Muscle

Yoga For Complete Beginners - 20 Minute Home Yoga Workout!

Yoga for Complete Beginners! Adriene welcomes all levels - complete and total beginners to start here! Hop on the mat and start to build the foundation of your own yoga practice with this 20 minute home workout video! Enjoy, stay mindful and find what feels good.

5 Steps To Tone The Tummy & Thighs

I like writing about topics that people need advice on, topics relating to health and fitness that they are really struggling with. So, what are the two areas people (specifically women) seem to struggle with most? The response is an overwhelming "tummy & thighs" (to be more specific, lower abs and top thighs including bum). Why do so many women struggle with these 2 areas? Well, women are designed differently to men. We are genetically designed to have wider hips and softer abdomens, but this structure can still have amazing tone & shape. Therefore if you understand the shape of your body and the factors that affect it, you can be better-equipped to optimize that shape.

Toxins

Cellulite, uneven/soft skin tone and stubborn areas are caused by a build up of toxins. Toxins come from a range of places, from the food you eat, to the air you breath, to the shampoo you use, and even to the washing powder that cleans your clothes. Many of these things are difficult to control but the one area you have the most control is food. Toxins accumulate over years and it takes real commitment to get the body clean. Commit to removing toxins from your system and you will slowly start seeing and feeling results.

Honesty

I often hear: “But I eat clean”, “But I train hard”, “But I don’t eat junk”. If you are mentally blocking out the odd glass of wine through the week, the cookies in between meetings, the handful of crisps while lying on the couch, the chocolate cake when meeting the girls for coffee, the blurry night of cocktails, or the Friday pizza because you felt you deserved it, you will always struggle with the tummy and thighs. The harsh reality is that some of us have to work harder than others and it is human nature to compare ourselves with the Supermodel on the latest cover of Vogue, but you have to accept what you have been given and make that work best for you. Once you have done that, get real with yourself, be honest. If you really are eating clean, training hard, & avoiding junk, your body and health will flourish.

What To Do:

Step 1 – clean out your fridge. If there is junk, you are going to eat it!

Step 2 – replace EVERYTHING you drink with water! You will loose 1-2 kilos in the first week by just doing that!

Step 3 – commit to a structured eating & training plan. In my many years of working in a gym, I have seen how on Monday everyone starts and by Wednesday they have given up. Most people waste their time texting, chatting, “recovering” or daydreaming because they don’t have structure.

Step 4 – Plan your week. This is actually the first thing I require from my program is that each and every person who starts, has to plan their week. Without structure you will fall off the wagon come

Step 5 – Too much cardio will kill your metabolism. You have to weight train, and no, I do not mean or encourage a “male weight training program”. I am talking about basic body weight training. Women flourish on body weight training because it keeps them lean, toned and elongated, boosts their metabolism, and builds muscle with no bulking. Cardio is essential but it really does not reshape the body. 20min a day 3x a week is more than enough, alternatively consider interval training.

BONUS STEP - Hold yourself accountable. No more “But I”. If you are starting your sentences with “But I”, get out of that habit. Place value on your health and where you want to be and take responsibility. By embracing that you are unique and accepting that your body will change at its own rate, will help you take responsibility and action towards your goals.

Peanut-Butter Protein Smoothie

This is the perfect pre/post workout snack, packed with potassium and rich in protein to feed those muscles optimally!

Serving Size: 1

Preparation Time: 7-10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 cup almond or coconut milk
  • 2 tsp. xylitol/stevia
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 scoop brown rice vegan protein powder
  • 1 tbsp. natural peanut butter

Instructions:

  1. Place all ingredients in food processor and blend on high speed for 2 mins
  2. Pour into glass jar or large drinking glass
  3. Top with almond flakes and crushed pecans
  4. Enjoy

Skip The Pharmacy! Natural Pain Relievers

Many of us fall victim to niggling aches and pains, and some of us experience worse offenders, like migraines, back pain and arthritis. Chronic pain meds can help, but they come with their own set of side-effects, and we build up immunity to them over time as well! So, what’s a sore person to do? While I’m not saying you should throw in the towel on doctor-prescribed meds, these natural alternatives may offer relief to your individual symptoms. In the case of herbal remedies, remember that they need to be administered by a homeopath.

