Ten Amazing Ways To Get Fit and Stay Fit

Year after year, we make resolutions to say fit and keep our health in check. Then, as months dwindle till the year comes to a close and holidays approach again, we’re back to square one- obese and unhealthy. It is an unending cycle that we all can’t break if we are not determined to make lifestyle changes. Keeping fit is directly connected with our diets, because we are what we eat.

A fit, healthy lifestyle is achievable if we’re willing to commit to a lifestyle of good nutrient-dense foods, exercise and healthy habits. This is why you need to read these ten amazing ways to stay and remain fit if you desire to achieve your goal of a fit rocking body.

STOP COUNTING CALORIES

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You may be surprised that this is a crucial first step, it is imperative that you stop putting pressure on yourself and start to take actions that will help you get the healthy body you long to get. If your goal is weight loss, counting calories in foods will not do much in helping you achieve that goal, it’ll rather put unnecessary pressure on yourself to shed excess weight and is not sustainable in keeping the weight off, besides, real nutrient-dense foods do not require their calories to be counted as they are chock-full of healthy nutrients that will nourish your body.

GET MOVING

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It is very paramount that you maintain an active lifestyle If you want to stay healthy. You have to make activity a priority in as many ways as possible. It is even better if you partake in outdoor activities where you can get a lot of sunshine. You may also commit yourself to different ways of stay active: join a local gym, invest in exercise equipment and get a workout buddy or sign up for Zumba classes. It doesn’t have to be boring as long as you put your mind to it.

EAT HEALTHY

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Research has shown that over 80 percent of any fitness goal is linked with our diet. As a matter of fact, cells in our bodies are replicated daily and the material used to build them comes from the nutrition we put in our bodies. Embracing healthy diet rich in essential nutrients will provide the body with the proper nourishment needed to attain fitness goals. To eat healthy, your diet should ideally be composed of:

  • 45 percent carbohydrates
  • 30 percent protein
  • 25 percent fats

These can come from all natural foods and can also be sourced from healthy sources such as gluten-free breads, unbleached rice, non-genetically modified fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts, oily fish and healthy cuts of fish and meat.

DRINK WATER

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Our bodies are made from 70 percent water and should ideally be the number one fluid that we put into our bodies. Hydration is key to reaching your health and fitness goals and your top priority should be to drink a minimum of eight glasses of water daily. You can start with drinking water as soon as you wake up, before breakfast and before you go to sleep at night. Drinking water will also help flush toxins from your body and help your body recover from the rigors of exercise.

If you do not like the taste of water, you can add fruits like lemon or lime to your water for a sharp zing.

CATCH SOME ZZZZSS

Sleep is a very important factor for you to achieve great health and stay in shape. A good 7-8 hours of sleep will get your body’s metabolism kick started and ensure that you keep the extra pounds off. Being sleep deprived will cause your body to be in an overactive mode to help you keep up with the rigors of the day and this will leave you feeling sluggish for the rest of the day and in turn, fat and unhealthy.

EXERCISE OUTDOORS

Exercising outdoors with a community of health-conscious people is one of the best things that can happen to your goal of getting and staying fit. It helps you stay on track to achieving your health and fitness goals and also help you get lots of sunshine which according to studies helps you lose weight.

SWAP FOODS

Eating foods in their natural state as much as possible can help you achieve your dreams of health and fitness. There are several instance where you can try this out such as:

  • Brown rice/quinoa for white rice
  • Gluten-free sourdough bread for white bread
  • Avocado for mayonnaise
  • Tofu for meats
  • Lettuce wraps for flatbreads

These small changes can make a big difference in your health and fitness.

QUIT FOCUSING ON JUST ONE PART OF YOUR BODY

This is very important in achieving your goal body. If you desire to tone up a specific part of your body e.g. your tummy, doing crunches alone will be counterproductive. A wide variety of exercises are needed to achieve your fitness goals.

THE POWER OF ROUTINE

It is important for you to have routines in your health and fitness goals. Routines help you stay on track when it comes to exercising and it makes a world of difference to your workouts.

Doing different routine exercise will ensure that you spread out focusing on different parts of your body and gives your body time to recover from a specific exercise. For example, if you had leg day on a Monday, you can choose to do a cardio routine on a Tuesday to balance it out.

GET A FAMILY

Joining fitness forums online or in real life can really help kick start your health and fitness goals for the year. You will find people in the health and fitness journeys as you are, some have gone above you in achieving their goals and being on such platforms can motivate and inspire you to achieve your goals.

