time for your health and fitness can be difficult during times of high stress, but if you prepare by taking your workout clothes to work with you, making time for a group exercise class during your workday, or scheduling time to work out with a friend instead of happy hour after work, you might find that your bad days seem less significant than they did before!

How do you set yourself up to prioritize your workout during stressful periods?

Feeling Stressed? It Might Be Your Diet!

Stress is unavoidable, but would you be surprised to find out that you may be able to reduce or increase your stress, simply by what you eat every day?  For most of us, the idea that we can reduce our own stress by simply eating certain foods or avoiding other foods would seem too good to be true.  Research suggests that it’s not only possible that the food we eat impacts our mood and stress level, but highly likely.diverse2bgroup2beating2bsalad2bat2bwork

You don’t have to go on a radical detox or shop only in obscure grocery stories to start eating a stress-free diet.  In fact, you probably already have most of the best foods to combat stress!

Protein isn’t only good for building strong muscles and providing stable energy throughout your day.  It’s also a key component in releasing dopamine and norepineprhine in your blood stream, two bio-chemicals that are known to improve your mood and energy.  Protein is relatively easy to grab for a quick snack or add to your usual meals. Try adding hard-boiled eggs to a salad or adding seafood instead of red meat to your dinner.

Stress-fighting vitamins
Adding folate to your diet is known to naturally reduce symptoms of depression. According to Mayo Clinic, it’s possible to get enough folate through food if your diet is balanced and contains broccoli, lentils, oatmeal, and dark leafy greens.

Foods to skip
Sugar causes a brief blood sugar spike, followed by a crash.  Your mood does the same, spiking with the rush of sugar, and then almost immediately plummeting when the sugar crash occurs.  Think of your day as an airplane trip.  Every passenger wants a smooth trip with little to no turbulence.  You certainly don’t hope for the plane’s altitude to rise and fall dramatically and frequently.  Your goal for your blood sugar and mood should be the same. Cutting back on sugars, processed foods, and refined carbohydrates will ensure better mood stabilization throughout your day.

Alcohol, too, can increase stress and reduce your mood. It’s cliché to suggest that having a drink after a long day is the best way to relax and unwind, but the science suggests otherwise.  Alcohol is a depressant that can make a bad mood worse.  It’s also full of sugar, and best avoided during stressful periods. Instead, hit FitClub for a far more natural, healthy endorphin rush.

Eat often enough
Published research conducted by the University of Illinois Extension proves that eating meals and snacks regularly throughout the day helps maintain consistent blood sugar, which stabilizes your mood. The Mayo Clinic agrees, adding that eating too infrequently or missing meals makes your blood sugar drop and sets you up for overeating at your next meal. To set yourself up for success, experiment with healthy snacks and meals on a consistent schedule to see what works best for your body and mood.  If you’re eating more frequently than usual, be sure to be conscious of your portion sizes and keep track of your calories to ensure that you’re eating enough of the right foods throughout the day, but not consuming more calories than you are able to burn.

In a Slump? 5 Ways to Reboot Your Workout and Recharge Your Fitness

No matter how long you’ve been exercising and living a healthier lifestyle, falling into a workout slump happens to all of us.  Maybe you’re bored with your workout, or maybe you took a short break that became longer than intended.  For some of us, a few lackluster workouts in a row can be enough to send us into a workout slump.  Before you ditch your workout clothes and give up, try FitClub’s 5 ways to reboot your workout and recharge your fitness.Getting fit and having fun

  • Try something entirely different. You don’t have to stick with a workout just because it’s worked in the past. In fact, if you’re normally tied to the same cardio machine or routine, your problem might be far more mental than physical.  Your muscles can get bored too, and bored muscles may be the reason you’re not seeing weight loss or increased strength.  Instead of giving up your healthy lifestyle, throw yourself into something completely different.  Check out FitClub’s variety of group exercise classes and get out of your comfort zone with Zumba, Yoga, CycleFit, or another workout that piques your interest.
  • Look for signs of improved fitness. Fitness gains aren’t limited to what happens during your workout.  Even if you feel like your go-to workout has stopped working for you, look for other areas of your life where you have more energy or more endurance. Can you play with your kids longer without losing your breath or tiring out?  Are you sleeping better or experiencing more energy throughout your workday?  If you can see signs in other areas of your life where you do feel stronger and more confident, your workout is working.  You may just need to look for different ways to measure progress.
  • Hire a personal trainer. No matter how motivated any one of us may be, there will always come a point when we aren’t pushing ourselves hard enough.  Check in with a personal trainer at FitClub that can help you expand beyond your self-imposed limitations in a healthy, injury-free way.  Personal trainers can help you reevaluate your workout and your goals and help you look for progress that you may be missing on your own.
  • Set a new goal. Losing weight is an admirable goal and one shared by many of your FitClub friends. It can, however, be a tough goal to master on its own.  If your sole source of inspiration and progress lies in the numbers on the scale, you might need to add another goal to get you through tough workouts or hard decisions.  Your weight fluctuates even during the course of a day, making it far too easy to get down on yourself when you don’t see any change from week to week.

