Which Tools are Right for You?

There are piles of different tools/toys that we can use for fitness.  Why?  Is it just for variety?  No!  Each toy provides different training advantages.  Let's take a look.  Maybe it's time to try something new!

TRX (aka: Total Resistance Exercises)     
1)   Given that you can boundlessly adjust your body position to add or decrease resistance, this workout is safe and effective for people of all fitness levels.
2)   CORE!  The TRX, when performed properly, forces core engagement through every exercise.
3)   It’s portable!  Going on a trip?  TRX straps package up into a small transportable bag and can be clipped just about anywhere (trees, posts, etc).  Hit every muscle group with this single tool!

In contrast to dumbbells, kettlebells further develop grip strength due to the larger handle (called the horn of the kettlebell).  And yes, it’s kettlebell, not kettleBALL. Kettlebells take the center of gravity 6-8 inches away from your hand creating more instability, forcing you to further stabilize. Kettlebells also add important feedback to exercises like the Turkish Get Up.  Because the weight sits on the back of the arm and changes the balance point of the lift, you get constant feedback about where your arm is.  Kettlebell’s have definitely earned their position as a “standard” piece of equipment.

Unlike kettlebells, dumbbells have their weight equally distributed on each side which make them more stable.  This can make them a go-to for traditional exercises like bicep curls, triceps extensions, and chest presses.  In daily life muscles constantly turn on and off as we twist, bend, and reach in 3 dimensions — free-weight exercises allow us to strengthen our body in a way that respects those natural movements vs traditional “machines” that direct our range of motion.

Resistance tubes/bands
Resistance bands stimulate the muscles in a manner that is near impossible to do with the use of free weights by allowing you to perform much more controlled movements, keep constant tension on the muscles, and really emphasize on the concentric and eccentric portions of the movement—increasing your “time under tension”.   All of this results in better range of motion, muscle adaptation, increased flexibility, and more complete muscle stimulation. And best yet, bands are another super easy to travel with for those times you just can’t make it into the gym! 

Battle Ropes 
Ropes are more than just a great upper body workout.  Ropes combine muscular endurance with cardio conditioning  -  they develop explosive power, joint strength, and core strength/stability. Ropes are unique because as your wave size changes with size and speed, they increase the force through the rope requiring a stronger grip.  The next time there are rope “waves” in a workout, consider taking the intensity up a notch by adding plyo lunges, walking in and out from the anchor point, or change up your speed and size of waves!  No access to ropes?  Grab a lighter set of dumbbells, set up in an athletic stance and mimic the rope waves.

Slam Balls 
Whether a "soft toss" or "jam" ball, slam balls are especially useful for developing your ability to generate a lot of force/power quickly.  Slams are a total-body movement with a lot of emphasis on bracing the core.  Try out a different weight the next time you use the slam balls.  If it’s a lighter one, try adding more reps!  Grabbed “the heavy one”?  Stabilize and power up and give it everything you’ve got!  There are benefits to both options!

Sore Muscles?

It's happened to all of us!  Sometimes even with the best prevention, soreness happens.

Why Do We Get Sore?
For some time muscle soreness has been mistakenly attributed to a buildup of lactic acid in muscles during exercise. Although this is likely to coincide with muscle fatigue during the workout, it's been debunked as the reason for muscle soreness. The consensus among researchers is that it is due to the repair process that occurs after muscle fibers are torn during a workout.

The Role of Eating
There are many ways to combat muscle soreness, but perhaps the most important one is by making sure to fuel your workout and recovery properly! Eating a well-balanced meal roughly 2 hours before a workout ensures that you have the proper fuel to not only get the most out of your workout, but to provide your body with the nutrients it requires to recover effectively! Side note: BCAA supplements can be helpful in reducing muscle soreness by ensuring there is a steady supply of amino acids in your bloodstream during and after a workout to allow quicker recovery.

Foam Rolling
Use that foam roller before and after a workout - and other times of the day as well! If you have one at home, make use of it! Foam rolling helps to physically release the muscles and acts like a massage, giving you relief from pain and reducing muscle tightness.

Active stretching and/or sustained muscle lengthening can feel great when suffering from muscle soreness! Try some light yoga or stretching on your own - remember to stretch to mild discomfort: not to numbness or pain!