Endorphins

Before you blow this off as a weak option, remember that endorphins block pain signals on their way to the brain. Any activity that gets your blood pumping for over 15 minutes will release pain-relieving endorphins into your body. Since exercise also decreases aggravators of chronic ailments, like anxiety, stress and obesity, I think this is a double-win.

Heat Therapy

Heat therapy is a powerful way to relieve pain. Not only does it suppress the pain signals being sent to your brain, it increases the flow of oxygen to the damaged areas to assist with healing. Try a hot water bottle, beanbag heating pad or even just a hot bath.

Ice Packs

If your pain is caused from inflammation, ice is your best natural way to reduce it. As I’m sure you’ve experienced firsthand, ice also acts as a natural anesthetic by slowing down nerve impulses and therefore pain signals in the sore spots.

Stretching

Almost all of us can benefit from regular stretching. Our bodies are meant to move, and our often restrictive motion can cause muscles to tighten, reduce motion and become painful as a result. Daily stretches, recommended moves by a physiotherapist, yoga and using a foam roller are great ways to incorporate stretching into your life.

Capsicum/Capsaicin

Found in hot chilies, this pain-reducer actually desensitizes nerve receptors temporarily, and has been reported to reduce pain for as much as 3-5 weeks! Capsicum cream applied to the nasal passages of migraine sufferers has also shown good results.

Cherries

These little wonders are said to have the highest anti-inflammatory properties of any food and behave much like aspirin. This makes them powerful agents for relieving pain in ailments like arthritis and other joint pain.

Cranberry Juice

Gastric pain, ulcers in the stomach and intestines and urinary tract infections can all be healed effectively with cranberry juice. It is responsible for killing the bacteria causing the infection, so drink up – just make sure to take in the real deal: no added sugar!

Devil’s Claw

This is most recognized for effectively treating problems like heart burn and liver disease. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, devil’s claw has shown great success in several studies in the treatment of osteoarthritis.

Ginger, Turmeric And Basil

In Ayurvedic medicine these three herbs are highly acclaimed – and with good reason. All three are extremely powerful anti-inflammatories and immune boosters, and ginger can also sooth a sore throat and stomach. Add basil into salads or blend into pestos, make a ginger, honey and lemon ‘hot toddy’, and try out this delicious golden tea to take in your daily does of turmeric.

Birch Leaf

This is actually one of the first natural pain relievers ever used, thanks to its cortisone-like powers. It has been useful in treating everything from arthritis to lupus and other autoimmune disorders. One of its main chemical compounds – methyl salicylate is antifungal, analgesic, diuretic and antispasmodic.

Peppermint And Clove Oil

Peppermint has always been a great natural remedy for joint pain, skin irritation and headaches. Both peppermint and clove oil act as powerful painkillers of toothache when applied directly to the affected area.

Arnica

This is a well-known herbal rub to use after heavy exercise and injury. Whilst the true source of its healing power has still not been identified, this herb derived from a European flower does have anti-inflammatory properties.

Dismantle The Barriers Holding Your Fitness Back

LITTLE STEPS: Set realistic goals and remember to pace yourself. Start small and build only when you are ready.

SUMMER is here and you really want to improve your shape. Somehow, you just can’t get going yet. If you don’t include physical activity in your daily routine, what’s stopping you? Consider common barriers to fitness — and practical strategies for keeping your exercise programme on track.

Sticking to a regular exercise schedule isn’t easy. After all, there are plenty of potential hindrances — time, boredom, injuries, self-confidence. But these issues don’t need to stand in your way. Consider practical strategies for overcoming common barriers to fitness.

