Kaatsu aka Blood Flow Restriction Training

Kaatsu training was developed in Japan five decades ago.  Ka means “additional” and atsu means “pressure.” An English layman’s term for the practice is “blood flow restriction training,” and involves performing strength training exercises while restricting blood flow to the extremity being worked.

A significant benefit of the method is that you can use just 30 to 50 percent of the weight you’d normally use while still reaping maximum benefits of resistance training. You use less weight but do more — up to 20 or 30 repetitions versus 8 or 12 in most traditional strength training programs.
Cuffs or bands are used that are just tight enough to allow arterial blood flow but not venous flow. This causes lactic acid and other waste products to build up, giving you the same benefit as heavy lifting without the dangers associated with heavy weights. For this reason, it’s a great strategy for the elderly and those who are recuperating from an injury.

Scientists believe that restricting venous blood return can dramatically boost growth hormone secretion, reducing myostatin and inducing cell swelling.    Even better there is less overall tissue damage compared to traditional high intensity resistance training.

History of Blood Flow Restriction Training

The history of this type of training was detailed in an Outdoors Online Article (https://www.outsideonline.com/2023016/you-should-probably-try-japanese-blood-flow-routine):

“Kaatsu came about in 1966 when 18-year-old [Dr.] Yoshiaki Sato, now a doctor, noticed the intense ache in his calves after having assumed the traditional Japanese sitting position during a typically long Buddhist ceremony. It was an ache much like the one he experienced after lifting weights — an ache he realized had to do [with] the occultation of blood circulation.
Eureka! Using himself as a test subject, Sato spent the next several years perfecting a system of blood-flow moderation using bicycle tubes, ropes and straps. He later replaced the tubes with thin computer-controlled pneumatic bands. The idea was to apply pressure around the arms and legs while lifting a light load, safely impeding the flow of blood to exercising muscles.
Slowing this flow engorges the limbs with blood, expanding capillaries, engaging muscle fibers and raising lactic acid concentration. But — and here’s part of what makes Kaatsu unique — it fools the brain into thinking it’s being put through a vigorous workout.”

Kaatsu training can stimulate muscle growth and strength in about half the time, using about one-third of the weight, compared to regular resistance training.

How does Kaatsu Work?

The concept idea behind blood flow restriction training is to restrict blood flow in an exercising muscle/s using a band around the upper portion of the arm or leg being worked. This creates a metabolic disturbance that has local and systemic effects:

1. A reduction in the partial pressure of oxygen and increase in the acidity of the muscle tissue stimulates protein synthesis through an adaptive response to the stressor.

2. The central nervous system also senses the challenge and compensates by increasing sympathetic tone, heart rate, ventilation and sweating.   There is also an accentuated hormonal response as mentioned previously.

Kaatsu also stimulates mTOR signaling and lowers myostatin (myostation stops muscle growth!)
Unexpectedly muscle growth occurs both sides of the cuff even though blood flow is only restricted on the side farthest away from the heart.    The systemic increase in Growth Hormone also drives overall muscle growth.

How much Pressure?

It is important not to restrict blood flow too much, as this could lead to injury and fainting.
The good news is that research shows that if you use common sense the risk of using too much pressure is easy to minimize.  Your limb should not be tingling, turning red, blue or purple, and you should not lose feeling and should be able to feel your pulse in the limb.
For a great quick start guide to Kaatsu click here:  https://www.kaatsu-global.com/quick-start-guide-001/
Kaatsu Training Protocol

A typical training session uses three sets 0f 20 – 30 repetitions per set. use half or less of the weight you’d normally use. Rest between sets is short with typical rest time being 30 seconds.

Could Kaatsu Cause Injury such as Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Kaatsu is NOT the same as putting a tourniquet on and if you follow proper precautions is quite safe.    The key is that Kaatsu does NOT alter arterial blood flow as described previously.    It is important to use cuff’s designed specifically for this process.
Contraindications for Kaatsu

  • Women who have had a mastectomy with or without radiation and/or an axillary node dissection should not use blood flow restriction training.
  • People in hemodialysis who have arterial venous fistulas. Avoid doing blood flow restriction on the affected limb
  • Pregnant women should not use Kaatsu training.

On My Kindle Right Now

I have a kickass lineup on my Kindle right now and I’m struggling to keep up. I get my books from the library so if I don’t plan it right, I can be on a million (ok, only 15 at a time but still) waiting lists and then all of a sudden, all the books are ready. So here’s what I’m attempting to plow through right now:

Best problem ever, huh?

xoxo,
Alex

*Amazon affiliate links

The Role of B-Vitamins in Preventing Brain Loss

One in five people older than 70 suffers from cognitive impairment which will progress to dementia and death in half of these people within five years.  So it is very important to address all the modifiable risk factors for cognitive impairment.   One of these risk factors is elevated homocysteine which is a strong, independent risk factor for Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Heart Disease.  
One of the longest and most comprehensive studies ever done showed that one in six cases of Alzheimer’s Disease can be caused by increased homocysteine levels.
In order to process homocysteine properly the body needs adequate levels of Folic Acid (Vitamin B-9), vitamin B12, and Vitamin B6.   A double-blind randomized controlled trial showed that the reduction of homocysteine by B Vitamins can slow the rate of accelerated brain atrophy in people with mild cognitive impairment which is often the first step towards Alzheimer’s Disease.
Another study showed that B-Vitamins can reduce brain loss in areas prone to the Alzheimer’s Disease process. 
Other Benefits of B-Vitamins
B-Vitamins as a group are incredible important to a wide range of cellular and metabolic functions from energy production to production of hormones. Benefits of optimal levels include increased energy, improved mood, reduction of allergy symptoms, help preserve vision, help to maintain bone strength, and help prevent heart disease and stroke.
How do I get B-Vitamins?
Although it is possible to get the RDA of B-Vitamins through diet alone it requires a carefully planned diet and for vegetarians it is very challenging because there is no vitamin B-12 in vegetables. Milk, yogurt and cheese, along with eggs, are the only vegetarian food items that naturally contain significant levels of vitamin B12.
In addition many people have conditions which prevent optimal absorption and cellular uptake of certain B-Vitamins such as Folic Acid.   Each of the key B-Vitamins come in several forms with some being much more active and effective than others.   When everything works right the body can convert other forms to the active forms, but there are many things that interfere with this process.
For example Intrinsic factor produced in the stomach is what allows the intestines to absorb this vitamin.  Not everyone produces intrinsic factor so common sources of B-12 are not effective.
Also since B-Vitamins are water-soluble excess amounts are easily and safely excreted so taking a high quality B-Vitamin Supplement or Multiple Vitamin with activated forms of B-Vitamins in adequate amounts is the safest way to cover yourself.    In addition, although each B-Vitamin performs critical functions in isolation they also work together to optimize many functions so taking a complete B-Vitamin Supplement is highly recommended.
What are all the B-Vitamins?

B- Vitamin          Active Form                                                    Inactive Form
B-1                        Benfotiamine                                                Thiamine
B-2                        Riboflavin-5-phophate                                 Flavin Monocleotide
B-3                        Niacinamide                                                 NAD                                        
B-5                        Panthothenic Acid                                         None                   
B-6                        Pyridoxal-5-phospate                                    Pyridoxine Hydrochloride
B-7                        Biotin                                                             None
B-9                        Methyltetrahydrofolate  aka Metafolin         Folic Acid                                         
B-12                      MethylCobalamin                                         Cobalamin
Can you take too much of the B-Vitamins?
For certain ones the answer is yes!  You should not take in more than 800mcg of folic acid supplement.  Too much can mask a condition called pernicious anemia.  Multiple Vitamins and B-Complex Supplements will contain 400 – 800mcg and more from diet is not a problem.
For vitamin B-6 intake above 200mg per day is not recommended.  Again multiple vitamins and B-Complex will generally contain less than this amount and more from food is not an issue.
Regular “Niacin” can cause significant skin flushing and itching, but this is harmless although it can be very uncomfortable.    Extremely high dose niacin can be used to treat high cholesterol levels but the regular form that causes flushing can also cause liver issues at high levels.   This is also true of “time-released” forms.     The best form for use for cholesterol is “Flush Free Niacin” aka Inositol Hexiniacinate as it will not cause these issues.   NAD (Nicotinomide Adenine Nucleotide) is very safe but there is no reason to take more than 10mg per day.
As always do not take any supplement when pregnant without consulting your registered health care professional.

Mark Ronson, I Have a Crush on You.

I have a crush on Mark Ronson. It started with his TEDtalk. And escalated quickly with Uptown Funk. I can’t get enough of this song. I’ve only played it 8 times today. I can’t wait to get my hands on this album. Enjoy!


xoxo,
Alex

On My Bookshelf

If you’ve stumbled upon my blog before, chances are you know I’m a voracious reader. As a new mom, I am attempting to be diligent in carving out time for me. I try to read a few pages every night before bed…something that doesn’t rhyme or involve animal noises. Every now and then, my bookshelf overflows with so much good stuff, I have to share. Here’s what’s on my bookshelf right now:
 
What are you currently reading?
xoxo,
Alex

What is the Best Way to Warm-Up?

There is a lot of controversy and conflicting opinions on what you should do for a warm-up for exercise.   One of the reasons is that warm-ups should vary based on the activity you are preparing for and your level of fitness.
As the name implies one of the key goals in warm-up is to literally raise the body temperature and gradually ramp up the cardiovascular system to be prepared for harder efforts.     The length of warm-up should be based on the intensity of the activity.     Low intensity activities like moderate pace walking really require no specific warm-up as you can simply ease into the activity itself as a warm-up.     For activities like competitive athletic events that involve high intensity effort the warm-up should be longer.
In the same way, you have to consider your fitness level because a warm-up for a highly fit individual may be relatively high intensity exercise for a deconditioned person.
For all warm-ups, a 1 – 5-minute period of escalating cardiovascular exercise that raises heart rate and body temperature is advisable.    For high intensity athletic events this should be extended until the athlete breaks a sweat without being fatigued.   
This literal warm-up can be done on a cardiovascular exercise machine or via dynamic bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, planks, push-ups, etc.    
Once you raise body temperature you can include some dynamic stretching with an emphasis on movements that address key joints and muscles involved in the actual activity you are warming up for.   For example, for tennis warming up the shoulder joint and surrounding muscles is important while for cycling this is less relevant.
 A Proven Warm-up Protocol
Warm-ups for sports participation have been researched and there is one in particular protocol that is proven to reduce injuries by improving muscle strength, balance, and coordination.    This protocol is called the FIFA 11+ Program and involves doing 15 exercises.    For a complete how to guide click here:  https://www.slideshare.net/PedMenCoach/fifa-11-warmup-to-prevent-injuries 

Although this protocol was developed for soccer it can easily be modified to fit just about any competitive sport!

Marathon Training Tips

As the saying goes “those who fail to plan – plan to fail.”   This is true in business and it is also true in preparing for rigorous athletic events like running a marathon.     Successful completion of a marathon is all about creating a plan based upon the goal of completing a marathon on a specific date in a specific location.
Determining Starting Point

The length of your plan will depend on your current fitness level relative to running.  So the first step is determining your current fitness level which can be done in several different ways:
If you are currently running you can get an idea of your current fitness level based on how often you run, how far you run, and your average pace when running.
If you are not currently running, then do a 12 minute run test – see here for a how to guide to perform this simple test:  https://www.brianmac.co.uk/gentest.htm
Once you know your starting point you can determine how long it will take you to prepare adequately to complete a marathon. The key is slow and steady progression of average distance per run and total weekly training miles – go too fast and you WILL get hurt!    The body needs time to adapt to the stresses of running.    A good rule of thumb is to increase your weekly mileage (and mileage per run) by no more than 10% per week.
So if you are currently running 15 miles per week you would only increase total mileage to 16.5 miles per week and if your long run was 5 miles you would increase it by half a mile.
In order to successfully complete a marathon, you need to be running somewhere between 30 and 50 miles per week with individual runs of 16 – 23 miles.  The advantage of gradually building up to a 20 – 23-mile run is that you have mental experience with running over 20 which can be very challenging the first time you do it.   That being said, placing too much emphasis on distance can result in over-training if not done carefully.
Training Mix

Assuming you have a base of running 15 or more miles per week on a consistent basis you should begin to mix up your training by including shorter, harder runs with longer slow runs and at least one interval training session per week.      
It is critical that you have a training base of steady mileage prior to increasing training intensity and beginning interval training where you will perform higher intensity intervals of quarter mile to half mile mixed with recovery periods.   
There is an entire science behind interval training and the best athletes train with a heart rate monitor all the time to precisely determine the intensity of their work intervals and how long they recover during rest intervals of slow running/jogging or walking.     This is one of the many reasons that, in an ideal world, you work with a running coach/trainer who has experience designing and working with runners to prepare for marathons and other runs.   A good coach will help plan and adjust your training based on how you progress from week to week which is essential for the best results!

Strength and Mobility Training

Running requires a lot more than just cardiovascular and muscular endurance – it requires specific strength and mobility to avoid injury and allow for optimum running technique.  Integrating a run specific strength and mobility program into your training can be a game changer and the program should include:
            A specific dynamic warm-up and foam rolling for areas of tightness and pain
Dynamic Warm-up:  http://www.active.com/running/articles/before-you-run-the-dynamic-warm-up
Foam Rolling:  http://www.runnersworld.com/foam-roller/how-to-use-a-foam-roller
Cool-down with run specific stretches – http://www.runnersworld.com/injury-prevention-recovery/5-post-race-standing-stretches-every-runner-should-do/slide/1
Strength Training Exercises for Running
It is essential to have great core and glute strength to properly stabilize the body during the impact of running to prevent injury.
It is also critical to strengthen all the muscles of the lower body including the hamstrings, calves, and intrinsic muscles of the feet.
Sample Strength Training Program for Runners:  http://www.runnersworld.com/strength-training/10-essential-strength-exercises-for-runners/slide/2
Putting it all together

If preparing for a marathon seems like a lot of work and complicated that is because IT IS!    Like running successful business assessing your starting point and setting a realistic goal with a specific plan of action is key.     Also having a coach is HIGHLY recommended to not only help you create a realistic plan and schedule but to monitor your progress and adjust your workouts and plan accordingly.  

Superman Shoulder Press with Flat, Circular Band

Flat circular bands are a simple, but amazing tool that provides a very different loading profile than free weights or machines.   One of the best exercises with a flat, circular band is the Superman Shoulder Press.   It provides loading that matches the shoulder’s strength curve in that the more the band is stretched the heavier the load.  During the shoulder press your leverage, and hence your ability to produce force, increases as you get closer and closer to extension.
To do the Superman Press step inside the band with feet shoulder width apart or wider.   The wider your feet the more the band will stretch and the “heavier” the load that will be produced during the press.   So you are literally standing with both feet on the band which then goes up around the feet (it is circular right?).   Then holding the band with both hands at the same time “clean” the band so you are in a position to press it overhead.   The band will go down from the outside of your hands then down to the feet and also across from one hand to another.    Notice that you can adjust your hand position in or out to make it more comfortable and your hands should be holding the band at shoulder level (top of chest).
Keeping the core muscles tight and engaged press the band up AND out as you extend the arms fully overhead.  By pressing out while you press up you create space in the shoulder capsule and prevent impingement.   Many people who feel pain with a dumbbell or bar overhead press find they can get all the benefits of an overhead pressing movement WITHOUT the pain because of this.
To make the exercise more metabolic add in the lower body by doing a squat from the starting position as you hold the band at your chest level and then do a press from the standing position – basically a band thruster providing a full body exercise that really jacks the heart rate.
The other advantage of the Superman Press is that with bands you can safely move at high speed during the concentric phases to work on power – but always pause at the top and lower slowly to get the other benefit of band training – a great eccentric load!

For a good video of the movement click here:   https://resistancebandtraining.com/exercises/shoulders/shoulder-press/

The Incredible Pomegranate


Research proves that pomegranate is one of the most concentrated sources of antioxidants.  Studies have also proven that key compounds in pomegranate can do something no one thought possible – reverse the process of atherosclerosis (arterial plaque buildup that is the main cause of heart disease and heart attack!).
These studies indicate that pomegranate provides protection against and actual reversal of atherosclerosis by restoring artery health, lowering blood pressure, and protecting low-density lipoprotein (LDL) from oxidation.
Pomegranate also fights several of forms of cancer including slowing the progression of prostate cancer and suppressing the growth of colon, breast, and lung cancer cells. The good news is that pomegranate’s remarkable health benefits can now be obtained in the form of affordable, highly concentrated extracts.
Pomegranates have potent hormonal attributes that have been shown to have estrogenic effects without increasing cancer risk unlike hormone therapy.   This may be beneficial in safely minimizing menopause symptoms.  At the same time they have also been been proven to cause metastatic breast cancer cells to self-destruct.
Mechanism of Action for Protection from Atherosclerosis
Pomegranate protects arteries by increasing nitric oxide, which improves the function of endothelial cells that line the walls of arteries. Nitric oxide (NO) causes relaxation of the muscles in the walls of the arteries which increases increasing blood flow. Nitric oxide also reduces injury to the arteries which helps prevent the development of atherosclerosis. 
Research has shown that oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) can reduce NO levels. Pomegranate juice enhances the nitric oxide synthase activity which boosts NO. In addition, pomegranate antioxidants prolong the action of nitric oxide which increases its effectiveness.
Amazingly Pomegranate has been shown to reverse atherosclerotic lesions in arteries!
An Israeli study showed that pomegranate can actually reduce existing plaque formations in the arteries.   In the study patients with significant carotid artery narrowing that ranged from 70 – 90% consumed 1.7 ounces of pomegranate juice each day while others received a placebo.   Diet was not changed
Those who drank the pomegranate juice had significant reductions in the thickness of their carotid artery walls, which is correlated with decreased risk for heart attack and stroke. After only three months, the average thickness declined by 13%, and after 12 months, the thickness dropped 35%! During this same 12-month period, the average carotid artery thickness of the placebo group increased by 9%.
The researchers noted a number of improvements in blood markers that help to explain why pomegranate so effectively supports cardiovascular health.  For example, total antioxidant status in the blood was increased by 130% after 12 months of pomegranate use, while serum lipid peroxidation was reduced by 59%. 

There was also an 83% increase in serum paraoxonase-1, an enzyme that can reduce harmful lipid peroxides in arterial cells and in lipoproteins in coronary and carotid lesions.  In addition, one year of pomegranate use more than doubled the time it took for the initiation of LDL oxidation, from 30 minutes to 65 minutes. Since LDL must be oxidized before it can stick to artery walls, this delay in LDL oxidation helps keep plaque from building up. At the same time paraoxonase-1 may help break up existing plaque, leading to overall reductions in plaque formation over time.
How to Obtain the Benefits of Pomegranate
If you enjoy Pomegranate Juice drinking 8 – 12 ounces each day of a high-quality product should confer all the benefits seen in research.   Of course eating Pomegranates is another great way to get the benefits!
You can also obtain all these benefits WITHOUT all the sugar contained in juice by taking a standardized Pomegranate Supplement.     Look for products that are standardized for Punicalagins not just Ellagic Acid.    Ellagic Acid is a highly beneficial chemical, but it does not survive the digestive tract intact while consuming Punicalagins will result increased levels of Ellagic Acid after digestion.  Excellent products and brands include:
Jarrow Pomegranate Extract
Life Extension Pomegranate Extract
POM Wonderful Juice

How to Deal with Yourr Seasonal Allergies

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Seasonal allergies to pollen and mold seem to getting more and more prevalent each year with progressively more severe symptoms in sufferers.    Treating allergies with nutrition and nutrition supplements can have big advantages over using medications.   
Allergy medication most commonly comes in the form of Antihistamines, and there are some big problems with long-term use of these medications.     It is now known that prolonged use of antihistamines decreases levels of acetylcholine which is a key neurotransmitter involved in memory and other important functions.   In fact, antihistamine use increases the risk of senility, dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
What are Allergies Anyway?
Allergies are abnormal immune reactions to specific agents (proteins) known as antigens/allergens, which include many substances such as foods, drugs, pollens, dust mites, animal danders, feathers, along with many others. 
Allergies may also develop when an otherwise innocent substance has significant contact with an already inflamed surface (known as sensitization).  For example, when sick with a respiratory illness, respiratory surfaces are already inflamed and substances present at this time may be “remembered” as being foreign.  This can also occur with chemical substances known as “haptons” which are combinations of self and non-self which can lead the immune system to attack the self. 
Since there are multiple pro-inflammatory substances involved with allergies it is rare to obtain adequate control with single products/medications.  The most potent chemical mediators in allergies and asthma are leukotrienes.  Some leukotrines are one thousand times more potent than histamine as stimulators of bronchial constriction and allergy. 
Interestingly, many medications that reduce one inflammatory pathway actually boost leukotrienes.    For example, Aspirin and other NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs like Ibuprofen) result in the production of excessive levels of leukotrines in sensitive individuals although they decrease prostaglandins associated with inflammation and thereby relive pain.  So long term they can create a much more severe problem.
Asthma is linked to allergies and can be a severe and life threatening condition.   Do NOT try to self-treat Asthma – see a physician!
Strategies for Allergies
Try to avoid allergens by using air filters, regularly cleaning all surfaces and vacuuming and keeping your air-conditioning system on while regularly changing filters to filter out as many allergens as possible.   Remember your car cabin filter as well, and take showers and wash clothes after being outside for long periods of time.
Change your diet to reduce inflammation.    Dramatically reduce your intake of refined carbohydrate – sugar and starch which drive insulin which drives inflammation.  At the same time increase your intake of low glycemic, organic fruits and vegetables such as berries, broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, etc.   These plant foods contain polyphenols which are potent anti-oxidants and help to reduce inflammation and allergies without side effects.
Increase your intake of Omega 3 Fatty Acids from cold water fish such as Alaskan Wild Salmon and/or take an Omega 3 Supplement such as Krill Oil.    Omega 3 fatty acids will always reduce inflammation if taken in sufficient dosages so this should be a primary strategy for allergy sufferers because they produce many side benefits.   The only exception is people taking any type of medication to thin blood and reduce clotting like Coumadin.   In this case the combination can be dangerous!
Nutritional Supplements for Allergies
There are several highly effective nutrition supplements for allergies including some key herbs.
Local Raw Honey – it MUST be local and must be raw because it will contain small amounts of local pollen and works by getting the body used to pollen much like an allergy shot.     A Tablespoon a day is as much as you need.   Many people swear by this simple and safe remedy!
Stinging Nettle Extract – this herb has a long history of effective use for allergies and freeze dried preparations seem to work the best and are best taken BEFORE allergy season even begins to put a damper on symptoms before they start – this is true of all nutritional approaches to allergy by the way!
Euphrasia Officianalis – aka “Eyebright” is an herb which name says it all – it is highly effective for eye allergy symptoms.
Quercetin – is a flavonoid contained in high amounts in apples, peppers, red wine, dark cherries and berries, tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and sprouts, and raw red onions.   To treat allergies taking supplemental quercetin is the way to go, and a good quercetin supplement is a product called “AllQlear” by Integrative Therapeutics and can be purchased on Amazon.     It also contains “ovomucoids” from quail eggs that act as tryptase inhibitor and prevent release of histamine.    Another excellent Quercetin Supplement is “Qforce” – http://www.qforce.com/ Quercetin is proven to decrease yur chance of contracting a viral illness like the cold or flu by 9 times!
Boswellia Extract – Boswellia aka Frankincense (yes the herb mentioned in the bible!) can be highly effective for allergies and other forms of inflammation including arthritis because it blocks the formation of leukotrienes!    To get the benefits you must take 5-loxin which is a specific extract.   Note that in some individuals 5-loxin can cause or excacerbate heart burn so it is not for everyone, but when it works it can be highly effective!
Butterbur Extract – this plant extract can be highly effective for inhibiting leukotrienes and allergy symptoms or side effects.   You need to take a standardized extract with standardized levels of Petasin and Isopetasin) and free of Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids aka PA.  High quality brands include Life Extension, Swanson, and Enzymatic Therapy to name a few.   This product can also help many migraine sufferers and is a well-researched, proven treatment.
NAC – N-Acetyl Cysteine – helps thin mucus naturally and boost levels of the body’s most important antioxidant Glutathione – every allergy sufferer should be taking 600 – 1,200mg per day!
You will also find combination of these ingredients in particular products, and it is worth experimenting a bit because if you find the right product or combination of natural products you can find relief without sedation and without the side effects associated with antihistamines and more potent drugs like steroid nasal sprays or oral steroids.

Easy Entertaining // Fig & Pancetta Crostini

Holy moly. Maureen made the most incredible appetizer and I just have to share. Plus it’s super simple and I’m all about that for easy entertaining!
Fig and Pancetta Crostini
Baguette (sliced)
Goat Cheese
Fig Jam
Pancetta
Arugula
Balsamic Glaze
Chop the pancetta into small pieces and saute in a pan on the stove. You want it a little crispy but not too much. Turn on your oven broiler. Place the slices of baguette on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Toast for a few minutes in the oven until golden. Spread goat cheese on each slice. Add a dollop of fig jam. Top with pancetta and arugula leaves. Drizzle with balsamic glaze. Devour.

Definitely making this during the holiday season!
xoxo,
Alex

Cocoa Chat 12.7.15

Let’s grab some cocoa today and chat about what’s currently going on.
READING // After Youand The Christmas Chronicles. And getting excited about choosing books to read with my sister-in-law next year!

LISTENING TO // All the Christmas songs…obviously. Especially, when running errands with K. He loves it too, or so I like to believe.

THANKFUL // For four incredible with the Center for Girls’ Leadership. It’s been a true gift in my life to be able to share my passion and advocate for women and girls in my community. I spent some time last week celebrating with a few of our board members and toasting to the future!



MAKING // Merry. I just love decorating our home each year. It really is the most wonderful time of the year.


LEARNING // This past week, I finished my Professional Train-the-Trainer certificate at the U. I learned so much and have so many incredible plans to bring back to my work.

WORKING ON // Holiday cards! It’s just so fun to spread a little cheer to our friends and family each year.


ENJOYING // Wrapping up another semester at UST! Winter break is just as sweet as a teacher as it is to students.

What have you been up to? 

xoxo,
Alex

Talent.

“You’re doing your own thing. It’s singular… All of us posses that ability, but you have to be willing to seek.”


I just love talent. When someone has it, whatever it is, it’s so moving. I’m not even jealous because I know in a million years I couldn’t do that. It’s simply pure appreciation. And getting to that point, where you can just simply appreciate talent without feeling jealous or less or inadequate is a good place to be.

Mothballs – Not Just Bad for Moths!

Most of us think of mothballs as a strong smelling, but effective, way to protect our sweaters from getting moth eaten during Spring and Summer.   People also use them to deter pests in attics, backyards and gardens.    Unfortunately, mothballs are highly toxic!
Pesticide labels, including mothball labels, state exactly how they are to be used.   Using mothballs in any other way is not only illegal – it can be harmful to pets, people and the environment.   Mothballs should NOT be used inside attics, crawl spaces, gardens, trash cans or vehicles.  
Negative Health Impact
Today’s mothballs contain either naphthlalene or paradichlorobenzene which are extremely potent pesticides.     Both are proven to cause cancer, and they can cause headache, nausea, vomiting, damage to red blood cells and difficulty breathing.
Proper Use of Mothballs
The key to safe use of mothballs is to place them with your stored items in an airtight, sealed container.   Inside a container the fumes concentrate and kill moths.   As long as the container is airtight you face no risks from the pesticides while clothes are in storage.   However, once they come out it is very important to air them out and even then residues will likely be present that have potential health effects.
Safe Alternatives to Mothballs
Machine was or dry clean your clothing prior to storage to kill any larvae that may have attached prior to storage.
Store clothing in sealed containers such as plastic storage chests, containers, and zip wool coats into sealed garment bags.
Use Cedar blocks, chips, chests, or closets.   You will need to periodically sand the cedar or apply cedar oil over the long haul to maintain the effectiveness.
Cloves, rosemary, and thyme – place a mix of these dry herbs in one or more sachet bags and add to containers with clothing and replace them every 6 months or whenever you stop smelling the herbs.
Lavender and Peppermint – fill sachet bags with dried lavender or peppermint or apply lavender or peppermint oil to mothballs and place them in Sachet Bags.

The Amazing Hip Thrust

Everyone wants a stronger and more shapely set of gluteal muscles for many reasons including the fact that the Gluteus Maximus (GM) is the largest muscle in the body, and arguably the most powerful.  The main function of GM is to extend the hip and prevent the upper body from falling forward relative to the lower body and hip.  
The most powerful exercise for targeting the glutes is the hip thrust because it emphasizes the fully extended position which is how we get the maximum activation of the glute.       Initially hip thrusts aka bridges can be done on the floor lying on the back with knees flexed at 90% and lift the hips up as far as possible (without arching the back!) and lower back down again.
However very quickly more load is needed than just bodyweight and this is where things get tricky because loading this movement is not easy or comfortable.       What most people do is place the back of their shoulders on a bench facing up with knees flexed then use a barbell across the hips.    Not only is the highly uncomfortable it is really challenging to get into position without people handing you the loaded barbell.
Another option is to use something softer like a sandbag or Bulgarian bag which is more comfortable but still awkward and hard to get enough load to do the exercise properly.  
The best option is to use a leg curl machine – yep you read that right – a prone leg curl machine.     If you take the time to set the machine properly it is fantastic and you can find them in almost every gym.     You will want to set the position of the pad so that it is in the lowest position possible.    On some leg curl machines the leg pad has a pin adjustment to change the position of the pad relative to the machine and the machines fulcrum while on others it adjusts in and out from the machine.
In any case if you check out this video – you will see exactly how to position yourself, and as the creator suggests you want to avoid arching your back:   https://youtu.be/ggiHxwblI00   So while it may look a little funny and take you a few attempts to get the hang of the adjustment and how to position yourself on the machine, once you get it – you will love it!   No pain from a bar or band pressing into the front of the hip, and it is easy to load up the movement.
It is NOT a large range of motion and the key is holding the top position and squeezing the glutes without arching the back.    Try a couple sets of 15 – 25 deliberate reps and you will immediately see why this is such a powerful exercise for the glutes.

If you couple this with exercises that place maximum stress on the glutes in the fully extended position like lunges, step-ups, and Split Squats with the rear foot elevated – you will get all the glute development you want.     Then you just need to add in hip abduction for a complete glute routine!

The Shark Bathroom: Part 1

So, I haven’t been completely honest with you. Two years ago, I let you see our scary ugly basement, but I didn’t even show you the worst part: the shark bathroom. You might remember the “artistic” previous owners decorated with spray paint and they spared no expense in the basement bathroom. I think they really let their creativity shine. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves:


I. Just. Can’t. Even.


So, K and I decided to get on it and make this hot mess disappear. I can’t wait to show you the difference. It’s spectacular. But then again, the bar is pretty low…


Also, there are no actual sharks depicted, just fish, crab, and squid. But the name has stuck since the day we moved in. So long, sharks!

xoxo,
Alex

Do You Really Need to Drink Eight Glasses of Water Each Day?

Everyone knows you need 8 glasses of water each day to stay healthy right?    Wrong!   Of course, drinking water is essential and the best way to get the water you need is by drinking water (not soda, juice, or sports drinks), but it is a misconception that you need to drink 8 glasses per day and that more is always better.    
The National Academy of Sciences recently concluded that most Americans are adequately hydrated.   Direct Quote “The vast majority of healthy people adequately meet their daily hydration needs by letting thirst be their guide.”
Typically, about 80% of your total water intake comes from water and other beverages with about 20% from the food you eat.
Another associated myth is that if you wait until you are thirsty it is too late because you are already dehydrated.   For the vast majority of people your physiological thirst mechanism is triggered before you become dehydrated.
Another myth is that if your urine is yellow or deep yellow you are dehydrated.     This could indicate dehydration but urine color is also strongly affected by other factors including intake of certain vitamins and other chemicals we take in from food and drinks.
Dangers of too much water intake

There is a very real danger from excessive water intake and the number of people affected by this is growing – particularly in sports.   This may all stem from a paper published by the US Military stating that soldier should drink 64 ounces of water per hour in order to improve performance.  It was and still is widely embraced although there is not scientific support for this advice.  Even the American College of Sports Medicine recommends “…drinking ahead of thirst.”   The problem is this can be taken too far and in fact excess water impairs performance and actually can kill someone if it is excessive enough.   It is important to note that data demonstrates mild degrees of dehydration do not impair performance.
Excessive water intake coupled with exercise can result in exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH).   EAH is also commonly referred to as “Water Intoxication.”   In EAH, the body’s cells, including those in the brain, swell with too much water, which can be fatal.    When the body has too much water relative to its salt level, the salt level in the blood drops too low which leads to significant problems.
The Right Strategy for Water Intake

The easy answer to proper hydration is to pay attention to your thirst and drink accordingly.     This applies to sports drinks as well.   Also it goes without saying that not getting enough water is not advisable.  When you do not drink enough water it puts you at a much higher risk for kidney stones and this is one of the most painful conditions there is!   Dehydration can also negatively impact cognitive function and mood.
Dehydration is more common in children and the elderly, and risks of dehydration get higher as the temperature and humidity rise.   During hot humid weather the body sweats profusely but because of the humidity sweat does not evaporate so cooling is not nearly as effective and the body just keeps sweating without much effect on body temperature.   Dehydration is also much more common in extremely cold temperatures below freezing because the air becomes extremely dry and with each breath moisture is lost.     In addition, in cold temperature the thirst mechanism can fail to kick in.     The end result is that dehydration is a very serious risk in prolonged exposure and exercise in cold environments!
So How Much Water Do You Need?

While you probably do not need 8 glasses of water per day – it probably is not going to hurt you in most cases.    Actual fluid intake and needs will vary from individual to individual depending on their size, activity level, and the amount of water present in the foods they eat each day.
However, the take home message is simple – pay attention to thirst and drink when you are thirsty and try to stick with good ole H20 rather than juice or soda.      It is what your body needs without all the extra calories!