Massage Tools
The market has figured out that we need a little extra help in recovery!  Search massage gun online and you'll find a lot of options.  If you can't get to a massage therapist, this could be the next best thing!  Our favorite?  Check out the options at LifePro:  https://lifeprofitness.com/?ref=_XLCGaBU2Qj6

Epsom Salt Bath
Add 1-2 cups of Epsom Salt (Magnesium Sulfate) to your bath to reduce muscle soreness AND stress! It's also great for skin and joint health. Find time to relax after busting your butt in the gym.

Natural Homemade Icy Hot Muscle Rub
- 1/2 cup coconut oil - or 1/4 coconut and 1/4 shea butter
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 10 Drops Eucalyptus Oil
- 10 Drops Arnica Oil
  'Melt' coconut oil in a double broiler on low - medium heat. Stir in Cayenne Pepper. Remove from heat and stir in Eucalyptus Oil and Arnica Oil. Store in a cool place.


9/18/20: Stay Active During The Pandemic!

Guest Blog Written by Anya Willis of FitKids.info
Family-Friendly Ways to Stay Active Right Now
One of the keys to maintaining health and happiness at any time is physical fitness. However, during these challenging times, it’s difficult to ensure your family maintains an active lifestyle. Complicating it more, some places are closed and you’re trying to follow safety protocols. If you’re struggling with finding ways for you and yours to keep fit, these resources can help. 
Do Things Together
Spending time with your significant other and your children is a wonderful way to not only get some exercise but also make memories. Find both organized and playful activities the whole family can enjoy together, building your physical, mental, and emotional wellness. 
●     Get outside and play together 
●     Go for a walk in your neighborhood
●     Stream some family-friendly workout videos
●     Find inspirational ways to interest your kids in sports
Create an Appropriate Space
Armed with some great ideas, consider where you and your family can participate in your fitness journey. Carve out space at home that will be comfortable and enjoyable for everyone. 
●     Install a backyard court for tennis, golf, basketball, or other sports. 
●     Add a fitness area to your home’s interior.  
●     Outfit your exercise areas with appropriate gear 
●     Don’t forget to include kid-sized equipment 
●     Employ age-appropriate safety strategies 
●     Explore the mind-body connection through yoga
●     Sign up for Ellipse Fitness Training Center’s on-demand online workouts
Spend Time in Nature
As restrictions lift in many states, among the areas families can safely start visiting are outdoor parks and trails. This is ideal for not only getting some exercise and enjoying each other but also connecting with nature. You can reduce stress levels and savor the fresh air.  
●     Spend time on trails 
●     Include yogain hiking and camping
●     Climb a tree together
●     Mountain biking can be exciting for all ages
Physical activity is an important part of any wellness program. Find things you can do together, whether in your own house, backyard, or neighborhood, and engage with nature for the added health boost. It’s more important than ever to stay mentally and physically fit, and while it might be challenging right now, you and your family are worth it! 

9/11/20: Pantry Makeover!

This week we have tips on how to clean up your pantry foods that you may not have thought twice about.  Get started by taking inventory of what is in your cupboard.  If it will not bring you closer to your goals, donate it!  If it’s an item you use often, take a look at the nutrition label.  Was it what you expected to see?  Get to know your food!

Swap out your standard noodles for soba noodles, made from buckwheat.  With 3 grams of fiber per 2 ounces they are more filling and also a better source of plant protein than traditional noodles. Buckwheat is also loaded with magnesium; choline (brain health); and antioxidants!

Have you ever looked at the ingredient list and SUGAR content of your BBQ sauce?  Many have SUGAR listed as the very first ingredient.  If you are looking for clean ingredients and lower sugar options, try Annie’s organic original BBQ sauce (sugar is the 4th ingredient and comes from molasses) or Stubb’s original with just 4g of sugar per serving.  Both can be found at your local Target store!

Annie’s has 6g carbs and 4g sugar in 2 TBSP….INGREDIENTS: Water, *Apple Cider Vinegar, *Tomato Paste, *Molasses, *Cane Sugar, *Stone Ground Mustard (*Apple Cider Vinegar, Water, *Mustard Seed, Sea Salt, *Clove), *Expeller Pressed Vegetable Oil (*Canola, *Soy, And/Or *Sunflower), *Cornstarch, Sea Salt, *Tamari Soy Sauce (Water, *Soybeans, Salt, *Alcohol), *Celery Seed, *Garlic, *Chili Pepper, *Allspice, Xanthan Gum, *Black Pepper, *Clove.
*Organic Ingredients.