I’m Self-Conscious About How I Look When I Exercise

Don’t beat yourself up about it. Remind yourself what a great favour you’re doing for your cardiovascular health, or focus on how much stronger you feel after a workout. Praise yourself for improving your stamina and making a commitment to lifelong fitness.

If you’re still uncomfortable exercising in the presence of others, go solo at first. Try an exercise video or an activity oriented video game. Consider investing in a stationary bicycle, treadmill, stair-climbing machine or other piece of home exercise equipment. As you become healthier and more at ease with exercising, your self-confidence is likely to improve as well.

I’m Too Tired To Exercise After Working All Day

No energy to exercise? Without exercise, you’ll have no energy. It’s a vicious cycle. But breaking the cycle with physical activity is one of the best gifts you can give yourself:

  • Try a morning dose of exercise. Remember the suggestion to get up 30 minutes earlier to exercise? Hop on the treadmill or stationary bicycle while you listen to the radio or watch the morning news. Or step outside for a brisk walk.
  • Make lunchtime count. Keep a pair of walking shoes at your desk, and take a walk during your lunch break.
  • Be prepared. Put workout clothes on top of your dresser, socks and all. Keep a full water bottle in the fridge. Have an exercise video queued up and ready to go when you get home at night.
  • Hit the hay earlier. Running on empty is no way to face a full day. Go to bed earlier to make sure you’re getting enough sleep.

I’m Too Lazy To Exercise

If the mere thought of a morning jog makes you tired, try these thoughts on for size:

  • Set realistic expectations. If your mental bar is too high, you might give up without even trying. Start with a walk around the block. Don’t give up if you feel worn out. Take another walk around the block tomorrow. Keep it up, and eventually you’ll no longer feel worn out.
  • Work with your nature, not against it. Plan physical activity for times of the day when you tend to feel more energetic — or at least not quite so lazy.
  • Schedule exercise as you would schedule an important meeting or appointment. Block off times for physical activity, and make sure your friends and family are aware of your commitment. Ask for their and support.

I’m Not Athletic

Natural athletic ability isn’t a prerequisite for physical activity. Try something simple, such as a daily walk. Better yet, team up with friends who are in the same boat. Have fun while helping each other work out. Don’t worry about becoming a superstar athlete or joining the hard-bodied athletes at the gym. Simply focus on the positive changes you’re making to your body and mind.

I’ve Tried To Exercise In The Past And Failed

Don’t throw in the towel. You can’t see it when you lower your cholesterol or reduce your risk of diabetes, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t doing yourself a big favour. Re-evaluate what went wrong, and learn from your mistakes. Pace yourself. Start small and build to more intense workouts, when your body is ready. Some tips:

  • Set realistic goals. Don’t promise yourself you’re going to work out for an hour every day, and then beat yourself up when you fall short. Stick with goals you can more easily achieve, such as exercising 20 minutes a day, three days a week for the first month.
  • Remember why you’re exercising. Use your personal fitness goals as motivation — and reward yourself as you meet your goals.

I’m Afraid I’ll Hurt Myself If I Exercise

If you’re nervous about injuring yourself, start off on the right foot. Some tips:

  • Take it slow. Start with a simple walking programme. As you become more confident in your abilities, add activities to your routine.
  • Try an exercise class for beginners. Learn the basics by starting from scratch.
  • Consider working one-on-one with a personal trainer. Get a customised fitness tutorial from a certified expert, who can monitor you and point you in the right direction.

My Family And Friends Don’t Support My Efforts To Exercise Regularly

Remind those close to you of the benefits of regular exercise — and then bring them along. Some tips:

  • Get your kicks with your kids. Sign up for a parent-child exercise class. Pack a picnic lunch and take your family to the park for a game of tag or kickball. Splash with the kids in the pool instead of watching from your chair.
  • Propose a new adventure. Instead of suggesting a workout at the gym, invite a friend to an indoor climbing wall or rent a tandem bicycle for the weekend.
  • If necessary, have a heart-to- heart with your loved ones. If they don’t share your fitness ambitions, ask them to respect your will to get fit. 