Exercise, nutrition and lifestyle choices have been mentioned in this article simultaneously because they cannot exist separately. To live a fit and active lifestyle, all factors must be combined to achieve a healthier, fitter you.

 

 

 

11 Nutrition Myths That Cause Weight Gain

Losing weight is a journey, a confusing one at that. End the confusion with these myth-busting tips from Shape!

1. Going vegan is a healthy way to lose weight.

“While various research shows that vegetarians and vegans, on average, consume fewer calories and less fat than omnivores (a 2009 Oxford study found that vegetarians weigh 3 to 20 percent less than their meat-eating counterparts, and a National Cancer Institute study found that subjects who consumed four ounces or more of red meat weekly were 30 percent more likely to die of any cause than those who ate less), these numbers may be misleading,” says Rania Batayneh, MPH, a certified nutritionist and owner of Essential Nutrition for You.

Going vegan solely for weight loss can backfire, big time. If you aren’t vigilant with a vegan diet, it’s easy to lack in vital nutrients, vitamins, and proteins, which give you energy and help keep your metabolism stoked. Many first-time vegans may also find themselves reaching for more processed foods like vegan cookies, chips, or even ‘ice cream’ more often with such a restricted diet, and many end up packing on the pounds instead.

If you do decide to adopt a vegan diet, be sure to keep the ‘treats’ to a minimum and plan balanced meals. “Aim to get about 10 to 20 percent of your calories from protein (or about 1 gram per kilogram of body weight), replacing animal protein with healthy plant proteins, like those found in beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products,” Batayneh says. “And, whether you are vegan or not, eating more green, leafy vegetables is great for your health and your waistline.”

2. Cut all carbs to shed pounds.
Your body needs ‘carbs’ for energy, and many carbohydrate foods are rich in essential vitamins, nutrients, and dietary fiber that help you stay full and fuel your workouts. “Eliminating carbohydrates not only reduces whole grains, B vitamins, and a good source of fiber, but it also reduces your body’s feel-good capacity (it’s no wonder that most comfort foods are carbohydrate based),” Batayneh says.

Plus, cutting out food groups may only make you crave them more, and you may find yourself finishing off an entire bag of chips in a moment of weakness. “Starches and carbs are actually an important tool in weight management,” Batayneh says. “They provide belly-filling fiber, complex carbohydrates to keep your engine running all day, and they stimulate the production of serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter that regulates mood.”

Stay healthy, full, and happy while dropping the lbs. by swapping out processed carbs for fiber- and nutrition-filled foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

3. Diet drinks are a good way to cut calories.
You may think you’re doing yourself a favor by sipping artificially sweetened drinks, but recent research says you may just be setting yourself up to crave sweets even more. ‘Fake’ sugar can trick our bodies, since we aren’t actually providing it with any calories to back up the sweetness, causing a vicious cycle of cravings. “Artificial sweeteners tend to trigger your appetite, making you want more and more sugar, but without actually satisfying a desire for sweets like normal sugar does,” Batayneh says. “Diet soda-drinkers may end up eating tons of sugary and fatty snacks in order to satisfy their cravings.”

Case in point: One University of Texas study found that people who drink diet soda regularly (more than two per day) had a 70 percent greater waist circumference than those that don’t. Not to mention, diet sodas are also often loaded with additives, including caramel coloring, which is made by reacting sugars with ammonia and sulfites, resulting in two compounds that have been found to cause lung, liver, and thyroid cancers in mice, Batayneh says.

4. Fat-free snacks are better for your waistline.
“Reduced-fat versions of snacks typically have been stripped of one quarter of their original healthy monounsaturated fats, and to replace that flavor, the brand adds in fillings, additives, and sugar — all for the same amount of calories,” Batayneh says. “Picking reduced-fat products may even end up hurting your waistline: in one study, average-weight participants ate 22 percent more calories if the food was labeled ‘low fat’ and overweight participants ate up to 50 percent more.”

Your body needs fat to absorb vitamins, and it may also help you shed pounds — a recent Stanford University study found that people on a moderate-fat diet lost twice as much weight as subjects eating a low fat diet.

So skip the highly processed, fat-free snacks that are basically empty calories and fill up on healthy, whole foods that will help you stay satisfied on a lower-calorie diet such as avocados, nuts, and coconuts.

5. Fruit has too much sugar to be healthy for weight loss.
With all the sugar that is added to processed foods, the sugar in fruit is the least of your worries. Getting rid of fruit means you are losing out on valuable vitamins and nutrients that your body absorbs easily since they’re found in their natural, whole state.