Fitness Toolbox


One of my goals for the year is to be proactive about my health. Last year was filled with so much stress and my body definitely absorbed more than it should have. I wasn’t I’ve been sleeping poorly, battling headaches, and I gained some weight. But, this year is not last year. Things are different now. It’s time for change. While being proactive about health means different things to everyone, a big part of it for me means getting my butt movin’ and increasing those endorphins. 
But I’ve learned over the years that I can’t do it alone. Here’s what I have in my Fitness Toolbox to help me out:

Fitbit Flex
After a couple months, I finally have a working Fitbit again! I love tracking my steps each day and challenging myself to get up from my desk. I move a lot at my new job so I’m interested to wear it this week and see if I’m actually as active as I think.

New Workout Clothes
I picked up a couple cute pieces from Old Navy (like this) and Target recently. Fact – It’s easier to workout when you look cute. Or at least think you do, thanks to your rockin’ new threads.

ClassPass
For the month of January, I have a bunch of new fitness classes to choose from and it’s awesome!

YMCA
I’m recommitting to being a gym rat. With tons of equipment, classes (Zumba, BodyPump, BodyFlow, and Yoga), and a pool, there’s plenty to keep me active. Plus, I have a couple sessions with a personal trainer to use.

Rock My Run
Seriously, this site is a lifesaver. Once a month, I get a brand new 30-40 minute mix to add to my iPod. It switches up my music and with high BPMs I never want to stop. Well, I do, but you know what I mean.

Apps
I’m using My Fitness Pal to count my calories and water intake and Nike Training Club for workouts I can do at home. This is also a source of ideas to switch up my workouts. This article runs down the best health and fitness apps if you need more inspiration.

Challenges
Skinny Meg’s #SMChallenge and Tone It Up’s Love Your Body Challenge are two I’m doing. I love the idea of pushing yourself outside your comfort zone but having a community of people supporting you. Anyone else doing the TIU #100byVDay?!



What’s in your fitness toolbox? Anyone joining in on the #100byVday challenge? Let’s move!

xoxo,

Alex



How to Make sure you keep your New Year’s Resolution

As the saying goes “Talk is cheap”, and most New Year’s Resolutions end up not happening.    So here are some tips on how to make sure you actually follow through on your resolutions!   
Write Down your goal– the act of writing down goals is a concrete action and makes you more likely to follow through in taking action to achieve the goal.  Use the SMART goal format:
Specific – vague goals are dreams and dreams never happen.
Measurable – being able to measure progress and success are key for something to be true goal.
Achievable – do not set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals.
Relevant – make sure the goal is something that is important to you.
Timebound – you must set a deadline for achieving the goal – because without a deadline you are just day-dreaming.
Focus on one goal at a time – science has proven that we only have so much willpower and if we set to many goals we run out of steam.    Focusing on one goal at a time allows you to conserve your willpower and discipline enhancing your chance of reaching your goal.
Create habits that lead to your goal – when something becomes a habit it takes a lot less mental energy and willpower to complete it.   So start with small, easy to achieve habits that help you move towards your goal.   For example committing yourself to a 5 minute walk each morning or evening is a simple and relatively easy commitment.     Then when you follow through and start to do it each day you create a habit.    For more on creating effective habits see next weeks blog post on habits!
Plan Your Work then Work Your Plan
Science also shows that people who create a plan are much more likely to achieve their goal.  Part of your plan should be becoming aware of the triggers of your bad habits and planning on avoiding them.   For example, if you are trying to quit smoking and you know that going to a coffee shop is a trigger for lighting up – plan on avoiding coffee shops.   Many bad habits are associated with specific locations.
Share your goal with others
Sharing your goals with friends, family or co-workers can help provide support.   Studies have shown that people who share weight loss goals with family are 22% more likely to succeed.
Plan on Mistakes and focus on progress instead of perfection
We all make mistakes, but just because we make a single error of judgement or have a short lapse in willpower does not mean we need to give up on a goal!    If you make a mistake, such as having a high calorie meal while trying to lose weight, do not give up on the whole effort.    Acknowledge the lapse – and get back on the horse!

By focusing on progress, you put mistakes in context.   For example, if your goal is weight loss and you have a week with 6 days of following your plan perfecting and have one bad meal – realize that overall you are doing well!

PQQ – Safe Supplement for Improved Cellular Energy

Pyrroloquinoline quinone aka PQQ is a chemical found in plants that is a key factor in stimulating cell growth, differentiation and survival.    PQQ is also a strong antioxidant that is capable of continuous cycling much more than other antioxidants.   For example, PQQ can quench free radicals over 20,000 times compared to only 4 for vitamin C.
Although you may not heard of it before – PQQ plays a critical role in human nutrition and is found in all plant foods in very small amounts.   If PQQ is completed removed from the diet it leads to slowing of growth, decreased immunity, and abnormal reproductive function.
Cellular Energy Production

PQQ promotes the generation of new mitochondria within cells – including aging cells.     This is a very important benefit because cells derive their energy from mitochondria and mitochondrial function decreases with aging and is one of the key factors in cellular aging and dysfunction.  
  
Research on PQQ

PQQ has a wide range of physiological effects can be extremely helpful for conditions related to low mitochondrial function including aging, along with many brain and neurological disease along with other chronic degenerative diseases.      Most research has focused on how PQQ protects memory and cognition during aging.
PQQ is particularly effective when combined with ubiquinol which is the activated form of Coenzyme Q10.    In a study with over 70 people between the ages of 40 – 70, 20mg per day of PQQ resulted in significant improvements in cognitive function, but in the group receiving 20mg of PQQ AND 300mg of Ubiquinol the results were very dramatic.
PQQ has been shown to go to work immediately.   In one study subjects were given a single dose of .2mg per kilogram of bodyweight and then measurements were taken over the next 48 hours.    The measurements showed a significant increase in antioxidant potential from this single dosage.    The same group was given an even higher single dose and measurements showed a significant decrease in C-reactive protein and interleukin 6 72 hours later which are key markers for inflammation.
Other Benefits of PQQ

PQQ has also been shown to lower LDL (bad cholesterol) on par with Statin Drugs but with no side effects!
Lowers risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
Increases Nerve Growth Factor
Dosage

Studies show the best results with 10 – 20mg per day (nice because it is a very small pill!) and even better when combined with 300mg of Ubiquinol.    For even stronger results combine with Berberine – see this blog post on Berberine – http://workoutanytime.blogspot.com/2018/04/berberine-for-cancer-prevention-anxiety.html

Hello 2017!

Hello 2017! And a big hello to all of you! I hope you all had a fabulous holiday season! Thanksgiving to New Year’s is my favorite stretch of the year and I just feel so lucky this year to share so many moments with the ones we love. It was the perfect way to end our incredible 2016.

A new year always brings new possibilities. Last year, I was about 7-months pregnant with Declan at this time so I consciously didn’t make any new year’s resolution other than to be courageous for what was to come. I gave myself a year of grace as I discovered how to be a mama. Grace in trying to do too much. Grace in learning to love my new body. Grace in working through a new relationship dynamic as parents with K. Grace in leaning back into my professional life when my maternity leave ended.

I can’t say I succeeded in all these areas. It definitely a year of stretching and growing for me. And a year of absolute pure joy.

This year, I’m focusing on cultivating what matters most. I’m using PowerSheets to uncover my goals this year and I can say, I’m LOVING the process. The PowerSheets are all sold out this year but you can still follow the goal-setting process here.

One of my goals is to write more. I feel like I say this all the time but this year, I’m going to really try and have at least one new post each week. My posts range from recipes, home improvement, musings on motherhood, and of course, reading recommendations. A little of this. A little of that. All things I love. But if there is something you’d like to see here, let me know in the comments below.

I’ll share the rest of my goals here soon. I’m really excited about them this year!

A couple fun things – I’m giving this space a little refresh. Every couple years, I’m looking for a new look. So here we are, a lot simpler and cleaner look.

There’s also a new tab up above – recommendations. In this spot, you’ll have links to our favorite books and my current reading list and essential products I love. I also removed the ads from the sidebar. I want to make sure if there is an affiliate link on the blog, it’s something I am confident in recommending. So if you are looking for a good book to read or some of Declan’s favorites, check it out!

So, I’ll leave you with some words I’ve been soaking up:

Here’s to listening
to ourselves
To compassion, kindness, and 
vulnerability
To being present to the parts 
of ourselves that are asking 
for the attention they need in
order to heal
And to feeding the pain 
with what it is that already 
resides in each one of us:
Love.
Compassion.
Courage + Bravery.
To leaning in and to sharing it.
All.
Over and over again.
And to come out softer the
other side.

-Vienna Pharaon

Happy New Year!

xoxo,
Alex

Solving the Weight Loss Puzzle Part 1

Have you tried to lose weight and failed? If so, you are not alone. 95% of the people who try to lose weight fail to reach their goal, and even less are actually able to maintain their weight loss once they achieve their goal. Obesity and the associated disease diabetes are increasing exponentially in the America despite the many published health warnings about the health risks associated with being overweight.
Why are people unable to lose weight? People are hopelessly confused about the factors controlling bodyweight regulation. This is not surprising when you understand that every single program, book, and guideline developed by various diet “experts”, including our own government, lacks crucial information, contains misinformation, or contains myths. The list of experts and programs seems endless: Dr. Atkins, Dr. Andrew Weil, The Pritikin Diet, Sugar Busters, Protein Power, Dr. Dean Ornish, the Paleo Diet, the Ketogenic Diet, and all the rest. To make matters worse much of the “information” from different experts seems to be completely contradictory.
Take this short True/False quiz to see how much you really understand about controlling your weight and bodyfat levels.
Eating a low fat diet is the key to losing weight
Eating a low carbohydrate diet is the key to losing weight
Most obese people have a slow metabolism
Obesity is a genetic disorder
Some people have a slow metabolism and some people have a fast metabolism
Exercise is not really effective for weight loss
You can eat all you want and lose weight if you do not eat carbohydrates
Low carbohydrate diets are unhealthy
If you eat foods in the right combinations you will lose weight
The key to weight loss is eating healthy not counting calories
Americans are eating more fat than ever before
Americans are eating less fat than ever before

Sound familiar? It should. All these statements have been made by various “experts”. Unfortunately, all but the last one is FALSE. If you want to control bodyweight you have to understand ALL the factors that govern bodyweight regulation and how they apply specifically to you. Stay tuned for part 2 of this article to learn more!

Cut your Risk for Catching a Viral Illness by 9 times!

That is NOT a typo – research has revealed a nutrition supplement that can cut your risk of acquiring a viral illness such as a cold or the flu by 9 times!  That supplement is Quercetin.   Quercetin is a phytochemical (plant chemical) found in many plants including apples, plums, red grapes, green tea, and onions to name a few.
Quercetin has been show to inhibit several different strains of influenza (the flu) along with hepatitis B and C along with other viruses.   Quercetin also reduces inflammation and works as an antihistamine and is frequently used to reduce seasonal allergy symptoms.   Quercetin has also been proven to boost mental and physical performance when under extreme physical stress.
The three key ways that Quercetin inhibits viruses are:
Inhibiting a virus’s ability to infect other cells (viruses literally infect your cells then take control of them and make them produce more virus!)
Inhibiting replication of already infected cells
Reducing infected cell’s resistance to treatment with anti-viral medication
Research on Quercetin
In a 2007 study from Appalachian State University researchers did a study funded by the Department of  Defense.   The study used had 40 cyclists divided into two groups with one group receiving 1,000mg per day along with vitamin C and niacin while the other group got a placebo.
They had the athletes ride a bicycle for three hours per day, three days in a row.    45 percent of the placebo group contracted a viral illness after the physical stress compared to just 5 percent of the quercetin supplement group.
In a 1985 Study, researchers found that quercetin reduces the infectivity and replication of Herpes Simplex Type 1, Polio-Virus Type 1, and parainfluenza type 3 along with respiratory syncytial virus.
A 2016 Study found that quercetin inhibited a wide range of influenza strains including H1N1, H3N2, and H5N1.   
Quercetin Supplements
In collaboration with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) a supplement called “Q-Force” was developed that is proven to:
Increase Mental Alertness
Strengthen the Immune System
Provide Sustained Energy
Reduce Oxidative Stress and Muscle Soreness Post Exercise
Q-force is available at www.qforce.comand Quercetin Supplements combined with Vitamin C are available at all health food stores.     

The Nordic Hamstring Curl: Best Hamstring Exercise You are Not Doing!

There are many different hamstring exercises including variations of leg curls (seated, prone, and standing) along with several different hip hinge exercises that target the hamstrings (RDL, Single Leg RDL, etc).     These are all great exercises, but none of them can touch the Nordic Hamstring Curl for building eccentric strength and preventing hamstring injury in sprints and sport!
This is a tough exercise so warming up the hamstrings is essential.  Using other hamstring exercises first such as bodyweight hip hinges and light leg curls on a machine prior to this exercise do the trick nicely.   It is also a good idea to do some static stretches for anterior hips and hip flexors to shut them off which helps to allow for maximum hamstring activation.
To perform the Nordic Hamstring Curl you need to find a place to hook your heels under when you are in a double leg tall kneeling position so you will also need padding under your knees.     If you have a workout partner you can have them kneel behind you and hold onto both your legs right above the ankles keeping their arm straight so they can use their bodyweight to apply load as you let your body fall forward like this:   http://willlevy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Nordic-Curl.jpg.     You can also find something to hook your ankles under like the horizontal bar from a weight machine or barbell like this:   https://i.ytimg.com/vi/f_GdZKdwovA/maxresdefault.jpg or  this:   https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/29/04/34/290434956cdd220cc8d6e0b18948cf3c.jpgor this:  https://www.t-nation.com/img/photos/2013/13-775-04/Nordic-Start.jpg
Keeping your hips flat (straight line from knees through hips and shoulders) – you lower your body down slowly until you can no longer hold your weight then catch yourself in push-up position and push back up:  https://simplifaster.com/articles/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2017/03/GHR.jpg.       You can also use a band during the exercise which provides progressively more assistance as you go lower towards floor to allow you to potentially perform the full range of the motion and come back up with the assistance of the band.    Then over time you gradually decrease the assistance of the band by user smaller and lighter bands.      This provides a good video of how you can do this by attaching a band overhead and behind you:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQm9rdzZlRk
There are also numerous machines designed for this exercise including:
http://www.roguefitness.com/floor-glute?prod_id=15905&gclid=Cj0KEQjwnazLBRDxrdGMx-Km4oQBEiQAQJ1q68P3rah0ZwofpsxOA-xSYl5_v9mtTSxSmuG5zIW1KUYaAvPW8P8HAQ
http://www.speedbottraining.com/glute-ham-machine/
http://www.gluteforce.com/
Here is a 6 week progression:
Week                   Sessions/Week                  Sets                       Reps                     Rest
1                                           1                            2                            5                            2 min.
2                                           2                            3                            5                            2 min.
3                                           2                            3                            6                            2 min.
4                                           2                            3                            7                            2 min.
5                                           3                            3                            8                            2 min.
6                                           2                            3                            9                            2 min.

10 Years.

Warning. This post contains a few too many #tbt pics.

2004. Ten years ago my life changed completely. I graduated high school. I moved to Carolina for college. I joined Kappa. And in the past month, I’ve waltzed right down memory lane with all three.

Two weekends ago, the class of 2004 got together for a little 10 year reunion. While we started college with Facebook and have been insanely connected via social media for the last 10 years, it was fun seeing everyone and catching up!
High School Graduation with Lucky
Representing the class of 2004 in a silly outtake from this spring
Then, in early November, I was lucky enough to visit Carolina again for Kappa. Not having been back to Columbia in seven years, it was so exciting to see all that had changed while I was away. But so much has stayed the same too. I stayed in the Kappa house, my home away from home for three years, and that brought back a flood of memories. College. I waited my whole life it seems like to go to school, and then in a blink of an eye, it was over.

Kappa & Carolina – forever intertwined
The fabulous Melissa and me at graduation
Last Kappa function (someone was pissed I was leaving)
Home Sweet Home
Presenting as a Kappa Trainer
 
Forever to Thee
But that’s what happens with life. You wish for moments to arrive and then they’re here whether you are ready or not. And before you know it, those moments pass, and it’s on to the next thing.

A man I never met passed away last week in Minneapolis. Through his hilarious and touching obituary and his wife’s blog, I’ve been so touched by their love. Her words basically sum up everything I’ve been feeling about the last ten years. 

This is what being an adult is: doing everything before you are ready. There is no syllabus for life that helps you graduate to the next event. It is happening all around you, all the time. This life itself is the lesson and the test and there is no honor roll, just the sum of your relationships and actions and how you feel when you lay down to go to sleep at night.

It’s been a pretty full and incredible decade. Here’s to the next ten, whatever they may bring.


xoxo,
Alex

Solving the Weight Loss Puzzle – Part 4

If you have not read parts 1 – 3 do so now.  Now we know that the three keys to losing bodyfat are: Regular Resistance Training; High Intensity Interval Training, and managing food and beverage intake.  Let’s talk about how you get a handle on doing all three!    

First, you need to establish a baseline to measure progress against which means assessing your current weight and percentage of body fat.  There are many effective ways to assess body composition (how much of you is fat and how much is lean tissue), but the preferred method is the use of Styku Body Scan.   Styku technology (www.styku.com ) provides a completely accurate 3 dimensional body scan that takes just 40 seconds and give you completely accurate circumference measurements at every point on your body and uses this information to calculate your percentage of bodyfat.   

Complimentary Styku Scans are available at many Workout Anytime locations, but if you do not have access to one you can use a do it yourself method although it is not as accurate.    

To get an estimate of your current starting point take photos of yourself in form fitting clothing or underwear from the front, side and rear AND do circumference measurements with a basic tape measure in the following areas:
Around your neck
Around your shoulders at the widest point
Chest at largest point
Abdomen at largest point
Abdomen at smallest point
Hips at largest point
Thigh at largest point
Calf at largest point
Bicep (arm flexed but not pumped at largest point)
Forearm at largest point
You should redo photos and measurements monthly to see if you are making progress.  You know where your body stores fat and several of the measurements are key for judging if you are losing fat depending on your individual pattern of fat storage (males tend to store more in abdomen and woman in hips but it is pretty obvious if you just look at your pictures!).
The next key is adopting some method to get a handle on your food and beverage intake and there are several free apps that can help you track food intake including MyFitnessPal.
Third you need to be able to measure your progress on the activity side of the equation by using a device to monitor exercise intensity and calorie expenditure and there are several good options.   The best devices include heart rate monitoring and not just movement tracking because during your workouts your heart rate response tells the whole story!     During your HIIT training sessions you want to elevate your heart rate between 85 – 100% of your maximum heart rate for 10 – 15 minutes of a half hour sessions.   You can estimate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220, but stay tuned for another blog article describing how to perform an easy test to get a really accurate estimate of your maximum heart rate.
Fourth you need to keep a record of your resistance training exercises so that you can see whether you are making progress.   If you are not familiar with proper resistance training technique and exercises we highly suggest you find a trainer and invest in some personal training to learn proper form and resistance levels so you get the most from your resistance training. If you follow these guidelines and record your exercise sessions and food and beverage intake you will find that becoming a lean, mean fighting machine is not as hard as you thought!

Declan: One Month

One month appointment

Dear Declan, 


My little blue-eyed boy. It’s been one month since you (slowly) arrived into our lives. And an extraordinary month it’s been. You are just the sweetest and best thing that’s ever happened. Your daddy and I are over the moon in love with you. We are pretty proud of ourselves for making a tiny human. Our dreams came true when you arrived healthy and safe. Our little miracle. 


While we are completely exhausted, we wouldn’t trade a single moment for anything. The last four weeks have brought so many changes. Already you have grown, and you are so strong. You are putting on weight and starting to chunk out. Which is perfectly fine by me since I love a chunky baby. I’ve coaxed a few smiles out of you and I think my heart bursts each time. Similarly, my heart breaks a bit every time you cry. I just keep reminding myself that babies cry. Moms cry too and that’s ok.


There is nothing better than having you fall asleep on me. I love to listen to your little snores and breathe in that baby smell. You are just precious. Feel free to sleep a little longer –  we won’t mind!


This first month has flown by and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us, little man.

xoxo,
Mama

How to Optimize the Benefits of Vitamin D Supplementation

Vitamin D is constantly in the news lately and for good reason.    Optimal levels of Vitamin D have been linked to a host of benefits including prevention and treatment of many key diseases ranging from Osteoporosis to improved heart health with reduction in heart attack risk to prevention of many different types of cancer.
The ideal way to get optimal levels of Vitamin D is to let your body create it through Safe Sun Exposure (see previous blog on this subject here:  http://workoutanytime.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-facts-on-safe-sun-exposure-and.html  However this is easier said then done, and too much sun is clearly a strong risk factor for skin cancer!      Enter Vitamin D supplementation.
The amount and form of Vitamin D supplementation has changed substantially based on lots of emerging research.    The form that should be taken is Vitamin D-3 NOT D-2 form and all experts agree on this!     However when it comes to dosage things get much trickier.      The confusion comes because Vitamin D is really a powerful compound and functions as a hormone in the body.    As such it has profound impact on virtually every system in the body.    In addition you can overdose on Vitamin D supplements so more is NOT always better!
Ideally you should order a blood test and test your levels.    The test you want is called a 25(OH)D blood test and is offered by all major labs.   You can either ask your doctor to order this test for you OR you can order an in-home test.   You just prick your finger and put a drop of bloo on the enclosed paper and send back in to the labs.    You can also your own blood test online and go to a lab to have blood drawn in the same way your doctor orders the test.   For more information on testing go here:  https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/testkit/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwh_bLBRDeARIsAH4ZYEPhv0MVkO5_S7USZZ8bwVlt5A3vPWGbBFFIbJiB8Wtva0x-IDH7UmQaAlGkEALw_wcB#
Ideal versus Acceptable Blood Levels of Vitamin D

There is a big difference between what is considered “acceptable” or okay and ideal blood levels.   Here are the classifications of different blood levels of Vitamin D. according to the Vitamin D Council:
0 – 30 ng/ML is very low and considered a deficiency
30 – 39 ng/ML is better but still insufficient for optimal health and disease prevention.
40 – 100 ng/ML is optimal
Above 150 ng/ML is toxic!
The key is to test and if low take a supplement then retest 2 – 3 months after regular vitamin d use because each person is different in how much supplementation they need based on many factors including sun exposure and skin type.     The RDA for Vitamin D for infants is 400iu.    For Children 1 – 13 and adults through age 70 the RDA is 600iu and for those over 70 the RDA is 800iu.
Unfortunately, this is way too low to get many people into the sufficient much less optimal range so testing is really worthwhile.   In many cases people need 4,000 – 10,000 or more iu’s per day for at least a month to get where they need to be for optimal health!
Preventing Vitamin D Toxicity through the Co-Administration of Vitamin K-2

Like many vitamins Vitamin D has a co-factor or other vitamin that helps it perform its function better and in a more balanced fashion, and that other vitamin is Vitamin K-2 (not to be confused with K-1 found in many plants).    In an ideal world, you can get all the Vitamin K-1 you need from eating plenty of green, leafy vegetables, and your body can turn it into K-2.   Unfortunately, this conversion is lacking in many people.
More importantly K-2 is not easily toxic and can be taken with Vitamin D.    K-2 is best taken as a supplement as MK-7 version which has been heavily researched and shown to improve bone health and prevent arterial calcification which can potentially occur with too much Vitamin D.     For a more complete understanding behind how K-2 works with Vitamin D and why it is a great idea to take the MK-7 form of K-2 with Vitamin D check out this article from Dr. Mercola:   http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/03/26/the-delicate-dance-between-vitamins-d-and-k.aspx

Taking 100 – 200 mcg per day of Vitamin K-2 will help optimize the effects of Vitamin D and minimize risks associated with Vitamin D Supplementation.

Project Flashback: Declan’s First Nursery


While we are loving our new house, I can’t help but look back at some of the last projects we did before we moved last year. I think Declan only ended up sleeping in his own room for a couple weeks before we moved to my parents, but putting together a nursery is just something you have to do as new parents, right?


As part of our overall remodel, we painted the trim white, painted the walls to match the rest of the first floor, and replaced the doors and light fixture.



It freshened the room right up! Once the paint was dry, we (and by we, of course I mean, Kurtis) put the furniture together. I read the directions, which really is equally as important when dealing with IKEA dressers.






I was starting to feel like a whale in my last trimester, but I treasure this photo so much I didn’t take many bump shots so when I stumble across one, it makes me so happy to see that big belly. 











All the furniture came with us to the new house, but man, it’s still not pulled together yet. My next project should be pulling together Declan’s room!



xoxo,
Alex

Quoted // Anna Wintour

“I think it’s very important for children to understand that women work and that it’s fulfilling and it doesn’t mean that they love you any less or care about you any less. I also hope from my kids’ perspectives, they saw how rewarding and fulfilling working was. I think it’s important for kids to understand that.”

-Anna Wintour on teaching her children the importance of women’s careers

best exercises for building chest Mass

chest Exercise day

Hello friends,
We will perform 5 Exercise for chest 
First 10-15 mins are for warm-up. You can do jogging / walking or 10 minutes. Stepping for 1 or 2 minutes. Jumping for 1 minutes. Twisting for 1 minutes. Warm up will prepare your body for exercise by increasing the heart rate and blood circulation. It will help loosening the joints and increase blood flow to the muscles. This 10-15 min stretch prepare your muscles for physical activity and prevents injuries.
After warm up session we will do 3 sets each of 10 reps for Push-ups.
Exercise 1: – Incline dumbbell press (4*12)
                        
Incline dumbbell press

Incline dumbbell press
              First make a 45-degree angle on a bench to do incline dumbbell press. Lie on the bench on your back, dumbbell in your hand, palm of your hand facing each other’s. Rotate your arm as shown in the picture. Your hands should be at shoulder width apart. Be sure to keep full control of the dumbbell at all times, now as you breath out push the dumbbell up with your chest. Lock your arm at the top, hold for a second and start slowly lowering the weights as you breath in. This will be one repetition. Perform 12 repetition to complete a set. Perform total 4 sets.
Exercise 2: – Flat barbell bench press (4*12)
                            
Flat barbell bench press

Flat barbell bench press
              Lie down on your back on a barbell bench press.  Grip barbell at your shoulder width apart. Raise your chest and tighten your upper back. Feet flat on the floor. Strengthen your arm to lift the bar as shown in the pic. now as you breath out push the barbell up with your chest. Lock your arm at the top, hold for a second and start slowly lowering the bar as you breath in. This will be one repetition. Perform 12 repetition to complete a set. Perform total 4 sets.
Exercise 3: – Incline Barbell bench press (4*12)
                    
Incline barbell bench press

incline barbell bench press
             Lie down on your back on an incline bench. Grab a barbell with an overhand grip at your shoulder width apart and hold it above chest. Raise your chest and tighten upper back. Feet flat on the floor. Strengthen your arm to lift the bar as shown in the pic. now as you breath out push the barbell up with your chest. Lock your arm at the top, hold for a second and start slowly lowering the bar as you breath in. This will be one repetition. Perform 12 repetition to complete a set. Perform total 4 sets.
Exercise 4: – Decline dumbbell fly (4*12)
                          
Decline dumbbell fly

Decline dumbbell fly

Decline dumbbell fly
              Lie down on your back on a decline bench. Grab a dumbbell in each hand. Hook your feet on the pad. Extend the dumbbells over your chest. As you breath in open your arms to lower the dumbbells towards the floor, hold for a second, now as you breath move your arm upwards in a curving trajectory until both dumbbells touch each other’s as shown in the pic. Try to squeeze your chest during the whole process. This will be one repetition. Perform 12 repetition to complete a set. Perform total 4 sets.
Exercise 5: – Butterfly chest press (4*15)
                                               
butterfly chest press

butterfly chest press

             

              Sit on a machine with your back flat on the pad. Take hold of the handles. As you breath out push the handles slowly as you squeeze your chest in the middle. Hold for a second. Return back to starting position as you breath out until your chest muscles are fully stretched. This will be one repetition. Perform 15 repetition to complete a set. Perform total 4 sets.
Note-:
1.       Rest between each set 45-60 seconds.
2.       Rest between each exercise 90-120 seconds.
3.       Drink enough water.
4.       Don’t forget to stretch.
Disclaimer
1.        Please consult a physician to access your health before following the program in the blog.
2.        All the specified exercises should be performed in the safest position as specified in the blog. I will not be held responsible for any injury incurred while performing the exercise specified in the blog.

Endurance Exercise helps increase Muscle Size

In a recent study (http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0149082) researchers looked at changes in muscle fiber sizes in response to training with and without endurance exercise.
The resistance training group performed leg presses only, whereas the endurance training group performed cardiovascular exercise and leg presses.     Prior to the beginning of the study muscle biopsies to measure muscle fiber types and sizes.  There are two primary types of muscle fibers:  Type 1 aka slow twitch endurance fibers and Type 2 fast twitch “power” fibers.   
 
After 7 weeks of training both groups increased their one repetition maximum leg press (showing both groups increased in strength).    However only the group doing endurance training increased their VO2 Max (cardiovascular exercise capacity) AND increased the size and area of both Type 1 AND Type 2 muscle fibers.     
The resistance only group only showed increases in Type II fibers.   The mean fiber area (total size) increased by 28% for the Endurance Group where there was no significant increase in the resistance only training group.
This means that the group doing BOTH resistance training and “cardio” gained more muscle mass than the resistance training only group.
When the researchers looked at chemical changes in the muscles they saw an increase in two key anabolic factors in the endurance and resistance training group with elevations in mTOR and Akt which correlated directly with the increase in muscle fiber sizes.  This shows that the increased results obtained by adding endurance training to resistance training are the result of increased anabolic signaling not from decrease muscle breakdown.

So the take home message is that to increase muscle mass and strength – you should include some cardiovascular endurance training to your program!    

The Coming Year

[source]

“In the little nest of days between Christmas and the New Year, take time – time to hope, to wish, to plan. Time to imagine what your year will hold, and decide how you will make room for all the things that matter. Celebrate the year that has been with reverence; welcome the year that will soon unfold with anticipation and joy. And remember that dark winter nights are made for dreaming of all the good things yet to be.” – Days of Christmas


Happy New Year, everyone!

xoxo,
Alex 

How to Eat Healthy While Travelling Over the Holidays

‘Tis the season again – we are entering that infamous Thanksgiving through New Years stretch where the average American will gain 8 – 12lbs!    One of the main reasons for this is that we get out of our normal routines for both exercise and diet.   It is even more challenging if you are travelling during this season because you are out of your home and have less control over your exercise and eating habits.

However, where there is a will there is a way!  Here are some key tips to prevent weight gain during travel:
1       Plan your meals and your exercise.    This is probably the most important tip because with a little planning you CAN eat healthy and get in your exercise.
2      Start by looking at your travel schedule and planning your meals during travel.   We all know how lousy the food is on an airline so instead of being subjected to the lousy and unhealthy food bring your own.    
      In many airports today, there are plenty of healthy options that you can purchase and carry on the plane.     Great options include:
a.       Nuts – see below
b.       Ready to drink shakes like Muscle Milk (even starting to see this in an organic option in airports!).
c.       Nutrition bars – see below
d.       Hard boiled eggs
e.       Salads with chicken
3      Even better buy non-perishable food before you leave home.      Excellent choices for meals and snacks that are easy to travel with include:
a.       Nuts – come in cans and pouches with smaller packages being ideal because while nuts are healthy they are high in fats and even healthy fats have lots of calories!    No honey glazed and if you need to be concerned about salt stick with unsalted, roasted nuts.    Best choices include pecans and walnuts and brazil nuts followed by almonds, then peanuts and cashews in terms of sugar content.
b.      Nutrition bars – there are a ton of healthier bar choices now, and they have actually figured out how to make a healthy bar that tastes pretty darned good without a ton of sugar that have high levels of fiber, healthy fats, and protein.      Several variety of Kind Bars fit this bill including Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt; Caramel Almond and Sea Salt; and Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Pecan.    These bars taste great and will satisfy you and travel well.
c.      Ready to mix shakes – there are many great options for shakes that are low in sugar and high in protein that taste great and come in packets that are easy to mix in a plastic shake bottle after you add water.   Gone are the days where these options must be blended in a blender.   Experiment a bit and you can find shakes that come in single serve packets that mix quite well in a plastic shaker bottle.
d.      If you are driving, consider bringing some pre-made meals in a cooler that are either ready to eat cold or can easily be microwave or baked when you arrive.   When you bring some of your own food and healthy desserts you know you will have good options!
4      Focus on a great breakfast because you can get eggs in every town in America both at restaurants and in people’s homes.   Eggs are fantastic nutrition that really satisfies, and they can be prepared in many different ways.  Starting the day off with 2 – 3 whole eggs along with some sautéed vegetables, some cheese and some berries will keep your hunger at bay and provide a healthy meal that is easy to come by!
5    Get your exercise in!  Plan before you leave – worst case you can use resistance bands and get a great workout in a very small physical space such as a hotel room.  You can also do highly effective body weight workouts while on the go and another fantastic choice for travel exercise is a suspension trainer like TRX or Core Flytes –  https://www.amazon.com/Core-Flyte-Pro-Performance-Rock-Solid/dp/B00K6MKM00  For resistance bands and workouts with them check out www.resistancebandtraining.comFor a great bodyweight workout try this one: https://workoutanytime.blogspot.com/2016/03/the-three-best-bodyweight-exercise.html
6    Go for a walk and check out the neighborhood or go see some nearby sites.   Sitting on your butt all day while food is being prepared all around you is asking for trouble!   Get up and get out and active for part of the day or offer to do some shopping for the group or pitch in with some of the physical chores if you are staying at someone’s home.
      So while it is easy to gain weight during travel over the holidays – with a little planning you can come through with little to no weight gain or even lose a pounds or two over the holidays!