8 Reasons Why You Should Try Pilates

Having practiced an assortment of dance styles for 17 years, I have been exposed to many forms of body conditioning in order to build up strength and improve my dance technique One of the most effective forms of body conditioning I have had the pleasure of practicing is Pilates. When you consider the source, it makes sense that Pilates would do all of this and more: Founder, Joseph H. Pilates was a frail little boy, who faced many physical challenges such as asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. Determined to conquer his ailments, he turned to the study of the ancient mind-body arts, through which he was able to integrate key principles from yoga and isometric resistance work. He came to know through his own experience that specific breathing techniques performed in tandem with targeted movements would dramatically improve his overall health, and would help him to sculpt a super-hero physique. Little did he know when he began that he would rise up to become the pioneer of a global fitness revolution, changing the lives of millions.

So why try Pilates? Here are a few good reasons:

Body-Mind synergy

The “powerhouse” in Pilates is the term that refers to the main focal area of strength which includes the primary abdominal, pelvic and back muscles. The idea of a “powerhouse” encompasses all aspects of what total fitness subsumes. The physical benefits that one can reap from practicing Pilates, like yoga, are tenfold. Pilates is a “vitality supercharger.” You engage the mind to move the body as an integrated whole concurrently with breath. Movement is economised by activating only those muscles that are required to perform an exercise with grace, control and precision. Freshly oxygenated blood is pumped throughout the entire body, galvanising the lymphatic system, which aids in the removal of toxins. Endorphin and serotonin production is stimulated in abundance which triggers a euphoric sense of total wellbeing. Pilates is unmatched in the arena of total body toning and conditioning. Pilates is a gentle but challenging, gravity-defying system of physical conditioning that focuses on body placement and increasing awareness of your capabilities and untapped resources. It changes your body and makes it longer, leaner and stronger. It empowers you as it helps you create the body you’ve always wanted

Rapid Results

Pilates is so effective, and so powerful, that when taught properly, it makes your entire body stronger and more flexible in no time at all. People report dropping inches in mere weeks. It helps your body to know what good posture feels like right away and quickly improves your breathing, which also enhances your mood and general outlook on life. Even after one class, you’ll look and feel taller, more energized, more capable and more alive.

Powerful Cross-Training Tool

Pilates is an incredibly effective cross-training activity. It makes any sport you love even better. Pilates not only strengthens the weaker muscles and gives the dominant muscles a break by demanding that you work symmetrically, it also makes you more aware of your body, thereby enhancing coordination, alignment, balance, power and precision. With age, the synovial fluid that protects our joints diminishes, and Pilates helps to keep the surrounding muscles strong to alleviate any burden on the joints. It aids with arthritic relief because the precise movements lubricate the joint capsule itself, and relieve inflammation. Aspiring dancers like myself have used Pilates as a secret weapon to strengthen our abdominals and our bodies, so that we can jump higher, turn faster and move with greater control and grace. My dance teachers incorporated various Pilate’s exercises into daily dance class to help me become the best dancer I could be. This kept me inspired, injury free and powerful!

Mindful Movement

“Economy of movement” is one of Pilates’ foundational principles, meaning that you learn how to focus your efforts with precision and engage only those muscles that are required to successfully perform the exercise. The rest of the body breathes and participates but does not strain. Because every movement in Pilates emanates from the core, it keeps you balanced by applying both sides of the body symmetrically in order to carry out each exercise successfully. Every exercise focuses on the core muscles of the torso, and includes specific breathing patterns for each exercise that teaches you how to channel energy to those targeted areas while relaxing the rest of the body.

Quality Over Quantity

Pilates requires a few number of repetitions with the greatest amount precision and control, which enables you to get the most out of your workout, while promoting your focus and determination. Rather than feeling drained and exhausted, Pilates energises and inspires you to make each movement count. The result? Greater overall muscular stamina and considerable skill, mindfully accomplished, with less effort.