During processing, white rice is stripped of up to 90 percent of its B vitamins, 60 percent of its iron, and most of its fiber and essential fatty acids. In addition to brown rice, try bulgur, wheat berries, and farro. Cooks up just like rice (even in your rice cooker)!

Trade in your traditional whole wheat bread for sprouted grain wheat bread.  Although the overall nutrient content between the two types of bread are the same, sprouted grain bread often contains more protein and fewer carbs because carbs are lost during the germination process.  This loss occurs due to enzymes being released which also gives the bread a lower glycemic index and makes it more easily digested.  Try the Food For Life Ezekial brand.  They also make wraps, buns, etc!

We hope, at a minimum, you’ve started taking a little closer look at your ingredient lists and are learning more about your food. Next up, Instead of regular apple cider vinegar try organic; like Bragg RAW organic apple cider vinegar.  Raw organic apple cider vinegar has a cloudy appearance and is referred to as the “mother of vinegar” where all the vitamins, minerals, and enzymes come from.  Pasteurization of the vinegar is believed to destroy the health benefits.  Give it a try!

9/4/20: Sugar!

Humans have a biological pull toward sugar.  In the natural world, sweet things are typically calorie dense (and therefore favorable to providing energy) and less likely to be poisonous.  Unfortunately, in today’s modern world, ADDED sugar lurks (not naturally occurring) in virtually every square foot of the supermarket. In 2012, Americans consumed an average of 765 grams (1.65 pounds) of sugar every 5 days, or 130 pounds each year.  Be leary of foods that claim “low fat”.  More often than not, additional sugar has been added to the product to make up for the taste of the reduced fat.

If you’ve seen the recent NetFlix documentary “Fed Up”, they ask why is there a difference between 160 calories in almonds compared to 160 calories in soda?  It’s just calories in, calories out right?  NO!  It takes your body longer to process the almonds. Since soda has no fiber, it goes through your system so quickly that it increases blood sugar in the liver, which gets turned into FAT IMMEDIATELY.  If you don’t want to watch your labels, stick with “clean, whole” foods; those that are directly grown from the ground, walk, swim, or fly.   

Sugar is an addictive ingredient.  When you eat sugar, your blood sugar rises. When your liver is pushed to the max, your pancreas creates insulin. Insulin turns sugar into fat for storage. High levels of insulin keep your brain from getting the signal that youʼre full. So, your brain thinks you are starving, and you start to feel really tired.  Remember, we are talking about added sugar.  Sugar from fruit comes with a natural insulin buffer called FIBER!  

43 cocaine-addicted laboratory rats were given the choice of cocaine or sugar water over a 15-day period: 93 percent, or 40 out of 43, chose sugar.  In 2004 the World Health Organization released a document acknowledging that less than 10% of your daily calories should come from sugar.  Many believe ZERO PERCENT added sugar is necessary.  Our bodies produce enough glucose from starch and carbohydrates received elsewhere.

The health dangers from excess sugar are fairly well known.  Heart disease, chronic pain, obesity, and the list goes on; but the addictiveness is under-addressed.  Maybe it’s because those of us that have had sugar in the last three days don’t want to believe we are addicted.  Look closer:  Try writing down your foods for one day and look back at labels to see how much added sugar you had each day.

What about artificial sweeteners you ask?  Our friends at Precision Nutrition say “the research doesn’t convince us that there’s any need for fear or paranoia. Nor does the research convince us that stevia, or any artificial sweetener is friendly, helpful, or necessary.  If you have a sweet tooth, use dates or evaporated cane sugar and use/consume infrequently. That way, you get something sweet, get some quality nutrition and don’t have to second guess your use of “alternative” sweeteners.”

8/28/20: Guest Blog - Immunity!

This guest blog is written by Dr. Lina Velikova of Supplements 101, find more on the immune system from her at:

6 Science-Based Immune System Tips for Exercise Lovers

Working out makes you feel refreshed and invigorated. After you’ve successfully burned some calories, you feel lighter, faster, and generally more healthy. It turns out that some things that we do during and after a workout can actually be unhealthy and crash the immune cell count.
The biological complexity of the immune system is something to be admired. It is a vast network of organs and bodily fluids that acts in beautiful synchronicity, breaching all tissue boundaries to detect and eliminate threats.
Medical scientists have determined its most delicate mechanisms. Yet, the immune system has been intensively studied, enriching our lives with useful tips with each new discovery.
It turns out that there are some little things that we can do around workouts to help our immune system do its diligence and provide inherent protection.