Musings on Motherhood: 4th Trimester Baby Essentials

Each week I’ll be sharing my musings on motherhood. As we wind up our fourth trimester here, I wanted to share a few things things I couldn’t live without over the last couple months.

Milk Snob Cover
Milk Snob Cover WEE SAFARI SPECIAL EDITION


I saw this on a friend’s instagram while I was pregnant and waited until they had a sale to pick one up. These Milk Snob nursing covers double as carseat covers and I couldn’t be more obsessed. They have a snug fit, protect your babe from the elements, and allow you to easily check on the babe without removing the entire cover. Plus, they keep strangers away from your little one. I love it so much, I bought two – the fun safari print here and plain black. I also have my eye on this one. My little man loves to stare at the animals and it totally calms him down. Plus if he’s snoozin’ when we go some place, the cover helps keep him that way! I could go on and on, but trust me, I love our Milk Snob.



Dry Shampoo




I’ve mentioned it before, but with a new baby, showers become a luxury. I only wash my hair a couple times a week but having some dry shampoo on hand is essential during those first months. Add a little blush and mascara, and you’ll feel like a whole new woman.

WebMD Baby App



There are SO many apps out there and I will probably do a future post about all my favorites, but the WebMD Baby App is great for the first weeks because of the tracking feature. Keeping track of feedings and diapers can be difficult when you are working off no sleep. This app syncs between both our phones and it’s easy to see when the little one last ate or had a poopy diaper. Plus it’s free!

Baby Einstein Play Gym


Once our kiddo hit about one month, he was much more alert and ready to look at more than just mama. This play mat has plenty for him to look at and keep him interested. The day he discovered he can kick the sides and make the things move was awesome. He thinks it’s just the coolest. And so do we.

Fischer Price Rock ‘N Play



For a while, the Rock ‘N Play was the only place our little man would sleep. It’s about as simple as these rockers get. There are a lot of versions out there that light up and rock 50 different ways, but that seemed like overkill for us. We just wanted something that would keep our guy movin’ when our backs gave out. This fits the bill. We are now slowly weaning him out of it and it makes me a little sad that he’s growing so fast!


What to Expect The First Year



It is well documented on this blog that I am a voracious reader. So of course, I had to include at least one book on my list. This book is great because you absolutely don’t need to read it all. It’s great as a reference when you have a question about something and don’t want to google it. i.e. Is it normal for my kid to get the hiccups every day? Answer: yes.


Date Night

via Spoon and Stable

We took a baby prep class at our hospital and while I didn’t find it overly helpful, we did walk away with one excellent piece of advice: Plan a date night at six weeks. Turns out that was the perfect timing for me to be ready to leave the babe with my folks and have a nice dinner with K. We talked mostly about becoming parents, but it was lovely to put the focus back on our marriage. So make a reservation, put it in your calendar, and go out, no matter what.

Alright, so those are just a few of my fourth trimester essentials. Obviously, every baby and couple is different so what works for you might not work for the next person. But, I love reading recommendations whether I take the advice or not!

What are/were your essentials during the first months of motherhood?

xoxo,
Alex

Musings on Motherhood


I’m stuck on the couch holding a sleeping baby. My arm is falling asleep, I’ve had to pee for the last hour, and I need to pump. Yet I can’t bring myself to move.

This sweet boy refuses to nap more than 20-30 minutes anywhere but in my arms. We’re definitely not sleeping through the night yet (how one child can be so hungry at 3am blows my mind), and bad habits be damned – I’ll take the naps whenever and wherever I can get it.

And I know these first days and weeks can seem to last forever, but I’m trying to soak up every snuggle, breath of baby smell, and milk-drunk smile I can. Because already I feel time slipping away. My little man is changing before my eyes. I can tell by how fast he’s growing out of clothes (6-12 month socks already?!).

So we’re slowing down. Taking in all the moments. The playtime grins. The midnight cries. The tummy time. The trillion diaper changes. The way he knows our voices and follows us across the room. Every moment, even the ugly ones.

Have you seen this video yet? If you have humans, tiny or grown, you’ll feel all the feels while watching it. Grab the tissues.



Here are a few other musings on motherhood, especially in the fourth trimester:

Dry shampoo and deodorant. That’s all.

Although you’ll be tempted, don’t buy baby blankets before your baby is born. Because they are so damn adorable, you’ll be gifted plenty. And you’ll wish they came bigger than tiny human size because you’ll love them so.

Why don’t they prepare you for how loud babies can poop? It’s absolutely terrifying.

There is a special place in Heaven for people who bring new parents ready-to-eat meals. And wine. Lots of wine.

There’s no shame in relieving yourself while baby wearing. You do what you gotta do.

Maternity leave can be super boring – not always so don’t judge me. But for someone who is typically doing about 10 things at once, I need a little more brain stimulation than avoiding pee when changing diapers. I’ve read the internet. Now (and always) taking book recommendations.
    Here’s more:

    A beautiful mother-son relationship

    New parents, no sleep

    Raising a son to be an emotionally honest man

    7 parenting podcasts you should be listening to


    And since it’s Mother’s Day, and there is so much that can be said about that, I’ll leave you with these thoughts by Cheryl Strayed:

    Dear ones: I know Mother’s Day is a joy to many of you. I know it’s a giant suckbag of sorrow for others of you. I know some of you are indifferent to it. I know some of you have wonderful mothers and you get to pick out the perfect card for her and take her to brunch and give her a bouquet of flowers and others of you are alone and weeping while watching your monstrously sad faces in the bathroom mirror, wondering why your mom had to die or be a drug addict or be mentally ill or be such an inexplicable evil shit to you. I know some of you desperately want to become mothers and can’t and aren’t and will never be and some of you have zero interest in becoming mothers and you feel sickeningly suffocated by a world that equates womanhood with motherhood and some of you ARE mothers and you love it and you treasure this day because finally someone picked out a card for you and took you to brunch and gave you a bouquet of flowers. I know it’s a holiday that will change in meaning to you over time, even if it has not yet occurred to you that it will. Whatever it is, I want to say I know it’s there and it’s real and it’s true because it’s YOURS. I’m with you, wherever it is you are, in heart. 

    I’m with you, wherever it is you are, in heart.

    xoxo,
    Alex 

    Exercise and Fall Prevention

    As people get older one of the biggest threats to their health and independence are falls.  A brief review of the statistics on falls provides a sobering view of the threat.

     Falls are the #1 cause of death as a result of unintentional injury among people 75 and older and the #2 cause of death as a result of unintentional injury among people age 65 – 74.
    Falls are the #1 cause of non-fatal unintentional injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms in every age group except ages 15 – 24.
    Fall result in the second most expensive worker’s compensation claims with an average cost of $23,929.
    One out of every three people older than 65 will fall this year.
    50% of the people older than 65 who have fallen will fall again in the next 12 months.
    Most falls are unreported (even serious falls) because senior fear losing their independence, and many seniors would rather die than lose their independence.
    The treatment of osteoporosis with drugs is very ineffective at preventing fractures because it does nothing to prevent the primary cause of fractures which is falls.
    Modifiable Risk Factors for Falls

    Strength (in particular lower body and core strength)
    Mobility (of ankle, knee and hip in particular)
    Fear of falling from previous fall/s resulting in altered gate and restricted activity levels which further increases fall risk
    Poor Balance which has three systems (visual, inner ear, proprioception)
    Impaired Vision
    Cognitive Status/Mood
    Environmental Factors (slippery floors, rugs, poor lighting, etc.
    Medication Side Effects
    Exercise for Fall Prevention
    Exercise can help address several fall risk factors including strength, mobility, balance along with improved cognitive status.
    The most effective exercise boosts lower body and core strength while including a balance component that can be adjusted to each individual’s current capabilities.   This exercise should be weight bearing whenever possible and functional in nature.
    reACT – Rapid Eccentric Anaerobic Core Trainer

    One of the finest ways to address the exercise component of a fall prevention program is the use of the reACT Trainer.    The reACT Trainer provides a no impact training stimulus with a self-selected range of motion and allows for progressive balance challenge to fit just about any ability level.  
    The reACT Trainer is a functional eccentric trainer meaning it provides eccentric dominant exercise that is highly functional in nature with strong emphasis on integrated functional movements in multiple planes of motion with the ability to adjust movement speed to increase or decrease the challenge level.   It is also a very safe training modality.
    For more information on how the reACT Trainer can help prevent falls check out the following videos:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBjKkvuXrYE&t=213s

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXljK8BbhLg&t=309s– instructional video

    Funny Girls.

    I’ve been on a great streak of great books lately, and I wanted to share the love. These funny girls have had me giggling and laughing out loud. If you haven’t read them yet, definitely add them to your reading list!

      Yes Please by Amy Poehler

     
    Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

      Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

    I’ll have an update on my epic 2014 Reading List next week. Have you read anything good lately?

    xoxo,
    Alex


    *affiliate links used

    Currently.


    Oh, hello. I’ve swapped blogging for sleeping. When busy, something has got to give and for me it’s this blog. I know it will always be here when I have a few spare minutes! So to catch up, here’s what I’m currently up to:


    READING // Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter 

    ANTICIPATING // Sunshine and sandy beaches…

    THINKING ABOUT // Doing with less. I’m attempting to purge 40 bags in 40 days and I’m seriously contemplating switching up my wardrobe to a capsule wardrobe. Anyone out there given this a try?

    EATING // Leftovers from Spoon and Stable. K and I had a date night last night and the hottest restaurant in town. I’m definitely recreating their Paloma cocktail soon!

    THANKFUL // For my job. It makes me think, stretches me outside my comfort zone, and allows my creativity to flourish. I love it.

    WORKING ON // More like working out. Since joining ClassPass, I have finally hit my fitness stride. I love trying new classes, studios, and instructors. Some of my faves include Pure Barre, [SolidCore], Surge Cycle, and Modo Yoga! Sign up today and we can live the sweaty life together! (< – – affiliate link)

    PLANNING // Our bathroom remodel! K has worked so hard and we are finally ready for tile. He did the hard work, now I’m helping planning out the pretties like paint, fixtures, and tile.

    WATCHING // House of Cards…duh.

    xoxo,
    Alex



    iPhone wallpaper via Fleur De Letters…isn’t it perfect for the start of spring?!

    Avoiding Illness During the Holiday Season

    Unfortunately, the holiday season can bring lots of stress with it.   Combine this with travel, holiday parties and the flu season, and you have a recipe for getting sick!   So what can you do to prevent or minimize your chances of illness over the holiday season?   Here are are some steps you can take to help prevent illness:
    Wash your handsThe importance of this simple step cannot be overstated.  Prevention is the best cure and unless someone coughs or sneezes directly in your face you acquire bacterial and viral illnesses through your hands!  Use hand sanitizer whenever you cannot wash your hands.  Bacteria and Viruses do not jump on you they must be transported to a place of entry (eyes, nose, or mouth).   During air, train or bus travel it is worth considering having anti-bacterial wipes to wipe down surfaces on and around your seat as well.
    Exercise.   Who knew right?   Moderate exercise boost immune function through several well-established mechanisms so do NOT skip your workouts during the holidays!
    Get your sleep. If you have not figured this out already let me clue you in – lack of sleep prevents recovery and wears your entire system down so make sure you allow time for adequate sleep.
    Multi-Vitamin and Mineral Supplement.  This is not the season to be deficient in key vitamins in minerals – several of which will directly submarine your immune system.     There are many examples such as lack of adequate zinc and vitamin c.  Enough said – take a high quality vitamin and mineral supplement daily!
    Limit Intake of Refined Carbohydrates.    Refined carbohydrates such as cake, cookies, candy, donuts, pie, juices (that’s right fruit juices are not the way to do – way to much sugar!), pasta, bread, rice, potatoes, cereal, etc.    All this sugar directly blunts immune response!
    Avoid Trans Fats aka “Partially Hydronated Fats” prevalent in junk foods and fast foods.  These fats also blunt immune response.
    Most respiratory and gastrointestinal illness are viral not bacterial.   Colds and Flu are viral infections and will not be helped by medication other than symptom relief.     So knocking down some of that leftover antibiotic in your medicine cabinet is a bad idea!   That being said, there are always exception so consult with a physician whenever you are in doubt!   If you are given an antibiotic for bacterial infection it is CRUCIAL you finish the entire prescription even if you feel better before you are done!
    You can also add some of the supplements described below to help shorten the duration of your illness.    However, keep in mind that some antibiotics are effected by foods, vitamins, and minerals so make sure you read the instructions and ask the pharmacist.  For example, several antibiotics need to be taken on an empty stomach while others need to be taken with food and others can bind and become inactivated if taken at the same time as a vitamin or mineral supplement.

    Antibiotics.   If you are prescribed an antibiotic one side effect is that it can kill the beneficial bacteria which are supposed to be in your intestines.  To prevent diarrhea and/or fungal infections which come as a result of killing the good bacteria take a probiotic supplement (beneficial bacteria) to replenish the bacteria during and for at least two weeks after using any antibiotic. 
    Good brands include: Culterelle (available in many pharmacies and health food stores), enzymatic therapy acidophilus pearls, and best of all is Jarrow (Jarrow Dophilus).  Shelf stable brands such as these are BETTER then refrigerated products because the products requiring refrigeration WILL NOT be refrigerated during transport to the store.  Expiration dates are VERY important with these products.  They are safe for everyone and follow label directions for dosage
    Do not take at the same time as you take the antibiotic because the antibiotic will kill the bacteria.  By the way eating yogurt to replace the bacteria is like throwing a brick in the Grand Canyon to fill it – way too little to be effective.   Probiotic supplements are inexpensive and worth every nickel if you are taking antibiotics – particularly for females who want to avoid yeast infections due to antibiotic use.
    Specific Immune Enhancing Supplements
    Alkyglycerolsfrom shark liver oil.  The body uses alkyglycerols to create immune cells.   They are found in high concentrations in two places: mothers milk and shark liver oil.   Numerous controlled, peer-reviewed studies have established that supplemental intake increase can safely and significantly improve immune response by increasing the number of immune cells.  In fact, this supplement has been shown to prevent the immune suppression associated with chemotherapy and radiation.
    This supplement can be very helpful for certain people because its method of action is to rejuvenate the immune system  by providing the raw material for creation of immune cells rather than merely stimulate the immune response like other supplements like Echinacea.  If the immune system is stressed immune stimulants like Echinacea may not work without the use of Alkylglycerols to build it up.
    The most widely researched variety of this supplement is called Ecomer.  This particular brand was used in all the research studies.   A company called Scandinavian Naturals sells it under their label. Since shark liver oil can contain impurities such as PCB’s and other contaminents it is important that you buy a product using the Ecomer variety because it is molecularly distilled and free of all contaminants. 
    The only people who cannot safely take this product are organ transplant patients since it could in theory counteract the immune suppressing drugs they take to prevent their body from rejecting the organ.   Even people with auto-immune disorders tend to benefit because this supplement tends to balance an overactive immune system as well.  This product can be taken during the entire cold and flu season and is very effective at reducing the incidence of cold and flues.  Dosage is 1 to 2 capsules per day with meals.  This product is moderately priced but very effective – particularly if you know that you have a tendency to catch more colds and flues then other people.
    Astragalus Astragalus is a tonic adaptogenic herb used for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine.   Tonic adaptogenic herbs are herbs that can be used for long periods of time and normalize the body’s response to stressors.  Astragalus acts as a deep immune stimulant.   It has been extensively researched and documented to improve immune response.  It is best taken for the entire season.  It comes as drops (called a tincture) or in capsules.   For tinctures excellent brands include: Herb Pharm, Gaia, and Natural Factors.  For capsules excellent brands include: Nature’s Plus, Enzymatic Therapy, Twin Lab, and Solgar.  The only known contraindication is for organ transplant patients.   Dosage: follow label recommendations.  Astragalus is very inexpensive and an excellent preventive measure that many people swear by.
    Echinacea – is an extremely potent immune stimulant.  However there have been several studies showing little to no effect in human trials.  This occurred because an inferior product or insufficient dose was used in these studies.  Using the right product is VERY important.  The finest brand is unquestionably Natural Factors.  They control and test their product from seed to plant to end product.  They are one of two companies to insure standardization for the three key active chemicals. 
    The controlled, peer reviewed research on their Echinacea known as Echinamide shows outstanding effectiveness for viral and bacterial infections.  Their products are made in tincture and gelcaps.   They also make a mixed product that includes astragalus, lomatium, and mushroom extract which is outstanding for preventing or mitigating viral infections (the vast majority of illnesses are NOT bacterial they are viral). Always see a physician to make sure you do not need another medication. 
    Another outstanding product is called Quick Defense by Gaia Herbs which comes in a liquid or liquid cap.
    Another excellent brand is Nature’s Way Echinacea in tincture form – it has also been used in several successful research studies. 
    Another excellent product is Esberitox sold under the Enzymatic Therapy label.  It combines Echinacea, Thuja, and Blue Flag in chewable tablet form that tastes good (the tinctures mentioned DO NOT taste good, but they work).    Esberitox has also been proven effective in excellent research studies. 
    It is VERY important to take an adequate dose of Echinacea to produce results.   Preventively you can take a much smaller dose, but to affect an illness that has started you really need to increase dose significantly so follow the label directions which provide for different dosing for prevention and use during illness. 
    Probiotic Supplements– as mentioned above these supplements are key when taking antibiotics.  Good bacteria serve vital roles in human physiology and due to poor diet, toxin and drug intake many people lack the ideal levels of these helpful bacteria.  They directly stimulate immune response and can help prevent many of the causes of digestive illnesses such as food poisoning, yeast infections, etc.   The brands listed above are excellent.  
    Vitamin C and Zinc.  Short term increased intake of vitamin C and Zinc can boost immunity during illness.  Be careful with Zinc because too much for extended periods of time can cause problems.   Properly manufactured Zinc lozenges such as Cold-Eeze are extremely effective if used as directed for SHORT term use only.  Your multivitamin will provide plenty for regular daily use. 
    Vitamin C is extremely safe because it is never truly toxic.  If you take too much vitamin C your bowels will become loose. During illness you can usually tolerate much higher doses of Vitamin C (up to 20 grams per day in divided doses) without having loose bowels.  During illness start with 2 grams (2,000 milligrams) every 2 hours until you notice any bowel symptoms.  If you do back off the dosage slightly until the bowel symptoms go away.  If you do not have any bowel systems increase the dose. 
    You will be amazed how much Vitamin C you can tolerate IF you are really sick, and it takes high doses to be effective when ill.  The best type of Vitamin C is a buffered time released for of Vitamin C.  Buffered C is easier on the stomach and boosts plasma levels of C more efficiently than regular C.  If you want vitamin C to help you have to take several grams at a time as indicated above.    All the studies with Vitamin showing lack of results used inadequate dosing.  If you use enough it is an amazingly effective and inexpensive strategy for colds and flu.  
    Oscillocoxinum or Oscillo for short.  This is a homeopathic remedy specific and useful for one thing: the flu.  It MUST be used IMMEDIATELY upon symptom onset or it WILL NOT be effective.  Like all homeopathic remedies it is an FDA approved over the counter remedy that has NEVER produced side effects and is safe for anyone to use.  Several well designed clinical trials have proven the effectiveness of this product for the flu.  Simply follow label directions.    It costs about $15 for a complete supply that will get you through a bout of the flu.  When it works it is so effective that sometimes people think they did not have the flu which is very nice compared to getting the flu.
    Combining supplements:  all of these supplements can be taken together without fear of interactions.  My suggestion is that in addition to the multiple vitamin you focus on the Alkylglycerols and a good probiotic supplement throughout the cold and flu season then have some of these products on hand in case you do get sick.  It is worth having a few of these products on hand (such as Esberitox Mentioned above) because they can shorten the duration and intensity of viral and bacterial infections but are only effective if started at the first onset of symptoms.

    What Does It Take to Burn Off Halloween Candy?

    In the big picture of weight loss it is not what we do on the occasional holiday that really determines our weight it is the week in week out eating and drinking habits that determine our weight.   That being said if you are not careful you can eat/drink a ton of calories in one day which then turns into weeks of too many calories during the holidays starting with Halloween.
    The key is to plan and know what you are eating!   Candy can be confusing because of all the different snack sizes that are so prevalent during Halloween.      It is very easy to assume because you are eating snack size candy that it is not that bad, and this is true if you are not eating too many pieces!    Before you eat candy see how many calories you are eating – it takes less than a minute to google calorie, sugar, and fat content for just about any common Halloween Candy.
    Here are some examples:
    Nestle’s Crunch Bar (60 calories)               6 minutes of brisk aerobic exercise to burn off!
    Kit Kat Bar (70 calories)                             8 minutes of brisk aerobic exercise to burn off!
    4 Snickers Mini Bar (170 calories)             18 minutes of high intensity exercise to burn off!
    Full Size Twix Bar (80 calories)                 6 minutes of continuous kettlebell swings to burn off!
    4.2 Oz Candy Corn (450 calories)              4 – 5 miles of walking to burn off!
    2 Peanut Butter Cups (210 Calories)          2 miles of running to burn off!
    So eating a little candy is no big deal, BUT if you are not watching how many pieces/containers you eat you can quickly rack up a ton of calories that would take more than an hour of vigorous exercise to burn off!

    Plan your candy intake and know what you are going to eat and enjoy it!   The other key is have candy after a meal so you are not really hungry – candy and hunger make for a really bad combination!

    Squats and Anatomical Variation Among Individuals

    Squatting is one of the fundamental movement patterns everyone should train, but it is very important to understand and consider the effect that individual variations in limb length and anatomical variances can have on exactly how each person can and should squat.
    Everyone cannot and should not squat the same way!  Many trainers and individuals try to squat in “perfect” form with feet flat, no heel lift, feet pointing forward, with back upright and straight with butt to the grass but this is not only not possible for some people – it can actually get them hurt!
    One of the biggest factors determining how an individual can squat is the relative length of their femur (upper leg bone) relative to their lower leg and upper body length.       In general, the longer the femur  and the shorter the tibia (lower leg) the more a person MUST lean their upper body forward in order to get thighs parallel to floor much less going below parallel.     This puts a TON of stress on the low back and in extreme examples trying to get to parallel is a BIG MISTAKE – swap for another exercise like a lunge or step up – nobody wins when you get hurt exercising!
    To gain a really strong understanding of these concepts check out this fantastic article on this subject by Bret Contreras that includes video links to a short, but powerful video presentation on this subject using a stick model: https://bretcontreras.com/how-femur-length-effects-squat-mechanics/  .     Once you see it you will never try to force someone into a fixed squat pattern again without really thinking it through.      Also check out these videos from Tom Purvis which show this clearly in a way that is very easy to comprehend https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Av3LO2GwpAk and   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGEKRjlZKf8 

    In addition to limb length differences there can be dramatic differences in the shape of the acetabulum (the hip socket), the head of the femur (ball of femur) and femoral neck angle.   The end result can mean very different squatting mechanics are required.     Here is a great article showing how these differences manifest themselves in squatting:  https://bretcontreras.com/no-two-hips-are-the-same-how-anatomical-variance-can-affect-your-range-of-motion/

    The Shark Bathroom: Part 2

    Ooo, we are so close to being done with our basement bathroom! We have a couple plumbing things to take care of before we’re completely up and running. But, here are a couple progress shots of the walls, tile, and paint!
















    No more teal, no more sharks!

    xoxo,
    Alex

    Energy Drinks Pros and Cons

    Energy drinks have become a staple for many people, and there is lot of controversy about whether or not they are safe to drink.    Like most things the devil is in the details when it comes to energy drinks.
    Sugar Content
    One of the first points to consider for energy drinks is their sugar content.  Sugar is something the vast majority of people could do with consuming less not more.  People who drink energy drinks with high levels of sugar are taking in a lot of extra calories – up to 200 calories for large energy drinks with sugar.     This not only contributes to weight gain and slows or prevents weight loss – it can also wreak havoc on the millions of people with outright diabetes and the many millions who are on their way to diabetes due to insulin insensitivity from too much sugar intake and not enough exercise.
    Artificial Sweeteners
    Although sugar/carb free energy drinks do not have the issues associated with sugar described above – artificial sweeteners are clearly not healthy.     Now like all things it is all about the dosage consumed on a regular basis so someone having a single beverage with artificial sweeteners daily is very different than someone having four!
    Caffeine Content
    Another important consideration is the “energy” ingredients contained in the drink.     The most common ingredient is caffeine and the typical energy drink contains about 200mg of caffeine or the same amount you get in a large coffee.    If you are an adult and accustomed to caffeine this will provide an energy bump but will not send you into convulsions!    
    However, it is all about your size and your experience with caffeine.    The more you take in caffeine the more accustomed you become to it, and larger individuals can safely consume higher quantities for obvious reasons.     Moderate caffeine intake – 300 to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day — carries “little evidence of health risks and some evidence of health benefits,” conclude researchers from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University in Corvalis, writing in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition in March 2006.    This equates to 2 average size energy drinks per day.
    Other Stimulants
    Yohimbine is another potent stimulant so adding this together with caffeine can cause big problems – particularly in those with existing high blood pressure.
    N-methyltyramine, Octopamine, and synephrine are other stimulants.     As with Yohimbine best to steer clear of any energy drinks containing any of these ingredients! 
    Amino Acids
    Most energy drinks include amino acids like L-Phenylalanine and/or L-Tyrosine.   These amino acids act as precursors used by the body to produce excitatory neurotransmitters and hormones.      So they can amplify the effects of caffeine.      NOTE: for people with Phenylketonuria (commonly known as PKU) phenylalanine can be dangerous but there is a mandatory warning on all energy drinks containing this substance.
    Another common energy drink ingredient is the amino acid taurine.  Taurine is found in large amounts in the brain, retina, heart, and blood cells called platelets. The best food sources are meat and fish. Excess taurine is excreted by the kidneys.  Taurine promotes cardiovascular health, insulin sensitivity, electrolyte balance, hearing function, and immune modulation.  Authors of a 2012 study actual made the following statement concerning Taurine: “Considering its broad distribution, its many cytoprotective attributes, and its functional significance in cell development, nutrition, and survival, taurine is undoubtedly one of the most essential substances in the body.”    So Taurine is not toxic either.
    Another popular ingredient is Glucuronolactone which is added to “aid in detoxification”.  Interestingly enough there actually is some science supporting this claim.    More importantly it does NOT seem to be toxic in moderate doses used in most energy drinks.    Like the amino acids mentioned above glucuronolactone is produced in the body naturally so it is not foreign to cells.  There is an urban legend that this ingredient causes brain tumors but this is just that – a legend!
    B-Vitamins
    Most energy drinks contain the following B-Vitamins in significant doses:
    Niacin – Niacinamide
    B-2 – Riboflavin
    B-6 – Pyridoxine Hydrochloride
    B-12 – Cyanocobalamin
    B-5 – Pantothenic Acid
    B-Vitamins are water-soluble meaning excess will simply be excreted in the urine, and not having enough B-Vitamins can cause serious issues because B-Vitamins are essential for energy production and many other functions in the body.  
    So Why All the Concern?
    Like all stimulants – energy drinks can be abused with potentially serious consequences.     Heavy intake (3 or more per day) can cause nervousness and anxiety and heart palpitations.   For those with anxiety disorders, heart disease, or high blood pressure this is a real concern.     Anyone with a heart arrhythmia should check with their physician before taking any type of stimulant including caffeine and energy drinks.
    Certain energy drinks like “Redline” which contain multiple stimulants have very specific directions to only consume half a small bottle with a warning that should scare most people.     It is very easy to forget and consume a whole bottle and put yourself in a very uncomfortable and potentially life-threatening situation.   
    Always look at serving size, dosage and ingredients and start with smaller intake.    Gradually increase intake.  

    Last but not least stimulants can ruin your sleep – so be very careful not to take them past Noon.     Also if you start to develop sleep issues cut back your intake of all stimulants – this almost always helps!     Remember stimulants are not a substitute for rest, sleep, healthy diet, and exercise!

    How to Enjoy Alcoholic Beverages Without Getting Fat During the Holidays!

    The holidays are a time of celebration, and assuming you do NOT have a problem with alcohol and can drink responsibly, it is okay to imbibe!    The key to not getting fat from alcohol is to understand the calorie and carb content of alcoholic beverages and plan your intake ahead of time in terms of exactly what you chose to drink and how much you have.   

    All alcoholic beverages tend to drive insulin production so they are a big no, no for diabetics and other people taking certain medications.   ALWAYS check for drug and alcohol interactions before drinking any alcoholic beverage.
    It is also important to understand that in addition to the alcohol content itself alcoholic beverages are often full of sugar which further drives insulin and fat production.    The good news is that there ARE alcoholic beverages that are much lower in sugar/carb and calories.
    Champagne
    One of the best deals for a low carb holiday beverage is champagne!   Champagnes have the lowest carb and calorie content of any wine so are a great choice – particularly dryer champagnes.   A 4-ounce serving contains just 1.6 grams of carb and only 84 calories making Champagne the best choice for holiday cheer!
    Common White Wines
    After Champagnes the next best choice is white wines (NOT including ANY dessert wines!)
    Per 5 Ounce Serving Size:
    Chardonnay –   120 calories and 3.43 grams of carb
    Sauvignon Blanc – 120 calories and 3 grams of carb
    Reisling – 120 calories and 5.54 grams of carb
    Pinot Grigio – 122 calories and 3 grams of carb
    Common Red Wines
    Merlot – 118 calories and   grams of carb
    Cabernet Sauvignon – 130 calories and 3.82 grams of carb
    Burgundy – 122 calories and 5.46 grams of carb
    Pinot Noir – 116 calories and 4 grams of carb
    Shiraz – 116 calories and 3.79 grams of carb
     Low Carb Beers
    Bud Select 55 – 55 calories with only 1.9 grams of carb
    Miller64 – 64 calories with 2.4 grams of carb
    Michelob Ultra – 95 calories with 2.62 grams of carb
    Becks Premier Light – 64 Calories with 3.2 grams of carb
    Miller Light – 96 calories with 3.2 grams of carb
    Amstel Light – 95 calories with 5 grams of carb
    Coors Light – 102 calories with 5 grams of carb
    Bud Light – 110 calories with 6.6 grams of carb
    Mixed Drinks
    Liquor such as gin, vodka, scotch and rum, but are full of calories and to some extent act as a “super” carb driving insulin and hunger.    That being said they do not contain any carb whatsoever so as long as you mix them with no sugar/calorie mixers you can keep your carb and calorie intake somewhat under control.
    One of the best choices is Vodka and Soda Water with Lime or Lemon coming in with zero carbs and about 100 calories!   Other examples are whiskey and diet coke, Seagrams 7 and Diet 7-up, Rum and diet cola, or Spiced Rum and Diet Ginger Ale.
    What to avoid!
    Watch those mixers when it comes to mixed drinks – most standard mixers such as all sodas, fruit juices, and tonic are full of sugar unless you use the diet versions.    All your Caribbean and Tropical drinks such as Pina Coladas, Daquireis, Mai Tai’s, and Margaritas, etc are chock full of sugar and calories.
    Set a Budget for Your Intake!
    Set a budget on your intake of alcoholic beverages and actually keep track as you drink them making a point of knowing how much you have had each hour.     Remember each beer, glass of wine, and mixed drink takes one hour to process for the average male (and longer for females) so anything above 1 per hour is getting you inebriated at some level.   
    In addition to budgeting your intake drink a glass of non-alcoholic, no calorie beverage such as water or club soda for each drink/beer/glass of wine you have to slow yourself down and stay hydrated.
    If you want to catch a buzz drink your limit and switch to all non-alcoholic beverages for 2 – 4 hours before driving.     

    Even better – get a designated driver or use Uber or Lyft for travel to and from Holiday Parties!

    Cocoa Chat 11.6.15

    If we were grabbing hot chocolate today, we’d have a lot to talk about. Probably starting with the bump in the room. Our family is growing – our little one’s guess-date is the end of February. We are over the moon!


    I’m feeling a ton better now and love the “honeymoon” second trimester. More energy, less gagging/puking, a visible bump – it’s great. Things that I’m loving right now: Blooma prenatal yoga, my Snoogle Pillow, and hot chocolate, especially peppermint cocoa.

    My house is transforming. We’ve been up to our eyeballs in house construction since August and I think (knock on wood) we are nearing the home stretch on most of it. The basement is almost finished and all that’s left is figuring out our carpet order. The electrician finished up last week and I’m pretty excited about all the light we have down there now.


    I came home from a weekend away to find that my sweet husband had finished painting our living room upstairs. It’s incredible. We literally have a different home. I’ll do a project post soon so you can see the whole transformation.


    Last weekend, I wrapped up wedding season. We didn’t have ton this year, but most were out of town. New Jersey, Oregon, Ohio. This kid and I have been coast to coast this year all in the name of love. Since we were in Ohio, we made a quick stop at Kappa Headquarters!


    Let’s see, I went back to school this fall…for a total of 8 days. I’m getting my Professional Train the Trainer Certificate through the University of Minnesota (I guess that makes me a Gopher at last). What I love about it is that I’m finally getting formal education to back up my almost decade of experience as a trainer and facilitator. It’s been a blast. And I’m a huge nerd, I know.

    Give to the Max Day is coming up on Thursday, November 12th. As a lifelong advocate for women and girls, I support the Center for Girls’ Leadership each year. Investing in girls means establishing a firm foundation for the next generation of women leaders in our world. We couldn’t do this work without your support on Give to the Max Day. Please consider making a gift of any size to help us promote leadership to middle and high school girls!

