Prenatal Fitness; Training for Labor and Delivery

June 12, 2015

Pregnancy should be an enjoyable and exciting experience for all mothers-to-be; a chance to embrace the beauty of life. However, many women experience a great deal of anxiety about the changes their body is going through and the fear of what labor and delivery could entail. While currently pregnant with my second child, from what I’ve seen/felt, the desire to embrace the prenatal experience while also having some anxiety is completely normal. Whether pregnant for the first time or the fifth, I believe there is always some uncertainties. The one thing I can tell you for sure, as women, our bodies were designed for carrying and birthing babies. During the delivery of my first child, the one thing that put my mind at ease was knowing that very fact. That and having confidence in my doctor and the hospital staff to guide my delivery.

Although there are several things that your doctor will inform you in terms of prenatal care, I can tell you from my personal knowledge and the perspective of a mother, that nutrition and exercise will help immensely when it comes to pregnancy, labor and delivery as well as postpartum recovery. Maintaining your strength and cardiovascular endurance will be key to getting you through the process of enduring contractions and pushing. Eating clean and exercising will help you maintain a healthy weight, decrease your risk for gestational diabetes and preeclampsia and ensure the health of your unborn child.  Once the birth is over, the level of fitness will also speed your recover and give you something to revert to when training postpartum. I can tell you, from personal experience, I began competing in triathlon when my first child was a year old and the experience of labor and delivery gave me a whole new confidence in what my body was capable of doing. I used that memory to push myself in both my training and competition. Now that’s not to say that you are destined to become a triathlete after giving birth, but it does give you a great sense of strength and confidence for whatever physical pursuits you may have in the future.

I have spoken to many women who did not maintain a basic level of fitness during pregnancy and had difficult labor and delivery. Their lack of fitness put them at greater risk for all the unfortunate side effects of pregnancy such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Although there are definite modifications to address with a prenatal fitness program, and it’s not recommended to use this time to set serious fitness goals, most doctors advocate maintaining fitness levels for the health of mom and baby. Think of this time as preparing for the physical demands of the labor process. I have one client who gave me a direct comparison of not being fit for the birth of her first child, versus maintaining her fitness for the birth of her second. She said “after the first birth I felt I had run a marathon, with the second I maintained my fitness and it felt more like finishing a 5k”.The last piece of advice I can offer is, if you have a history of miscarriage do not steer away from exercise completely, but listen to your body. If something is not feeling right, stop doing it. When it comes to the safety of your child, its best not to second guess your instincts.

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Are You Serious About Your Resolution?

January 7, 2015

Tis the season. New Year’s Eve we set our intentions to make improvements in our lives for the next year. Our resolution to become healthier, happier, more prosperous human beings. Although this is something that comes every year, do you really take time to plan for these changes? Do you create a solid, step by step approach to reaching these goals and making sure they are long-term? In the fitness industry it is common to see a big push in January. It can be almost impossible to get a free cardio machine until about the end of February, then all the sudden the crowd has disbursed. The goal of losing weight and getting fit didn’t come in two months time so people have gone back to their previous routine. Regardless of the resolution, this is often the way it goes, full commitment for a couple of months, then its forgotten. Is this gonna be you this year? Or are you going to make a permanent, positive change?