1. Train Your Immune System
According to the latest immune system facts, humans have between 4,500–11,000 white blood cells in each microliter of blood, with every single one of them programmed to do its healing work. 
The same way the immune system cells are tuned to recognize and fight off the potential infection, they can be encouraged to produce more.
One way to train the immune system is to embrace cardio workouts, which increase the blood flow to the peripheral tissues, thus aiding the elimination of old and the influx of new metabolites, which feed and support the growth of new immune cells.
Stress is the immune inhibitor, and by providing the body with enough oxygen for a prolonged period of time, we relieve stress and tune-up our immune cells.

2. Go Mild on Your Post-Workout Washes
There’s nothing more refreshing than a nice shower after a sweaty workout. However, aggressive chemicals—when used consistently—can lower the immune response of your skin, and lead to autoimmune diseases.
It’s always good to keep clean, but making smart choices about which cosmetics we use can certainly impact our immunity.

3. Do Regular Stretches to Keep Your Immune System Young
Immune system ages as we do. Over the years, immune cells tend to lower in the count or even disintegrate due to lower body functions.
Evidence has shown that regular mild intensity muscle workouts, with a fair amount of stretching, increase your blood flow through the muscles, thus increasing their oxidative potential. Regular stretches relax our body, give it more stamina, relieve tension, and increase the immune cell’s longevity.

4. Mind the Vitamin D Intake
Vitamin D is a hormone that modulates immune functions, and its deficiency is associated with energy loss, susceptibility to infections, and poor bone health.
It’s imperative that those who love regular workouts replenish the deposit of this essential nutrient.
Plate or capsule, the choice is yours. Just try to keep up with vitamin D in the long run.

5. Take Proteins to Boost the Natural Immunity
A diverse source of protein in your diet is essential for the production of antibodies, which are the key immune system’s “warriors” against infections.
Protein-restrictive diets are not recommended for those that like to train. Whether it’s a piece of lean meat, protein powder, or a vegetable-based protein supplement, our body needs the nutrients for more than just bulking up. 
Diverse sources of protein are, therefore, strongly recommended for those that exercise regularly, as they are needed for basic immune functions.

6. Never Over-Exercise
Sure, professional athletes can indulge themselves in long and intensive training. But the fact is they have been training for most of their lives and have adapted their immune systems to follow their exercise rhythm. The elderly should be cautious, though.
Intensive workouts can exhaust the metabolic potencies of the body, which in turn increases stress and decreases the body’s immune potential. Regular sleep, nutritious food, and post-workout rest can keep injuries and long-lasting infections at bay.
So try not to beat yourself up too much, or you just might end up fighting against your immune system.

The immune system is our fountain of rejuvenation and long-standing guardian of health. However, in some cases, it can become our worst enemy.
Although it’s here to protect, we must give it the proper incentive not to overreact. Every workout enthusiast should know not to overlook those small pre- and post-workout rituals that might seem unimportant but can fortify our health and produce better training results.

Dr. Lina Velikova, MD

Lina’s journey into the world of medicine started in 2004. After her graduation, she became motivated to become an immunologist. She has extensive experience as a scientist and author of scientific papers. Her areas of expertise include autoimmune diseases, allergology, internal medicine, transplantation medicine, immunotherapy, and pediatric immunology. Later, Lina was inspired to become a medical writer for our site. Here, she finds a great place to unfold her potential in writing about socially significant conditions.

8/21/20: Mobility!

This week is all about mobility. Let's start out with the foundation of most movement patterns and an area that is often overlooked, our feet.