Why Do We Eat When We Aren’t Hungry?

It’s 9:30AM and even though you haven’t felt hungry yet, you dive into your morning snack. At noon, it’s almost as if a silent alarm rings telling you it’s time to go eat your lunch. Before you hit your bed at the end of a long day, you find yourself staring into the refrigerator looking for the perfect late night snack. If this sounds like your day, you are not alone. Many of us find ourselves eating or snacking throughout the day without experiencing hunger.Woman eating pizza and watching tv on the couch

Why does this happen? More importantly, how can we stop the cycle without losing our minds?

When you are hungry, your brain views food as a “highly anticipated reward,” and the thought of satisfying that hunger lights up the feel-good parts of your brain associated with pleasure. For many of us, the habit of eating particular snacks or at particular times of day has led our brains to search out that reward without the hunger signal being present.

Is there anything we can do to prevent eating out of habit instead of hunger? Yes, but like breaking any habit it takes effort and consistency to reestablish your eating patterns.

  • Practice consciousness. If you eat out of habit instead of hunger, your body is reacting to an unconscious pattern. To break the pattern, you need to approach eating with more consciousness. For example, if you eat a snack while watching television, how much of your meal or snack are you actually enjoying? You might be lost in your favorite show or surfing through your phone instead of taking the time to chew and enjoy your favorite food. Avoid distractions that you associate with mindless eating patterns to begin to break the habit.
  • Reevaluate how you look at your plate. If you were told as a child that you had to clean your plate or finish your dinner before you could be excused, that mentality may have followed you into adulthood. Just because you made or paid for a meal doesn’t mean you have to finish what’s on your plate. Instead of diving in and eating quickly to finish your meal, slow down while you’re eating and pause between bites. Your body is always sending you signals to tell you when it needs more food and when it’s satisfied. If you’re eating too quickly, you might not be able to hear it’s call to stop.
  • Try chopsticks. This may be quite a creative experiment to stop mindlessly eating, but if you’re having trouble breaking your habit, put down your fork and try using chopsticks. The challenge of eating in a different way will force you to be more mindful while you are eating. Chopsticks also don’t allow you to take larger than necessary bites, forcing you to eat more slowly and thoughtfully as you go. If you’re not quite ready to go to that extreme, at least cut your food into smaller bites than you would normally take. The act of eating smaller bites allows you to eat less, while feeling more satisfied sooner.

Do you have any unusual habit-breaking tips? Sometimes it helps to think outside the box when we need to break a difficult habit!

Take Back Sunday! 5 Easy Ways to Use Your Sunday to Set Up a Healthier Week

If sleeping in on Sundays until the pre-Monday anxiety starts to kick in leaves you feeling drained before your Monday morning even properly begins, it’s time to take back your Sundays. You don’t have to give up the precious self-care and rest that Sunday allows. With just a few simple shifts, you can maximize your time and start the week feeling better than ever.istock_workout2

  • Keep your social life and your workout. Grab a friend and make your weekly Sunday brunch date a FitClub workout. Chatting with a friend while on side-by-side ellipticals, stationary bikes, or treadmills can make the miles and minutes fly by while you keep your social life on track. You might find that sharing a workout with a friend also pushes you out of your comfort zone. If your friend is into a workout that you haven’t tried, use the opportunity to check out a new class. Maybe yoga or strength-training is your undiscovered passion!
  • Do chores and errands more mindfully. Sometimes dreaded chores like laundry and grocery shopping absolutely have to be done on Sundays. If that’s a regular problem for you, try asking yourself why this activity is important and how it’s going to help you achieve your goals for the week. Knowing your purpose can help you stay focused and mindful and feel like you’re making progress on your goals, even while you run errands. How does a trip to the grocery store advance your goals? Filling up your cart and fridge with healthy produce and lean protein is one step towards a healthier lifestyle. Even laundry has a purpose. You can’t get your Monday morning workouts done if your favorite workout clothes aren’t clean, dry, and waiting for you.
  • Review last week and determine what went right and what could have gone better. Don’t beat yourself up when you look back on last week. Instead, applaud yourself for what went well and make a plan to improve areas that suffered. Did you skip a few workouts or fall back on fast food? You can’t undo those mistakes, but you can learn from each set back. Was it because you didn’t have healthy food on hand or had trouble sleeping before your morning workout? Sunday is really the New Year’s Eve of each week. There’s no better time than Sunday to make a plan for starting fresh.
  • Meditate to start the week with a clear mind. Once you’ve taken time to reflect and prepare, spend a few minutes meditating to ensure that your Monday starts with a clear, refreshed mind. If you’re new to meditating or curious about the process, FitClub has a meditation class that can get you started.
  • Plan your sleep before bedtime. It might feel good to curl up in bed mid-Sunday afternoon and take a well-earned nap, but it might seriously derail your pre-work week sleep. Instead, make a plan for how you are going to prep your body and mind for bed (time in the FitClub hot tub or sauna, a warm bath, a meditation) and stick to it. Instead of a nap, spend time outdoors to refresh or enjoy a cup of tea with a favorite book.

What’s your favorite way to spend Sunday at FitClub?