We have all heard of S.M.A.R.T. goals and probably most of us have used this method for school, work or personal reasons. Why not revisit this plan for your new 2015 resolution? Whatever your goal may be, in order to succeed you must be specific with what it is you wish to accomplish. For example if your goal is to improve your health, what exactly do you expect to change? Lose weight, lower your cholesterol, lower your blood pressure, or quit smoking? Once you have determine what needs improvement you must then put the numbers down. If you intend to lose weight, how much? Where would you like to see your cholesterol or blood pressure? What day do you intend to quit smoking? Be S. (specific) and M. (measurable) with your goals. Now that you have given those aspects some thought, be sure that the parameters are A. (attainable). R.(realistic) goals are perhaps the most important, because you can set a goal that is specific, measurable, and attainable, but if it’s not realistic to your personality, it’s probably not gonna work. The last piece to the goal setting process is to make sure your goals are T.(time based). Sometimes if you are looking to make some big changes it is best to create small goals to help you reach your eventual goal. For example, if your goal is to shed 6% body fat, but you’re not currently doing any strength training, set a goal to go to the gym two times a week for the next two weeks to follow a strength training program ,and choose a small nutrition change such as giving up sugar for those two weeks as well. Once you reach the initial goal, sit down and reevaluate your success and set a new S.M.A.R.T goal to get you to the next level. Continue in this manner until you have reached your ultimate goal.

Celebrate your successes! Make sure that you allow yourself a reward for all your hard work. However, be sure the reward does not sabotage your goal. For example, if your goal is weight loss, do not treat yourself to dinner out when you are successful with your short-term goals. Perhaps a day of skiing, a massage, time to read a good book or shop for a new article of clothing.

Sugar addiction is keeping you from your weight/fitness goals

December 9, 2014

There has been a lot of coverage in the media about the negative effects of sugar in the diet. Sugar intake has increased in the U.S. diet and is a direct correlation of increased rates of obesity and diabetes. You can find it in everything from breads and cereals, to salad dressings and condiments. Although certain types of sugars have a more direct effect on blood sugar (table sugar vs. fruit-in its natural state), too much of it will result in weight gain, increase LDL (bad cholesterol) and poor liver function. In addition to the fact that sugar is addictive, it’s also important to acknowledge that it increases the release of leptin which directly results in weight gain.

Although moderate use of naturally occurring sugars is ok, the use of corn syrup, even in moderate use can increase your risk for heart disease, obesity, cancer, dementia and liver failure. Although sugar in any form is still sugar, the science behind corn syrup is different in terms of the way it is digested. Corn syrup is a chemically altered sugar derived from the stalks of corn and consist of a ratio of fructose and glucose that is unbound. Since the two molecules are unbound, it is undigested and the fructose goes directly to the liver creating lipogenesis which increases the triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood. Thus it has a direct impact on the increased risk for the diseases listed above. Since the corn industry is largely government subsidized it is a cheap sweetener and found in many products on the shelves of your local supermarket. Read your food labels (its in things you wouldn’t expect such as bread, ketchup, salad dressing, etc.), and avoid products that contain corn syrup at all cost. Given the information provided, its safe to say that products containing corn syrup should be completely eliminated from your diet.

Table sugars and those occurring naturally contain bound molecules and are digested with the foods they are added to or are a part of. Once they have been broken down they are taken up into the bloodstream, so they do  not have the same dangers as corn syrup. However, it is still sugar and should be used sparingly as it will impact your waistline and increase your risk for obesity and all related diseases when consumed in abundance. Whenever possible, combine foods containing natural sugars with others that contain healthy fats and/or protein. The combination of one or all of the healthy macronutrients will slow the uptake of sugar into your bloodstream, thus keeping your blood sugar steady and keeping you satiated longer. Remember that many sources of fructose also are a natural source of fiber, such as apples, berries and avocado, which slow that sugar uptake naturally. It doesn’t hurt to combine these fruits with low-fat yogurt or natural nut butter to increase the nutrient value and improve its benefits. Whenever possible, reach for sweeteners found in their natural form, such as real maple syrup, honey, agave and raw sugar used in moderation. Baking alternatives may also include banana and applesauce.