    Alright, that’s it for now!

    xoxo,
    Alex

    Sheryl Sandberg on Resilience

    via


    “I hope that you live your life — each precious day of it — with joy and meaning. I hope that you walk without pain — and that you are grateful for each step.
    And when the challenges come, I hope you remember that anchored deep within you is the ability to learn and grow. You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. Like a muscle, you can build it up, draw on it when you need it. In that process you will figure out who you really are — and you just might become the very best version of yourself.”
    – Sheryl Sandberg
    Commencement speech at the University of California, Berkeley

    Winter Wonderland

    A few snaps from the winter wonderland we experienced over the holidays:

    xoxo,
    Alex

    High Intensity Exercise and Brain Health

    Physical fitness has been linked to brain health and is an important strategy to prevent dementia.  In fact, compelling evidence shows that physical exercise helps build a brain that not only resists shrinkage but increases cognitive abilities and creativity.
    We also know that exercise promotes your brain’s ability to adapt and grow more cells. Exercise also promotes brain health by controlling insulin resistance and boosting hormones and neurotransmitters associated with mood control, including endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, glutamate and GABA. 
    A Canadian Study showed that high-intensity workouts helped boost memory by improving hippocampal function — a finding that may prove to be an important prevention strategy against Alzheimer’s disease.

    High-Intensity Exercise Improves Memory

    In the Canadian study, 95 healthy young adults were put into one of three groups: One group completed six weeks of HIIT plus cognitive training; the other treatment group did HIIT only, while the control group remained inactive and got no cognitive training. Both HIIT groups experienced significant improvements in high-interference memory.
    Interference memory is when information a person has already memorized interferes with their ability to learn and memorize new information.  It is directly linked  to the ability to learn and retain information.

    Improvement in Fitness Level seems to be linked with Brain Benefits

    Those who achieve the greatest improvements in fitness also have more significant increases in brain-derived neurotrophic factor aka (BDNF). BDNF is a protein that has rejuvenating effects on both your muscles and your brain. High BDNF levels have also been correlated to a dramatic reduction in Alzheimer’s risk, as it helps you grow new brain cells and protect old ones from deterioration.
    As one would expect, those who participated in both HIIT and cognitive training saw the greatest improvements in memory in this study, and “high responders to exercise,” meaning those who gained the greatest fitness improvements, gained the greatest memory improvements of all.
    Exercise Also Increases Mitochondrial Health in Your Brain

    Other research has shown that exercise also increases the levels of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator (PGC-1α), which increases mitochondrial biogenesis (the production of new mitochondira within cells). The PGC-1α pathway regulates both mitochondrial activity and mitochondrial replication. This is very significant for the brain as it is the most mitochondrially-dense organ in your body.  Mitochondria are the key energy producing organelle’s in the cells, and one of the primary causes of aging and cellular dysfunction is defective mitochondia.   Without enough health mitochondia cells cannot function properly.

    Exercise Triggers the Growth of New Neurons

    As noted by psychiatrist Dr. John J. Ratey in his book “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain,” there’s overwhelming evidence showing that exercise produces large cognitive gains and helps fight dementia.
    There are several studies showing that exercise boosts gray matter in the hippocampal region of the brain. A 2013 study found the total minutes of weekly exercise correlated with volume of the right hippocampus, meaning the more exercise people got, the larger their right hippocampus — the area associated with nonverbal memory functions and spatial relationship memories.

    Exercise also preserves gray and white matter in your frontal, temporal and parietal cortexes, thereby preventing cognitive deterioration. In a 2012 study, those who exercised the most had the least amount of brain shrinkage over a follow-up period of three years.

    3 Before 30

    [source]

    I usually make a bunch of resolutions, stick with half of them, and close out the year on a happy note. This year, I’ve made a couple goals, not concrete resolutions. At the end of 2015, I’ll turn 30. I’m not really worried about it but I thought it was a good benchmark to accomplish a few things at this point in my life. I know a lot of folks make 30 Before 30 lists but that seemed entirely too overwhelming and unattainable with everything I’ve got going on. So here are my three goals to accomplish before I turn 30:


    Be Proactive about My Health
    This includes everything from getting my teeth cleaned, cervix checked, and eyeballs examined to adding strength training to my exercise schedule to get fit and strong. I also want to start hiking more. Random, but something I really enjoy. So yeah.

    Write More
    I want to be more intentional about incorporating writing in my life. I used to journal regularly and have strayed from that over the last couple years. I’d like to return to that practice. Towards the end of 2014, I started getting more into modern calligraphy and want to continue practicing each week. I have a great idea on how I’m going to do that and I’ll share it soon.

    Pay off Credit Card Bill
    Because, you know, adults should do things like that. I’m close and can’t wait to get that back to zero. It will take a bit to be completely debt free after law school but that’s to be expected. One step at a time.


    So that’s my 3 Before 30. I also love this list of things we need to stop doing in 2015. Because sometimes we just need to say no more.

    Alright, what are your resolutions/goals/challenges for 2015?

    xoxo,
    Alex

    Summer Capsule Wardrobe for Work

    This article cracked me up. The LOFT has been my favorite store since college. Literally, 90% of my closet is from the Loft. What can I say? They just get me. They have classic pieces that fit my body and you never pay full price for an item. They are LITERALLY always having a sale. Feel foolish if you don’t take advantage of a promo code.

    So after reading that article, I feel like I’ve been on the inside of a wonderful secret for years. And just when I thought the Loft couldn’t get much better, I got pregnant and discovered their maternity line. It saved me for work, let me tell you. My favorite Lou & Grey leggings? They carry a maternity version. Need a cute dress for work while feeling every inch of nine months pregnant? Covered.

    My maternity leave is up in a few short weeks and since my body has obviously changed a bit, and so have the seasons, I thought I’d treat myself to a little wardrobe refresh and give the capsule wardrobe a try again. 

    I say again, because when I was a consultant living out of my suitcase, I had no choice to embrace a capsule wardrobe. Granted, I was in a different spot each week and nobody was none the wiser if I wore the same five outfits each week. So in an effort to simplify, I’m cultivating a summer capsule wardrobe for work. My goal is two weeks of outfits that I can mix and match.

    Over the last year I’ve begun streamlining my work wardrobe to the colors black, gray, navy, white, coral (spring/summer) and garnet (fall/winter). So far so good. Everything goes, I can mix and match, and get out the door quickly.

    Here are a few pieces that are on their way to my casa and I’ll likely be wearing over and over this summer:

      
     
    I’ll be mixing in some pieces from my current wardrobe but I’m really excited about simplifying this summer. Have you given a capsule wardrobe a try? Tell me about it in the comments!

    xoxo,
    Alex

    All items above found on loft.com this week.

    Seahawks Take the Bank

    This past Sunday, I took K to see the Seahawks play at  TCF Bank. He’s been working so hard on our home and has been so supportive over the last couple months when I haven’t always felt like I  was glowing. I wanted to take him on a date to show my appreciation. 

    When I bought the tickets a few months ago, I simply sent him a calendar invite saying we had a Day Date. I lasted about 4 hours before sharing the surprise. Apparently, I’m a terrible secret keeper.

    He converted me to a Hawks fan a couple years ago and it was so fun to see them here in Minnesota! We saw a great game too – The Seahawks routed the Vikes! 


    It was the perfect day date!

    xoxo,
    Alex

    Easy Entertaining // Bacon & Date Dip

    I love to entertain. Whether it’s one friend for a glass of wine, my parents for Sunday night dinner, or Friendsgiving, I want it to be special. And easy. 

    Last summer, I threw a wedding shower for my dear friend Lindsay. Since the party was after work, I wanted an easy menu that threw together quickly. My friend Angie put me on to this dip and now it is a staple at my parties. It receives rave reviews every time and it’s just special enough that it brings a new factor to the appetizer table. 

    Bacon & Date Dip – aka The Best Dip Ever

    1 package of bacon
    1 bag of dates (from the baking aisle)
    10.5 ounces of Chevre (goat cheese)
    Cook bacon in a skillet until cooked through but not crispy. Once the bacon is cool, chop into small pieces and add to a microwave/oven safe dish. Mix the bacon and equal parts dates and heat up in the oven or microwave until the warm. The bacon and dates should start to caramelize together. Add the goat cheese to the mixture and heat until warm. Do not overheat.
    To make this recipe even easier, cook and chop the bacon ahead of time. On the day of your event, all you’ll need to do is mix and warm.
    Serve with your choice of crackers. 
    Enjoy!

    xoxo,
    Alex

    Seven Year Itch.


    I’ve lived in this little rambler for seven years. After returning home from living a life on the road, I was excited to unpack my suitcase and find a home. I had about three months before law school started in the fall and there was no time to waste. 


    I had toured a dozen tiny, smelly, questionable studio and one bedroom apartments when my folks approached me with another option. They were looking to invest in another property in town and they’d make the rent affordable. 

    Our goal was to find a flip, work on it for the next three years, and hopefully make a profit once law school was over.

    After viewing a few undesirable properties (you haven’t really lived until you tour a house that has been condemned due to animal feces inside – pretty sure there was also a rather large animal living upstairs), a cute little house popped up on the MLS. Abandoned for 10 months, it needed work but the potential was huge. We quickly made an offer to the bank and before too long, the house was ours.

    I still remember the first night I actually slept there. It was a hot summer night and with the windows open, I could hear the train rumble past. I knew immediately my days of watching Criminal Minds had come to an end.

    But I survived. And began turning the house into a home. But truthfully, it only really felt like home when K moved in after graduation. Before him, the house was just a stepping stone, a place to live while finishing school. With him, we began to imagine a life together, our future. 

    During the past four years, we’ve done a lot of living in this house. We’ve hosted holidays (Easter, Friendsgiving, birthdays, Mother’s Day, and graduation brunch), dinner club, game nights, and board meetings.

    We’ve overhauled the house. From our first small project together to a full blown renovation, there isn’t one inch of this place that we haven’t poured our blood, sweat, and tears into. 

    We planned our wedding and celebrated the day to day of marriage here. We brought our baby home here.

    And now, we’re moving on. A new stage in our lives as parents calls for a new house. Our house. One that we can make a home, for the three of us. For now.
    If it doesn’t sell, that’s okay too. We’ve turned this house into our home. And it’s a beautiful one at that. A part of our hearts will always be here.

    xoxo,
    Alex

    P.S. To celebrate, I’ll be sharing an updated home tour all week on the blog. Check back tomorrow for the first reveal!

    Tidbits: 1.16.16

    9 Ways Millennials Are Simplifying Their Lives In 2016

    This is frustrating. // Women May Not Reach Boardroom Parity for 40 Years

    I want in. // The Lois Club

    26 Things Every Person Should Do For Themselves At Least Once A Year

    Saint Fred Rogers, the Patron Saint of Neighborliness

    The Best Ways to Fake a Clean House

    We all probably need a few of these. Wine Pearls

    Great idea to track the highlights of your year. // Best of My Days 2016

    Yikes! // How Much the Movies Have Spent “Rescuing” Matt Damon

    I really do love winter. // Scandinavian Wisdom

    Tongue Twisters

    Best of The Onion 2015

    You are goingt o want to have kleenex handy for this one. // Exes Ask Each Other The Hard Questions They Always Wanted Answered

    This is everything. // Channing Tatum & Beyonce’s “Run The World (Girls)” vs. Jenna Dewan-Tatum’s “Pony” | Lip Sync Battle
    Stay warm this weekend, folks!

    xoxo,
    Alex

    Digestion Resistant Starch: All Starch is NOT created equal!

    Digestion Resistant Starch (resistant starch for short) is not fully digested and absorbed, but instead ferments in the large intestine and is turned into short-chain fatty acids (SCFA’s) by bacteria.    So it is a prebiotic and feeds beneficial bacteria in the colon.
    Where does Resistant Starch come from?
    All starches come from two polysaccharides: amylose and amylopectin.  A polysaccharide is just multiple units of sugar hooked together, and MOST of the time a starch is digested to glucose. 
    Amylopectin has a large surface area that allows it to be broken down quickly resulting in larger and quicker spikes of glucose (blood sugar) along with corresponding increases in insulin which is where the dark side of starch intake can show up.
    Amylose has much less surface area so is much more resistant to digestion.  Amylose is what makes resistant starch resistant! These starches produce much lower glucose and insulin spikes.

    Resistant starch is similar to fiber, but nutrition labels rarely mention resistant starch content.

    Digestive Tract Benefits of Resistant Starch
    As mentioned above when resistant starch is fermented by bacteria in the large intestine short chain fatty acids (SCFA) such as acetate, butyrate, and propionate, along with gases are produced. SCFAs can be absorbed into the body from the colon or stay put and be used by bacteria for energy.

    Evidence suggests that SCFAs may benefit us in many ways. For instance, they:
    • ·       Stimulate blood flow to large intestine (colon)
    • ·       Increase nutrient absorption
    • ·       Inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria
    • ·       Reduce absorption of toxins  

    Metabolic Benefits of Resistant Starch
    Lower Calorie Intake – we only absorb 2 calories per gram of resistance starch (versus about 4 calories per gram from other starches).   This is a really big deal because although you take in less calories from resistant starch it is VERY effective at satisfying hunger and produces high satiety levels! 
    Reduced Hunger – the SCFA’s produced from resistant starch cause the release of hormones that reduce hunger!    This takes time so the longer that you consistently eat resistant starch the more the body adapts to produce more SCFA and the more pronounced the hunger lowering benefits become.
    Improved Lipid Levels and Fat Metabolism
    Resistant starch can help lower blood cholesterol and fats. It has also been shown to reduce the production of new fat cells. The SCFAs produced from resistant starch also reduce the release of carbohydrates by the liver thereby increasing the amount of fat we burn.
    Improved Insulin Sensitivity

    The reduced insulin response to resistant starch is very significant.   Constant high levels of insulin in response to high levels of sugar and other non-fiber carbohydrate intake reduces the cells insulin sensitivity and overtime this can result in Type 2 Diabetes!    This has big ramifications for the treatment of this form of diabetes which is sky-rocketing.
    The effect on glucose and insulin metabolism is very impressive. Some studies have found a 33-50% improvement in insulin sensitivity after 4 weeks of consuming 15-30 grams per day.
    Decreased Digestive Issues

    Resistant starch may help prevent and reduce existing irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, constipation, and ulcerative colitis.
    Immune System Enhancement
    Resistant starch can help balance immune response in the gut by balancing the production of immune cells and inflammatory chemicals.
    Sources of Resistant Starch
    Resistant starch is found in starchy foods such as:
    Beans and Legumes
    Whole grains
    Starchy Fruit and Vegetables
    There are four types of resistant starch:
    Type 1 – is in whole unprocessed foods like legumes, whole and partially milled grains, and seeds.   The starch resists digestion because it is bound within fibrous cell walls.
    Type 2 – is found within some starchy foods like raw potatoes and green unripe bananas.  The more raw and uncooked these foods are the more resistant starch they tend to contain since heat can turn resistant starch into regular digestible starch.
    Type 3 – is formed when certain starch foods, including potatoes and rice are cooked and then cooled.   Cooling turns some of the starch into resistant starch through a process called retrogradation.
    Type 4 – is man-made and formed through a chemical process.    An example is “Hi-Maize Resistant Starch” made from corn.
     Getting More Resistant Starch
    There are three ways to get more resistant starch: either get them from foods, supplement them or do a little of both.   

    Some common popular food items that are easy to find include raw potatoes, cooked and then cooled potatoes or rice, green bananas, cashews and raw oats.
    If you are eating a low carb diet and want to make sure you keep your sugar and digestible starch intake very low focus on raw potatoes or green bananas which both have almost no digestible carb.  

    Or you can use raw potato starch powder (Bob’s Red Mill Raw Potato Starch) which is easy to sprinkle into foods and shakes.  This supplement has very little taste.    Benefits will likely max out at 32 grams of resistant starch per day and start slowly and gradually increase to let your digestive system adjust.

    It will take 2 – 4 weeks for the production of short chain fatty acids to increase and to notice all the benefits!

    Solving the Weight Loss Puzzle Part 3

    If you have not read parts 1 and 2 please do so first!  So now that we understand that the most important factor in controlling bodyweight is to manage the energy you use daily with the energy you take in from food and beverages the next step is understanding the crucial difference between losing fat and losing weight.  

    In the beginning of any new diet there is typically a significant loss of water weight, and while comforting this is a temporary phenomenon and not permanent!    Also it is important to understand that real goal should be reducing levels of bodyfat while maintaining or actually increasing muscle mass.     

    The reason is that muscle and fat are not the same when it comes to how you look and feel. Fat is nothing more than stored energy and fat tissue takes up much more space than muscle or other lean tissue mass.  Take a look at the picture below to get a sense of how different 5lbs of muscle looks compared to 5lbs of fat.


    As you can see muscle is much denser and firmer material than fat.  The practical implication is that if you were to lose 5lbs of fat and gain 5lbs of muscle although the scale would not change at all – you (and everyone you know) would notice a big improvement in your appearance.   You would actually look smaller and tighter.  In addition because muscle burns significantly more calories than fat while at rest your resting metabolic rate would be increased meaning you are burning more calories ALL the time — not just during exercise.

    So the next question becomes “how do I lose fat and build or maintain muscle mass at the same time?”   There are three keys:
    Regular resistance training aka weight lifting – which stimulates your body to maintain or build muscle and bone tissue.

    High Intensity Interval Training – which maximizes calorie burn both during AND after the workout
    Managing food and beverage intake – to insure your calorie intake is slightly below your total calorie output – to insure your body has a reason to use fat (stored energy).

    While each of these components can be effective by themselves — when they are combined there is much greater short and long term response.  Take any of the three components out and you will limit your results.
    Put another way reducing calorie intake will initially result in greater fat loss than exercise for people who are beginning to exercise, BUT overtime your body will ALWAYS slow-down in response to any sustained drop in calorie intake.   
    Exercise on the other hand is just the opposite — initially for an unfit person exercise makes a very small contribution to any weight loss because the person’s exercise capacity is low.  However, over time a person’s exercise capacity will improve.    So all forms of diet become less effective over time while exercise becomes more effective.
    The key is addressing diet and exercise out of the gate and focusing on HIIT and Resistance Training in your exercise programming while watching your food and beverage intake!
    Stay tuned for the final part of this article next week!

    Berberine – for Cancer Prevention, Anxiety, Depression, Increased Fat Burning, and More!

    Berberine – for Cancer Prevention, Anxiety, Depression, Increased fat burning, and more!

    Berberine is a yellow alkaloid found in several plants/herbs such as goldenseal and phellodendron.   It is a powerful plant chemical with proven antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, and immune enhancing properties.    Herbs containing berberine have a long history of effective use and there is considerable science backing these uses.
    It is also extremely helpful for treatment of seasonal allergies traveler’s diarrhea, food poisoning, and as an oral hypoglycemic for Type 2 diabetes.

    As per Dr. Michael Murray Berberine has been shown to: 
    • Produce results in clinical trials in improving Type 2 diabetes on par or better than conventional drugs including metformin.
    • Improve blood lipid levels better than statins.
    • Lower blood pressure in many subjects as well as any class of antihypertensive medication.
    • Improve liver function and promote anti-obesity effects.
    • Exert significant beneficial effects on digestive health and the microbiome.
    • Produce very encouraging experimental data in a wide range of modern health issues including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and others.
    How does Berberine work?

    Berberine activates adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK).  AMPK is sometimes referred to as a “metabolic master switch” because it plays an important role in regulating metabolism.

    AMPK causes a cascade of effects within cells involved with maintaining energy homeostasis.  AMPK helps shift energy towards cellular repair and maintenance.   It has many of the same effects as increasing exercise while at the same time restricting caloric intake.

    Other benefits of Berberine include:
    • Slowing the release of free fatty acids to help prevent harmful fat deposits
    • Promoting insulin, leptin, and adiponectin function for a healthy metabolism
    • Supporting healthy blood sugar levels already in the normal range
    • Promoting healthy insulin sensitivity
    • Promoting healthy gut microflora
    • Supporting healthy lipid metabolism
    • Stimulating the release of nitric oxide for healthy blood flow
    Berberine Helps Ease Anxiety and Depression

    Another benefit of AMPK is that it protects neurons and increases key neurotransmitters which improves brain function and psychological well-being.  So, it should not be surprising that several studies have shown that Berberine is very useful for anxiety and depression.

    Berberine and Cancer Prevention

    Berberine slows cancer growth and causes cancer cell death through a variety of mechanisms: tumor cell apoptosis and cell cycle arrest, inhibits blood vessel growth to tumors, inhibition of tumor cellular invasion and metastases (spread), etc.
    One of the main anti-cancer targets that is inhibited by berberine is NF-kappa B. NF-kappa B is one of the most important proteins in our cells, acting as a key switch in the development and progression of inflammation and cancer.
    ·       Cancer (and precancerous cells) often have a permanently activated NF-kappa B, which keeps the cells proliferating and prevents them from dying (apoptosis.)
    ·       Chronic inflammation can also be a result of activated NF-kappa B, and we know that chronic inflammation can lead to cancer growth
    ·       Additionally, Berberine sensitizes cancer cells to the effects of radiation but NOT of normal cells. So Berberine may make radiation therapy more effective. 

    Berberine also inhibits the tendency of cancer cells to become drug resistant over time by inhibiting the cellular membrane proteins that pump drugs out of the cell. When Berberine is taken with numerous chemotherapy drugs, studies have shown that they work synergistically to fight cancer.
    Contraindications for Berberine

    ·       Displaces bilirubin and should not be administered to jaundiced neonates (may increase bilirubin levels due to displacement of bilirubin from albumin)
    ·       May cause a prolonged QT (a variable in cardiac electrical conduction) in patients with underlying heart disease
    Drug Interactions

    While Berberine is quite safe and well-tolerated, it may be contraindicated if you’re taking medications.  For example, Berberine may hinder absorption of tetracycline and other similar antibiotics, rendering them ineffective. Also, because Berberine significantly inhibits CYP3A enzymes — enzymes needed to metabolize most drugs — it can lower the clearance of medications, which in turn can augment their effect. This can lead to overdose, the risks of which will vary depending on the drug in question.

    Berberine increases the effects of drugs that lower blood sugar so it is critical that you not mix Berberine with these drugs unless under the supervision of a physician.  IT is important to note that Berberine produces all the benefits of Metformin with much lower risks!

    Sources of Berberine

    Berberine is available as an isolated supplement OR through certain herbs such as goldenseal or Phellodendron.    Nexrutine is a patented Phellodendron Extract with high levels of Berberine that is particularly effective at reducing joint pain, improving mood, and reducing prostate inflammation and likely prostate cancer risk.   Phellodendron also has has a long history of being used to treat prostate inflammation and prostatitis.

    Three Movies You Might Have Missed.

    Winter in Minnesota means hibernation. And more often than not, we enjoy cuddling by the fire, curled up watching movies. Here are three underrated movies you might have missed that are worth a watch:
    The Good Lie
    St. Vincent

    Whiplash

    xoxo,
    Alex

    P.S. Seen any good movies lately?

    Mastering Your Decor Budget

    We officially sold our house today! I have so much to say about that process but today, we’re talking interior design! I’ve spent the last couple weeks dreaming about our new place and how I’m going to decorate once we get the final green light to move in. 

    Laurel + Wolf, an interior design company that connects you with professionals to design your space, reached out to me about sharing this DIY guide to decorating on a budget. Since it’s all I pretty much think about these days, it was a no brainer!

    Here are my thoughts on mastering your decor budget:

    1. Thrift!
    I love scoping my local thrift stores, garage sales, and craigslist for cheap finds! I also love a good hand-me-down. Some of my favorite pieces have been found while thrifting, like our $20 patio furniture, or our dining room table.

    2. Paint is your best friend.
    It’s so amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do. Walls, fireplaces, furniture – paint can basically cure everything. Our table is the perfect example. White paint completely transformed the table from outdated to farmhouse chic. I just love it!

    3. Shop your home. 
    Don’t be afraid to move things around. I love rearranging the furniture or switching up my shelving decor to make it all feel new. It costs $0 to shop your house!

    Designers from Laurel + Wolf share their tips below:

    What are some of your affordable design tips? Share with me in the comments!
    xoxo,
    Alex

    Currently 4.28.16


    This past year has been an absolute whirlwind. I look back and wish I had blogged a bit more to really capture all the changes that we went through as a little family. Oh well, thank goodness for Instagram, right? 

    But, I’m committed to keeping my little corner of the interwebs up and running, even if it means posting fewer and farther between. So, with that, here’s what I’m currently up to:


    READING // The Nightingale, The Widow, The Paris Architect. Up next: Big Magic and Surprised by Motherhood.


    LISTENING TO // The soothing sounds of my breast pump…

    EATING // Breakfast cookies! These are saving me when I wake up famished in the middle of the night. I’ll post the recipe soon.

    THANKFUL // For the opportunity to take maternity leave but…

    PLANNING // My return to work. I have an amazing gig going and I can’t wait to dive back into it.

    LOVING // My little man and being a mama. 

    WORKING ON // Our house. We have a couple projects left to finish up including the kitchen, our bedroom, and the upstairs bathroom. Then I’m officially calling it done. Because really, what kind of insane person remodels their house while pregnant and on maternity leave?!

    NEEDING // My CLE credits since my law license is up for renewal this summer. 

    DREAMING OF // Sleep. 

    WATCHING // I still can’t get enough of this epic lip sync battle. Melissa McCarthy is unreal. Plus, didn’t we all fall in love with Sookie again when she thanked her mom at the MTV Movie Awards: And to my mom, Sandy Lynn McCarthy, who taught me not to fear being the butt of the joke, taught me not to worry about being likeable and perfect, and to lovingly go for the kill.” Yesssss.

    Life is so different than a year ago, but I wouldn’t change it one bit.
    xoxo,
    Alex

    Back Exercises for Bigger Size and Strength

    Back exercise
    We will perform 5 Exercise for Back
    First 10-15 mins are for warm-up. You can do jogging / walking or 10 minutes. Stepping for 1 or 2 minutes. Jumping for 1 minutes. Twisting for 1 minutes. Warm up will prepare your body for exercise by increasing the heart rate and blood circulation. It will help loosening the joints and increase blood flow to the muscles. This 10-15 min stretch prepare your muscles for physical activity and prevents injuries.
    After warm up perform 3 sets each of 10 reps for wide grip chin-ups.
    Exercise 1: – Wide Grip Lateral Pull-down (4*12)
                                                

    wide grip lateral pull down

    wide grip lateral pull down
                                

                  Sit down on a pull down machine with a Wide bar attached to the pulley. Grip the bar as wide as you can palm facing forwards. Make sure that you adjust the knee pad of the machine to fit your height. These pads will prevent your body to raise upside as resistance from the bar. Now as you breath in pull the bar towards your chest hold for a second, return to previous position slowly as you breath out. This will be one repetition. Perform 12 repetition to complete a set. Perform total 4 sets.
    Exercise 2: – Seated Cable Row (4*12)

    Seated cable raw

    Seated cable raw
                                            

                  Sit on a low pulley cable machine with a v bar placing your feet on the front platform, make sure your knees are slightly bent and not locked. Lean over and grab the v-bar keep your back straight all the time. With your arm extended pull back until your torso is at 90-degree angle from your legs. Your chest should be up. This is your starting position. Now keeping the torso intact, as you breath in pull the handle towards your torso while keeping the arms close to it until you touch the abdominal. Try to squeeze your back muscles. Hold for a second. Slowly go to your starting position while you breath out. This will be one repetition. Perform 12 repetition to complete a set. Perform total 4 sets.
    Exercise 3: – Close Grip Front Lateral Pull-down (4*12)

                                            
    Close grip front lateral pull-down

    Close grip front lateral pull-down


                  Sit on a pull down machine with a wide bar attached to the pulley. Grip the bar shoulders width apart hands facing forward. Make sure that you adjust the knee pad of the machine to fit your height. These pads will prevent your body to raise upside as resistance from the bar. Sit straight upright with your back straight. Now as you breath in pull the bar towards your chest hold for a second, return to previous position slowly as you breath out. This will be one repetition. Perform 12 repetition to complete a set. Perform total 4 sets.
    Exercise 4: – Single Arm Dumbbell Row (4*12)

                                                

    Single Arm dumbbell row

    Single Arm dumbbell row
                  Choose a flat bench, place your right knee on the top of the end of the bench, bend your torso forward from the waist until your upper body is parallel to the floor, place your right hand on the other end of the bench for support. Use your left hand to pick a dumbbell on the floor hold it while keeping your back straight. Palm of your hand facing your torso. As you breath in pull the dumbbell up to side of your chest, bending your elbow, keeping your upper arm close to your side and keep your torso stationary. Try to squeeze your back muscles while pulling the dumbbell. Hold for a second. As you breath out lower the dumbbell straight to your previous position. This will be one repetition. Perform 12 repetition to complete a set. Perform same process with your right arm. Perform total 4 sets.
    Exercise 5: – Underhand Cable Pull-down (4*15)

                                                          

    Underhand cable pull-down

    Underhand cable pull-down

                  Sit on a pull down machine with a wide bar attached to the pulley. Grip the bar with the palm facing your torso, hands are placed closer than the shoulders width. Make sure that you adjust the knee pad of the machine to fit your height. These pads will prevent your body to raise upside as resistance from the bar. Bring your torso back around 30-degree angle, your back straight. your chest should be up. Now as you breath in pull the bar towards your chest hold for a second, return to previous position slowly as you breath out. This will be one repetition. Perform 15 repetition to complete a set. Perform total 4 sets.     
    Note-:
    1.       Rest between each set 45-60 seconds.
    2.       Rest between each exercise 90-120 seconds.
    3.       Drink adequate amount of water.
    4.       Don’t forget to stretch.
    Disclaimer
    1.        Please consult a physician to access your health before following the program in the blog.
    2.        All the specified exercises should be performed in the safest position as specified in the blog. I will not be held responsible for any injury incurred while performing the exercise specified in the blog.

    Bright and Colorful Toddler Books

    I’m popping in real quick to share a couple new children’s books we are loving right now: the Alphaprints series from Roger Priddy. The pictures are bright and colorful, full of textures, and the rhymes are fun to read.


     
    ABC

     
    123


    Colors

    Declan will sit and flip through them for a good amount of time, pointing and giggling at the drawings. It’s the best. I’ve already given them as gifts at a baby shower since we love them so much. If you are looking for a good book for a toddler, I encourage you to check these out!

    xoxo,
    Alex

    *Affiliate links are used in this post

    Quoted // Sally Clarkson

    “All people need a place where their roots can grow deep and they always feel like they belong and have a loving refuge. And all people need a place that gives wings to their dreams, nurturing possibilities of who they might become.”
    — Sally Clarkson, The Lifegiving Home

    Easy Entertaining // Deviled Eggs with Bacon


    Happy Super Bowl Sunday! Need a last minute appetizer? Here you go!

    We love deviled eggs over here. Every time I make them, they are gone in a blink. So, I always double the amount I make for next time. Guess what? It doesn’t matter. They still disappear. Anyway, it’s another easy appetizer to keep in your back pocket because the ingredients are simple, and typically on hand. But your presentation can make them look fancy and impressive. 


    For whatever reason, I think most people either forget about this option, or think they are difficult to make. That being said, if you show up with a platter of these babies at your next party, you are basically going to win the appetizers.

    Here’s the basic recipe and a few tips and tricks to make them even easier.

    Deviled Eggs with Bacon

    Hard Boiled Eggs
    Mayo
    Mustard
    Paprika
    Bacon

    For the hard boiled eggs, I follow Martha’s recipe and it’s foolproof. The trick is to really wait for a full boil, not just a simmer before pulling them off the heat.


    Once the eggs are cool, cut the eggs in half as evenly as you can. Dump the yolks into a bowl and lay the egg whites, dent up, into a tupperware for refrigerating. I’ve had better luck assembling on site than trying to take them with you pre-assembled. If I had a deviled egg container, I’m sure this wouldn’t be an issue!

    Once you have the whites separated, you can store them in the fridge until you are ready to assemble. 



    Let’s make the filling! In a bowl, mash the yolks with a fork or masher so they start crumbling. 


    Now here’s where I might lose novice cooks since I don’t actually measure but trust me, you’ve got this! Trust your instincts and go slow. You can always add but you can’t take away. 

    Add a spoonful of mayo and mix in with the yolks. We’re going for creamy texture, no bumps. 


    Add a teaspoon of mustard. This is purely a matter of taste. I don’t love them super mustardy but others do. Either way, you want the filling to be very creamy but not liquidy. How’s that for directions?!

    Once you have it mixed and tasting the way you want it, put it in a ziploc bag and toss it in the fridge.

    You can use the ziploc bag to pipe the filling into the eggs. Just snip off a corner and you have a homemade pastry bag. This is where having a good consistency on the filling comes in handy so you don’t get clogs while piping.


    Now, you can be done right here. Or you can take it one step further. We like to add bacon to our deviled eggs, because what doesn’t taste better with bacon?

    Cook a couple strips of bacon on the griddle, in a skillet, in the oven – however you do. Once they are cooled a bit, dice up the strips and set aside until assembly time. 

    When you are ready to assemble your deviled eggs, lay out they egg whites and pipe in the yolk mixture until full. Then, sprinkle the paprika on and add the bacon on top. I usually try to make sure there are a few chunks of bacon bits on each egg.


    Then, stand back, because there will be a stampede of people coming at you trying to devour these Deviled Eggs with Bacon!

    xoxo,
    Alex

    P.S. Try this delicious dip or these stuffed mushrooms for more gameday appetizer options!

    Friendsgiving 2015.

      
    Last weekend, we hosted our fourth annual Friendsgiving. I can’t help but fall a little bit more in love with this holiday each year. It’s focus is friends, football, and food – what’s not to love?!


    This year we had 17 people joining us. There’s nothing like sitting down to a big feast and seeing your dear friends gathered around the table, laughing and toasting to another year.


    I kept decorations very simple this year, since our home has been under construction for four months now. I am craving the simplicity and calmness. So other than a couple real pumpkins here and there, I stuck to decorating the tablescape with a festive runner, votive candles and a few faux acorns here and there. My metallic mix with the new gray walls and white trim just pops now. Without getting all new decor, I have a very new and fresh look!