“Eliminating fruit from your diet when trying to lose weight makes no sense,” Batayneh says. You’ll miss out on a whole lot of filling fiber, which studies have directly linked to long-term weight loss, and you may be more likely to reach for other processed, empty food items instead.

6. Protein shakes will help you lose weight.
Drinking protein shakes alone can’t help you lose weight, but replacing a meal with them could. The trouble is, many would-be dieters make the mistake of adding in a shake to their current daily intake, which can pack on the pounds (this is why bodybuilders trying to gain size use them often).

If you want to add protein shakes to your diet, look for a mix that is low in sugar and has a short ingredient list. Depending on the calorie count, and what you add to it (Batayneh recommends whey protein, milk, and fruit), you can substitute a shake for a snack or a meal to help move the scale down, not up.

7. A high-protein diet is the best way to shed fat.
While protein is important for weight loss, eliminating other food groups (like carbs) for the sake of eating more protein could be setting you up for a carbo-loading binge later. Plus, you may be missing out on the fiber, vitamins, and minerals found in unprocessed carbohydrates, and you run the risk of eating too much fat in your diet, which can lead to high cholesterol and triglycerides, Batayneh says.

Skip the yo-yo cycle and round out your meals with a healthy balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. “When you have all three macro-nutrients in your diet, you are less likely to feel deprived and may experience less cravings.”

8. Swear off all your favorite fattening foods to lose weight.
Anyone who has ever sworn off pizza, chocolate, or chips knows that as soon as you tell yourself you can’t have them, you start dreaming of swimming in gooey, cheesy pizza or rich, dark chocolate cake. “Moderation is key. We tend to be in ‘all or nothing’ mode when we diet. And while you can’t have pizza, french fries, and chocolate cake all in the same day, with careful planning, you can still enjoy them in moderation,” Batayneh says. Have your cake, and eat it too — just share it with a friend or save the other half for another day.

9. Eating after 8 p.m. makes you fat.
Eating after a certain hour won’t necessarily mean you’ll pack on pounds, just as staying out after midnight won’t turn you into a pumpkin. This Cinderella-esque fat fairy tale continues to exist, but the bottom line is that your metabolism doesn’t know what time it is, Batayneh says.
Skip the mad rush to consume as much food as you can before the clock strikes 8:00.

“Calories are calories, no matter when you eat them, but what does matter is what and how much of it you eat. Late-night snacking gets a bad rap because often the foods that are consumed late at night are calorie-dense foods (chips, ice cream, pizza, and other junk food) and may be in excess calories to your daily caloric needs, which translates to weight gain.”

10. You’ll burn more fat if you don’t eat before a workout.
Exercise normally burns away your glycogen (carbohydrate) reserves, and when you’re done burning those, you’ll start dipping into your fat stores for energy. It’s true that when you’re already running on empty, you burn fat right away, but you’ll likely run out of steam before your workout is over or end up ravenous and grabbing whatever food you can find in an attempt to refuel afterwards, Batayneh says.

“Energy comes from calories. A study from the University of Birmingham compared two groups of cyclists — some ate before their workout and the others fasted. While the group who fasted did end up burning more fat, the group who ate cycled at a much higher intensity than the fasting group, and burned more calories. A person needs fuel to run, just like a car, so find the foods that give you the energy to work out at your hardest.”

11. You can eat whatever you want on weekends.
If you do the math, eating ‘whatever you want’ Friday-Sunday adds up to 12 days, or almost half of a 30-day month! Not exactly the recipe for weight loss success. “When you throw caution to the wind on the weekends it can actually offset the consistency and success you had all week,” Batayneh says. Instead of taking a no-holds-barred approach to your weekends, Batayneh recommends trying to scale back the little things that really add up like the bread basket and having a few extra glasses of wine during dinners out, along with mindless munching out of boredom.

How Your Hand Position Can Maximize Your Squats

Squats. Sitting down with a weight on your back then standing back up. They sound simple, but unfortunately they aren’t. Technique plays a significant role in your ability to move heavy loads. One of the biggest technique mistakes I see destroying what could be a great squat is where you place your hands.

Two Components of a Good Squat

Stability and tension are two key components to an efficient squat. The ability to brace your body from your little toe to your head is a must. When you lose tension in your upper body (your lats, traps, trunk, and lower back), you transition into an awful good-morning-type-squat, where the weight falls forward and your hips rise. You end up squatting just using your back muscles, or even stuck at the bottom of the squat.