Now that you have the scoop on the different sugars that are out there, let’s look at how they can be affecting your weight loss and fitness goals. Sugars such as sucralose (table sugar) are made of both glucose and fructose. Glucose is an essential part of your nutrition and your body produces it naturally, giving all of your cells energy through conversion to glycogen. Fructose, upon digestion heads straight to the liver and is converted to fat, which can be used for energy or stored. In moderation you will burn this energy, but in abundance it does get stored and results in weight gain. Excessive fructose consumption also contributes to insulin resistance. Since insulin is a primary hormone responsible for regulating your metabolism through transport of glucose to the cells that need energy, if there is too much sugar in the blood your insulin levels will remain elevated, thus resulting in a diabetic response.

The bottom line is, our body does need some sugar in small amounts, however too much will result in metabolic imbalance that can contribute to your risk for chronic disease.

10 Strategies to avoid holiday weight gain

December 5, 2014

The past 12 years of experience in the health and wellness industry has taught me a lot of things, but lets face it, you don’t need degree to figure out that most people struggle with maintaining a healthy weight over the holidays. This time of year is filled with celebrations that center around food. Mostly high calorie treats and alcoholic beverages that can take a toll on our waist line if we aren’t careful. In addition to the social gatherings, often people experience a certain level of stress which can also contribute to weight gain. Not only do people find themselves stress eating, but the cortisol your body creates as a reaction to stress also may lead to increase belly fat. Recognizing all of these potential threats to your health, I’m here to give you a list of 10 strategies to avoid gaining those unwanted pounds.

1. Don’t skip your workouts. If you know there are additional demands on your schedule this time of year, plan to get up a 1/2 hour earlier to get a quick workout in, or simply shorten your normal workouts and include quick burst of cardio to elevate calorie burn.

2. This time of year this one is easy to incorporate as the mall parking lot is often full…park at the back of the lot and get a few extra steps in on your way to do your holiday shopping.

3. Gather your friends and family for a post holiday meal walk, foot ball game or plan to walk/run a holiday race before the big meal. The food is always more satisfying if you work for it.

4. Before heading to a party, snack on a piece of fruit with some protein (small piece of hard cheese or nut butter). This will fill you up a little, so you’ll be less likely to over eat.

5. Keep your distance from the food table, and hold a drink (no necessarily alcohol) in one hand.

6. When indulging in a cocktail or two, drink a glass of water after each one. This will spread out the alcohol consumption. Remember that alcohol is nutrient sparing, meaning you must burn the calories from your drink before the calories from the food. As a result, much of your food gets stored as fat when you include cocktails.

7. If you are throwing a party, try a new healthy recipe to share and suggest that others do the same when contributing to the spread.

8. It’s fine to enjoy a traditional holiday treat, just remind yourself to slow down. This is not going to be the last time you will ever see this food.

9. When you’re at the food table, begin with the veggies and other healthy options before enjoying the treats.

10. Make time in your schedule for relaxation! Even if you take a few minutes for some breathing exercises, this could have a positive impact on reducing your cortisol levels. Yoga, a workout, a massage, a hot bath or even time to read a good book would also help with relaxation.

If you find this list helpful, print it out and put it somewhere as a reminder throughout this holiday season.

Happy Holidays from Evolution Fitness

Millet cereal; a tasty, satisfying start to your day

July 28, 2014

I recently came across this recipe for millet cereal and it has become a favorite. I’m always looking for new healthy recipes to start my day and this one provides plenty of nutrients to give you what you need throughout your morning.(If you have trouble finding millet in your grocery store, try your local natural food store, which should have this grain in the bulk section.)  This does take some time to prepare, so you will want to plan ahead.

Ingredients (yields 4 servings)

1 C dry millet

2 C water

3 Tbsp pure maple syrup

2 Tbsp flax seed

2 Tbsp chia seed (optional)

3 Tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes (optional)

*You may add cinnamon and nutmeg, depending on your preference

Cooking instructions

Begin by toasting the millet in the bottom of your sauce pan for 4-5 minutes. Add water and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer to absorb liquid, then remove from heat (approx. 15-20 minutes).  Allow millet to cook completely. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until all ingredients are incorporated. Spread evenly over a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 45-50 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven. Once cooled break into pieces, place cereal in an air tight container and store in a cool dry place. Serve with your choice of milk and fresh berries.