    For food, we took care of the bird. We tried dry brining a turkey this year. I’m not sure if there was a huge difference or not. We also made a ham which could have been a disaster. I read the instructions as heat for 20 minutes, not heat for 20 minutes PER POUND. Luckily the ham was fully cooked already so we sliced it up, added some water to the pan and threw it in the oven! I was worried it would dry out but it managed to heat up quickly without losing too much liquid or flavor.


    Our guests outdid themselves with the sides: mashed and sweet potatoes, cranberries, a delicious green salad, and my personal favorite, stuffing! And dessert. Oh man. We had pies galore and I made a batch of gluten free gingersnaps with apple cider glaze which might be my new favorite.

    Now before you think for a moment that everything is unicorns and rainbows over here, let me tell you that 3 hours before Friendsgiving was set to begin, K asked me if we should cancel. Two days earlier our basement drain backed up. We had a guy out and he took care of it…or so he thought. Well, 2 loads of the dishwasher, 3 loads of wash, and a shower proved just how wrong he was.

    So there I am, midshower, shaving my legs (we’re getting real here) and conditioner in my hair, when K yells to turn the water off. Well, I instantly had flashbacks to my freshmen year of college when on the first day of school, I had just shampooed my hair when the fire alarm went off…It was a memorable first day of college!

    I left K to deal with the mess. Thank goodness my parents were dropping off some extra chairs and could lend an extra hand. K and my dad took care of the water issue while my mom rinsed my hair with the garden hose. I finished prepping the bird and got it into the oven right on time. We marathoned cleaning the house and setting the table and before you knew it, our first guests had arrived!

    Nothing like a little drama before hosting a party! Oh, the joys of home ownership…Having a house full of friends was just what we needed that day. 


    xoxo,
    Alex

    Gift Guide 2014


    I love putting together a gift guide this time of year. I tend to turn to pretty things to give as gifts, because why not, right? Mix in a little practicality and that’s where this year’s Merry & Bright Gift Guide lives. Check it out here.

    What’s on your list?

    xoxo,
    Alex

    How Much Protein Do You Need Each Day?

    One of the most controversial and confusing aspects of nutrition is how much protein people should consume each day.    There are several factors to take into account to get a good answer to this question, and there are potential problems with eating too much protein.   There are also definitely problems with not eating enough protein.  It is also important to consider what type of protein is being consumed.
    Height, weight, age, sex and activity level all factor into your protein needs.   Obviously the larger you are the more protein you need to take in to support structural proteins throughout the tissues of the body including the muscles, bone, skin and organs.  In the same way the more active you are the more protein you need to consume.  In addition, protein is used to create enzymes, and enzymes are critically important for all cellular function.
    Protein is made up of amino acids and there are essential and non-essential amino acids.    Essential amino acids MUST be consumed because they cannot be made by the body.    Complete proteins contain all the amino acids and come from meats, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy.   While vegetarian proteins are not complete it is not hard to combine different plant protein sources to obtain all the protein the body needs to function.
    Other factors which influence how much protein is required is overall caloric/energy status.     If you are eating enough calories to maintain bodyweight or gain bodyweight you require less protein as a percentage of overall calorie intake while those people in caloric deficit require a higher percentage of their overall calorie intake to maintain lean tissue mass (losing lean mass like muscle is usually NOT a good idea so this is important).
    How much is too much?

    In large amounts and for certain populations (such as those with compromised Kidney Function) excess protein can cause problems.    That being said, for the normal healthy individual, the body can easily and safely process and use a lot of protein.    A portion of the protein you eat is frequently converted to glucose (blood sugar) and if your overall calorie intake is too high you will convert excess protein into fat like ALL unused excess calories.
    Another potential problem with too much protein is that high protein intake stimulates the release of mTOR which stands for Mammalian Target of Rapamycin.    mTOR is a key regulatory protein that signals for cell growth through the creation of new proteins. Consider protein building similar to a race car. The larger the engine, the greater potential for speed. Similarly, the more mTOR present in any given cell, the greater potential for more protein construction. And just like the gas pedal fuels the engine, mTOR is a signaling protein, and can be various levels of active (like a pedal’s ability to regulate speed). If a number of different processes all signal for ‘Go’, then the cell builds as much protein as it can, as quickly as it can. So just as a souped-up car takes off rapidly, a muscle cell can signal for tremendous muscle growth very quickly, given the right conditions.   n
    For this reason, mTOR is a good thing when you are looking for muscle-building!  However, there is a potential dark-side to mTOR.   Cancerous tumors are designed to grow as fast as possible, and they rely on mTOR signaling to build proteins just like healthy cells.   So too much mTOR could theoretically put people at a higher risk of developing rapid and serious cancers.  In fact, a lot of cancer research is based around slowing down and minimizing mTOR activity in tumor cells (the exact opposite goal of muscle research).
     
    This doesn’t necessarily mean that eating more protein for muscle building is going to cause cancer. Numerous other proteins and factors come into play, and some may respond differently in muscle cells than in cancerous cells.
    Safe and Adequate Protein Intake

    The Institute of Medicine’s protein RDAs are calculated using 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This means an adult who weighs 68 kilograms needs at least 54 grams of protein each day. The RDA for pregnant and nursing women is 71 grams of protein per day.  Keep in mind the RDA is a MINIMUM and does not mean this is ideal!   This also assumes you are sedentary!   So, if you are exercising and trying to build muscle or older and trying to prevent muscle loss higher protein intake is better.  To determine your minimum daily intake, divide your body weight by 2.2 to determine your weight in Kilograms and then multiply by .8 to get your minimum daily protein intake.  
    The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that although athletes only need about 1 gram of protein per kilogram of bodyweight to maintain muscle mass, they require 1.4 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram to build muscle mass; this is equivalent to about 0.64 to 0.82 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day.

    Merry & Bright 2014


    This holiday season, it’s important for us to take time to spend time together and just enjoy each other’s company. Here’s our simple list of things K and I put together of what we want to do together this holiday season! 

    Buy our Christmas tree.
    Go sledding.
    Visit the Holiday Market.
    Watch Christmas movies by the fire with hot cocoa.
    Hang Christmas lights.
    Buy presents for the Giving Tree.
    Decorate a gingerbread house together.
    Make a special holiday dinner (with Christmas music).
    Go to Seattle for the holidays.
    Go ice skating.

    What’s on your agenda this season?!

    xoxo,
    Alex

    Let’s Talk About ClassPass

    A couple weeks ago, I received an email from ClassPass letting me know they were launching in the Twin Cities and wondering if I wanted to be a part of the launch. Um, heck yes! Full Disclosure: ClassPass gifted me with a complimentary month to try it out. 

    So what is ClassPass? It’s a monthly membership to a variety of boutique fitness classes in the city. There are thousands of classes available to ClassPass members, including cycling, pilates, yoga, strength training, dance, martial arts, and more. 

    For $79 – $99 a month (price varies by city), ClassPass members get unlimited classes to studios in the ClassPass network. While members can take as many classes per month as they’d like, they can visit the same studio up to 3 times per monthly membership cycle. 

    It’s incredibly easy to schedule classes, just search and reserve. There are tons of studios to choose from. I immediately signed up for a couple barre classes since my gym doesn’t currently offer them. I’ve heard great things and was eager to try it out!

    Yesterday, I went to my first ClassPass barre class at Barre Bliss in St. Louis Park. I’ve also signed up for a couple classes this week at HauteBarre. Classes are only open a week in advance to make reservations, which really helps me plan my fitness schedule one week at a time!

    Here’s what I think so far:

    Pros
    Variety – I’m loving the variety it adds to my current workout schedule! It’s fun to try something new, like barre. I’m also looking forward to attending more than one yoga class a week! Easy to Use – It’s incredibly easy to search and sign up for classes. I was worried you’d have to jump through different hoops for each studio but with one click, your space is reserved. Easy peasy.

    Cons
    Distance – Not all of the studios are super close to me and convenience is a major factor in getting me to work out, especially before or after work. I don’t mind driving a bit on weekends though! Price – I do love my current gym, so I’ll have to evaluate after the month whether it is worth it to pay for both memberships.


    Anyone else using ClassPass? It’s definitely one of those concepts where I wish I had thought of it first! I’ll keep you posted on how the month goes!

    xoxo,
    Alex

    P.S. Skip the waiting list – sign up for ClassPass here!


    Musings on Motherhood // It’s Just Hard

    I’ve been back to work since March 1st and I’m still trying to find my groove. I understand it might take another week, another month, another year, until I feel like we’ve hit our rhythm, but in the meantime, we are doing our very best.

    “Nothing’s wrong, it’s just hard.” Bunmi Laditan, the author behind the Honest Toddler, wrote a post recently on Facebook about this and holy cow has it resonated with me.  It’s just so true. Nothing is wrong. We are blessed beyond belief: our basic needs are fulfilled, we are healthy, we laugh every day, we have jobs we enjoy, family and friends we love, life is good.

    But it’s really hard right now. I feel like I’ve put in a full day of work just wrangling two kids every morning to get out the door to daycare so I can get to work at a decent time. And parents of toddler’s know, every day is different. I never know when the next tantrum is going to come and whether I’ll be able to negotiate with the tiny terrorist before full-blown armageddon happens.

    And getting to work without spit up or food crumbs or spilled latte or salt from the car on me is a damn miracle. Praise Jesus when this happens because Lord knows it’s only a matter of time.

    Once each kid is in their car seats, I can breathe a little bit. But it takes a special strength to run the gauntlet from the doors of daycare to the classroom. Drinking fountains, trampolines, couches, LIZARDS, toys…You guys, we have to say good morning to the school pets (LIZARDS) every. single. morning. This week we made it to the classroom without stopping and it was the biggest victory!!

    I work all day, trying not to think that being a mother and having kids hurt my career, trying not to read into any comments from coworkers, and trying to lean in.

    And then it’s off to daycare to pick up the boys and soak up as much quality time with them until bedtime.

    Rinse and repeat.

    So, nothing is wrong. It’s just hard. Life with two is amazing, and crazy. Going back to work is the most natural thing, and the toughest. I’ve been leaning hard into my oils for emotional support lately. Frankincense for grounding, Valor for courage, White Angelica for easing my anxiety. Grateful every single day I have them in my toolbox.

    This weekend, I’m making time for extra self-care because truthfully, I need it. And I’m trying to be better at saying that. So yesterday, I took time to bake a batch of gluten-free brownies, slept in an extra 45 minutes today, and am going to take a long hot shower tonight. All things that help me feel normal. How do you recharge?

    Nothing is wrong. It’s just hard. And I know it gets easier so that’s the beauty of this phase. It’s temporary. And that gives me all sorts of hope.

    xoxo,
    Alex

    How to Create a Lower Body Band Training System

    Resistance training bands provide a great strength curve that matches the lower body strength curves nicely.   Specifically, the more you stretch a band the higher the level of resistance you have to overcome.   In the case of the key lower body movements such as squats, deadlifts and lunges this matches the strength curve of these key movements meaning that the muscles are capable of producing the highest levels of force at the top of the movement when joints are extended and muscles in their shortest position.
    The trick is how to apply band resistance to these movements and other functional movements such as jumps.  While there are many different techniques for accomplishing it – one of the best is to create your own lower body band loading system using a large band as a belt and smaller band/s looped through it and onto your feet to create load from the hips down.

    This system puts no load on the spine,  and it is easy to increase or decrease load based on band sizes used and number of times you wrap the band around your feet.
    It travels with you as you move for extra load for all lower body movements including squats, lunges, and deadlifts.    It is also a portable jump training system that is easy to create, and for facilities with the reACT Trainer it is a fantastic way to create additional overload on the reACT Trainer while keep the hands free!

    Click here to see step by step instructions for how to use bands for this set-up:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkAMGtjkVm4

    The Incredible Pistol Squat

    The pistol squat requires mobility and strength from the entire lower body and core, and once you work up to being able to complete them you can get a great lower body workout anywhere with no equipment. 
    Most people will not be able to perform the pistol squat properly without working through several progressions that help develop the specific mobility, strength and stability required to get through the exercise for repetitions.
    Pistol Squat Progressions
    There are two basic ways to progress to a full pistol squat. Either use a progressively lower bench or step, or use something to hold onto while doing a full pistol to help pull yourself up and progressively use it less and less until it is no longer required.
    For the step progression, you can use actually stairs or use a chair to start.    Stand facing away from the chair or staircase and put all your weight on one leg keeping the other leg straight with the hip flexed slightly so the non-standing foot is held off the ground in front of you.     Flex the hips and reach back with your butt towards the staircase or chair and lower yourself down under control keep your arms straight and in front of you parallel to the floor to counterbalance your hips moving backwards.    Let the standing knee and ankle flex along with your hip as you reach your butt backwards and go down.    However, you MUST keep the heel of the standing leg down and this requires a lot of flexibility of the soleus tendon (soleus is the single joint calf muscle).    
    Try to lightly touch your butt down to a stair or the chair then drive the standing foot down, squeeze the glute extending your hip, knee and ankle to the starting position.  Perform sets of 5 – 10 reps each leg.    Overtime find progressively lower steps, benches or individual stairs so that you are progressively squatting lower and lower until you can perform a full squat on one leg all the way down to the ground and back up again keeping your non-standing leg straight and parallel to the floor while the hip is flexed.
    The second option to progress to full pistol squats is to hold onto something that you can pull on while doing a full pistol squat thereby assisting the stance leg.    You can hold onto a suspension trainer, a cable machine handle, door frame, chair or table, or resistance training band or rope anchored above you.    A great way to do this is to anchor a suspension trainer or resistance band above you to a secure point then grasp the two handles and pull on them as required to do a full pistol squat.    Over time progressively use less and less assistance from the upper body, switch to just one hand, then lessen grip and assistance until you can perform full pistol squats.

    Videos:  https://youtu.be/It3yvU0fomI or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPksQCbeVZw

    Thoughts on Making A Murderer

    Once in a while, a good story comes around. It’s told in a compelling way, makes you think beyond the facts and into the bigger issues surrounding the story, and always leaves you wanting more. Last week, we binged on “Making A Murderer” on Netflix. And like the rest of America right now, I’m plagued with questions and obsessed with needing more information.

    via

    A couple things:
    1. I love a good conspiracy theory. So I’m easy to convince there is shady shit happening in Manitowoc. The Pajiba article sums up what I’ve been thinking: “In fact, I remain convinced — like Avery’s lawyers — that whether Avery committed the murder or not, the police planted evidence to ensure his conviction.”
    2. Why didn’t the filmmakers include more of the facts that seemingly incriminate Stephen Avery? I’m a little pissed that the filmmakers decided some of this wasn’t relevant to their series.
    3. Education is everything. Bums me out that Brendan Dassey’s low IQ put him in such a poor position to defend himself. In my opinion, the system completely took advantage of him.
    4.  How did the Avery jury reach the conclusions they did? I’d love to be a fly on the wall during their deliberations. The amount of negotiating that must have gone – it would have been intense.
    5.  Do the ends justify the means? If the process is flawed, but there is a “just” result, does it matter?

    Like I said, I don’t have the answers. The law is a funny thing. If anything, it makes you think. And when you add in an obsession by the media, there’s plenty of people with plenty of opinions.

    Want to read more? I rounded up a bunch of articles that are making the rounds this week.

    ‘Making a Murderer’: Watched It All? Share Your Theories.

    ‘Making a Murderer’ and ‘Serial’ Have One Important Thing in Common: They’re Made By Women

    Evidence ‘Making a Murderer’ Didn’t Present in Steven Avery’s Murder Case

    14 pieces of troubling evidence Netflix’ “Making a Murderer” left out

    Read This: The damning evidence against Steven Avery that Making A Murderer ignored

    Juror from Making a Murderer Told Filmmakers Steven Avery Was Only Convicted Because ‘They Feared for Their Personal Safety’

    Why Brendan Dassey’s Conviction May Be More Disturbing Than Steven Avery’s

    Who killed Teresa Halbach? The four alternative suspects

    Obama cannot commute Steven Avery’s sentence


    So, what should I watch next?

    xoxo,
    Alex

    Astaxanthin – Anti-Oxidant Superstar

    While many antioxidants can be obtained by eating organic fruits and vegetables, astaxanthin is derived only from a specific microalgae called Haematococcus pluvialis.  The algae uses astaxanthin to protect itself from intense sunlight, ultraviolet radiation and low nutrition.

    There are two natural astaxanthin sources: the microalgae that produce it and the salmon and krill which consume the algae directly. The best resources for these foods are wild-caught Alaskan Salmon and Krill Oil Supplement, which offer many other nutritional benefits.

    Research indicates astaxanthin may benefit those suffering from inflammatory conditions including arthritis, rheumatoid disorders, metabolic disease, as well as cardiovascular, neurological and liver diseases.

    Astaxanthin can also help to increase your muscle capacity and stamina, decrease workout recovery time, and decrease muscle pain.  Other proven benefits include:

    Reduction of Inflammation
    Protects Vision
    Enhances Heart Health
    Decreases Oxidative Stress
    Protects Against Sunburn
    Boost Your Immune System
    Helps Prevent and Fight Cancer

    Astaxanthin and Eye Health

    Astaxanthin is an extremely powerful anti-oxidant:  65 times more powerful than vitamin C, 54 times more powerful than Beta-Carotene and 14 times more powerful than Vitamin E.
    Astaxanthin crosses the blood-brain barrier AND the blood-retinal barrier which is a huge deal for your brain AND your eyes!

    Astaxanthin is a member of the carotenoid family of anti-oxidants that include beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.   Of all the carotenoids, only zeaxanthin and lutein are found in the retinas of your eyes.  This is because your eye is a highly light and oxygen rich environment, and it needs a large amount of free radical scavengers to prevent damage. 
    Scientists have specifically studied astaxanthin for its effects on the eyes and discovered that it is completely safe, and much more potent than all the other carotenoids.   Specifically it has been shown that astaxanthin supplementation can be effective in preventing a whole list of eye diseases including:

    Age-Related Macular Degeneration
    Diabetic Neuropathy
    Cystoid Macular Edema
    Central Retinal Arterial and Venous Occlusion
    Glaucoma
    Inflammatory Eye Diseases including retinitis, iritis, keratitis, and scleritis

    Astaxanthin is one of the few anti-oxidants that you should consider supplementing because you cannot obtain the recommended dosage from your diet alone.      The good news is that there are excellent Astaxanthin Supplements available from companies like Jarrow, Doctors Best, and Swanson to name a few.   It should be taken with a meal with fat because it is fat soluble with dosage from 4mg – 12mg per day although there are no harmful effects from higher dosages.

    Arugula – Not Just Good for Salad!

    Arugula is known for as being a tangy salad green, but it is also a relative of the cruciferous family, which includes radishes, Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower and broccoli.   Like these foods, arugula has many highly beneficial nutrients that include anti-cancer compounds and carotenoid anti-oxidants that help eyesight.
    These beneficial plant chemicals include flavonoids that improve blood vessel function, increase blood flow, lower blood pressure and lower inflammation. Arugula can also help to counteract the negative effects of heavy metals and helps eliminate pesticides from the body.
    Research shows that the trace minerals and antioxidants arugula contains can block the absorption of environmental contaminants suspected of impacting your libido.
    Arugula and Nitric Oxide

    Arugula contains the highest levels of nitrates of any plant, and nitrates are used to produce nitric oxide (NO) in the body.    NO is a very important signaling molecule that supports healthy endothelial (blood vessal lining) function and protects the mitochondria of the cells. 
      
    Arugula contains about 480 milligrams (mg) of nitrates per 100-gram serving compared to 281mg for rhubarb, cilantro at 247, and 110mg for beets.  Spinach also contains high levels as do all green leafy vegetables which is thought to be why their consumption helps prevent heart attacks, stroke and heart disease.
    High Nitrate intake boosts NO directly.   NO relaxes and widens blood vessels dramatically increasing blood flow and oxygenation of your tissues.  This increases the body’s ability to carry away waste material and carbon dioxide.  A diet high in nitrates can help prevent and treat high blood pressure in this manner.
    Although raw beets are the best-known vegetable for boosting NO, increasing circulation and lowering blood pressure arugula is the real king.
    Nitrates, NO and Exercise Capacity and Endurance

    Nitrate intake and increased NO in the body has been proven to dramatically increase exercise capacity and endurance, and the drug Viagra functions by boosting NO levels which is the drug treatment for male impotence.  So a healthier heart, lower blood pressure and increased exercise capacity are not the only reasons to increase your intake of Arugula!

    Adventures of a Snow Pup

    Missing my little pup-niece this weekend so I thought I’d share some of my favorite pics of Minnie from over the holidays. She was hilarious discovering snow and a real winter.


    She’s a real beaut, Clark. Love ya, Minnie!

    xoxo,
    Alex

    House Tour: Our Home

    We had professional photos taken for our listing and wow, we were blown away! I’ve taken plenty of photos of our home but when you get the right person behind the camera (with a wide-angle lens), magic happens.

    I was going to go room by room for our final reveal of our home but instead I’m going to post them all right here. I’ll do a details post sometime later on if people are interested.

    Welcome to our home:





























    xoxo,
    Alex

    What does “Grass-Fed” Meat Mean?

    If you shop for the food in your family you have probably started to see the term “Grass-Fed” on more and more meat products.   You may have wondered what it means and what significance it has for human health.
    To make it more confusing this term is often thrown in with other terms such as “Organic” and “Grass-Finished”.       To understand all this let’s start with talking about Grass as opposed to Grain Fed.     Cows and other Ruminants including cattle, goats, sheep, giraffes, deer, moose, and caribou to name a few have a natural diet based on what they have eaten for hundreds of thousands of years.     Their bodys’ and specifically their digestive systems were shaped by evolution to eat green plants!
    For thousands of years that is what they did eat, but in modern times cattle farmers learned that feeding a ruminant grains and corn will put weight on them much faster than their ancestral diet of green plants consistently mostly of grasses.      This translates to quicker time to slaughter, lower costs, and higher profits for the farmer!  Grain and corn is the metabolic equivalent of feeding cows a diet of “Twinkies” with all the consequences.      In addition, grain fed cows have a particular taste and Americans in particular have become used to it and partial to it.
    Unfortunately, grain fed animals have a very different fatty acid composition than animals fed a grass diet.      Grass-fed cattle contain much higher levels of many beneficial compounds including anti-oxidants, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), Trans-Vaccenic Acid (TVA), Trace Minerals, and vitamins.      
    The worst part is that most meat is not just grain fed it is injected with hormones and antibiotics that also speed up weight gain and the corn and grain is very low quality and heavily sprayed with pesticides so you’re eating tons of toxins when you consume meat raised this way!
    Omega 3 Fatty Acids are essential fatty acids as our Omega 6 Fatty Acids meaning we must consume them and cannot manufacture them in our bodies.   We need both in a balance.     Unfortunately the American diet is way too high in Omega 6 fatty acids and this has big-time consequences to human health (see this previous blog post to understand the need for lower intake of Omega 6 Fatty Acids and Higher intake of Omega 3 Fatty Acids and how and where to get both – http://workoutanytime.blogspot.com/2016/11/omega-3-fatty-acids-and-health.html)
    Anti-Oxidants are crucial for health and grass-fed meat has much higher levels of carotenoids like Beta-Carotene and others.    Carotenoids are fat-soluble meaning they tend to get stored in fats making the fat look yellow.      Yellow fat (like butter from grass-fed cows) is a sign of high nutrient density.    More carotenoids = more antioxidants and more nutrients (plus richer flavor!).  
    CLA provides several key benefits including:
    Improving weight loss and specifically reduces bodyfat! 
    Helps increase lean mass including muscle and bone!
    Potent Anti-Cancer Effects
    Helps reverse atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries)
    Improved digestions
    Helps balance inflammation and immune function
    Reduces food allergies and sensitivities.
    TVA – aka Trans Vaccenic Acid is technically a trans-fatty acid, but unlike man-made transfats which are unquestionably NOT healthy – there are benefits to TVA.    Naturally occurring TVA in grass fed animal products may help lower cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in particular along with lowering triglycerides.  TVA can also be converted to CLA in your body.     Like CLA TVA seems to reduce risk factors associated with heart disease, diabetes, and obesity according to research from the University of Alberta.
    Grass-Fed vs Grass Finished
    Grass-Fed means that cattle ate nothing but grass and other forage (like hay or silage) for their entire lives.   This means they were never fed grain at any point. 
    As the name implies Grass-Finished means the animal was fed grains but was “finished” eating grass before slaughter.    How much time eating grass vs grains and the quality of grains makes a BIG difference.      Just 90 days of grain feeding destroys all the benefits of grass feeding so knowing what the animal ate and for how long is key which is why you ideally buy beef from a farmer you know and trust!    
    Alternatively buying meat that is organic AND grass-fed is by far the best option.     Just Organic means the grain fed to the animal was not sprayed with pesticides which is good, but this does not provide the many benefits of feeding the animal a grass diet as described above.
    See next Month’s Blog for a detailed explanation of the term “Organic” and how to interpret all those differrent lables such as “Certified Organic”, “100% Organic”, “All Natural”, etc.

    Zucchini Noodle with Avocado Pesto Sauce

    Most people love pasta, but regular pasta is not exactly a nutritional bonanza!   Pasta is basically pure starch which immediately is converted to sugar in your body and has no real micronutrient content.   But if you substitute zucchini pasta with avocado, pine nuts, and parsley it is a whole different ballgame!
    Not only does it taste great – it has very little sugar, and plenty of healthy fats along with tons of fiber.  From a micronutrient standpoint, it is packed with nutrients including:
    High levels of vitamin C
    High levels of potassium and magnesium
    Vitamin B-6
    Recipe Ingredients:
    2 Large Organic Zucchini
    2 small ripe avocados
    1 cup fresh flat leaf parsley
    3 tablespoons of avocado oil
    3 tablespoons of pine nuts
    Juice from 1 organic lemon
    ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    Salt and Pepper to taste
    Instructions:
    1.       Spiralize zucchinis and then set aside.    Great article on how to spiralize veggies here:  http://ohsheglows.com/2012/08/27/how-to-spiralize-vegetables-without-a-spiralizer-2-veggie-pasta-dishes/  and you can buy the hand peeler mentioned here:  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0018ICHH2/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B0018ICHH2&linkCode=as2&tag=ohshgl02-20
    2.       In a food processor or blender, add avocados, pine nuts, lemons, red pepper flaxes, salt and pepper.   Blend on high for 2-3 minutes until creamy then slowly drizzle in the avocado oil while it continues to blend and emulsify.
    3.       Heat a large skillet on medium heat.   Once it is hot, add the zucchini noodles to the pan tossing them around 5 for minutes.   Add ¼ cup of the pesto sauce to the pan.   Using tongs, coat the zucchini noodles thoroughly.

    4.       Serve it while it is hot garnishing with parsley.

    How to Get Rid of Cellulite

    Although the vast majority of woman have some cellulite somewhere on their body – nobody likes it!   So what the heck is cellulite anyway?  Cellulite is pockets of fat that have squeezed between bands of tissue, called septae, that are located below your skin.

    Women of all races get it, while virtually no men do. That’s because the septae of men are different from women. Men have stronger bands that are cross-hatched allowing them to keep fat in place more effectively. Women have weaker, vertically oriented septae that allows fat to squeeze through easier.

    Both thin and heavy women have cellulite. However the higher your level of body fat the more noticeable the dimpling will tend to be.  Unfortunately dieting does necessarily help eliminate cellulite. Losing weight helps sometime, but in some cases weight loss makes cellulite worse.   This occurs when skin becomes saggy after significant weight loss.

    There is a definite genetic component to cellulite which does run in families.
    Hormones also are part of the equation with cellulite, but science has not figured out exactly how hormones contribute to cellulite.  What is known is that cellulite starts at puberty which is a time that many hormone levels change significantly in females.

    Getting Rid of Cellulite

    Getting rid of cellulite is easier said than done.  Even treatments like Liposuction are not necessarily effective.    In fact Liposuction often makes cellulite worse by leaving your skin even more puckered looking than it was before.

    Dermatologists are quick to point out that there is no magic cure for cellulite, but there are ways to make it look better!   Two of the keys are working out and dropping excess weight sensibly (1lbs per week! – faster weight loss can exacerbate the problem!)

    Resistance training is key.   As you increase your muscle size and decrease body fat your skin looks smoother.     If you lose fat while you simultaneously build muscle your cellulite will improve.
    It is also important to work on the health of your skin as you age to make it more elastic so that as you lose fat the skin pulls tight rather than sagging.    

    Certain topical treatments that increase collagen in the skin, like Retin-A or creams with retinol or vitamin C, cannot hurt and may help.   

    Maintaining adequate water intake is also key for skin health and elasticity – 6 – 8 glasses of water per day is key.

    If you have faithfully tried everything and your cellulite is driving you crazy and you are prepared to spend some serious dollars – Cellulaze – is an FDA approved therapy.  Cellulaze involves inserting a lazer under the skin and projects heats in three directions and literally liquefies fat as it cuts the septae around fat cells which can reduce the puckering while also encouraging collagen regrowth.

    Cellulaze claims a 70 – 80% improvement in cellulite that lasts a full year.  It is most effective for active women with mild to moderate cellulite who are not significantly overweight and who also have good muscle tone.

    Unfortunately, Cellulaze is not cheap – costing $5,000 – $7,000 depending on the size of the area being treated.

    How to Overcome a Negative Habit



    Habits are powerful.  Unfortunately, they often are created outside our consciousness and without our permission. However, we can consciously change habits. Habits shape our lives far more than we realize— they are so strong, in fact, that they can cause our brains to cling to them at the exclusion of all else, including common sense.
    At the same time, positive habits can change our lives for the better. So how are habits created and what can we do to influence them in ourselves and our clients?
    Three Parts of a Habit
    The Cue: a situational trigger that is based on a reward you are seeking.
    The Routine:  a physical or emotional action you take to obtain the reward.
    The Reward:  the satisfaction you get by following the habit.

    The Steps to Changing a Habit
    Identify the Routine:  You must identify how you go from a particular cue to the routine of the habit and the reward it gives you.
    Understand Cravings and Rewards

    The first part of a habit is the cue, but before the cue there is some type of craving.  Cravings drive habits.   Understanding cravings is key to figuring out habits.  In a habit, there is a specific reward that satisfies a particular craving.    In other words, figure out what you are getting from the habit because you ARE getting something from it!
    Rewards are powerful because they satisfy cravings. But we’re often not conscious of the cravings that drive our behaviors. For example, when developing the air freshening product Febreze marketers discovered that people craved a fresh scent at the end of a cleaning ritual.  They found a craving that people were not aware of.     This craving is so strong that without added scent most people do not get satisfaction from an air freshener that just removes odors from the air – they have to smell the scent!   It is exactly the same phenomenon with breath freshners which can be made to eliminate odor WITHOUT any taste/scent, but no one buys them!
    Most cravings are like this: obvious in hindsight, but difficult to discern when they are in control of your behavior. It is critical to discover the cravings that drive habits to be able to change or create habits!   To figure out which cravings are driving particular habits, it’s useful to experiment with different rewards. For example, say your reward is having a cookie after studying every night.  The next time you study deliberately substitute something else for the cookie such as going for a short walk or having a cup of tea instead. 
    The next time eat an apple and another time change call a friend for call, etc. What you choose to do instead of eating a cookie is not important.  The key is to test different hypotheses to determine the exact craving that is driving your routine.   Are you craving the cookie itself, or a break from work? If it’s the cookie, is it because you’re hungry? (In which case the apple should work just as well.) Or is it because you want the burst of energy the cookie provides? (And so coffee may work just as well.) Or is it where you eat the cookie and who you are with?  Do you go to a specific place to get and eat your cookie?  If so maybe the real craving may have to do with a desire to socialize.  
    As you test four or five different rewards, use this technique to identify patterns.  After each activity, note the first three things that come to mind after your reward behavior. This can be emotions, random thoughts, reflections on how you’re feeling, or just the first three words that pop into your head. Then, set an alarm on your watch or computer for fifteen minutes. When it goes off, ask yourself: Do you still feel the urge for that cookie? The reason why it’s important to write down three things— even if they are meaningless words— is twofold. First, it forces a momentary awareness of what you are thinking or feeling.
    By experimenting with different rewards, you can isolate what you are actually craving, which is essential in changing a habit.
    Determine the Specific Cue for the Habit

    This is the trigger that initiates the craving for the reward.   So it is very important to learn the cues for habits.   Common cues including being in a particular place, being with a particular person, a particular time of time of day, a specific emotional state, etc.    Asking yourself these five questions can be very helpful for identifying cues:
    Where are you when the urge for a reward hits you?
    What time is it?
    What is your emotional state?
    Who else is present?
    What did you do right before you had the urge?
    Have a Plan!
    Once you understand the habit you want to change you need to create a plan to change the habit!   The easiest way to do that is have a specific plan of action whenever you experience the cue or cues.    For example, if you smoke when you have coffee know this and plan to do something else deliberately whenever you have a cup of coffee.   The plan is key or you will slip right back into the old routine.
    Another example is having a few beers every night when you get home.  Through the first three steps you discover that having the beer helps you relax after a stressful day.    You also learned that going for a 20-minute walk or doing Tai Chi gives you that same reward of feeling relaxed.   So now you plan to either go for a walk or do Tai Chi ever day as soon as you get home (or even better before you get home!).

    Butcher Block Update

    Before the holidays, we made a quick update to our kitchen cutout. I originally wanted to open up the wall to create a more open floor plan. But when we realized that the current wall was load bearing, we decided to keep it as is, with some small updates to the lighting and counter. 

    Here’s a crappy shot of the before. We think the previous owners created this cutout to the kitchen. It was never finished, hence the unfinished trim along the outside. K did an amazing job with this. He removed the trim and fixed the edges so they look clean and blend with the rest of the living room. I can’t wait until the kitchen gets a face lift to complete the view.

    The original counter was super flimsy and unsupported – definitely not a good option. And the lighting was clearly done by an amateur. One of the outlets didn’t work and the lights flickered every time they were on. Pretty much the story of this old house.