A common cause of this loss of tension and subsequent dangerous position is your hand-width placement on the bar. I see an increasing number of people squatting with a super-wide hand position, their hands almost touching the weight plates. If you have shoulder issues, this may be the only way to squat. However, if you can get narrower in your grip, you should continue reading.
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A grip that is too wide (left) is one of the most common squatting mistakes I see.

Why Your Hands Matter

When you place your hands at the extremities of the bar, you lose the ability to significantly engage your lats, drive your elbows forward, and keep your chest standing proud. With this lack of back engagement, the sheer weight of the bar pushes your chest forward and away from your center of mass.

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A wide grip forces your chest forward and prevents lat activation.

Once you sink to the base of your squat, success becomes a question of how strong your lower back is, as it is obliged to bear the brunt of a heavy good morning. The bar has moved further away from your center of mass, so the hips rise to try and stop the weight from pulling you forward. You end up with back pain rather than leg and glute activation.

pic_4Instead of glute activation, you get what resembles a heavy good morning.

A Simple Solution

There is a simple fix for this poor squatting. Just bring the hands closer in to your body. Whether you can do this will be dependent on your shoulder mobility and flexibility. If you are unable to bring your hands closer together, you should be working on correcting your mobility anyway.

squathandscollageA narrower position allows you to drive your chest upwards, soyour lower back no longer bears the brunt of the lift.

A narrower hand position creates far more tension. This is because you can pull your elbows in towards your hips and push them further forward, which drives the chest upwards and maintains good form. This position will then allow your hips to come through at the right time, help drive your back upwards, and keep your chest nice and proud. Notice how the bar now sits over the center of mass and makes the weight feel lighter, too.

Congratulations, you are now squatting using your legs instead of just your lower back. Enjoy your increase in load and decrease in pain.

 

https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/fix-your-hand-position-to-supercharge-your-squats

How to Know If You’re Ready to Start Training for a Marathon

There’s nothing like an ambitious goal to focus your training, and running a marathon definitely fits the bill. Plenty of mere mortals have completed the 26.2 mile race, but it takes time, planning, and of course an appropriate level of fitness. Here’s how to know if a marathon is a realistic goal for you.

If You Can Run Three to Five Miles, You’re Fit Enough to Start

Believe it or not, marathons aren’t just for super athletes. A slew of politicians and actors have run marathons. Sean Combs’s goal in 2003 was reportedly to beat Oprah’s 1994 time. Meanwhile, a course at the University of Northern Iowa teaches novices to run a marathon with just a semester of serious training. The people who teach that class published their program as the Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer, and it’s a great guide for anyone who is starting from scratch.

Most beginner marathon programs start with the assumption that you can run two to three miles a few times a week, and that you can handle a five-miler as your first long run. If that’s not where you are, you need to back up and establish a fitness “base” to build on.

A Couch to 5K program is perfect for that starting stage. If you’re new to exercise, do that. While you could jump straight to marathon training after that, most coaches would recommend that you make sure you can maintain that level of fitness for at least a few months first.

If you’re already an athlete, though, an accelerated plan isn’t so farfetched. You have strong muscles and lungs, but running puts some strain on your bones and tendons that other sports don’t. So you don’t need to build fitness; you just have to get used to running. Then you can jump into a training plan.

Training Takes at Least Four Months

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Marathon training plans are structured programs that gradually work you up to the challenges of tackling a 26.2 mile race, over the course of four months or so. Even people who have done marathons before will use a structured program for each race season. Nobody stays in marathon shape year-round.

You can find a series of well-respected marathon programs for free at HalHigdon.com. They’re pretty typical of plans you’ll find elsewhere, including the ones built in to training apps like Runkeeper and Nike+ Run Club.

On any program, expect to go running at least four times a week. A typical program has at least three shorter runs, and one long run. When you get close to race day, your runs will get up to 20 miles or more, but you won’t be doing a 20-miler for every run that week—nobody has that kind of time, and it would wreck your body. Instead, you’ll be doing maybe five-milers on the weekdays, and one grueling 20-miler on the weekend. Usually there is also a midweek day where you do either a medium length run, or some other challenge like a day of speedwork or hill running.

That’s a serious time commitment. At a 10 minute per mile pace, the first week of Hal Higdon’s Novice 1 plan adds up to 2.5 hours of running: not too bad. But the peak week, when you do that 20-miler, totals almost seven hours. Fully half of that is a single long run that will eat up your entire Saturday morning.

If this sounds like too much, stick to shorter races. You can train for a half-marathon with far less of a time commitment, or just stick to 5Ks, where you never have to run more than three to five miles unless you really want to.

