SparkPeople Guest Blogger

If You Have Limited Mobility, Movement Can Improve Your Self-Esteem

Whether you've heard tales of the "runner's high" or hear Elle Woods' infamous quote about the ties between exercise, endorphins and happiness echoing in your head at the gym, it's no secret that regular exercise has a reputation for making people feel good. In the professional health and wellness community, there has been increasing interest in the ways in which working out can promote wellbeing and self-esteem among both clients and research studies.
 
For anyone struggling with self-esteem or body image issues, though, such ideas seem far-fetched at best and fictional at worst. Exercise is hard, after all, so why would struggling help anyone feel better about themselves?

Posted 1/8/2019  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 47 comments   7,567 views

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10 Ways to Finally Achieve Unshakeable Self-Esteem

Think back on the last three or four goals you set for yourself. Did they have to do with your physical appearance or career? Chances are the answer is yes. Wanting to lose weight, get fit, get a promotion, eat healthier or be more productive are all admirable goals, but when did we lose sight of making our emotional health and wellness a priority?
 
As a psychotherapist for more than 40 years, I have been struck with finding time and time again that the one key factor that underlies our sense of happiness and wellbeing is not what we achieve "out there" but rather it is our underlying sense of self-esteem that makes or breaks our sense of wellbeing. It is the underlying filter that we see the world. If we don't truly love—or even like—ourselves, nothing from the outside will truly fill the void from within.
 
If you are like most of my clients over the years, the phrase, "I'll be happy when…"  typically ends with responses such as "I'm thinner", "I get in better shape", "I find a mate", "I get a better job",  "I get a promotion", " I have children", "I move" or "I have more money". What do responses all have in common? They all assume that things on the outside hold the key to happiness. Many successful, witty, attractive people who by society's standards "have it all" lack inner self-confidence and self-esteem, though. Losing weight, getting fit, earning a promotion or finding a mate are all great, but they do not ensure anything more than a temporary high if a nagging sense of low self-esteem still lurks from within.

Posted 1/4/2019  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 75 comments   10,435 views

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These Health Trends Will Be All the Rage in 2019

The last "Auld Lang Syne" has been sung, every empty bottle of champagne has been tossed in the recycling and we've got another great year under our belts. What now? It's time to look ahead and get ready for new beginnings, resolutions and fresh list of health and wellness trends, of course! After all, as these trends pick up steam, they'll also become more accessible so why not get ahead of the curve now? What better way to find new methods for crushing your goals?

To find out what's hot in 2019, we turned to the experts for the insider's scoop. Their predictions range from things you'll soon be stocking in your kitchen to the exercises you'll love to hate and everything in between. Get ready to see these things all over your social media feed.

Posted 12/12/2018  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 60 comments   14,507 views

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5 Sandwich Swaps That Could Save You Hundreds of Calories

When it comes to sandwiches, anything goes. They’re basically blank canvases waiting to be adorned with your favorite fixings and toppings. In turn, you can easily experiment with different ingredients—and enjoy all of them in every bite.
 
There’s just one catch, though: If you’re not careful, those very ingredients can turn your sandwich into an energy-dense meal. After all, much like carbs and fats, all sandwiches are not equal.
 
Luckily, it’s possible to make one that’s low in calories and full of flavor. It comes down to replacing traditional sandwich fixings with lighter, more wholesome ingredients. Before you know it, you can have your sandwich and eat it, too.

Posted 12/6/2018  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 66 comments   14,294 views

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Why Every Runner Should Add Hill Repeats to Their Workout

Whether you are a trail runner, a roadrunner or a combination of the two, you need hills. As challenging and unpleasant as they sound, hills can be used to work on uphill endurance, improving strength and building turnover (taking more steps per minute) to help your run form.
 
While most outdoor running routes will have some level of hills, repeating shorter runs on the same hill (a.k.a. hill repeats) is going to be more effective in reaping the many benefits you can gain from the added incline.
 
Hill repeats are a way to overtrain and exaggerate race-route conditions. Most race courses will not have as many hills at that grade or they’ll be more spread out with flat stretches in between to recover. Thus, because you’re repeating one tough hill multiple times, you're challenging your legs and lungs to adapt to the difficulty level and be better prepared when a hill does hit on a traditional race course.

Posted 8/27/2018  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 30 comments   10,059 views

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5 Things to Consider Before Buying Workout Leggings

When you're at the gym or running around the neighborhood, the last thing you want is for your clothing to get in the way. Exercise is hard enough without your shorts sliding up your thigh or fabric getting in the way of your dumbbell rows. That's why so many people choose leggings. Comfortable and flattering, leggings are designed to stay in place whether you're striking a pose in yoga or trying to beat your personal best on the track.
 
Of course, you have to choose the right pair of leggings to enjoy the benefits. With a fully saturated athleisure market, finding the perfect leggings for your shape and sport can be a challenge, oftentimes leaving you with a closet full of options that you can't wear. The only thing worse than leggings that ride up during your run is feeling like you wasted your money on athletic wear that doesn't hold up. Make the next pair of leggings your favorite pair by following a few simple tips before you head to the checkout counter.