    In updating this space, I wanted to keep the lighting option but add a dimmer switch, as well as add an outlet. It’s the perfect spot for charging phones and I wanted to make that happen. K installed two new lights that are recessed into the top of the cutout – they blend so much better!

    I also wanted a stronger counter that could withstand people leaning on it and all the entertaining we do. We bought an affordable wooden butcher block from IKEA, cut it down to fit, and stained it with Minwax’s Wood Finish in Natural. We went back and forth on what color to do but since we still have the wooden floors to refinish and the rest of kitchen to upgrade, we chose a stain that would go well no matter what direction we go with our design. To protect the butcher block, we sealed it with three coats of Miniwax Polycrylic.


    I’ve also purchased a pair of these bar stools in gunmetal. I love having additional seating at the counter. It’s the perfect place to offer guests a drink while I finish up in the kitchen. Not to mention, I love eating breakfast at the counter now instead of the dining room. Got to mix it up sometimes, right?



    So there you go. A quick butcher block update that took about a weekend to go from yuck to awesome!

    xoxo,
    Alex

    Managing the Work/Rest Ratio in HIIT Training

    High Intensity Interval Training aka HIIT training is all the rage and there are many different HIIT training protocols available, but to produce the best results it is important to understand how to manipulate the Work/Rest Ratio.    The Work/Rest Ratio is the ratio of time spent working in the high intensity interval to the time spent in the recovery interval and there is no one ideal Work/Rest Ratio. In fact there are three distinct methods you can use to design interval training programs based on how you manipulate the Work/Rest Ratio.
    Fixed Work, Fixed Recovery
    This is the most common method and often used for group training because it keeps everyone working together.   In this method the amount of time spent in the work phase is fixed as is the amount of time in the recovery phase.   For example the ever popular “Tabata” Protocol is a fixed work, fixed recovery protocol using 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of recovery done 8 times.    Another example is the Sprint 8 protocol which uses 30 seconds of work and 90 seconds of recovery.  In addition, all MX4 programming uses this method either for a 60/30 work/rest ratio or a 4 to 1 Minute Work to Rest Ratio during Density Workouts.
    Needless to say there are endless variations of fixed work, fixed recovery interval protocols and each one feels different and allows for a different level of relative intensity.    The advantage of these type of protocols is that they are very simple to design and very easy to track using a simple timer, and if using heart rate monitoring you can adjust the actual work intensity and recovery intensity based on individual heart rate response.   Also this is a very easy way for a trainer to manage a group as mentioned previously.
    Fixed Work, Variable Recovery
    In this method the amount of time spent working is fixed, but recovery time varies based on heart rate response.  This method is a more individualized way to do HIIT training where each work interval begins after the heart rate slows to a predetermined point correlated with a specific level of individual recovery.  The advantage of this method is it can be customized to each person based on their goal, age and current fitness level.   An example would be doing a 1 minute work interval with a fit 20 year old and setting the recovery threshold at say 120 beats per minute (a relatively low exercise heart rate for a fit 20 year old).  So he would work as hard as he can for 1 minute then go into recovery and stay in recovery until his heart rate slows to 120 beats per minute.
    Variable Work, Variable Recovery
    This method varies work time AND recovery time based on preset work heart rates and recovery heart rates.   For example using the same example of a fit 20 year old you might set a goal work heart rate threshold at 180 beats per minute – meaning that you keep him working hard until his heart rate hits this work threshold and then immediately begin recovery.    Then you would keep him at a reduced work rate until he hit a predetermined recovery heart rate threshold such as 120 beats per minute.    This is a highly sophisticated and highly individualized way of exercising with precise management of work and rest customized to the individual.
    Have some fun and experiment with each of these to prevent plateaus in your workout progress!

    Training Biceps and Triceps with Fat Circular Bands

    If you want to take your guns to the next level consider adding in band training.    Those flat circular bands you see in the MX4 Area of the club are serious training tools!    These bands provide the advantage of increasing resistance throughout the range of motion to challenge your muscles in a different, yet complimentary way to free weights or machines.

    There are a number of ways to trains biceps with bands from the most simple which is just standing on the band with feet spread and holding the upper loop of the band on both or one and handing and curling up and down.      You can also stand  with one or two feet in the center of a band and grap the two looped ends and curl the end/ends up to pump up those biceps.       Another option is to attach band handles to the band to allow you to use even more resistance.     Standing on one foot in the enter of the band will give less resistance than standing with two feet spread apart.

    You can also attach a band to an immovable object like a post or even a door using a door holder (see www.resistancebandtraining.com to purchase one of these.  Another option to create more length is to attach a band low and behind you and then loop another band through this band and attach handles to the band on both ends.      With your back to the anchor grasp the handles and step forward to create some level of tension in the band keep your fee in a split stance and head-up.   Do a bicep curl  with the handles and as you fatigue take small steps back to do drop sets.   This exercise emphasizes the stretched position of the bicep comapred with the single band bicep curl described above.

    You can also get an incredible tricep workout using bands using the set-up described above with handles attached to the bands.    In this case turn your back to the anchor grasping the handles with elbows held high by the sides of your heads.   Brace the core while in a split stance and keep the elbows high and motionless then extend your elbows – wow does that create a pump and burn!

    To see exactly how to set-up and perform these incredible bicep and tricep exercises using flat circular bands and handles check out this video from resistancebandtraining.com:  https://youtu.be/mF-FbNSPF2Q

    Workout Anytime Daily 10 Prehab Routine

    Everyone knows that prevention is better than dealing with an injury, and part of injury prevention is spending time working on what are commonly referred to as “corrective exercises” or “Prehab”.   10 minutes a day spent doing 10 basic exercises can prevent many injuries, improve results from exercise, and dramatically improve movement.
    Ideally do these exercises barefoot or in socks – your feet will be working very hard during these exercises and shoes reduce ground feel.  If possible do them in front of a mirror to see your form!
    Hip Hinge – Hip Hinging is one of basic primal movement patterns, and it is also the movement pattern most frequently done incorrectly.   The best way to groove this movement pattern is practice it using a wooden handle or PVC Pipe held vertically against your back touching the back of your head, the top of your shoulders, and your tail bone.  By keeping contact with all three points as you hinge it teaches you to maintain a flat back which is essential for preventing low back injuries and developing proper movement mechanics that allow you to effectively load and unload the glutes and hamstrings.
    It is also a phenomenal dynamic warm-up for the hamstrings!   Here is a video showing how to do it:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PG67O49Hsso    Do 50 reps per day and you will see and feel positive changes in your posture, movement, strength and mobility!
    Downhill Skier Exercise– This exercise contains elements of the squat and hip hinge.  Start by placing the hands palm down on the top of the thighs.  Keep the back straight slide the hands down until the palms are resting on the knees with the hips back like you are a second basemen.   You should begin to feel a stretch in the hamstrings.     Continue to hinge from the hip forward and slide down until your elbow are resting on the inside of the knees with back straight and hips back like you are a downhill skier.  This will require your knees to track forward over and maybe even slightly beyond your toes (this will generate a stretch in the calf muscles and specifically the single joint soleus muscle).    Keep your heels down the whole time – do not let them lift up off the floor!
    Keeping the back totally straight extend the knees as far as possible – you should feel a strong stretch in the hamstrings.  Your hips will rise but keep your elbows on the knees and do not move the upper body!  Then drop the hips, flex the knees and let them move forward over toes as you drop back down to the downhill skier posture.
    Start slow but as you get the hang of it you can move faster – as long as you maintain proper form.     Do 30 – 50 reps every day.   You will start to notice that your squat and your hip hinge movements all get easier along with improved mobility in the ankle knee and hip!   Click here for a great video of how to do this exercise properly:  https://youtu.be/nXKWtlr3rBQ
    Goblet Squat – Squats are another primal movement pattern and goblet squats help emphasize the best form.   They should be done daily with a relatively light weight for a good 20 – 50 repetitions.    Keep the dumbbell, kettlebell or Sandbag held against the chest the entire time. If you have difficulty getting thighs parallel to the floor spread your feet farther apart, and also rotate out at the hips so that your feet are pointing outwards.   This can make a huge difference.   By doing this and holding a light weight against your chest you may find you can squat to a decent depth while maintaining an upright torso.  It should look like this:  http://cfitness.me.formecdn.com/2016/12/goblet-squat.jpg  
    Alternatively you can hold a kettlebell/Dumbbell with both hands letting it go straight down between the legs as you squat down like this:  http://workoutlabs.com/wp-content/uploads/watermarked/Pile_Sumo_Dumbbell_Squat1.png
    Single Leg RDL – Romanian Deadlift – is one of the most important corrective exercises you can do to help self-identify and correct muscle imbalances that are the most common cause of movement dysfunction and injury.
    The best way to do this exercise is barefoot in front of a mirror where you can see your whole body throughout the entire sequence of the exercise.  Ideally you should be on a firm and level surface as well.
    Start by facing the mirror standing on one foot with the other leg flexed so your thigh is parallel with the floor and knee flexed to 90 degrees with hands on your hips.  Look in the mirror and make sure your hips are perfectly level and if not fix that!   
    Next, without moving the upper body extend the flexed leg down and hinge forward at the hip of the standing leg.   As your swing leg passes the other leg you should try to straighten it, and ideally you hinge forward at the upper body while keeping your swing leg and upper body in a straight line the whole time.
    As you hinge try NOT to let your swing leg hip drop and keep your stance foot pointing directly forward with no angle.  The stance leg should flex slightly but the knee should NOT move forward – rather you should “sit” back into the hinge at the hip. Pause when you reach at or near parallel with the floor with your upper body and swing leg then smoothly return to standing and flex the swing leg.    Slower is harder AND better and do NOT use any load/weight.
    10 repetitions on each side each day!   Do all 10 on each side one time per day and you will see some amazing changes in your strength, balance and athleticism! 
    Here is a great single leg RDL tutorial:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vc21IwnIcwk
    Hip Thrusts – The hip thrust simultaneously develops the glutes while enhancing mobility in the hip flexors (both key because this counteracts the negative effects of sitting all the time!).  These can be done on the floor or with shoulders on a bench, bed or sofa to make it a bit harder.   You can do hip thrusts with two legs or one leg at a time to create additional load.   Here is a good shot of the exercise:  http://cdn-www.womenshealthsa.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/hip-thrust-hold.jpg
    Important NOT to arch lower back at all and concentrate on squeezing glutes at top and NOT using low back.    Even without any load this exercise can produce great benefits – 20 – 50 reps each day!
    Plank – The plank is a simple functional core exercise that produces great benefits.  It can be done on toes and hands (upper push-up position), Toes and Elbows, Hands and Knees, etc to adjust the difficulty.    Do a version of the plank that challenges for one minute per day while maintaining good form.   Here is a great article on some of the many variations:  http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20813896,00.html/view-all
    Side Plank – The Side Plank is also key to building core strength, but in the front plane (side to side stability and strength).   30 seconds to a minute on each side each day.   Like the plank there are many variations and one of the best when you are ready is a side plank with leg lift: https://rutheburke.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/side_bridge_abd.jpg
    Static Lunge – Lunges are another primal movement pattern, and there are many different variety of lunges.  A static lunge is done with feet in a split stance like this:    https://www.google.com/imgres?imgrefurl=http://thefitnesslink.uk/exercises/static-lunge/&tbnid=J1sOV9EYH0PmVM:&docid=lgeVWz3ThLe7OM&h=1417&w=1890   
    The exercise is fantastic for simultaneously developing strength and mobility in the foot, ankle, knee and hip.  Best done barefoot on a firm surface.  Keep your front heel down the entire time and rear foot is up on ball of the foot with rear knee, hip, back and head kept in alignment the entire time.    Do 10 reps at a time on each side per day – no weight is necessary. 
     
    Side to Side Skater– This exercise develops hip mobility including providing an excellent dynamic stretch/warm-up for the adductor (inner thigh muscles).  Feet should be wide apart with feet facing forward – not angled out. Keep feet flat on the floor and flex forward at the hip keeping back straight (only flex forward as far as you can while maintaining a flat back and keeping both feet on the floor with entire foot kept down in contact with the ground).   Push the hips directly to the side and pause as you feel a stretch in the trailing leg’s adductors.  
    Ideally your head and torso stay perpendicular to lower body and centered during the entire exercise just like a speed skater.  Then push your hips back in the other direction to the other to the other side.    NOTE:   Do NOT go up and down – your hips should go back and forth in a straight-line parallel with the floor.   Do 20 – 30 reps each day.
    Ankle Circles – This exercise improves ankle mobility and is great before just about any activity.    Stand on one foot.    These can be done seated, standing or lying down – best done standing to simultaneously work on balance and stability.  The action is simple:  holding foot and leg in the air draw a circle with your toes for 10 circles in one direction and 10 circles in the other direction like this:  http://web.eccrsd.us/christy/public/athletic_training/ankle_sprain_rehab_beginner_files/Picture%201.jpg   
    You will notice that one direction is much harder than the other and you will feel much less coordinated and same thing with one leg vs the other leg.  Do more repetitions in the direction that is challenging and more on the leg that is more challenging.  Ideally do the exercise while you stand on one foot while you pull your other leg up with knee bent so that your thigh is parallel with the floor.    This is more challenging than it looks but will provide big benefits in terms of balance and stability.

    Done daily and before workouts these 10 exercises will provide big benefits including improved posture, stability, strength and mobility.   You will also notice that you improve at many other exercises and movements.

    Flip It to Test It.

    You gotta watch this TED Talk. And then read this article. And look at this. And if you haven’t, take an implicit bias test. Because bias, unconscious and implicit, is all around us.
    We can all do better.
    xoxo,
    Alex

    How to Get More from Lunges!

    Lunges are a staple exercise for most gym-goers, and there are many different varieties of lunges.    Most of us have been taught to keep the torso upright when we lunge.  While this is not wrong per say – there is another way to perform the lunge that can place more emphasis on the glutes and hamstrings.
    When you keep your torso fully upright you tend to place more load on the knees and quads – particularly if you allow your front knee to track forward over your toes.   Instead try hip hinging slightly as you lunge allowing the torso to angle forward over the front thigh.  
    Keep the shoulders back and down.   Your upper body should not slump – we want to hinge from the hip.    When using dumbbells allow them to come forward ahead of the knees more.    By keep hips and knees back while moving weight forward more of the load is placed directly on the glutes, and at the same time you are putting the glutes in a stretched position.    Done properly there is more emphasis on the glutes and they go through a great range of motion without stressing the knees. 
    It is important to keep a straight line from your tailbone through the top of your head – hip hinge but do not let the spine flex or bend.

    To get a good feel for the form check out this video:  https://youtu.be/cEOoPcniNn4

    reACT Trainer Total Body Circuit Workout

    One of the best tools we have at our disposal at Workout Anytime is the reACT Trainer.  Staff who know how to use the product properly and teach others to use it can make a great impression on any member or guest and help to differentiate their club from competitors.

    Although the reACT Trainer is a lower body and core trainer it is easy to create full body circuits using the reACT Trainer along with the key upper body movements including:

    Horizontal Press (chest press of some type)

    Horizontal Pull (Row of some type)

    Overhead Press

    Vertical Pull – (some type of vertical pulling movement)

    Here is a sample reACT Trainer Total Body Circuit:

    My Old Pink Suitcase.

    My first suitcase. To a girl with perpetual wanderlust, my first piece of luggage was the ultimate sign of freedom. It was my ticket to see the world. Have pink luggage, will travel.

    It’s a beast and it’s pink. I can recognize it across the airport in a heartbeat. It can definitely fit a couple small baby pandas if I had to. I can tell you within a half pound how much it weighs, if it’s going to be tagged heavy (which it has been, more times that I can count), or if I’ve got room for a souvenir or two. 

    It’s been my travel companion on many adventures. Italy, Jamaica, Canada, Hawaii. Minnesota to South Carolina and back. Crisscrossed the United States for the year that bag was my home away from home. Across town to my first stationary home of my own. Italy,  Canada, Hawaii, Jamaica.
    It’s dirty, starting to tear a bit, and a zipper catches. There are still adventures left to be had in that old bag, but for someone else next time.

    I’m hanging up my travel tag on my old pink suitcase. 

    xoxo,
    Alex

    The Incredible Avocado

    Avocado are actually a large berry that grows on a tree that can reach 6 feet tall. Just like a banana, the avocado ripens 1-2 weeks after being picked.
    Avocados are often referred to as the healthiest food due to their impressive nutritional content.
    An avocado contains these vitamins and minerals:
    Vitamin B1
    Vitamin B2
    Vitamin B3
    Vitamin B5
    Vitamin B6
    Vitamin B9
    Vitamin C
    Vitamin E
    Vitamin K
    Calcium
    Iron
    Magnesium
    Manganese
    Phosphorus
    Sodium
    Zinc
    •An avocado contains more potassium than a banana. Avocados have 14% and a banana contains 10% potassium.
    •Avocados have high levels of folic acid which lowers incidences of heart disease. Folate is also essential in the prevention of birth defects such as spina bifida and neural tube defect.
    *They also contain high levels Vitamin E and glutathione which are potent antioxidants.
    •Eating avocados greatly increase absorption of carotenoids (lycopene and beta carotene) which are anti-oxidants that promote healthy eyes and heart.
    •Avocados contain significant amounts of the carotenoid lutein which is strongly protective against macular degeneration and cataracts.
    •Avocados can lower (LDL) bad cholesterol by up to 22% while increasing (HDL) good cholesterol by 11% and also can lower triglycerides by up to 20%.
    •Avocados contain high oleic acid which helps prevent breast cancer, inhibits tumor growth in prostate cancer and seeks out precancerous and oral cancer cells and destroys them.
    •Avocados are high in fiber.  Fiber helps improve digestive health, improves glycemic control, and increase satiety (feeling full!).
    •Avocado extract paired with a carrier oil can reduce the symptoms of arthritis.
    •Avocados can help clean the intestines, and thereby helps eliminate bad breath.

    Avocado Baked Egg Recipe
    Prep time:   25 minutes 355 calories
    Ingredients:
                    1 Avocado, halved and pitted
                    2 Eggs
                    ¼ cup crumbled bacon
    Directions:
    Preheat oven to 425 degrees
    Place each avocado half in small oven safe container like this https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ac/Two_ramekins.jpgor similar
    Crack 1 egg into each avocado half, season with salt and black pepper and place containers on baking sheet.
    Bake in the preheated oven until entire egg is cooked through – about 15 minutes.  Spring each acocade with Bacon and Chives.

    The Benefits of Resistance Band Training

    Almost every gym goer has seen a rubber resistance training band and done at least one exercise using a band, but few people realize the many benefits of resistance band training done on its own or combined with other forms of resistance training such as weight lifting.
    There are many unique benefits to Resistance Band Training (RBT) including:
    RBT strengthens the neuromuscular system where its weakest, which is at the end of the range of motion.
    Allows exercise in true horizontal vectors (parallel to the ground/floor) where free weights can only create a vertical gravity resistance vector.    We move in three planes of motion and many different vectors, and bands allow us to train in all planes and vectors with load.
    Provides ascending resistance (gets harder the further a band is stretched) which teaches users how to accelerate concentrically (when projecting force) and decelerate eccentrically (when absorbing force).
    Deceleration (aka eccentric loading) always precedes acceleration (concentric unloading) in movement.  Bands elastic properties speed up the loading (eccentric) phase of every exercise, which, in turn, creates a greater need for eccentric control.    Eccentric strength is the key to an explosive acceleration or concentric contraction.
    Muscles are reactive by nature and obtain feedback from sensors that constantly measure muscle lengthening or tension development.   Free weight can definitely create vertical loading and feedback, but muscles need to be strong and reactive in all vectors not just up and down.
    Bands can be used to safely load movements such as running, jumping, swinging, hopping and kicking WITHOUT altering the mechanics of those movements.    It is difficult and sometimes dangerous to run, jump or hop correctly with any type of free weight on the body.
    Unlike free weight training, RBT requires you to train through the full range of motion which, in turn, requires a great workout load.   Free weights take significant effort to accelerate but momentum will be created unless moving the weight very slowly.    With properly done RBT exercise there is no momentum even with high speed movement!

    To learn more about bands and how to use them go to https://resistancebandtraining.com/

    Yes You Can

    So, ClassPass. I simply cannot stop talking about it. But in one month, it honestly has transformed the way I exercise. But more than that, it has gotten in to my brain. 
     Every class, no matter if it’s barre, or core, or yoga, I’ve heard the instructors use those magic words: ” Yes, you can.”

    The first time I heard the instructor say that, I grimaced. Yeah right. This class will kill me. My legs are shaking, my body is quaking, and I’m literally going to drown in my own sweat. I can’t.


    But then, I hear words that just might be true. “Your mind will give out long before your body will. Yes, you can.” 

    And a funny thing happens. I close my eyes, I dig deep, and I begin to believe.

    I believe that I can. 


    In one month, I’ve been to 14 classes through ClassPass. I’ve hit at least 4 different studios for barre classes, experienced my first hot yoga class, and braved a megaformer. In my life, I have never been this excited about working out.


    And I can. My body really is stronger than my mind. I can work through shaky legs, and sweat in my eyes, to power through and finish the class. I’m losing those pesky extra pounds and I feel better about my body. I’m making my health a priority and I’m actually enjoying it.

    I am so grateful ClassPass reached out to me and gifted me a complimentary month. And because I’ve loved it, I’m in – I signed up for another month. 

    Now I’m challenging you. Do you believe in you? Because I do. If I can do it, you can do it. 

    Yes, I can. And yes, you can.

    If you want in on ClassPass, I’d be honored if you’d use my referral link. With it, you can skip the waitlist in your city and start rockin’ it at all your favorite classes. 

    xoxo,
    Alex
    Sidenote: (I’m all about sidenotes. Just ask my students. Sigh.) We just watched The Judge, and it was so good. I feel a little typical when I enjoy a lawyer movie, but this one had me feeling the feelings. Add it to your list if you haven’t seen it yet. 

    Musings on Motherhood: First Sick Day

    Note: I wrote this back in June after the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub. I’m not sure why I never hit publish but am doing so now. As the Christmas season begins, I am purposefully surrounding myself with love and showering my family and friends with love. Love bigger. Love brighter. Merry Christmas, y’all.
    It took only nine days of daycare for the germ warfare to take our little one down. He’s been battling a tiny cold but last night it reared it’s ugly head of snot and congestion. When he woke up with a fever this morning, I knew we were staying home.
    And honestly, just like I didn’t feel any guilt in sending him to school so I could go back to work, I don’t feel any guilt missing work to stay home with him. Especially after the events of this weekend.
    I woke up on Sunday and all I wanted to do was sit and hold my little one. Knowing there are 49 mamas out there that will never get to love on their children again breaks my heart. I cried reading the text messages one son sent his mom. I cried thinking of how happy and grateful I am that it wasn’t us.
    We live in a messed up world. Which I feel way more acutely now that I am a mom. I could go on and on and try to find the right words but this mama said it perfectly:

    My home is filled with immense love. And yet, all the time, I scroll through my newsfeed and find heartache, pain and horror of this world that should never be. I’m left with the eternal question – what can I do? What can I do?

    For a split second I feel hopeless, as though the situation is too large for me. Then I sit with the question, and I’m quiet with myself, the answer is always the same. Always, always, it comes back to love. Love bigger. Love brighter.

    Show these tiny people, our children, that they are, in fact, correct and right and wise to love without hesitation. Children don’t look at others with judgment to decide who deserves their love and who doesn’t. No. Children see people, all people, for the light and the love that they are—they readily accept them. Children are taught, by something outside them, that some people are worthy of love, while others aren’t. They innately know how to love. We need to remember how to return to that place.

    When I am so sad about the events in our world that I feel sick, I know its time to fight back with radiance, light, and joy. I will not allow hatred and fear seep into the walls of my family. I will not. 

    Here is where the silly, the fun, the healing of any kind comes into play. For us, it is often the kitchen dance party—an important part of my family’s healing. These dances may or may not include a glass of wine, but most definitely include some sort of fun music, horrible dance moves that my children think are AWESOME, and lots of laughter and forgetting the weight of the world. 
    Here’s the thing I’ve learned—as our kids grow, they are learning that the world is full of heaviness. More and more they will discover the serious, forgetting the innate joy they have claimed since birth. But I want them to know how to return to the only thing that truly matters: love. Pure and simple.

    I want them to know how to heal their own hearts, and in doing so, I want them to know they are also healing their world. That their fun and laughter and joy and love matters.

    I can’t change other people’s hate. But I can respond by pouring more love into my home. 

    Our world out there is scary. Quite incredibly scary. If I could keep my babies safe from it forever, I would do whatever that thing would be. I would wrap them in any sort of bubble wrap that would do the trick. But I can’t. Bubble wrap won’t work. So my number one priority becomes teaching my children to never let go of that love in their hearts. To have the tools to open their hearts to boundless joy, to relentless love. It’s the best gift I can give them.
    Dance in the kitchen and hold your people close. Love bigger. Love brighter.
    xoxo,
    Alex 

    Retail Therapy and a Giveaway!

    The giveaway is now closed.


    This post is sponsored by Hy-Vee.

    Lately, it seems my work/life balance, integration, sanity, or whatever you want to call it, was off. I had a couple events at work, big things coming up with the CGL, and wanting to be super present as a mom and wife at home. So, I was really needing a little pampering. But I usually devote any pampering time to working out an hour or two each weekend.

    Recently though, I’ve been trying to take a few extra minutes while grocery shopping at our local Hy-Vee to stroll the aisles and look at all the pretty packages and pick out something new to cook. A little retail therapy. Looking at pretty things is so relaxing, right? Well, I was really excited when Hy-Vee reached out and asked me to take a look at their new F&F line of clothes.

    Wait, Hy-Vee has clothes?! That’s exactly right. And they are pretty darn cute! F&F is a British-inspired international fashion label that offers a broad range of affordable fashion for women, men and children. They are expanding to the US with stores located right inside Hy-Vee. 

    So my mom, the little man, and I headed out to Hy-Vee to do a little shopping and explore F&F. We grabbed coffee and began our retail therapy!



    The F&F line has something for everyone – women, men, and kiddos. Well, I found a great white blouse with black polka dots that is work friendly. I’m still sticking to a capsule wardrobe of mostly black, grey, navy, and garnet. This piece is another great option for winter!




    I started our shopping thinking I’d pick up a few pieces I could use for work, but I completely overestimated my willpower against adorable children’s clothes. 


    Declan has been growing like a weed lately and is in desperate need of new clothes. Luckily, Hy-Vee has super cute clothes for kiddos.


    The pocket square!
    I fell in love with this dinosaur hoodie. What is it about dinosaurs for little ones?! I just can’t get enough. Declan loves the hoodie and matching pants, too.


    Too much. Also, I’m pretty sure every photo I try to take of this moving monster will be blurry from here on out.

    I also snagged a few pairs of sweatpants, a pair of khaki pants with – wait for it – SUSPENDERS, and the cutest sweater that I’m hoping he won’t grow out of before his birthday in March. 

    The line F&F line definitely has a little bit of a European flair which makes sense since that’s where the line originated. The styles are fresh and on trend.

    You guys really have to check it out. And to entice you a little more, we’re doing a GIVEAWAYSimply comment below with something you are looking forward to this week to enter to win a $100 gift card to Hy-Vee. Winner* will be announced Thursday morning.

    Have a great week!

    xoxo,
    Alex

    *Winner must live close to a HyVee and redeem gift card at HyVee locations.

    Does Weighing Yourself Help You to Lose Weight?

    Do weight changes translate into fat loss?
    On a day to day basis a scale is an extremely poor tool for giving you information on changes in bodyfat levels which are very small.  Daily weight changes are mostly accounted for by four factors:  bowel movements, urination, starch and sugar intake, and blood volume.    Since your blood volume typically does NOT vary that much the other factors are more relevant.
    Bowel Movements and Urination vary a lot between different people anywhere from 1.3lbs to 5.7lbs in a single day.    This is one of the reasons to consistently weight yourself after you wake up and go to the bathroom and before you eat or drink much.
    However, the biggee when it comes to daily weight fluctuation, is usually glycogen storage levels.    Glycogen is just the storage form of glucose aka blood sugar.    All starch and sugar ultimately end up as glucose, glycogen or fat.     
    For example, on the front end of a low carb diet you will show big weight loss which is almost all water because you store glucose/glycogen with water – hence the term carbo “Hydrate”.  Muscle and organs contain the highest levels of water, and this is significant because most of your bodyweight comes from muscles and organs. 
      
    So daily changes in weight are NOT a good reflection in changes in bodyfat levels!
    Can daily weighing help with long-term weight loss and fat loss?

    In order to answer this question let’s review the scientific studies that have looked at this issue.     The recent advent of WIFI scales is allowing much more accurate weight records because prior to that people had to take the time to write down their weight each day.
    In a recent WIFI scale study called the Weight Trial here were the results:
    Over a six-month period, those who weighed daily lost about 13 lbs more than the control group.
    Even those who weighed themselves up to five times each week lost less weight than the daily weighers.
    Daily Weighers were more likely to do things like eating less food and watching less television so clearly the weighing helped by changing behaviors!
    Although this study did not measure body fat, it is quite likely that the body weight loss did translate into significant fat loss.
    For certain groups, daily weighing is a bad idea such as people with eating disorders and other psychological disorders including extremely low self-esteem.     In addition, daily weighing does not work for everyone.   For some people the inevitable plateaus or variations in weight loss can very frustrated and quit the whole process!

    So daily weighing may be helpful for you, but it is not perfect and it does not accurately measure changes in bodyfat levels so it is important to do use some method of body composition testing to measure these changes which should be your ultimate goal!

    How Much Time Should You Rest Between Resistance Training Exercises?

    One of the most common questions about weight training aka resistance training is how long should you rest between each exercise set?     If you take a look at the relevant research concerning this topic there are some good answers.
    For a long time, researchers believed that shorter rest periods were better for increasing muscle size which was thought to occur because of increased levels of metabolic stress by not allowing complete recovery.    However, research done in 2015 shows that using longer rest periods actually results in better results for both increased muscle size and increased muscle strength.     It is thought that this occurs because longer rest periods allow a higher training volume (more repetitions of each exercise).
    Another aspect to consider is whether most of your workout uses compound exercises (compound exercises use multi-joint exercises using more muscle mass such as a chest press vs a pec dec or pull-up vs an Lat Pullover).      In a 2012 study researchers found that with shorter rest periods workout volume decreased for both single-joint and multi-joint compound exercises.       However, the decrease in volume in workouts with short rest periods tended to be significantly greater with multi-joint compound exercises vs single-joint exercise (29% reduction in volume with multi-joint as compared to 15% with single- joint exercise). So for strength routines focused on compound, multi-joint movements increased rest time is probably a good idea.
    Another study which looked at the effects of rest interval length on training volume discovered another important item:    reduction in training volume occurs mainly between 1 and 2-minute rest periods.    The percentage difference between 2 and 3-minute rest periods is much smaller, except when doing 5 or more sets of an exercise.     So, for people doing 3 – 4 sets per exercise, 2 minutes is a good rest interval, but if doing 5 or more sets you should probably extend the rest interval to 3 minutes.
    Another important piece of information is that recreational lifters who self-determine rest periods tend to rest just under 2 minutes between sets meaning that for most lifters doing 3 to 4 sets of several exercises whose goal is increased muscle size and strength you probably do not need to time your rest intervals and can go just go by feel.

    Timing rest intervals becomes more important for advanced resistance training such as Power Lifting and Bodybuilding, but for most of us we can just go by how we feel!

    Musings on Motherhood // One Year


    A year of firsts. 

    First night at home. First walk. First laugh. First roll. First crawl. First steps. First mama, first dada. First sick day, first bump, first bruise. First time up north, trip to the zoo, and adventure to the park.


    And then, in a blink of an eye, the firsts became routine. And he grew. And grew and grew. 


    My once tiny seven pound baby is now a 20+ pound whirling dervish that doesn’t stand still. Time doesn’t stand still either.


    I’ve been treasuring every single cuddle and hug lately. It’s like he knows I need them more than ever right now.
       

    Becoming a mother has completely transformed me. I feel like a completely different  person than I was before Declan. Maybe it doesn’t seem so outwardly, but inside, I feel it. It’s so difficult to put into words but I’m certain other mothers might understand what I’m going through.


    A piece of my heart now lives outside my body.

    xoxo,
    Alex



    Photo Credit: Anna Winberg Photography

    Musings on Motherhood // Trying.

    *I wrote this three years ago, as we started trying to have a baby. Occasionally, I’ll write something and never hit publish. I need space with my thoughts before sharing them with the world. But I was encouraged today by a friend to do my part in making these conversations public.

    For anyone out there trying, here’s a fist bump of solidarity heading your way. I’ve been there and it made me lose my mind for a bit. 

    Trying.

    They don’t tell you trying will be the hardest thing ever. Trying to keep your hopes up. That you’ll avoid facebook because since you’ve started trying only a few months ago, 19 couples you are friends with have announced they are expecting.

    That every time your mom offers you a glass of wine at the cabin you wonder if you should accept. Or you’ll make up an excuse about trying to lose vacation weight and alcohol is the first thing to go. Anything to get her to not think you are trying

    But since your mom is your best friend, she’s the first one you want to tell you are trying. So instead you blurt it out to friends you trust and hope they keep it private.

    That you downloaded an app. Yeah, an app to track things. Ugh. Why? Trying has made me crazy.

    Or April 1 passes and you get literally angry at anyone who thinks its acceptable to pull a pregnancy prank.

    That you start trying and then you read about infertility and your heart breaks for women who struggle to get pregnant. 

    And you secretly hope you won’t be one of them…

    That every time that time of the month comes you try to stay hopeful but you feel discouraged.

    It’s supposed to be a magic time, lots of love making but this insane amount of pressure immediately is put upon you. And most of it is put on by you.

    I pray more, work out more, eat healthier. Every little bit helps right?

    Trying is exciting yet trying sucks. 
    Because so often you go through this whirlwind alone.
    Well, if you are trying, 

    Have hope.
    Keep the faith.

