SparkPeople Guest Blogger

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 : 20 comments   5,261 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 : 44 comments   7,758 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 : 42 comments   30,492 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 : 95 comments   1,806,069 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   18,331 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 : 101 comments   40,248 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 : 52 comments   23,207 views

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Why I Don't Do Cardio

I have a confession to make: I don't do cardio.

As someone who works fitness industry, it often comes as a surprise to people when I share this information. My aversion comes down to the simple fact that I don't enjoy cardio, and I know I'm not the only one who feels this way.

I used to run or spend hours on the exercise bike, and I still have a free-standing punch bag I used to use at home. Unfortunately, when I first started trying to lose weight, the novelty of being out of breath, sweating insane amounts and aching all over wore off quickly. After only a few weeks, I was done.

Posted 1/24/2018  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 96 comments   20,200 views

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8 Reasons You Should Never Set a Resolution

With a new year comes an onslaught of "new year, new you" conversations. How will you improve yourself in the coming year? What should you consider changing about your lifestyle to make your next year your best one yet? Can a little tweak here and a little change there be the ticket to your happiest self?
 
As New Year's resolutions dreams and plans swirl around your head, I'd like to make one request: Don't make resolutions. Really, it's not worth it. If your plan is fitness related, especially, seriously, do not even bother. It might sound crazy, but I promise there's a better, more effective way to approach your new year, new you.
 
First, let's check the numbers.

Posted 1/2/2018  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 102 comments   14,721 views

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Better than Store-Bought: Blueberry Muffins

Editor's Note: This is a part of a series about how to re-create some of your favorite healthy foods at home.
 
A double-dose of blueberries (frozen and dried) gives these muffins extra flavor, and whole-wheat flour adds fiber. Although they’re not the oversized, mile-high sugar bombs you might find at a gourmet bakery, these double-blueberry muffins are pleasantly light-textured in spite of being made with nearly half white whole-wheat flour.
 
At just 125 calories each, these blueberry muffins make a not-too-guilty treat to start your day. Add a carton of low-fat yogurt, and you have a satisfying and delicious breakfast of under 300 calories. (Compare that to a "low-fat" blueberry muffin from your favorite coffeehouse, which has 430 calories!)

Posted 12/21/2017  8:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 8 comments   24,796 views

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The True Power of Setting the Right Goals

When it comes to improving our health and well-being, many of us find motivation failing us when we need it most. It's a common feeling that plagues many, especially when it comes to weight loss, which might mean that weight goals are simply not effective at motivating most people over the long term.
 
Concern about weight feels like a powerful motivator in that moment when you decide you just can't live like this anymore. You start out intensely focused on the new, better life you deserve but, if you're like most people, that determination doesn't last.
 
It's especially frustrating when you know you want to change for compelling reasons like wanting to be healthier and live longer. These reasons make perfect sense but, surprisingly, they lack the deeply emotional appeal that most people need in order to stay focused for the long haul. You know that someday if you stick it out, you'll be glad you made the effort. That payoff can seem distant and obscure, though, when what you need is something that feels worthwhile and rewarding today.

Posted 12/15/2017  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 90 comments   23,055 views

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10 Healthy, Easy Ways to Cook Squash of All Sorts

Squash is one of those vegetable categories that spans a whole range of colors, flavors, shapes, textures and growing seasons. From acorn squash to zucchini, this veggie family has it all, including nutrients, fiber and fewer than 75 calories per serving.
 
Summer varieties (like zucchini and yellow squash) are nutritious, with antioxidants and carotenoids; they’re ideal for sautéing. (Try: 10 New Uses for Zucchini)
 
Hard-skinned winter squashes (acorn, butternut, pumpkin) are packed with antioxidants and vitamin A and roast beautifully. And spaghetti squash makes a delightfully different (and super low-cal) substitute for pasta.
 
 

Posted 12/14/2017  12:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 53 comments   100,774 views

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7 Easy, Delicious Ways to Eat Leftover Turkey

Ahhh, roast turkey: that centerpiece of the Thanksgiving table. How frequently do we prepare turkey throughout the rest of the year? Not as often as we might; turkey can be very straightforward to cook and, thanks to its high-quality protein and low levels of fat (particularly lean turkey breast) can be a healthful option, too.
 
If you find yourself with a pile of turkey leftovers this holiday season, we have a few clever ways to make next-day use of the Thanksgiving bird. And if you’re looking for good year-round turkey recipes, we’ve got you covered there as well.

Posted 11/23/2017  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 32 comments   50,690 views

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10 Ways to Eat Pumpkin (That Aren't Pie)

Whipped cream-laden Thanksgiving pie notwithstanding, pumpkin has a healthy nutritional profile, with more than 200% of our RDA of Vitamin A, plus about one-third of our daily Vitamin C and nearly one-quarter of our fiber requirements. And it has just 40 calories per serving. (Without that whipped cream, of course.)
 
Canned pumpkin is widely available in grocery stores during the fall/winter holiday season. (Note: Be sure to grab plain pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie mix in a can, which includes sweeteners, spices and other ingredients to make a pie.) One can of pumpkin contains about 1 3/4 cup. Some canned pumpkin can have a slightly bitter taste, so it’s best suited for sweet recipes. For pumpkin-based dips or sauces, try making your own pumpkin puree; it’s super easy.

Posted 11/14/2017  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 42 comments   195,689 views

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The Eating Disorder Hiding Behind One Woman's ''Perfect'' Body

About 12 years ago, a friend invited me along to Miami to celebrate a 50th birthday party in style. The celebration was as to be expected: enjoying the casual beach vibes, eating and drinking with nary a thought about health or fitness. It was all good. All good, that is, until an afternoon island hopping evolved into an attack on body image with me—or more specifically, my physique—at the center of the argument.

With everyone in their bikinis, one woman turned to me, loudly declaring, "If I had a body like that, I'd rule the world!" Rather than celebrating body differences and discussing fitness aspirations, the single comment resulted in the group ganging up on me, critiquing and chiding me for being fit—all over a comment I didn't solicit and found ludicrous.

While there are countless instances in which envy over how I looked caused people to react to me in a certain way, the above example is particularly poignant. The fact that alcohol was involved (which certainly played a big part in the petty behavior) didn't ease the shock I felt from my long-time friend joining in to ridicule me with comments like, "Well, what do you expect—look at how you're dressed!"  What!? In a bikini, like every other woman on board?

Posted 10/13/2017  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 74 comments   14,858 views

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