*Basic recipe courtesy of “Women’s Health” magazine.

What emotions drive your lifestyle choices?

July 24, 2014

This is a side of fitness and wellness that is not often discussed, but the reality is that our emotions effect the actions and choices we make everyday. From the moment you wake up you make choices based on “how you feel”, such as what you put on for clothes, what you eat for breakfast and what kind of music you listen to on the way to work. It seems only natural that your nutrition and physical activity also have an emotional tie. In order to make positive changes to improve your health it is important to understand your emotions when it comes to food and exercise. Do you reach for food when your stressed or do you go out for a run or hit the gym? Do you “hate” exercise? If so, what is it that you “hate” about it?

One of the first things I impress upon my clients when we begin working together is that you must find an activity that brings you joy. If you set out to run a marathon and you hate to run, chances are  you are not going to be successful in your training. Exercise should not be torture. Quite the contrary. When you exercise your body releases endorphins that make you feel good. If you are resistant to starting an exercise routine it is time to look deep and figure out why. What is it that’s holding you back from taking steps to improve your health? Are you afraid of failure? Are you afraid success? For some people the thought of making positive changes is daunting based on the fact they feel they will then be held to a new standard. That people will expect more from them when they demonstrate the ability to make these changes.  Every single person out there owes it to themselves to move more to maintain good health and a long life. Our bodies were designed to move and in combination with proper nutrition, we all have control over how we “feel” each and everyday. I’m a firm believer in the phrase “if you don’t use it, you lose it” and I have seen proof of this both in my personal life as well as with my clients. If you give your body what it needs good health will follow.

On the other side of the exercise spectrum, are you a compulsive exercise person? Do you take it to the extreme to the point that if you miss a workout you experience anxiety or stress? Will you go out for a run in extreme temperatures?  Have you become addicted to the endorphins related to exercise? If so, there are other factors at work here. You may be suffering from body image issues and feel compelled to exercise to maintain/achieve the body you want. This  may also be an indication that you are feeling a loss of control in other areas of your life. Over exercising (over training) can lead to a whole host of health issues.

The point of today’s message is that we often don’t stop to think about why we make the health choices that we do. What is it that’s driving our current behaviors? Is it coming from a place of self love and nurturing or are we punishing ourselves because we are not happy with what’s inside? Be proud and thankful of the body you were given and all that it does for you.  Treat it with care so that you can stay healthy and strong for years to come.

Train smarter, not longer; how fitness has evolved

July 1, 2014

After attending a conference this past weekend, it occurred to me just how much the fitness industry has changed over the past couple of decades. As a child I can remember my parents being members of a gym that was filled with Nautilus equipment. A good workout was measured  in the number of reps and time spent on a circuit of machines, or the hours spent in a group fitness room following the coordinated moves of a step aerobics instructor. The problem with this way of training is that it does not address weakness or imbalance through range of motion in a joint and it only addressed the prime movers (major muscles), not the smaller muscles that assist with movement and stabilize joints.  It also did not identify a person’s individual training needs and we now know that each person has different needs and limitations when it comes to fitness. Although this era produced some well-recognized fitness icons like Jane Fonda, Richard Simmons and the beloved Jack LaLanne, it did not produce lifelong fitness habits that would have helped us avoid the obesity epidemic we are faced with today. In fact, this type of training often resulted in injury and did nothing to make us stronger and more efficient in the very movements that we used everyday whether in sport or life.