The deep intrinsic muscles within our feet act to produce fine movements of the toes, support the arches of the feet, and relate to tendons into the lower leg. It's the intrinsic muscles that create a solid base while squatting, hinging, lunging, hopping, and many more movements. Next time you do these movements in class think about your "foot tripod," which is your heel, the first metatarsal in your foot , and the  last metatarsal in your foot (think of the balls of your feet) and keep contact with the floor with those three points. Not only will you create a solid foundation for your movement, but you will also fire those deep intrinsic muscles that weaken over time as we constantly wear shoes.
Yesterday we talked about our feet so let's work our way up to the ankle. The ankle joint, next to the wrist, is a joint that is often ignored.  Ankles help shift and stabilize weight as we move and must react very quickly to absorb force  as we impact the ground. If you have poor mobility in your ankles it could make movements such as squats (especially Hindi squats) and deadlifts  difficult because you can't dorsiflex (toes to the shins) and plantarflex (point toes) properly. If you usually just sit after you roll before class, make sure you sit actively!! Try exercises before class such as sitting back on our heels with your toes curled under your feet and then switch to flattened feet.  Do ankle circles in both directions and practice  your Hindis!
The hip is one of the most powerful joints in your body and hip dysfunction can not only rob you of your training but it can lead to an array of injuries.  When you perform a movement with dysfunction your body will do whatever it can to perform it and it'll start firing all the wrong muscles meaning you'll USE/WORK the wrong muscles. Practice your hip stretches and openers daily!
Do you suffer from chronic back pain? Have you ever thought that your shoulders could be the culprit? Inflexible shoulders not only creates horrible posture but it also hinder us with quite a few major lifts: squats, shoulder presses, overhead carries, etc. When you can't perform a shoulder press or an overhead carry because of poor mobility, what happens? Lumbar extension aka "arching of the low back" and this is where a lot of back pain stems from. One way to test shoulder mobility is to perform a floor or wall slide. 
Ask a coach how to do it!
The wrist is a joint that people never think of. Do you have pain in your wrists when we do pushups? How about planks? Upper and lower body mountain climbers? A lot of that pain stems from the inability to extend our wrist. Other than performing wrist mobility exercises such as wrist rolls, wrist windshield wipers, and resisted rotations, make a serious effort to use every part of your hand while you're on them. Actively spread your fingers and push your fingers and palms into the floor to alleviate the pressure on your wrists. Try not to load all of your weight on just the heel of your hand. 

We've talked about feet, ankles, hips, shoulders, and wrists. Take a little bit of time each day (before your workout is the perfect time!) to work on your mobility in these troublesome areas. It's something that will take time and patience and it's something you'll need to keep up with to see the effects, but when you can move without dysfunction your workout will be even more beneficial! Ask a coach for ideas of exercises if you don't know what to do. 

8/14/20: Coffee!

Nutrition tips: Coffee

1)      Do you enjoy coffee? Do you enjoy naps? Have you ever tried them together? It may seem counterproductive but studies have shown that combining the two may be more beneficial than doing them separately. Caffeine in coffee can take up to a half an hour to show effects; hence the "short (15-20)" naps, so having coffee before your nap will not influence the quality of your sleep during your power nap.
2)      We all know that coffee has a wide range of benefits such as protection from type 2 diabetes and heart disease, prevention in depression among women, and it being a great source of antioxidants. One study done out of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health showed that drinking four or five cups of coffee daily cut risk of Parkinson’s disease nearly in half compared with drinking little or no caffeine. 
3)      An article from the Journal of  Pain stated that two cups of coffee can cut post-workout muscle pain by up to 48%, particularly after multiple ECCENTRIC movements. So, after those tough eccentric style workouts we do, make sure to grab a couple cups of jo. 
4)      Coffee can protect against periodontal disease! The Department of Veterans Affairs Dental Longitudinal Study tracked coffee consumption and dental health among 1,152 men from the years 1968-1998 and found that coffee did not promote gum disease and actually showed a protective barrier by preventing cavities. 
Black coffee kills the bacteria on teeth that leads to tooth decay. Adding milk or sugar to coffee negates this benefit, so as always, take it easy on the creamer!
5)      Do you or anyone you know drink energy drinks as a source of caffeine? Kick the habit! Not only do most energy drinks have a ton of sugar (one can of Monster has 54 g of sugar which is equal to 13.5 teaspoons!), contrary to belief they actually have less caffeine than coffee.  
One 16oz can of Monster has 160 mg of caffeine whereas one 16oz cup of Starbucks Pike Place Brewed Coffee has 330mg!
6)      Did you know that coffee is actually a fruit? Coffee beans are actually the pits of a cherry-like berry that are gown on bushes. Though coffee is actually a seed, it's called a bean because of its resemblance to actual beans.