    And feel free to vent to me. I’ll listen.

    xoxo,
    Alex

    Basement Update

    We’ve made some crazy amazing updates on our basement over the last couple months. In August, we hired a contractor to help us finish our basement. If you don’t remember, we had the ugliest basement in all of the United State (Part 1 and Part 2). After we painted it, we hadn’t done a whole lot else until this year. 

    We tackled the Shark Bathroom first and for our first total reno project, I’d say we crushed it. But finishing the rest of the basement was another story. We knew we needed to call in the experts.

    While most of the progress was made this fall, we actually started our planning last year. We hired Egress by Ericson to put in two egress windows in the future bedrooms in the basement. Not only did they add a ton of light, they also meet code so we now have a 4 bedroom home! If you have an older home in the Twin Cities area, we’d highly recommend using Egress by Ericson. Let them know we sent you!

    So fast forward to this fall. We hired Tom Campion Construction to finish our basement. This particular project added walls, closets, lights, carpet, doors, tile, and paint. It’s just amazing the transformation. 

      
    Our contractors did a ton of it, but K is an absolute rock star and has really gone above and beyond in transforming our house. He did all the painting (walls, doors, trim), the flooring in the utility room and the tile in the laundry room, and is currently building us a custom fireplace mantle. 

      

    Eek! I just love it! A little TLC and our home is transformed. Since these photos, I’ve made only a few dozen carpet angels (apparently it runs in the family!) and begun dreaming about decorating each room. We moved the televison and a couple couches into the main room and now have a new spot to cozy up and watch holiday movies this month!

    We’re so close to being finished with finishing our basement. A couple more work weekends and we should be set down there!

    xoxo,
    Alex

    Paint: Fleur de Sel & Extra White by Sherwin Williams
    Egress Windows: Egress by Ericson
    General Contractor: Tom Campion Construction
    Carpet: Andersen Floor Covering Inc.

    Currently // February 2018

    Here’s the maternity leave edition of what I’ve been up to. Tomorrow, I ship both boys off to daycare and head back to work. Currently feeling ALL the feels!

    READING // Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life, A Simplified Life, What Works for Women at Work, Little Fires Everywhere, Gameplan, Good As Gone, The Women in the Castle (honestly though, I can’t remember if I read this one before or during my leave!)

    LISTENING TO // The Universe Has Your Back, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, and Educated: A Memoir (I’m slowly getting into Audible…I’m not an auditory learner since my mind starts to wander so I find myself rewinding a lot, but it’s a nice alternative to staring at a screen!)
    EATING // I did a mostly Whole30 in January. It was going great, and tanking my supply. So I had to make some adjustments but found a couple great recipes that we’ll definitely be using, like this Whole30 compliant Zuppa Toscana. I’ve made it 3 times since January. It’s that good.
    THANKFUL // That I even get this time to spend with my family and bond with Liam. The statistics regarding maternity leave in the United States are quite appalling.
    PLANNING // Declan’s birthday breakfast! We celebrate birthdays very lowkey around here. No parties, just a special breakfast, a couple gifts, and then we go on a family adventure. Last year we went to the zoo. This year, we are debating between Camp Snoopy (yes, it will always be called this), Choo Choo Bob’s Train Store, or the Children’s Museum. But it’s his golden birthday so we’re making it special!

    WORKING ON // My cloffice (closet + office). My old landing space of an office became Liam’s nursery. We put the desk in the basement but I wasn’t loving the proximity to the boys when I was working at night. So, I came up with an idea to add an mini office to my walk-in closet. It’s amazing and I love it. I can’t wait to show you what it looks like!
    WEARING // I earned a new FitBit Alta HR and love wearing it as I start ramping up my activity. It’s a good reminder when I’m sitting all day to get up and move. Plus it does silent alarms which I’ll use for staying on my pumping schedule. The worst part is seeing how I slept the night before…or didn’t sleep. Because the struggle is real.

    WATCHING // Well, I think I watched every single sport in the Winter Olympics, I caught up on Outlander, and still haven’t watched this season of This Is Us. So win some, lose some.

    That’s it for now! I’m going to go slather on some Valor to help me prepare for tomorrow!

    xoxo,
    Alex

    When You Just Have to Shake It Off

    [source]

    My face turned bright red, not once, but twice last week. And not because I was busting my butt in the gym. No instead, this was the red the comes straight from embarrassment.

    On Monday, school started back up and apparently I forgot to put my professor filter back on after winter break. One of my student’s medical device buzzed, and in an effort to make her feel at ease, I started telling them the story of when I was going through security at the airport and my electric toothbrush started buzzing. I should have left it there, but I had to go one step further and well, before you know it, my face was turning bright red as I realized I inadvertently was comparing a buzzing electronic toothbrush to another device that vibrates. Foot in mouth. I backpedaled as fast as I could but the damage was done. Let’s get back on topic, huh? Oh boy.

    And then, on Thursday, I was moving furniture around on in the space I manage so I turned on the tunes to keep me company. Well, as the beginning strains of Uptown Funk started to float, not quietly I might add, through the space, I realized my boss was having a private meeting in the library…where the music was playing. You guys. I uptown funk’d my boss in a meeting. He grinned when he told me but man, whoops. Note to self: make sure the other channels are off before blasting Bruno.

    So yeah. That all happened last week. Foot in mouth. Burning cheeks. Embarrassed. But what can you do but shake it off and move on! Here’s to a new week!

    xoxo,
    Alex

    Emotional Resistance and How to Help Overcome it!

    “The past is gone: the present is full of confusion; and the future scares the hell out of me!”  – David L. Stein
    Emotional resistance is anything that causes someone to stay in their comfort zone – rather than taking action towards making a change.    It is unquestionably the elephant in the room for personal trainers and anyone who coaches people to make healthy lifestyle changes.
    A person can want to change but at the same time be emotionally resistant to change.   In fact, this common.     The person knows they want to change, but their level of motivation is not as strong as their level of emotional resistance, so they stay stuck.
    There are many reasons a person can be resistant to change including:
                    Fear of change – staying in their comfort zone is a lot less scary than trying something new!
                    They fall into the bad habit rut – change is hard, and habits must be replaced with other habits!
                    They lack confidence so are afraid they will fail
                    They chose short-term comfort vs long-term benefit
    So what is a good coach to do?
    It is all about asking the right questions and allowing a client to think without interruption.    Questions like:
                    Why is your goal important to you now?
                    What makes you think you need to make this change?
                    What will it take for you to change?
                    How can I help you get past some of the challenges you are facing?
                    Imagine you have reached your goal – how would your life be different?
                    If you do not change and stay where you are or get worse how will that be?
                    On a 1 – 10 scale how important is it for you to make this change now?
                                    If it is less than a 10 ask “what would it take for you to go up at least 1 level?”
    The key is to be empathetic and focus on the client coming up with solutions for changing their lives instead of telling them what to do all the time!

    Thrive

    “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”

    — Maya Angelou

    “I always thought that the “thriving” would come when everything was perfect, and what I learned is that it’s actually down in the mess that things get good.”
    — Joanna Gaines


    I’m consciously not trying to add anything to my plate this year. I feel like I’m in a good spot, a really good spot. My goal is to dig in and thrive. Thrive at home, thrive at work, thrive as Alex. Thriving right where I am, right now.
    In working through my PowerSheets, I uncovered 7 goals for the year. For the sake of accountability, I wanted to share them. In no particular order, here we go:

    CULTIVATE A LIFE-GIVING HOME
    Why: After finding our new home last year, it’s really been at the forefront of my thoughts that this is where Declan will grow up. It’s so important to me that this house be full of love, family, and friends. Full of life. A safe place for all of us to put down roots and spread our wings. 
    Starting Steps: De-cluttering! I love to hush the house after the holidays. For January, I want to get at least three bags full for donation or trash. Simplify, simplify, simplify! While I don’t think I’ll ever be a minimalist, I can definitely appreciate paring down and focusing only on what matters and brings us joy.
    HONOR MY BODY
    Why: After being pregnant and having a baby, my body went through quite the transformation. My stomach stretched, my boobs sold themselves to my pump, my hair fell out, and 5 (or less!) hours of sleep became standard. All totally normal but hard to transition to after I had gotten into a good rhythm with my health. When I had Declan, I gave myself a year of grace to not worry about getting my body back. Because let’s be serious, that’s never going to happen. I have a completely new body, one that made a baby, and evicted him after a grueling 30 hour labor. I’m continuing my quest to give myself grace to respect that a miracle happened here and to honor that. So, this is less about getting back to the old me, and instead being the best me that I can and honoring my body.

    This goal originally was START WEIGHT TRAINING but I realized that it’s more than that. So I’m changing it, two weeks into the new year. And I love that I’m okay with that. Honoring my body means taking care of it with good food and exercise, as well as checking in on my mental health throughout the year, especially during stressful times.

    Starting Steps: I launched into a January Whole30. I’m on day 8 since I waited until after our company party to start. I’m also going to one group exercise class each week. I’m also planning to start lifting weights at home once a week. Little by little it all adds up!

    GROW A GARDEN

    Why: This is something I’ve been wanting to do for the last couple years, but never had the space to do it. But now we do, and so my big project of the year is going to be grow a garden. My grandparents had a large garden at the lake and I loved going out there to pick our salad for supper. Growing our own garden gets us outside after work, an activity to do with my boys, and incentive to keep eating healthy. Win win. Plus, growing something and digging in the dirt is just so therapeutic. It will be good for my soul.

    Starting Steps: Right now we’re in planning mode! At the end of the summer we picked out a spot and need to just finalize the size and shape. I’ve ordered a few seed catalogs to get inspiration. The first one arrived this week!

    DATE MY HUSBAND
    Why: Why not?! Seriously though, I love that man more than ever. Finding alone time, however can be a bit tricky with a new babe. We are committed to building a strong marriage and partnership, so we are committing to go on a monthly date without Declan. But since we love that boy, we’re also want to make family adventures a priority with at least one adventure a month.

    Starting Steps: Scheduling a date for this month. We love trying new restaurants and have a few on our list to get to. But since variety is the spice of life, I’m always looking for fun date ideas!

    READ AND WRITE MORE
    Why: These things give me joy and moments to pause and reflect.

    Starting Steps: Turn on my Kindle. I have loads of good books on my reading list so I just got to find time. One way I’m doing this is having a social media free weekend. Instead of scrolling Instagram, I’m reading. I’ve already finished one book and am on to the second!

    AMPLIFY THE CGL
    Why: More than ever, we need to empower women and girls. The Center for Girls’ Leadership does just that and I couldn’t be more proud of all that we’ve accomplished over the last five years. But now is the time to amplify our efforts. We can’t give up now.

    Starting Steps: Our third annual Girls In STEM event is in February (tell a friend!) and we’re working on a new curriculum to launch our mentoring program late this year. If you felt that 2016 ended with a kick in the pants to take action, there are plenty of ways to get involved.

    CHOOSE FAITH OVER FEAR

    Why: Because I believe. I believe in good people. I believe in doing the right thing. I believe in giving back. I believe in my faith.

    Starting Steps: I’m praying daily. And reading something from the She Reads Truth app each week to keep me focused on my faith.

    Are you still reading?! So there are my current goals for the year. All focused on thriving in the present. I’ll do a refresh in a couple months and will keep you posted on any progress. 
    Now, I’d love to hear from you. What are your goals for the year? How can I encourage you in cultivating what matters? Remember, progress not perfection!
    xoxo,
    Alex
    P.S. Any fun date ideas for us?

    Benefits of Doing the Plank Workout Daily

    Benefits of doing plank exercise

    plank benefits


    Plank a small word holds great workout experience for all. Everybody on this planet is busy with their work schedules. They are not able to find time for exercise at all. Now a day’s body-weight exercises are very popular globally. Body-weight exercises are helpful getting in shape using your own body weight. Plank is one of the body-weight exercises in fashion now a day. Plank is one of the most effective exercise for those who say’s they don’t have time for workout. Because doing plank needs a small amount of time from your side, and offer the chance to achieve significant results in a very short span of time.

                If you never tried plank exercise in your life, it may look easy. Plank exercise requires no costly equipment, it can be done anywhere, it will engage all part of your body (muscles groups) and benefit the whole body in many different ways. Plank is one of the best exercises for your core muscles; it will also work your arms, shoulders, neck, back, hips and you legs. It will improve your balance and support proper posture. Plank is a great exercise which should be part of everyone’s workout routine, it will boost your fitness level.

    Benefits of doing the plank daily

                Plank workout will benefit you in several ways; you must add this workout in your regular routine.


    Core strength


                Doing plank daily will increase your core muscle group strength. It will strengthen your all those muscles, joints and bones which link upper and lower body. The importance of strengthening each muscle group is very important, because each muscle groups plays different role for your body functioning. If you strengthen these muscle groups you will notice increase ability to lift heavier weight. You will feel stronger, everyday tasks become easier, and it will improve athletic abilities. It will improve capacity for stable upper body twist and side bending exercise.

    Toned tummy/ belly


                Plank workout will help you build inner core muscles that lay groundwork for your 6 pack look. As your core/abdominal muscles become stronger and will tighten up. Doing plank will be toning other parts of your body too.

    Strengthen back muscles and decrease risk of injury in the back


                Doing plank will strengthen your back muscles, in particular upper back muscles become stronger. During plank workout you are not putting too much pressure on your spine and hips. Plank exercise require minimum movement while contracting all layers of your abdominal muscles, it is a great way to strengthen your core, which will help reduce back pain.


    Increase Flexibility


                Doing plan workout daily will increase your flexibility by expending and stretching all your postural muscles groups- shoulders, shoulder blades, caller bone, neck, hamstring and even arch of your feet and toes. Plank will also help in offsetting some of the natural loss of the elasticity of the muscles and ligaments that comes with age. Plank will be a great workout for those who have a desk job all day.

    Improves mood, become happier


                All exercises will help in boosting your mood; plank workout is one of them. Plank workout has particular effect on your nerves, which will improve your mood. Doing plank stretch out muscles in the neck, shoulders and back that often become stiff and tensed because of prolong sitting/standing. Plank exercise is a stressed buster as it will help calm the brain only if you make it part of your daily routine.

    Improve your posture and balance


                Plank workout will help engaging your abs to stay upright and strengthening your core, which in turn help your ability to stand with straight and stable posture. While doing daily it will help you sit and stand up straight easily.

                By strengthening your core muscles group, plank will help in improved balance. It will boost your performance in every sporting activity.

    Improves Metabolism


                Plank is a great workout to challenge your body, it will burn more calories if include in daily workout routine. It will help in strengthen your muscles by performing on daily basis will ensure that you burn more calories even when you are desk bound or stationary. Plank is more effective way of burning fat, doing plank daily will increase metabolic rate even after you have stopped exercise, something that does not happen with other cardio activities.

    Better bones and joint health


                All workout routines will help you to keep your heart rate healthy and muscles toned, it is key for strong bones and flexible joints. Body-weight workout is key for bone health. These workouts put stress on the bones attached to your muscles and activate them to rebuild themselves. Plank is great body-weight exercise which helps in better bones and joint health.
    Doing plank daily make real life task easier because they engage your all group of muscles at once just not focusing on single muscle. As you lose fat, improve flexibility, bone and joint health, build muscle and strength, and enjoy increased adaptability and balance you will notice all your daily routine work require much less physical efforts.

    Once you start doing plank everyday and see the changes in your body you will be addicted to it. You will never be get bored by the plank workout by challenging yourself- increasing the time duration and type of plank pose.

    Hope this article will give you an insight of all the benefits of plank workout. In the next article I will explain how to perform plank in proper manner, various type of plank exercise like side plank, straight arm plank, running plank, Spider-man plank, straight arm plank, one leg up plank, bend elbow plank, a rocking plank to name just a few.

    Stay tuned for next article about plank workout routine (how to increase your timing up to 300 second in 30 days). Please follow my blog for workout routine for gym and exercise routine for home. you will get all workout routine at one place 😊.


    As with any exercise you risk injury if you don’t use the correct techniques.

    Disclaimer
    1.      Please consult a physician to access your health before following the program in the blog.
    2.      All the specified exercises should be performed in the safest position as specified in the blog. I will not be held responsible for any injury incurred while performing the exercise specified in the blog.

    How to Obtain the Benefits of Broccoli without Eating Broccoli!

    Regular consumption of Broccoli has many proven benefits, but the most significant set of benefits come from two key compounds:   Glucoraphanin and Sulforaphane.     They have been the focus of over 650 scientific publications. 
    Sulforaphane is responsible for the following benefits:
    Supports the body’s detoxification processes
    Protects cells and more importantly cellular DNA from damage which is the instigator of cancer!
    Activates more than 200 genes
    Supports normal cell division and growth
    Boost endogenous anti-oxidant production
    Supports gut health
    Supports regeneration of cartilage
    Supports Bladder and Prostate Health
    Supports Respiratory Health
    Helps prevent and treat multiple forms of cancer including prostate, stomach cancer, oral cancer, lung cancer, cervical cancer, throat cancer, colon cancer, esophageal cancer, kidney cancer, and breast cancer to name a few!
    Sulforaphane is actually produced from Glucoraphanin in broccoli through the action of an enzyme called myrosinase produced by intestinal bacteria or contained in some foods. 
      
    Here is where the challenge lies!    Cook broccoli too much and you destroy the Glucoraphanin and the myrosinase.    Eating it raw is problematic for sulforaphane production as well so it is really hard to get this just right.  Also for many people the taste of broccoli is really unpleasant.  In addition to obtain therapeutic amounts of sulforaphane you need to eat about 2 pounds of broccoli each week!
    Endogenous vs Exogenous Anti-Oxidants

    Everyone has heard of anti-oxidants which are a crucial part of our physiology.   Anti-oxidants come through two key sources:   from chemicals in food (particularly plants) know as exogenous antioxidants, and from the body producing its own supply of anti-oxidants known as endogenous anti-oxidants.    Although both play important roles in health, endogenous anti-oxidants are much more crucial and important to overall health and disease prevention.
    In general, Endogenous Anti-Oxidants cannot be consumed and must be generated by the cells of the body.    As we age the body produces progressively lower quantities of these vital substances, but there are substances which ramp up endogenous anti-oxidant production.   Sulforaphane is one of the most potent substances for increasing the production of endogenous anti-oxidant production and dramatically increasing the detoxification of the many toxins that we encounter in our environment, food and drink.    This is critically important for health and one of the most important ways to prevent cancer!
    Obtaining Sulforaphane without eating broccoli 

    The good news is that broccoli sprouts contain 10 – 50 times more sulforaphane that one ounce of broccoli sprouts contain the same amount of sulforaphane as 1.5 pounds of broccoli.   So fresh broccoli sprouts are a great alternative and have a light taste.     However, some people’s gut contains less than optimal levels of the right types of bacteria which are key for producing the necessary quantities of myrosinase so production of sulforaphane can be limited.
    A great way to insure you get myrosinase is to add a little horseradish, mustard, or wasabi (has to be REAL wasabi which is rare) because all of these foods are high in myrosinase.    Horseradish contains much larger amounts of myrosinase than broccoli or broccoli sprouts and ALSO contains glucoraphanin so adding a little to broccoli or broccoli sprouts will dramatically boost the benefits.   Just a little real horseradish (teaspoon is more than enough) is all you need!
    Sulforaphane Supplements

    Sulforaphane is not stable as a supplement so consuming it by itself is not a good strategy.     That being said there are supplements made from broccoli sprouts and broccoli seeds that contain significant quantities of Glucoraphanin and Myrosinase which generate significant quantities of Sulforaphane when consumed.      Broccomax contains standardized quantities of myrosinase and glucoraphanin and is proven to generate significant quantities of sulforaphane in the body, and Mercola Fermented Broccoli Sprouts also provides similar benefits.   Both can be found from multiple sources on the internet.

    Reverse Lunge with Diagonal Lift

    Lunges are a fantastic functional lower body exercise, and the benefits can be enhanced by adding an upper body component to the basic lunge movement pattern. One of the most productive total body lunge variations is the reverse lunge with a diagonal lift.
    The exercise improves hip mobility in the front of the rear leg, while also increasing strength and stability in the front leg and increasing core strength and mobility. Specifically, it improves hip flexor mobility while training the body to move smoothly in the spiral line. It also encourages proper tri-planar movement.
    Start standing with feet shoulder width apart in upright posture. Hold a medicine ball, dumbbell, or kettlebell (or even a body bar) positioned at the right hip pocket region. Step back with the right leg to perform a reverse lunge. At the same time move both arms diagonally up and back over the left shoulder until a comfortable stretch is felt in the anterior (front) of the right hip. Do NOT allow the back to arch. Pause in this position for one or two seconds.
    Do 10 – 15 repetitions on one side then repeat on the other side. It is important that you keep both feet facing forward and keep your trunk upright throughout the movement.
    Regressions:
    Perform the movement without a medicine ball, dumbbell, or bar
    Start in the split stance lunge position instead of having to step back
    Progressions:
    Increase weight you are holding.
    Perform the movement in an alternating side manner vs one side at a time.
    Video Links: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDyGhcm-aVs

    The 1 Minute Workout

    The number one challenge people to give to not working out is time.   So the question fitness professionals should be focused on is what is the LEAST amount of time for working out and still producing the benefits and results that people want and need.
    The great news is that there is a lot of well done research on this subject, and there is a proven workout protocol that produces results with as little as one minute of total work time in a workout and a total workout duration of under 10 minutes including warm-up and cool-down.
    The definitive work on this subject was written by Martin Gibala and is appropriately called “The One Minute Workout”.     In this excellent book he reviews all the related research and results on High Intensity Interval Training including an excellent review on the psychology of exercise as it relates to how people feel before, during and after different types of exercise protocols.     Long story short people really like certain HIIT protocols – even high deconditioned people and high-risk heart disease patients.
    He and his team of researchers proved the effectiveness of the 1-minute workout to produce results and also found the specific physiological mechanisms responsible for the benefits of this protocol.
    1 Minute Workout Protocol

    Warm-up for 3 minutes at an easy pace on any piece of cardiovascular exercise equipment, walking, 
    running, jogging or cycling depending on your preference and fitness level.
    Do a 20 second sprint at your best possible pace (this is all relative to your fitness level)
    Do active recovery at a light pace for 2 minutes
    Perform another 20 second sprint at your best possible pace.
    Do active recovery at a light pace for 2 minutes
    Perform a third and final 20 second sprint at your best possible pace.
    Cool-down for 2 minutes.
    Total workout time – 10 minutes!
    Frequency

    Best results are obtained by repeating this workout 3 times per week BUT even once a week will provide benefits and help maintain a decent level of physical conditioning – the key is intensity NOT duration or frequency.

    Recommended Reading:    The One Minute Workout by Martin Gibala:  https://www.amazon.com/One-Minute-Workout-Science-Smarter-Shorter-ebook/dp/B01IOHQ7RA/ref=sr_1_1_twi_kin_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1517152066&sr=1-1&keywords=the+one+minute+workout+by+gibalaAvailable in hardcover, paperback or kindle.

    Breakfast Cookies

    These cookies top my list for breakfast during the week. They pack a punch – I can get to lunchtime without a snack. Plus, they can be made in advance. What’s not to love?! And if I ever get bored of the current recipe, they are easy to modify. I think dried cranberries or raisins added in would be delicious. But here’s my go to:
    Breakfast Cookies
    adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

    2 & 1/3 cups gluten free quick oats

    2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    1 cup peanut butter

    1/4 cup honey

    2 large ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)

    1/3 cup chocolate chips


    Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine all of the ingredients into a large bowl and mix until combined. [Note: I throw everything but the chocolate chips into my mixer first. Once it’s combined, I add the chips and mix for a little bit longer.] The dough will be very thick. Form the sticky dough into a cookie shape. They don’t spread in the oven so make them to the size you want. 

    Bake for 15 minutes until edges are very slightly brown. Don’t bake any longer or the cookies will taste dry. Cool completely before putting 2 cookies into a freezer bag. These breakfast cookies can stay frozen for up to three months, or fresh at room temperature for a week. 


    I’ll take a bag out of the freezer and put it in the fridge overnight to thaw. These are perfect for breakfast on the go or when I wake up starving in the middle of the night to feed the little man.


    Let me know if you make a batch! Enjoy!

    xoxo,
    Alex

    Biceps Workout for Mass and Strength for Beginners

    We will perform 5 exercise for Biceps

    First 10-15 mins are for warm-up. You can do jogging / walking or 10 minutes. Stepping for 1 or 2 minutes. Jumping for 1 minutes. Twisting for 1 minutes. Warm up will prepare your body for exercise by increasing the heart rate and blood circulation. It will help loosening the joints and increase blood flow to the muscles. This 10-15 minutes stretch prepare your muscles for physical activity and prevents injuries.

    Exercise 1:- Barbell curl (4*10)

    Barbell curl
    Barbell curl




    Stand straight with your chest up while holding a barbell at shoulder width grip.
    As you breath in curl the weights forwards while contacting the biceps, keep your upper arm stationary. Continue the movement until bar is at shoulders height(your biceps are fully contracted). Slowly bring the bar down to starting position as you breath out. This will be one repetition. Perform 10 repetition to complete a set. Perform total 4 sets. 


    Exercise 2:- Dumbbell alternate curl (3*12)

    Dumbbell alternate curl
    Dumbbell alternate curl




    Sit on a bench with dumbbells in each hand.  Keep your arms close to your torso and your palms facing forward. This is your starting position. As you breath in curl the right arm weight up until yours biceps are contracted while keeping upper arms stationary. Continue the movement until dumbbell is at your shoulder height. Hold for a second. As you breath out slowly come to your starting position while repeating the same process with right hand. This will be one repetition. Perform 12 repetition to complete a set. Perform total 3 sets. 

    Exercise 3:- Ez-bar curl (3*15)


    Ez-Bar curl Biceps
    Ez-Bar curl Biceps


    Stand up straight, your chest up while holding ez-bar at the wide outer handle.
    Palm of your hands facing forward and little tilted inwards as shape of the bar.
    Keep your elbow close to your torso.As you breath out curl the bar upwards while contacting the biceps, keep your upper arm stationary. Continue the movement until bar is at shoulders height(your biceps are fully contracted). Slowly bring the bar down to starting position as you breath out. This will be one repetition. Perform 15 repetition to complete a set. Perform total 3 sets. 



    Exercise 4:- Concentration curl (4*15)

    concentration curl biceps


    concentration curl biceps


    Sit on a bench while your feet firmly placed on the floor. Place back of your upper arm on the inside of your left thigh. Keep your right hand on right thigh  for stability. Now curl the weights upwards until your biceps contracts. Pause for a second.Slowly come down to your starting position.(Keep your left arm on thigh all the time throughout your movement). This will be one repetition. Perform 15 repetition.. Perform same process with your left hand to complete a set. Perform total 4 sets. 




    Exercise 5:- Low pulley biceps curl (3*15)

                                                    Low pulley biceps curl

                                                    Low pulley biceps curl


    Stand straight your chest up and torso stationary, while holding a cable curl bar that is attached to a low pulley. Keep your elbow closet to torso while grabbing the bar at shoulder width. Palm of your hands facing upwards. This will be your starting position. As you breath in pull the bar upwards while keeping your upper arms stationary until your biceps contracts. Hold for a second while your biceps are fully contracted (or at shoulders height). Slowly bring bar down to starting position as you breath out. This will be one repetition. Perform 15 repetition to complete a set. Perform total 3 sets. 

    Note-:
    1.       Rest between each set 45-60 seconds.
    2.       Rest between each exercise 90-120 seconds.
    3.       Drink adequate amount of water.
    4.       Don’t forget to stretch.
    Disclaimer
    1.        Please consult a physician to access your health before following the program in the blog.
    2.        All the specified exercises should be performed in the safest position as specified in the blog. I will not be held responsible for any injury incurred while performing the exercise specified in the blog.

    Kneeling High to Low Chop – The Best Core Exercise You are Not Doing!

    Core stability is a big buzzword in fitness, and for very good reason.     The ability to keep the core stable is essential for proper movement and prevention of injury.      Stability has three aspects related to the planes of movement:
    Sagittal Plane Stability– is the ability to prevent flexion and extension of the core from the low back to the top of the head.
    Front Plane Stability– is the ability to prevent lateral flexion of the core from the top of the head to the low back.
    Transverse Plan Stability – is the ability to prevent rotation of the core from the top of the head to the low back
    Stability is about preventing movement – not creating movement!   All muscles can act as stabilizers, movers, or absorbers, but the muscles of the core spend a lot of time preventing movement in many activities from running to walking to jumping.    This is why exercises like the plank are considered functional because the plank is about using core muscles to prevent movement of the core as opposed to exercises like a crunch which is about creating movement.
    To have a strong and stable core it is important to perform stability exercises in all three planes of movement.     The plank and side plank do a great job of challenging muscles to prevent movement in the sagittal and front planes, but that leaves the Transverse Plane.    This is significant because the vast majority of injuries occur in the Transverse Plane with Frontal Plane injuries close behind.
    It is also important to note that rotational movement (movement in the transverse plane) is fundamental to human movement in general and the generation of explosive force in many activities from Golf to Tennis to Boxing.
    One of the best ways to develop rotational stability in the Transverse Plane is doing high to low anti-rotation chops in a half kneeling position using either resistance bands or cable resistance with a rope handle or pole attached.
    Execution

    The anchor point of the resistance band/location of the cable handle should be position up high.     Your body should be facing perpendicular to a line from the handle/anchor point straight down and across your body.     You should be in a half kneeling posture down on one knee (the leg closest to the cable/band should flexed with foot flat on the floor and hip and knee bent at 90 degrees.   
    The other knee should be down on the floor (use a cushion or mat!) with shin and top of foot along the ground directly behind the knee.   It is important that the knee is directly under the hip.  It is also important that the spine be held straight with a straight line from top of head through the spine and hip to the knee on the ground.    Extend the spine fully and keep your spine fully elongated throughout the exercise.
    Reach across the body and place both hands on the resistance band/rope spread apart with hands shoulder width apart.gripping the band/rope.
    Keeping the shoulders and hips facing forward the entire time pull the rope/band directly down and across the body and pause in the bottom position making sure there is no movement to in the shoulders or hips while maintaining a fully lengthened spine.   Then slowly return to the starting position.    Form is VERY important in this exercise.
    Here are two great instructional videos:
    http://www.stack.com/video/3730538400001/elite-performance-with-mike-boyle-increase-core-strength-with-anti-rotation-exercises

    http://www.muscleandfitness.com/workouts/abs-and-core-exercises/videos/half-kneeling-stability-chop

    Easy Entertaining // Artichoke & Jalapeno Stuffed Mushrooms

    This past weekend we hosted our 5th Friendsgiving gathering. It’s truly one of my favorite holidays. And now that I’m on my fifth turkey, it keeps getting easier. We cook the bird, everyone brings sides, desserts, and wine, and bing bang you’ve got yourself a friendsgiving!
    While we wait for the feast to be ready, I like to put out a few appetizers to hold people over. I have two requirements for my appetizers. Easy and delicious. These stuffed mushrooms check both boxes!
    Two ingredients and you can find both at Costco aka my favorite place to prepare for hosting. They have everything and it’s really sooooo easy. Pick up a package of white mushrooms in the chilled produce area. Swing by the dip/salsa/guac aisle and grab a tub of the Artichoke Jalapeno Dip. And you are ready to go!

    Artichoke and Jalapeno Stuffed Mushrooms
    1 package of white button mushrooms
    1 tub of Artichoke Jalapeno Dip
    Heat the oven to 350F. Wash the mushrooms and let them dry. Remove the stems. Fill each mushroom with a spoonful of dip. Make sure to push the dip in there. Line a baking sheet with foil, spread the stuffed mushrooms on the pan, and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 25 minutes or until the dip is golden and the mushrooms are fork tender. They will be hot so be careful to not burn yourself if you can’t resist them right out of the oven!
    The dip has the perfect amount of kick to it. These stuffed mushrooms are so easy to make, and did I mention they were gluten free?!
    And to up the easy entertaining factor, you can make them ahead of time! Just stuff the mushrooms and store in a tupperware in the fridge until ready to bake.
    Another easy dip recipe. And one more.
    Don’t forget to enter my current giveaway by Wednesday night!

    xoxo,
    Alex

    Foam Rolling aka Self Myo-Fascial Release

    Using a tubular foam roller to literally roll over tight areas of muscles and tendons is known as “Myo-Fascial Release”.    While it seems counter-intuitive applying steady pressure to muscles and tendons with an emphasis on trigger points (areas of tightness and soreness) has been proven to be a highly effective method for improving mobility.    
    Since you are in complete control of the amount of pressure applied and how long it is applied you can customize the experience based on your level of sensitivity.   Key areas to focus on include the hamstrings, calves, gluteal muscles, latissimus dorsi muscle, and even low back and hip flexors if done with caution.
    You can use a tubular foam roller, and they are made in varying levels of firmness from soft to very firm.   In addition, there are variations that include a textured surface of varying levels from small to large finger like projections.  You can also use balls such as a lacrosse ball, baseball, or tennis ball in a similar fashion.     NOTE:  the smaller and firmer the object the more pressure it will tend to apply so proceed cautiously.
    The technique is to position the foam roller on the floor (on a firm but not hard surface is best).  Then position the muscle/s you are targeting on top of the foam roller.     For example, for the calf sit on the floor with your target leg extended so that it is on top of the foam roller with the lowest portion of the calf on top of the roller.    
    Use your hands to lift your butt slightly off the floor to allow you to apply pressure down onto the foam roller.    Then literally roll forward slowly over the foam roller paying attention to any trigger points where you notice sensitivity or tightness.   
    When you find a sensitive area slowly roll back and forth on the spot until you feel it release.   With a little experimentation you will learn how much pressure and speed work best for your physiology. 
    Self Myo-Fascial Release/Foam Rolling is a great way to start a workout and does a great job of safely improving mobility before a workout and is also great to do between workouts.
    Contraindications to Foam Rolling
    Pregnancy – during pregnancy ligaments become lax and pressure anywhere on or near the abdomen is to be avoided at all costs so best to skip foam rolling when pregnant.
    Osteoporosis – soft bones and additional pressure are not a good combination so best to avoid foam rolling without a physician’s permission if you have moderate to severe osteoporosis.
    Intervertebral Disc Issues – anyone with disc problems in their spine should be cautious with foam rolling because pressure in the wrong areas can create problems so again get guidance from a medical professional if you have an disc issues in your spine.
    Inability to support bodyweight on arms or legs – foam rolling cannot be done safely if a person lacks the strength to support their bodyweight on their arms and/or legs.
    For a pictorial guide of various foam rolling exercises to target specific body parts click here:   https://www.pinterest.com/explore/foam-rolling/  

    Staging to Sell

    About a year ago, we started seriously getting our house ready to sell. We had finished the basement reno and with that added square footage, we wanted to take advantage of the spring housing market. We had one more project to tackle, the kitchen, but today we’re talking about staging your house to sell.