Today, after many hours of study on the way we move and use our bodies, we have found a much more practical way of training. Although the phrase “functional training” has become common in todays fitness industry, to truly understand what this means think of all the moves you perform to get yourself through your day. Think of grocery shopping, laundry, carrying children, jumping over that puddle in the parking lot, and yes, it does carry over into sport. All of the activities mentioned can be placed under the category of functional movement. After much research on human movement we can now determine through a screening process, where people have weakness and instability in their patterns of movement. We can then design training programs that address the problem areas to create a more balanced body and more efficient movement. By evaluating our clients on a continuum we can begin with basic body weight exercises and progress to more complex moves with additional resistance when appropriate.  Instead of relying on machines to provide the resistance, we now use body weight at various positions to gravity and equipment such as the TRX suspension system, medicine balls and kettlebells just to name a few. The equipment that is now available helps us produce more natural movement with or without external resistance to provide optimal results in strength, balance and joint stability. For more information on the continued research and application of training methods feel free to email Evolution Fitness at erica@evolutionfitnessme.com or check out our website, evolutionfitnessme.com.

5 tips to improve your mood and your physique

March 25, 2014

Ok, its been a really long, cold winter and although it is now officially spring there doesn’t seem to be a lot of warm temps in sight (Ugh!).I find that my most frequent response to those grumbling about the weather is “well at least we’re all in it together”, but despite my best efforts to remain optimistic about any future warming trend, I’m over it too!

Anyway, I’m writing this blog post to include in my March Newsletter, because I do have some inspiring advice to help you find optimism and even more important, feel great (physically & mentally) during this never-ending season. Begin each and every day with a tall (16oz) glass of water. This simple little habit will serve as a reminder throughout the day to stay hydrated. If you feel like you need a little mini detox add the juice of 1/2 lemon. The key is…do this before you ingest anything else in the morning. No coffee, tea, juice or food. (eat shortly after, to fuel the body and replenish what was lost during the night) Creating better hydration habits will leave you feeling trim and your skin and hair glowing.

Although it is cold, at least the sun is stronger and will continue to get stronger throughout the coming months. Take advantage of the extended daylight hours and get outside for at least 15 to 20 minutes each day. As discouraging as it may be to have to layer up, I promise that if you get outside, close your eyes and lift your face to the sun you will feel recharged, if even temporarily. While drinking in the sunshine, just remind yourself that it won’t be long before you will be doing this in a t-shirt and shorts.

Make time to move, our bodies were designed for it. Find a minimum of 20 to 30  minutes each day to move. Walk, run, swim, ride a bike, take a hike, lift some weight, whatever you prefer, just move! If you don’ t have time during the day to exercise, play music (something that makes you want to dance) while cooking dinner. Hearing the music will lift your mood and the dancing will release endorphins. Perhaps this might inspire you to take a Zumba or Poll Dancing class (depending on your taste in music), both are a great workout. If you have children and a Wii, make time after dinner for a little “Just dance” to lift your mood and have some fun with the family.

Each week look for a new healthy recipe to try. This will help you get out of a rut and experiment a little with the foods you eat. If you want to lighten up for spring and summer try making this new weekly recipe vegetarian. I have found as an adult that I have a new-found love of veggies such as beets and brussel sprouts. As a child I detested them, but I now know that it’s all in the preparation. Add roasted shaved brussel sprouts to any number of rice dishes and you have an abundance of flavor and nutrients. Grilling and roasting are great for bringing out the natural flavor of veggie without depleting the nutrients. If you are feeling adventurous search for new recipes on the web or check out the book Raising A Salad Bar for some delicious new ideas.

Take a few moments to yourself each day to reflect on all of your blessings. Life is precious and far too short. Take time to enjoy all the small things in life that make it worth living. Appreciate what you have been given, and make a conscious effort to improve the things in life that you are not happy with. You are the one that has the power to change the things in life that are not working for you.