Posted 7/11/2018  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 57 comments   26,744 views

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How Thinking Like an Athlete Can Help New Runners

Tired of struggling through each run? Wondering what other people know that you don't? How do the elite runners make it look so easy?
 
Besides the 100-mile weeks, specific eating plans, daily massages and naps, elite runners are just like you. While their training and commitment might be just slightly more intense, any runner can adopt an elite runner's way of thinking to tackle challenging daily runs or races. As with any physical taxing activity, finding success as a runner comes down to being mentally tough to overcome the voice in your head telling you to stop when your heart starts beating faster and your breath becomes more labored.
 
To push a little farther, stay focused on your ultimate race or pace goals, or just to learn to enjoy your run more, focus on implementing these tips sports psychologists offer elite runners.

Posted 7/3/2018  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 43 comments   13,748 views

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Discover Self-Love at Any Size With This HeavyWeight Yoga Workout

For me, yoga isn't just an exercise, it's a way of life. Forty-six years ago, my mother-in-law gave me the precious gift of a few hours to myself shortly after giving birth to my son. I walked into a YMCA Mother's Day Out program where they offered a yoga class. That class would forever change the course of my life.

Believe it or not, up until I walked into that YMCA, I had never even heard of yoga. After that first class, I fell in love with it and started studying on my own. Without the internet or even a VCR, I had to learn most of my yoga practice from books. After discovering Lilias Folan teaching a class on the local PBS TV station, her program became my "me time" during my son's naps.

Although I practiced yoga regularly, I didn't receive my teaching certification from Kripalu until June 2004. During my certification training, I realized I had been actively adapting yoga to work for my ever-growing and aging body without realizing it and made a commitment then and there to bring yoga to people of all sizes. HeavyWeight Yoga is my way to show the world that every body can be better with yoga.

Yoga Is for Everyone


I hear a lot from people who are overweight that they think they can't do yoga until they lose weight. Let's get this straight once and for all: Everyone needs to realize that the benefits of yoga can be had by anyone, regardless of their size or situation. One of my students who is bed-bound will never be able to come to the floor or be on a yoga mat, but from her bed, she can move her body to gain muscle strength, expand her lung capacity and improve her sense of well-being. All of this helps reduce her intense stress levels. Remember that if you are breathing, your body hasn't given up on you—so don't give up on your body.
 
Fear of injury is another common fear for people who are overweight, and it's a legitimate fear since some beginning yoga poses can be dangerous if you carry excess weight. As with any exercise routine, modifications can be made to accommodate your fitness level, weight and age, so don't be afraid to ask for recommendations from instructors.

People often come into yoga thinking only about the improvements to their physical self: flexibility, core strength, balance and the like. While all of that will happen, it's the sense of well-being that keeps people coming back to their mat for more. While we might think about yoga in terms of being able to touch our toes, it's more important to practice yoga in order to put on our shoes and socks or work through errands and responsibilities with less stress. If you're like most, the benefits of your practice begin as soon as you take your first yoga breath.

While yoga can be a great tool for helping you lose weight, the most important thing yoga does is to remind us that we often try to hate ourselves into getting thin. Lasting change can only come through self-love, though, and yoga highlights the path to loving yourself just as you are in this moment.

The Hardest Part Is Showing Up


My yoga practice is more than 46 years in the making, so the physical benefits of body movement for me at age 70 cannot be discounted. Being able to get on and off the floor with ease to play with my grandkids is priceless. However, if I had to pick one reason to practice yoga, it would be that yoga helps you to be at your best self when times get tough.

Make no mistake—yoga will never change what is happening around you. What yoga does do is change your reaction to that which you have no control over. It's easy to be your best self when life is good; yoga helps you be at your best when everything is going wrong. In time, it will become the invisible net that catches you so you don't hit the ground.

Even the first yoga class can connect people to their body in a way they haven't experienced in years--a lot of people cry. The question I most often get is "How did I get like this?" It's a question with so many answers. All I can do is hold the person and remind them that whatever their "it" is, it didn't happen overnight, and that starting now is what's important. I congratulate them for having already taken the first and hardest step—showing up.

Show up for yourself today with this 35-minute yoga routine that will leave you feeling balanced and at ease with where you are today.


About the Author
Abby Lentz is the creator of HeavyWeight Yoga, which she designed for people who are overweight or obese. She has been practicing yoga for more than 47 years and earned her Kripalu teacher certification in 2004. Her HeavyWeight Yoga DVDs continue to be top sellers on Amazon and she has been featured in leading fitness blogs including Women's HealthMag and BlindAlive. She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and their standard poodle. 


How does yoga positively influence your life?

Posted 6/29/2018  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 61 comments   37,624 views

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6 Kettlebell Abs Moves That Are Better Than Crunches

Arguably no area of the body garners more attention in the fitness world than the abdominal muscles. Having a chiseled six-pack is the ultimate goal for many fitness enthusiasts. Although the term "core" has become more popular than "six-pack" in recent years, the goal of attaining a sculpted midsection has endured.
 