    Knowing we were going to have a very young baby while the house was on the market, I wanted to be as prepared as possible. The housing market was hot so I knew our professional photos had to be perfect. Most home buyers these days are shopping online and we wanted as many showings as possible.

    So while I was still on maternity leave, I got the house as picture perfect as we could. We were on a fast timeline so our professional photos were taken on Tuesday and the listing went live on Thursday. We had 14 showings that weekend and by Sunday, we had 4 offers. It seemed quick and a complete whirlwind, but it was our prep work that paid off.

    If you are thinking about putting your house on the market this spring, here are my tips for staging to sell!


    DECLUTTER
    This is the toughest step and it takes the longest, so it’s crucial you do this first. Go through your stuff and donate/toss anything and everything you do not want to move. Even if you think maybe my future house will have a need for this, stop right there. If you are not completely in love with it, it goes. If you will be heartbroken without it, keep it.

    There is nothing as eye-opening as packing up all your stuff to move. The sheer amount of things we accumulate is crazy. And for me, it is something I have to work really hard on. I married a minimalist. I’m a keeper. During this time, I did a lot of letting go. The usuals: clothes, paper piles, books, CDs, DVDs, etc. But I also had to let go of kitchen items we never used, craft projects I hadn’t gotten around to yet, keepsakes that held sentimental value for me but wouldn’t be part of my future, and photos that should have been tossed years before (thank you double prints from the film years!). Those ones took some time to say goodbye to. Because I’m weird.

    But, I don’t miss any of it. Honestly. Instead, I’ve focused on designing our new house into a home that fits our life now. Not eventually. But it meets us where we are right now. Maybe that minimalist attitude is rubbing off on me!


    DECORATE OR UNDECORATE
    Analyze your decor. You need to use a really critical eye and think like a potential buyer. When possible, try to err on the side of classic, rather than trendy. But classic with a modern twist, not too dated. Easy, right?

    When in doubt, do a little pinterest-surfing to see what’s in right now. We knew light and bright, with lots of gray and white would feel fresh yet classic in our old house. And it did.

    The trick is to simplify. Too many knick-knacks or ugly artwork will distract a buyer from seeing the bones of your house. Same with a paint color that takes some loving. How many times have you watched a show on HGTV where the buyers focus on the wallpaper, paint color, or something incredibly easy to fix? It happens all the time. Take away the distractions and undecorate if you need.

    But leave your house feeling like a home. Too empty and it will feel cold. So strive to find a balance in your decor. Bring a friend in for a second pair of eyes. Your realtor should be able to point out a few things that might need switching around too.


    DEPERSONALIZE
    Experts say you need to depersonalize your house to let your buyers imagine themselves there, living in your home. We didn’t depersonalize as much as we could have, but our house isn’t covered in photos of our family. Instead, we purposely left a wedding photo and another photo of the two of us out in the main room.

    I was fairly confident that our potential buyers would be looking at our home as a starter home, probably not have kids, and on the younger side. I wanted to leave photos out that would inspire a couple to see themselves in their first home. And it worked! Our buyers were an engaged couple who met in grad school, getting married this summer. Just like K and I were, many moons ago.


    EMPHASIZE STORAGE
    If you’ve decluttered, you are off to a great start. When staging your house, I recommend cleaning out your closets so they are only half full. You must emphasize storage. I cannot say that enough! Even the smallest closet can look bigger when it’s only half full.

    We added shelves in our garage earlier in the year and used them to store a bunch of things from the inside closets during our showings. We also filled our suitcases – no use wasting all that space!

    While emphasizing your storage areas might be trickier for you to do, it really makes a difference in staging. When we were house hunting, I opened every single closet in the houses we toured. And the ones that were overflowing were really tough to see past the clutter to the potential. It was doable but much harder.


    PAY ATTENTION TO CURB APPEAL
    While we were looking at houses, we did so many drive bys before even considering scheduling a showing. Most the times we were trying to get a feel for the neighborhood and whether the yard and street were even something we’d consider. Believe me, there is so much that you don’t see online! But the houses that attracted us had curb appeal.

    If you are actively trying to attract buyers to your house, you have to pay attention to curb appeal! Weed your landscaping, mow the yard, add some flowers in a fun color (we chose purple to honor Prince!), and clean those windows.

    Oh, and don’t forget to open your blinds or curtains! A house feels much more open and welcoming from the outside when it’s not shut off because of window treatments.


    CLEAN ALL THE THINGS
    Everything you’ve ever thought about cleaning and never really get around to each week (i.e. baseboards, fridge, window sills, light fixtures, windows), you need to clean. Now is the time to have a spotless house.

    If you have your house on the market for a while, I know this is the toughest part. Always being ready to go in case a showing get scheduled. But doing a deep clean before your photos are taken, and before you go on the market will make the upkeep that much easier. Strangers are weird and they notice everything. Things that have faded from your mind in day to day living will suddenly be in the spotlight. You don’t want cobwebs and dust bunnies getting in the way of selling your house!

    Once you do all these things, you are ready for your professional photos to be taken and ready for showings and/or an open house! You may not want to move since your house looks so damn good, but remember, you aren’t staging your house to stay. You are staging your house to sell.

    What staging tips worked for you?

    xoxo,

    Alex

    Solving the Weight Loss Puzzle Part 2

    If you have not seen part 1 take a moment to review it.  So what is the key to weight loss anyway?   Although there is a lot of press out there stating that “Calories do not count” and “just focus on eating healthy” the fact is that regulation of bodyweight and bodyfat (two different things!) are primarily controlled by the balance of energy you take in from food and beverages (calories) and the energy you use to maintain all your cells and fuel all movement.    So why are people (including some very bright researchers as well) saying that calories don’t count?
    First because a lot of research that is quoted was done WITHOUT controlling calories taken in and using participant recall to estimate calories taken in.  Here is the problem with this – we are lousy at estimating calories taken in.   In fact even trained dieticians frequently underestimate their calorie intake by 40%!  Imagine running a business and underestimating your bills by 40%!  In literally every case when food intake is precisely controlled or measured through a process using “doubly labeled water” (which can be used to measure food intake with 100% accuracy without having to measure and provide food) people do in fact lose weight based on calories in and calories out!
    Second because there is confusion about a process that is built into every human being called “Metabolic Adaptation”.    Simply put your body adjusts to any prolonged reduction in calorie intake (regardless of the type of diet!) by reducing resting metabolic rate.    In addition if the reduction in calorie intake is really large your level of spontaneous physical movement will be reduced.  This process is based on hundreds of thousands of years of humans living in a world where adequate food intake was NOT guaranteed and in fact people frequently were forced to not eat for prolonged periods of time.  So the ability to reduce the body’s need for energy was a fundamental survival mechanism encoded in all our genes!
    For example if you take a group of people of about the same height, weight, age, sex and activity level who require 2,000 calories per day to maintain their current bodyweight and drop their calorie intake to say 1,500 calories per day all of them will lose weight/fat initially.    However within a 2 – 3 month span all weight/fat loss will cease even if they continue to eat exactly 1,500 calories per day and maintain the same physical movement profile because as you lose weight/fat the body ALWAYS responds by lowering resting metabolic rate.    So unless you INCREASE physical activity ALL DIETS become less effective over time regardless of how “healthy” they are!

    Stay tuned for part 3 and learn the difference between weight loss and fat loss!

    Vitamin D Can Help Prevent the Flu!

    Everyone knows that influenza (the Flu) and colds are more prevalent during winter months, and this is not a coincidence!    People spend more time indoors which creates two problems.   First since everyone is inside in rooms together it is just a whole lot easier to transmit viruses from one person to another.    Second, we eliminate any exposure to sunshine on our skin.
    While excessive sun exposure is not a good idea and can increase the risk of skin cancer, we need sunlight on our skin to produce Vitamin D.    Vitamin D is not just important for bone health – it is also incredibly important to maintain immune function!   For all of us living in the United States (with the exception of locations like Florida and Southern California) getting adequate exposure to sunlight to produce enough vitamin D for optimal health is impossible during winter months.   So this means that your vitamin D levels drop and this has a direct impact on immune function AND the associated risk of catching the flu!
    To learn how to safely optimize your Vitamin D levels through supplementation go to this blogpost:  https://workoutanytime.blogspot.com/2017/07/how-to-optimize-benefits-of-vitamin-d.html
    So is there really scientific evidence showing that optimizing Vitamin D levels can protect against the flu?   The answer is a resounding YES!   A review of 25 randomized controlled trials confirmed that vitamin D supplementation boosts immunity and cuts rates of cold and flu.     The largest boost occurs in those who start with the lowest vitamin D levels (blood levels below 10 Ng/ML).    In this group (which includes many Americans – particularly in the winter), taking a supplement cut their risk in half!    People who started with higher vitamin D levels in the normal range only had a 10% reduction in risk. 
    The international research team who conducted this review stated that vitamin D supplementation could prevent more than 3.25 million cases of cold and flu each year in the United Kingdom alone.    So while flu vaccines can provide some protection – the amount of protection provided varies greatly from year to year because scientists have to guess which strains to include in the vaccine.    The potential protection from proper vitamin D supplementation is much greater, and there is no reason you cannot do both!
    Make sure you click on the link above in this blogpost to a previous blogpost which gives you a step by step guide on how to optimize your Vitamin D levels through safe sun exposure and/or safe vitamin D supplementation based on simple at home Vitamin D tests that are now available.

    Nutritional Strategies for Allergy and Asthma

    SeasSeason allergies to pollen and mold seem to getting more and more prevalent each year with progressively more severe symptoms in sufferers.    Treating allergies with nutrition and nutrition supplements can have big advantages over using medications.   
    Allergy medication most commonly comes in the form of Antihistamines, and there are some big problems with long-term use of these medications.     It is now known that prolonged use of antihistamines decreases levels of acetylcholine which is a key neurotransmitter involved in memory and other important functions.   In fact, antihistamine use increases the risk of senility, dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
    What are Allergies Anyway?
    Allergies are abnormal immune reactions to specific agents (proteins) known as antigens/allergens, which include many substances such as foods, drugs, pollens, dust mites, animal danders, feathers, along with many others. 
    Allergies may also develop when an otherwise innocent substance has significant contact with an already inflamed surface (known as sensitization).  For example, when sick with a respiratory illness, respiratory surfaces are already inflamed and substances present at this time may be “remembered” as being foreign.  This can also occur with chemical substances known as “haptons” which are combinations of self and non-self which can lead the immune system to attack the self. 
    Since there are multiple pro-inflammatory substances involved with allergies it is rare to obtain adequate control with single products/medications.  The most potent chemical mediators in allergies and asthma are leukotrienes.  Some leukotrines are one thousand times more potent than histamine as stimulators of bronchial constriction and allergy. 
    Interestingly, many medications that reduce one inflammatory pathway actually boost leukotrienes.    For example, Aspirin and other NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs like Ibuprofen) result in the production of excessive levels of leukotrines in sensitive individuals although they decrease prostaglandins associated with inflammation and thereby relive pain.  So long term they can create a much more severe problem.
    Asthma is linked to allergies and can be a severe and life threatening condition.   Do NOT try to self-treat Asthma – see a physician!
    Strategies for Allergies
    Try to avoid allergens by using air filters, regularly cleaning all surfaces and vacuuming and keeping your air-conditioning system on while regularly changing filters to filter out as many allergens as possible.   Remember your car cabin filter as well, and take showers and wash clothes after being outside for long periods of time.
    Change your diet to reduce inflammation.    Dramatically reduce your intake of refined carbohydrate – sugar and starch which drive insulin which drives inflammation.  At the same time increase your intake of low glycemic, organic fruits and vegetables such as berries, broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, etc.   These plant foods contain polyphenols which are potent anti-oxidants and help to reduce inflammation and allergies without side effects.
    Boos
    Increase your intake of Omega 3 Fatty Acidsfrom cold water fish such as Alaskan Wild Salmon and/or take an Omega 3 Supplement such as Krill Oil.    Omega 3 fatty acids will always reduce inflammation if taken in sufficient dosages so this should be a primary strategy for allergy sufferers because they produce many side benefits.   The only exception is people taking any type of medication to thin blood and reduce clotting like Coumadin.   In this case the combination can be dangerous!
    Nutritional Supplements for Allergies
    There are several highly effective nutrition supplements for allergies including some key herbs.
    Local Raw Honey – it MUST be local and must be raw because it will contain small amounts of local pollen and works by getting the body used to pollen much like an allergy shot.     A Tablespoon a day is as much as you need.   Many people swear by this simple and safe remedy!
    Stinging Nettle Extract – this herb has a long history of effective use for allergies and freeze dried preparations seem to work the best and are best taken BEFORE allergy season even begins to put a damper on symptoms before they start – this is true of all nutritional approaches to allergy by the way!
    Euphrasia Officianalis – aka “Eyebright” is an herb which name says it all – it is highly effective for eye allergy symptoms.
    Quercetin – is a flavonoid contained in high amounts in apples, peppers, red wine, dark cherries and berries, tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and sprouts, and raw red onions.   To treat allergies taking supplemental quercetin is the way to go, and the best form of quercetin is contained in a product called “AllQlear” by Integrative Therapeutics and can be purchased on Amazon.     It also contains “ovomucoids” from quail eggs that act as tryptase inhibitor and prevent release of histamine.
    Boswellia Extract – Boswellia aka Frankincense (yes the herb mentioned in the bible!) can be highly effective for allergies and other forms of inflammation including arthritis because it blocks the formation of leukotrienes!    To get the benefits you must take 5-loxin which is a specific extract.   Note that in some individuals 5-loxin can cause or excacerbate heart burn so it is not for everyone, but when it works it can be highly effective!
    Butterbur Extract – this plant extract can be highly effective for inhibiting leukotrienes and allergy symptoms or side effects.   You need to take a standardized extract with standardized levels of Petasin and Isopetasin) and free of Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids aka PA.  High quality brands include Life Extension, Swanson, and Enzymatic Therapy to name a few.   This product can also help many migraine sufferers and is a well-researched, proven treatment.
    NAC – N-Acetyl Cysteine – helps thin mucus naturally and boost levels of the body’s most important antioxidant Glutathione – every allergy sufferer should be taking 600 – 1,200mg per day!
    You will also find combination of these ingredients in particular products, and it is worth experimenting a bit because if you find the right product or combination of natural products you can find relief without sedation and without the side effects associated with antihistamines and more potent drugs like steroid nasal sprays or oral steroids.

    S-Drive/Crank Cycle Tabata Workout

    The S-Drive and Crank Cycle can be used together for a fantastic HIIT Training Workout that is very simple to execute and appropriate for all ability levels!
    For the S-Drive portion the exercise is sled pushes so take the belt system off and let it hang from the front of the S-Drive.   Use the sled resistance on the left side of the S-Drive to select and control resistance levels.    You can also use the parachute resistance on the right side to fine to the level of resistance.   
    You will be doing a total of 8 sets of sled pushes for 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest, and ideally you choose 4 different hand positions for two sets each at low to high levels so that you change the angle of load/push to create a complete lower body workout!
    Sled push exercise video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wupkFtT69C0
    For the upper body portion you will do 8 total sets of Crank Cycle all done standing as follows:
    Single Arm Left Cranking – done standing in straddle stance with left leg forward and right leg back with right foot on ball of foot on sloped surface of rear portion of Crank Cycle.
    Single Arm Right Cranking – reverse of above
    Double Arm Forward Together – standing feet parallel
    Left and right crank arms 180 offset – standing feet parallel
    Then you flip the locking mechanism to turn the crank tower 180 and lock it down. 
        
    Repeat all four of the above in the opposite direction.
    For a tutorial on how to use the Crank Cycle see:  http://www.matrixlearningcenter.com/how-to-use-krankcycle/
    Workout
    Set up a timer for two rounds of Tabata – 20 seconds work and 10 seconds rest for 8 repetitions with a one minute break and repeat.
    Start on s-drive doing a set of sled pushes
    Then immediately go to Crank Cycle for set of single arm cranking as per above.
    Repeat this cycle 4 times changing hand position for each set on S-Drive and changing exercise each set on Crank Cycle.
    After 8 total intervals (4 on S-Drive and 4 on Crank Cycle) take a one-minute break.    During the break turn the Crank Cycle Tower 180 degrees as per above.
    Repeat another 8 total intervals (4 on S-Drive and 4 on Crank Cycle).  

    This workout will take 9 total minutes plus a 5-minute warm-up and cool-down for a total of 19 minutes!   You will not believe the results – perform 1 – 3 times per week with your best effort!

    Gluten Free Spinach Balls



    Not to be confused with Schweddy Balls. These are very different. And so good. We switched up Friendsgiving this year to be a mix of appetizers, drinks, and desserts, instead of a traditional sit-down turkey dinner. 

    I was looking for a warm appetizer to balance out the offerings. A friend of mine gave me her recipe a couple years ago and Friendsgiving seemed like the perfect time to give these another whirl. These babies are loaded with flavor, can be made gluten free, and are generally a crowd-pleaser. What’s not to love?!

    Laura’s Spinach Balls


    2-10 oz. pkgs. chopped frozen spinach
    2 c. Chef Jeff Gluten Free Seasoned Panko flakes (from Whole Foods)
    1 onion, finely chopped
    6 beaten eggs
    3/4 c. butter or margarine
    1 c. parmesan cheese
    1 tbsp. garlic powder or salt (adjust to taste)
    1/2 tsp. thyme
    2 tsp. pepper
    Thaw spinach, squeeze dry (with paper towels).  Mix all ingredients together.  Form balls and freeze on cookie sheet.  Place in plastic bag when frozen.  Bake frozen about 20 minutes (flip halfway through) at 350 degrees.  Makes 80 to 90 one inchballs.

    If you aren’t concerned about gluten, you can use any kind of bread crumbs. Stick a toothpick in each one and serve warm.

    Enjoy!

    xoxo,
    Alex

    Currently // February 2017

    Well, we blinked and it’s already February. Here’s what I’m currently up to:

    ANTICIPATING // Girls In STEM is next week! I love this event because it combines my full-time job with my full-time passion.

    READING // Just finished Missing, Presumed and am in the middle of The Lifegiving Home. Recently, I was pretty entertained by The Assistants (a light read). And I kicked off the new year with Make It Happen.

    LISTENING TO // Gaga. I can’t wait to see her perform tomorrow! Will she top Bruno and Bey?!

    PLANNING // My garden! I’ve ordered seed catalogs and am deciding what to grow this summer.
    LEARNING // To find peace in the tension between being a mama and a professional.

    LOVING // Watching Declan grow! I can’t believe he turns one next month. Cue tears.

    WORKING ON // A gallery wall for our family room. It’s time to put a little life on these walls!

    WEARING // These boots that Santa brought. I’m in love.
    DREAMING OF // Sunshine and somewhere warm. February is always a bit blah, don’t you think?
    WATCHING // The Crown. Anyone else watching?

    What are you currently up to?

    xoxo,
    Alex

    Fabulous Fiber!

    Everyone has heard that they need to eat fiber, but few people really know what it is and why it is so important.     Fiber is a form of carbohydrate along with sugars and starches.      Unlike sugars and starch fiber cannot be used for energy because it cannot be broken down into sugar.     Starch and sugars both end us as blood sugar aka glucose.
    Starches are simply multiple units of sugar hooked together, and we have enzymes that break them apart so we can use the sugar for fuel.   Fiber is also multiple units of sugar hooked together, but humans lack the enzymes necessary to break it down into sugars so it is not absorbed.    This is very important when thinking about carbohydrate containing foods because they are NOT all the same.
    For example, a glass of fruit juice is essentially a glass of sugar water with some beneficial plant chemicals and in many cases a nice dose of vitamin C.    It can dramatically boost blood sugar, and if you consume too much it can definitely drive weight gain.     While a large serving of brocolli is mostly fiber with little sugar and starch and is also chock full of beneficial plant chemicals, but with almost no effect on blood sugar!
    There are two main types of fiber – soluble and insoluble.    Ideally you want to eat both.   There is also a third type of fiber called “Digestive Resistant Starch” (see https://workoutanytime.blogspot.com/2017/10/digestion-resistant-starch-all-starch.html)
    Soluble fiber, found in foods such as cucumbers, blueberries, and beans, has a gel-like consistency and slows down your digestion.     This helps with satiety (feeling satisfied).    It also slows the break down and absorption of cholesterol and other nutrients like starches and sugar which can help lower cholesterol and control blood sugar.    Some foods with soluble fiber also help feed the good bacteria in your digestive tract.
    Insoluble fiberis found in foods like green, leafy veggies, green beans, and celery.    It does not dissolve to a gel and stays intact as it moves through your colon.   By adding bulk, it helps food move more quickly through your digestive tract reducing transit time.  Insoluble Fiber is sometimes referred to as “roughage”, and it along with soluble fiber can help with constipation.
    Benefits of High Fiber Intake
    Fiber intake is very important for keeping blood sugar levels under control, and studies have shown that people who take in at least 26 grams of fiber per day had a much lower risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
    There is also an inverse relationship between fiber intake and heart attack, with research showing that people eating a high fiber diet have a 40 percent lower risk of heart disease.    High fiber diets may also help lower blood pressure.
    Another interesting research finding about fiber is that for every 7 grams of fiber you consume each day your stroke risk is decreased 7 percent.      To put this into perspective this equates to about 2 servings of fruits and vegetables.
    Fiber, and psyllium in particular, can help move yeasts and fungus out of your digestive system which may help prevent them from triggering acne and rashes.
    Fiber can also provide relief from irritable bowel syndrome in many people.
    Fiber intake may also help reduce the risk of gallstones and kidney stones probably through its action in controlling blood sugar.
    Sources of Fiber
    Contrary to popular opinion grains are probably not your best source of fiber.    Unfortunately, non-organic grains are chock full of glyphosate which is pesticide banned in most other countries outside the US because they have no allegiance to Monsanto who produces it.    
    A high grain diet promotes insulin and leptin resistance thereby increasing your risk for Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease and Cancer. 
    Better choices of fiber includes Organic Whole Husk Psyllium.     If you use this supplement it is critical to get organic psyllium as non-organic psyllium is heavily sprayed with chemicals.     Other great sources include chia seeds, berries, root vegetables such as sweet potato, peas and beans, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts and celery.
    How much fiber?
    Experts recommend that woman eat a minimum of 25 grams of fiber per day and men consume 38 grams per day.     However higher intakes may be more beneficial.     
    It is important to SLOWLY increase your fiber intake and keep your water intake high to prevent potential issues caused by eating fiber without sufficient fluid.
    Low-Fiber Diet
    There are circumstances where high fiber intake is contraindicated and timing for fiber intake relative to drugs and supplements is important.   People with chronic digestive issues may need to remove fiber for some period of time because fiber feeds the bacteria in your gut.    Although as a general rule this is highly beneficial there are circumstances where high fiber intake can feed the wrong microorganisms such as pathogenic bacteria.

    Fiber can also bind certain medications and minerals dramatically reducing their absorption so many drugs and mineral supplements should not be taken at the same time as fiber.

    Proven Ways to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

    As we head into the holidays most Americans will gain between 8 and 12lbs between Halloween and New Year’s Day.  However, there are ways to avoid this weight gain!
    Here are some key tips:
    Eat before you drink and celebrate and before holiday parties.     Going into a holiday party on empty and hungry is a sure-fire way to overeat.    Alcohol intake boosts appetite to begin with and if you start out without anything in the tank it just gets worse!    This does not mean overeating – eat a sensible meal about 2 hours before you go to the party.
    Try to choose higher protein foods first because protein helps with satiety (feeling satisfied and not hungry).
    Fill up on Fiber Rich Foods – which also help with satiety and help create a feeling of fullness when consumed with water.  Focus on the raw veggies and yes you can dip them in some dip that has some fat because together fiber and fat can really assist in managing hunger along with protein.
    Eat some fat – that’s right eat some fat!   Fats also are key for satiety.   That being said a little goes a long way!
    Bring your own food to a party.   Rather than having only high calorie, high sugar and high fat foods bring something you enjoy that is also healthy along with you!
    Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly – seems simple and it is.    It is also VERY effective for limiting food intake!
    Use smaller plates, bowls and glasses – all of which help to slow down food and beverage intake and make you more conscious of how much you are consuming!
    Try to Minimize Sugar and Starch Intake – both sugar and starch wind up as glucose (blood sugar) and high intake drives insulin which results in rebound hunger.      High sugar and starch intake increases hunger – particularly when drinking alcohol because alcohol acts like a super sugar and also drives insulin response.
    Pause before getting seconds – as with slower eating and deliberately chewing food this can give your body time to realize it is no longer really hungry.
    If you are doing the entertaining have extra containers you are ready to give away so guests can leave with some of the extra food!

    Try not to eat in front of the T.V. which distracts you from how you feel and results in mindless eating!
    Consider planning a cheat meal but have a plan for how much you are going to eat!   One meal can knock you off course but most of the holiday weight gain comes from completely giving up on healthy eating for many meals.   Planning one cheat meal every week and planning on eating a set amount of the foods you may be craving can work for many people rather than mindlessly eating.      If you plan your meal including your portions of alcohol, sweets, fat and sugar you can limit the damage and still have a great time!
    Drink Water.   Often quoted and still true – water is the best beverage and avoiding sugar laden drinks in favor of still or sparkling water can make a big difference in minimizing holiday weight gain.
    Workout!   Working out improves mental outlook and burns some calories while reducing stress levels!    When we are stressed we overeat!   Just 10 minutes a day can make a big difference!

    Get Your Sleep.   Lack of sleep is terrible for your health and particularly bad for driving appetite and overeating.   Lack of sleep causes hunger and excessive eating because the normal feedback mechanisms that tell you that you are full do not work properly when you are tired.   Basically, a tired brain tells you to eat to feel better and it is VERY hard to resist these urges when tired!

    Daily Fitness Workout Routine at Home for Beginners

    5 min exercise routine for home

    A small workout routine to follow who say’s they are too busy to workout. What it takes only 5 minutes of your busy schedule? Start from today and you will be fit and healthy in no time. follow for more workout routines. This is just the beginning. Stay tunes for more updates!

    Exercise 1:- Upper body twist (60 Seconds)

    Upper body twist

    Upper body twist left

    Upper body twist right



    Stand straight feet 6 inches apart. Rest your right hand on right side of your body and left hand on left side of the body. As you breathe in twist towards right hand side pause for a second, then return to starting position as you breathe out. Repeat same process for left hand side. This will be one repetition after completing twist of left hand side. Repeat this process for 60 seconds.

    Exercise 2:- Standing Toe Touch (60 seconds)


    Standing toe touchStanding toe touch
    Standing toe touchStanding toe touch



    Stand Straight feet adjacent to each other. Bend forward at the waist, keeping your legs straight; reach your hands towards your toes. Reach as far as you can and hold for a second or two, return to starting position slowly (Do not bounce back to avoid any injury). Repeat this process for 60 seconds.
     It’s not necessary on very first day you can touch your toe. Everyone’s body is different. You can reach below you knee and try to reach further towards your toes gradually, if you repeat exercise on daily basis. Make sure to keep your knees straight. Bending your knees will make exercise easier, but it won’t help reaching your goal.
    Standing toe touches train you to relax and release tension from your back, neck and back of your legs. This can lead to flexibility in your body. It will increase your flexibility which in turn allows for greater freedom for daily activities.

    Exercise 3:- side bend (60 Seconds).

    Side Band

    Side Band

    Side Band



    Stand up straight your left hand on your waist, your right hand hanging loosely at your right side. While keeping your back straight and your head up, bend towards your right as far as possible only at the waist. Hold for a second when you are not able to bend any further. Return to your starting position slowly. Repeat this process for 30 seconds. Again repeat same process for 30 second for left side.

    Exercise 4:- Upper body twist arms parallel to floor(60 Seconds)

    upper body twist

    upper body twist

    upper body twist



    Stand straight feet 6 inches apart. Raise your arms parallel to floor. As you breathe in twist towards right hand side pause for a second, then return to starting position as you breathe out. Repeat same process for left hand side. This will be one repetition after completing twist for left hand side. Repeat this process for 60 seconds.
    Note:-
    1.    Rest 15 seconds after each exercise.
    2.    Perform 3 sets of each exercise to make it a 15 minute workout.

    3.    Perform this exercise routine on alternate days.

    Disclaimer
    1.      Please consult a physician to access your health before following the program in the blog.
    2.      All the specified exercises should be performed in the safest position as specified in the blog. I will not be held responsible for any injury incurred while performing the exercise specified in the blog.

    How Much Exercise is Enough?

    If a little exercise is good than more is better right?  Not so fast.  Like most things in life there does appear to be a sweet spot when it comes to exercise.   To understand this, it is important to keep in mind that the human body is all about homeostasis.  Homeostasis refers to the ability of the body to maintain a balance within its internal environment while being faced with constant changes in the external environment.     
    For example, the body tightly regulates many factors such a temperature.  Regardless of outside temperature the body will adjust heat production to maintain a body temperature of about 98.6 degrees.  There are many other examples including blood sugar regulation, ph regulation, AND caloric expenditure!
    For example, during conditions of low food intake the body will slow down the metabolism to maintain caloric equilibrium in terms of the energy the body is using and taking in.  This ability is known at metabolic adaptation and allows us to survive during famine.
    At the same time the body also adjusts to energy production demands to try to maintain balance between calories in and calories out.   Research has shown that there is an activity/exercise threshold, and when we go above this threshold of exercise the body adjusts by minimizing movement and slowing metabolic rate when NOT exercising.
    A great example can be seen in elite level swimmers who spend up to 7 hours per day in vigorous exercise.  Anyone who has spent a few days with these folks will notice that when they are not exercising they are sitting or lying down and tend to sleep a lot between workouts.
    This explains why several very well-designed research studies show that total daily energy expenditure is NOT always higher in groups who exercise a lot!     At the low range of physical activity/exercise more activity and exercise IS associated with higher total daily calorie burn, but for people in the upper range of physical activity and exercise total daily calorie burn plateaued.   Body fat levels and activity levels modulate metabolic rate aka totally daily calorie burn.
    This fits the metabolic adaptation theory perfectly!   More fat and less overall movement and the body will allow you to “waste” more calories in movement.   However as fat mass becomes very low and/or activity levels become very high the body becomes stingier in allowing energy output so makes adjustments to prevent total daily energy usage from going higher!
    Other studies have shown that maximum health and longevity benefits appear to max out at about 500 calories per day in formal exercise activity.   This is not to say more is bad, but rather points out that with exercise there is clearly a point of diminishing returns.    

    So more is NOT always better when it comes to exercise!

    Peace and Joy.

    Do you ever read something and realize it’s exactly what you’ve been wanting to say? Emily’s post last week was precisely what I’ve been thinking the last couple weeks. Her words, not mine:

    This time of year is about joy and cheer and merry and bright. There is so much to celebrate, so many delicious smells and cherished traditions, festive parties and happy moments. It is the most wonderful time of the year. 

    But the holidays also magnify heartache.

    The loss of loved ones. Broken marriages. Sickness. Financial struggles. Unexpected hardships. Unrealized dreams. Fears coming true.

    These things happen all year long, but it sure seems they pile up during the holidays. Heaps of sadness, heartbreak, struggle, loss come pouring down during this time of year when we should be singing merrily.

    I don’t mean to be a downer. I just know there is a lot of pain underneath our glittery sequins – sometimes hidden masterfully, other times oozing out in the least expected moments.

    You are not alone.

    I mean, right? She nailed it. You can read her full post here.

    This past week, I’ve watched my family come together after a sudden death in our extended family. I jokingly told my mother that we do funerals right in our family. And it’s true. Because all it really means is that you are there for each other, no matter what. You hug each other a little longer, pitch in to bring meals, and generally thank God for each new day together.

    Last year, I poured my heart out a bit in this post. And since the sentiments are still true, I thought I’d share some of those thoughts here again:

    Christmas waves a magic wand over this world,
    and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.
    — Norman Vincent Peale

    I am and will forever be a Christmas person. This time of the year is always so magical. Quiet snowfalls, twinkling lights, crackling fires. 

    Despite the festiveness of the holiday season, I find myself extra emotional around this time each year. I can’t help but think of those for whom Christmastime brings feelings of loss or disappointment. The joyful carols echo empty and haunting. January is willed to arrive quicker.

    We have been blessed with a roof over our heads and food in the belly. We each have a job we enjoy most days. [Note: This is completely different this year. I love my new job and feel so terribly blessed to be where I am now.] And we truly have the best group of friends, near and far, that anyone could ask for.

    But I am well aware that we are so lucky and blessed beyond belief.

    Christmas is a light in a dark world. For those who’s light grows dim this season, I wish you heart peace. Although the light is weak I hope your spark does not go out completely.

    For those who’s light shines brightly, I wish you strength to share your light with others. Take a moment to make spirits bright.

    Be merry and bright this Christmas. Enjoy your precious time with family and friends. And keep the faith always.

    With hope,
    Alex