 

 

 

Oh so many ways to plank

January 29, 2014

Today I would like to discuss the ever so effective, yet incredibly fundamental plank. The basic plank is something that most people are incorporating for a comprehensive workout, but do you really understand all the benefits that it holds. For a number of years  now, “core strength” has been a buzz word in the fitness industry, however it has been my experience that many people do not understand exactly what is meant by this term. Core strength refers not only to the strength of the abdominals, but also the muscles that surround and support the spine. The core is the basis for all movement and thus extremely important to any activity. Although traditional crunches or sit ups will help strengthen the abdominals, they do little for the rest of your core. The plank is by far the most effective exercise for core strength and has many variations depending on your fitness level. When properly executed this simple exercise incorporates work for the core, chest, shoulders, triceps, glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings.

Basic Plank- Begin by lying face down on the floor, then lift up on to your elbows and toes. Engage the core, keeping your hips in line with the rest of the body. Hold this position for 30 seconds to a minute depending on your current fitness level. High Plank– Hold the same position only come up on to your hands with your arms extended. In the high plank position be sure to keep your shoulders in line over your wrists, and keep the hips held up in line with the rest of the body.Hold 30-60 seconds. Side Plank – This version can be done on the elbow or high on an extended arm for more of a challenge. Begin on your right side and stack your feet one on top of the other, then press your hips up toward the ceiling.Hold for 30-60 seconds & switch.

*There are many, many advanced variations to the plank. If you are no longer feeling challenged by the traditional planking outlined above you may want to try doing one with your elbows on top of a stability ball, bosu or even in the TRX. The basic principles of the exercise are the same…keep your core engaged and breath. If you are feeling discomfort in the lower back at any time, back down and take some time to stretch!

Coupon clipping could be more expensive in the long run

January 8, 2014

I can’t help but notice that coupon clipping has become an increasingly popular and much talked about trend. Its almost as if some people compete with others to see how little money they can spend on their weekly groceries, boasting a long list of processed foods that were purchased for the grand total of $17.46. However, I ask you, do you really want to cut corners with the nutrients that you put in your body? The food we eat is utilized as fuel for our every thought and movement. Mucking up the “machine” with poor fuel, consisting of high amounts of saturated fat, hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup, with very few beneficial nutrients will only result in higher medical bills in the future. This is a proven fact when you look at the rise in obesity and thus diabetes over the last decade. The quality of food that you eat has a direct correlation to the energy you have throughout the day, the quality of sleep you get each night, and in your general emotional state each day. Do yourself a huge favor and eat whole foods whenever possible and avoid the junk! It is true that groceries, much like everything else, seem to be getting more expense with each passing day. The argument I hear most often from people is “eating healthy is expensive”. Although eating quality food is more expensive than stocking up on processed/packaged food, your health care will be much more expensive in the long run if you don’t take care of your body. There are ways to save and still eat healthy and I’m about to share a few key strategies to ensure you get the nutrients you need without breaking the bank. Living in the Northeast it can be tricky to get fresh produce, but during the warmer months take advantage of the local farmer’s market. Shopping weekly at the farmers market will ensure you get fresh, local and often organic produce at a reasonable price. In addition to the quality of food you will find at the market, this is also an excellent opportunity for you to try new foods. The farmer’s market offers a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, so this is a great time to experiment with new flavors and textures. During the colder months I recommend shopping the weekly sales fliers for your fresh produce. Winter is citrus season, so adding more orange and grapefruit varieties to your diet during this time is cost effective and healthy.  Squash varieties and some heartier greens are still widely available in the winter and are great for preparing soups and stews. If there are other fruits and veggies that are not available fresh or tend to be pricey this time of year, opt for the fresh frozen selections rather than the canned. Canned fruits are often packed in a sugary syrup and not very fresh. Canned vegetables tend to have preservatives such as sodium to extend their shelf life, which may have negative impacts on your health. Keeping with whole fresh foods whenever possible will benefit your health and help to avoid costly medical care. Always shop the perimeter of the store so that you avoid the isle which contain foods with added preservatives, trans fats and corn syrup. In closing, if saving money, improving your nutrition or fitness are your New Year’s resolution, the tips I have shared are great for helping your meet those goals! Eat for improved health and performance.