SparkPeople Guest Blogger

9 Things to Do Sunday To Set Yourself up for a Healthy Week

We all know what it's like to have one of "those" weeks. Day after day, you wake up late and rush out the door. When it's time to head home, you order takeout before you can even say "5 p.m." You eventually doze off next to clean laundry that needs to be folded and put away, dreaming of that workout you meant to do.

For many, the work week is pure chaos. As a result, it's common for healthy habits to take a back seat.

With the right approach, though, it's possible to set yourself up for a healthier, more balanced work week. The key is to use Sunday—or whatever day you have off—to create future opportunities for positive behaviors. You'd be amazed at what a couple hours of prep work can do for your physical, mental and emotional health during the next few days.

Posted 3/22/2019  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 32 comments   1,828 views

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The Missing Link: Routine

Every month in "The Missing Link," personal trainer and gym owner Justin Ochoa breaks down essential elements that you might be overlooking in your own journey to health. In his years in the industry, he's noticed glaring omissions, omissions which often play a crucial role in the pursuit of success. Your routine should be well-rounded, effective and fun, and Justin has the expertise and experience to ensure that you're covering all your bases in the pursuit of your goals.
 
What is a routine, anyway? By definition, a routine is "a regular course of procedure; habitual or mechanical performance of an established procedure". Anything you do consistently in your life can be part of your routine, for better or worse. Your routine is what you do every morning when you wake up; it's what how you prepare yourself for the next day, week or month; and it's how you manage money, relationships, exercise, nutrition and many other factors in your life.
 
The importance of having a routine for your eating, fitness, sleep and/or work has been studied over time and the research is clearly in favor of developing healthy habits in your life. With benefits ranging from freeing up your mind for more creative thinking and decreasing stress to improving sleep, if your life is lacking some order, you're missing out on benefits that can improve your daily living. Of the many health benefits, there are three that stand out among the crowd: time efficiency, the opportunity to instill good habits and the confidence boost.

Posted 3/15/2019  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 65 comments   7,818 views

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What You Need to Know About Safe and Successful Microwave Cooking

Although most chefs and nutrition experts aren't big proponents of "nuking" food, there are inevitably those times when busy schedules, tight timelines and extreme cases of "hangriness" make the quickness and convenience of the microwave far more appealing than the traditional oven or stovetop. And for those preparing food in the workplace, a microwave is often their only option.

Posted 3/12/2019  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 70 comments   43,784 views

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13 Things You Can't Expect to Magically Change After Weight Loss

In a world of fad diets and viral success stories, it's natural to feel like losing weight can transform your life. It also makes a lot of sense—our culture glorifies weight loss as "the" thing that will turn everything around. As a result, it's common that people believe a shrinking waistline will reveal a shiny new version of yourself, the "you" you always knew you could be.

There's just one catch, though: It won't.

That's not to say weight loss is pointless. When done in a healthy manner, it can reduce your risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and sleep apnea. It can boost your energy levels and help you achieve optimal physical health, too. Losing weight also encourages you practice positive behaviors, like eating more veggies.

However, beyond physical wellness, weight loss isn't a magic potion. And according to Jessica Dogert, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Chicago, Illinois, there's quite a bit that weight loss can't change.

"We often think weight loss will make all our problems and insecurities disappear, or [that it] will make us happier, help us land that perfect job or give us more likes on Instagram," she says. "[But] from personal experience and in working with clients, I can tell you [that this is] far from the truth. Taking up less space in this world is the very last thing we are put on this earth to do."

Posted 2/14/2019  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 55 comments   14,734 views

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The Missing Link: Confidence

Every month in "The Missing Link," personal trainer and gym owner Justin Ochoa breaks down essential elements that you might be overlooking in your own journey to health. Your routine should be well-rounded, effective and fun, and Justin has the expertise and experience to ensure that you're covering all your bases in the pursuit of your goals.  

Health is multidimensional and all about balance. There are many spokes that make up the wheel that is health, including exercise, nutrition and recovery, just to name a few. Or, you could look at it from a broader point of view and consider the mental, physical and emotional factors that come into play when you're working toward truly being healthy.
 
While every one of the aforementioned factors should be individually addressed and prioritized based on your needs and lifestyle, over the years working as a personal trainer, I've noticed a glaring omission that often plays a crucial role in the pursuit of success:
 
Confidence.
 
Confidence is an essential behavior as you chase down any goal. It allows to you be self-reliant, committed, resilient and focused. Not having it can cause you to doubt yourself, act on fear, sell yourself short and—worst of all—give up.

Posted 1/23/2019  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 55 comments   12,434 views

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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 : 55 comments   15,757 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 : 88 comments   19,970 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 : 61 comments   15,865 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 : 82 comments   21,654 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   10,511 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 : 59 comments   27,196 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   14,209 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 : 63 comments   39,332 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   61,374 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   14,678 views

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