But if you’re up for the challenge and you’ve cleared your calendar, then there’s no reason not to proceed. It’s time to pick a marathon.

Choose Your Race Before You Start Training

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You want your training program to end on race day, so it’s best to sync up your marathon choice with your training schedule. Most cities only have one marathon, so you can take the date or leave it. If you want more options, you may have to travel.

When to sign up depends on which marathon you choose. If you want to run the New York City marathon, for example, you have to apply in January even though the race isn’t until November. The organizers hold a lottery, and you only have a slim chance of getting in: just 23 percent of applicants were accepted in 2016. On the other hand, if you have your eye on the Pittsburgh marathon, all you have to do is fill out a form and pay the fee. In 2016, it didn’t even sell out until three weeks before race day.

This means if you want to run New York, you need to find out whether you got in, and then start thinking about when and how to train. If you don’t get in, you can start looking at other marathons that might be your second or third choice.

On the other hand, with an easier to enter race like Pittsburgh, you can begin your training with the race day in mind, and then not actually pay the registration fee until you are confident that training is going well. The delayed approach would mean missing early bird pricing, but it may be worthwhile if you aren’t feeling confident. Marathon registration refunds can be difficult or impossible to get.

Expect a Physical and Emotional Rollercoaster

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The marathon itself is the experience of a lifetime, but the training will feel like a grueling part-time job. You have to show up even when you don’t want to. It takes a ton of time. You will come home sore.

In the process, you will learn to take care of your body. You’ll have to eat well to fuel recovery, and you’ll find yourself sleeping more. If you run with training partners, you’ll get to know them pretty well. If you don’t, you’ll spend a lot of time with your own thoughts.

You’ll give up your Saturday mornings. You’ll miss sleeping in, but you’ll also feel great when you show up to brunch with a fifteen-miler already in the bank. There will be a day when you run farther than you ever have before, and every step beyond that point is a new lifetime accomplishment.

Over the weeks and months, your runs will get longer and longer. About three weeks before the race, you’ll do your last really long run—almost never 26 miles, but more likely 18 or 20 or 22. That’s because long runs are hell on your body, and you need time to recover.

Those last three weeks are called the taper, when you run less and less because you’re letting your body heal and repair so it will be in the best possible shape for race day. Your body will feel great, but your brain may enter a state that runners call “taper crazy.” Did you train enough? What will you do with your newfound free time? Have you overthought your race day outfit yet?

After all that, you will show up for the marathon, you will run the marathon—assuming you didn’t get injured during your training—and you will finish exhilarated and exhausted. That’s when you’ll know it was all worth it.

Illustration by Sam Woolley. Photos via Pexels.

5 Trainer-Recommended Tips Every Gym Beginner Needs to Know

 

Whether joining a gym or working out at home, there is a long list of beginner fitness mistakes we’ve all made! And for those joining the gym, there’s the added pressure of figuring things out in a public place. If your brand new gym membership is already starting to lose its lustre, the following tips from one of Fitness First’s personal training ambassadors, Alex Chaple will help smooth the bumps in your fitness journey, and make your goals feel a lot easier to attain.

Cardio Comes After

There is a never-ending debate on when to perform cardio if you’re strength training, but Alex strongly recommends you do so after, because performing resistance exercises before cardio will give you a greater fat loss effect.

Get Off The Treadmill

Cardio machines aren’t the be all and end all when it comes to working up a sweat. You can avoid plateauing and getting bored by taking advantage of free classes your gym holds, or adapting your training style to include elements of HIIT, and Tabata. Training this way allows your body to burn more calories in a shorter space of time than traditional machine cardio.

Think Big

There are so many benefits to strength training, but some moves are better than others and some are better combined. Focus your training on large muscle groups and big ranges of movement to capitalise on the time you spend at the gym. You can start with a simple move like adding bicep curls to basic squats, whether you use low or no weights, you are still engaging different muscle groups (your arms and legs) in one move.

Use Your Own Body

Adding weight to your workout is beneficial to sculpting and growing lean muscles, but training with just your body weight for resistance is just as beneficial, because it allows you to perfect your form and perform higher reps when it comes to certain moves.

Book Time in With a Trainer

You don’t have to buy a block of expensive sessions with a personal trainer to reap the benefits of their expertise. If you need advice from a professional on your form, how to use certain machine, or simply gaining the confidence to walk into the weight area, get some time in with a personal trainer and go armed with a list queries.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Rima Brindamou
19 January 2017
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