Many people incorrectly presume that the core and abdominal muscles are the same. The truth is, the abs are just one of the many muscle groups that make up the core. The muscles that show up as a six-pack are the rectus abdominis muscles, a pair of vertical muscles that run the length of the abdomen whose primary job is to flex the spine. Also included in the core musculature are the internal and external obliques, the transverse abdominus, the erector spinae and the pectoralis major. Despite these other muscle groups, though, the rectus abdominis invariably gets all the attention.
 
While all these core muscle groups have their own specific and individual functions, they are collectively responsible for moving, supporting and stabilizing the spine. A vast majority of this moving, supporting and stabilizing occurs while you are in an upright position, and yet, a majority of the most common abs exercises are performed lying on your back.

Posted 6/19/2018  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 55 comments   59,964 views

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5 Common Myths About Natural Health and Healthy Living

When it comes to personal health and feelings of wellbeing, everybody knows what works best for their body. With varying personal opinions and a 24-hour news cycle, though, this can lead to a lot of opinions, anecdotes and sometimes misinformation about how the human body actually works. For many,  the nature of "natural health" leaves them feeling especially skeptical.

That's not to say that you won't disagree with some of the things listed below; rather, for some people, they need to find the underlying truth before deciding if they should modify their daily habits to find what works for their body and their routine.

Posted 6/12/2018  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 48 comments   14,489 views

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6 Yoga Poses That Can Soothe Menopause Symptoms

There is no question that the woman's body goes through a phenomenal series of changes. We are constantly evolving and growing into the next generation of ourselves. There is no other point in our life that this resonates as loudly as during menopause.
 
My experience with menopause began unexpectedly early. Due to extensive chemotherapy and radiation from my cancer treatment, I was thrown into artificially induced menopause. To say I was exhausted is an understatement. There were moments where I felt fully disconnected from who I was as a person—as if a stranger had invaded my body, hijacking my mental, emotional and physical being. 
 
It was during a checkup that I discovered that my body had rapidly been depleted of all hormones, and I was then beginning menopause. Together with my physician, I developed strategies to help bring my body and mind back in balance. Yoga was an essential piece of this puzzle for me.

Posted 5/18/2018  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 45 comments   40,052 views

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Rise and Shine: 8 Stretches You Should Do Each Morning

One of the best ways to start your day in a healthy way is to take a moment to ground your thoughts by stretching and intentionally breathing.  It's amazing what you can accomplish in less than seven minutes to set your day on the right path.  
 
When you stretch deeply, you should always be warm.  So performing this series after a morning workout or after a hot shower is optimal. If you do it right out of bed, make sure you stretch more gently.  

Here are eight stretches to add to your morning routine to feel strong, flexible and grounded. These exercises cover all your major muscle groups and can be followed any time of day, including after your workouts.

Posted 4/11/2018  5:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 122 comments   1,893,888 views

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How 3 Formerly Overweight Trainers Started Careers in Fitness

Fitness trainers are superhumans, able to simultaneously sweat and talk and work at the same time while challenging you to push yourself to be your best. They can be your biggest motivator, but they're on another level, nothing like you. Right? In fact, many people feel so inspired by their own weight-loss journeys that they feel compelled to give back and become trainers themselves.
 
No matter how much weight you’re trying to lose or how drastically you’re looking to change your relationship with food and exercise, getting fit is a journey unique to each of us. Success stories can be the motivation you need to push you closer toward that finish line, and when those stories come from people who now make their living being fit, those stories are even more inspirational.

Posted 3/26/2018  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 32 comments   20,477 views

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An AMRAP Workout That's Perfect for Anyone With Limited Mobility

It happened again: You bent down to pick something up and your body yelled, "Nope, not happening." "Why is this so difficult?" you ask yourself. "Why won't my knees bend enough? Why does this simple movement trigger a stiff feeling in my back?" There's no denying that your ease of movement is just not what it used to be. Your body is starting to tell you your joints need mobility.
 
It's common to think you should stretch what feels tight, but sometimes the muscle that is tight is also weak. This tightness you feel could be your brain's way of protecting your muscles from instability. The motor neurons feeding your muscles sense excess tension and tell the muscle to relax. However, if this feedback loop in the nervous system continues over time, your muscles could become weak. Stretch after waking up stiff, for example, and you could be starting a cycle of constantly stretching, feeling looser momentarily and then having to repeat on a daily basis.

Posted 3/14/2018  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 114 comments   53,351 views

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This Heart-Pumping, 15-Minute Workout Is Perfect for Small Spaces

Why is it that when people hear the word "cardio" the mind automatically goes to a painful hour on the treadmill or a sweat-soaked afternoon in a fitness class? Perhaps it was an elementary school gym teacher who made you believe that an hour of running several times a week was the only way to stay in shape, or maybe it's a perception that you created after walking by the exercise room at your gym and seeing everyone drenched and panting after too many burpees. 

Whatever the cause of cardio's often-bad reputation, if you want to get your heart-pumping, you don't need to carve out a full hour to reap the many physical and mental benefits of engaging in cardio training. No, that's not true at all. In fact, you only need 15 minutes. 

Posted 3/8/2018  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 53 comments   25,873 views

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