Stress Less

Pilates triggers the magical chain of chemical responses in the body, chief among them the release of endorphins, which reduces stress and improves the quality of your sleep. The very nature of Pilates asks that you silence the mind by giving it single-focus tasks that engage it fully, and in so doing, creates freedom from the stresses we endure in the outside world. Every movement emanates from the core, and since our core is also the seat of our emotions, the exercises themselves help to truly balance us. When you focus your attention on the moment and act in harmony with time, you experience inner peace and fulfilment. By staying in the present, you can do less, yet gain more; paradoxically, you create more personal power and energy, enabling you to have a greater influence over the outcome both in your sessions and long after you leave the studio.

Personal Fulfilment

Pilates is similar to the practice of yoga, which promotes consciousness and facilitates personal evolution and transformation. The subtle magic of the work is that it grows as you do. Pilates provides a platform through which you are able to rise to higher levels of capability as your self-awareness and experience deepen. As you become more mindful of your movement, your actual physical strength increases, you are able to perfect form and shape. Pilates sees physical activity as a way of establishing total harmony of body, mind and spirit; under this notion, exercise becomes the means to experiencing a personal potential greater than the physical skills themselves. When you feel a sense of true accomplishment and fulfilment by virtue of your own efforts, you feel purposeful, hopeful and capable.

So take it from a dancer and give Pilates a try! It's so worth it!

Morning Yoga - Energising Morning Sequence

Practice this Energising Morning Yoga Sequence to get the juices flowing! This yoga practice stretches and strengthens the muscles with a strong focus on breath and body alignment. Practice this in the morning on an empty stomach and notice how it sets the tone for the day ahead. Get your workout in early, connect to your breath, be mindful and find what feels good.

CAM Series: Acupuncture

The 1st in a series of posts on CAM topics. My MS degree focused on the integration of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) into the Western healthcare system; here I share my thoughts. See this post for some background on the biopsychosocial model as it's related to all things CAM.

 

Acupuncture is one of the major therapeutic components of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). One of the most common methods involves placing extremely thin needles in various parts of the body to manipulate the flow of qi, or the body's life force energy, which according to TCM theory gets blocked or out of balance, causing any array of symptoms.

Yes, I've had acupuncture a number of times (and currently still receive treatments). Yes, I have worked at a TCM wellness clinic. You already know about my master's program all about CAM. Does this make me an expert? No. Do I have insights and connections based on my education and experiences? I think I do.

The first, and often most challenging, hurdle to clear when understanding acupuncture via the Western thought process is the concept of qi or the idea of energy imbalances. If you're having trouble with the latter, see my post on energy and why it is also the foundation of the scientific theory we know and love in the West.

Qi is a difficult concept. There really is no exact translation but it might be thought of as "life force energy" -- which usually doesn't translate in meaning much better than the Chinese character. If you are familiar with Ayurveda, you might think of it like prana. If you are not, I like to think of qi as a specific energetic fingerprint that sustains me. The summation of all the physical and mental processes that are simultaneously occurring in my body, brain, being. (Heart beating, blood circulating, water balance, lymph movement, nerve conduction, respiration + all of the less characterized processes such as thoughts, emotions, and other somewhat esoteric elements.) When this is happening at a near optimal state, I feel healthy, balanced, and invigorated. When it's not, I may be tired or sick. Why does this happen? Possibly an outside pathogen, extended period of ignorance or neglect, or an intense emotional experience or trauma. And what exactly happens? Qi is thought to flow through the body in meridians (pathways); an imbalance might be an excess or deficiency of qi in a certain area or a blockage of its flow.

A staple in many alternative modalities is the body's innate ability to heal itself; acupuncture is no different. The needles that an acupuncturist uses guide the body toward salutogenesis. But how, you ask? The needle acts as a conduit connecting you to the universe, allowing you to tap into its energy and giving you the power to heal. But how, you ask? Right? Sounds a little loco. Or maybe not at all...

You see, when you start to wrap your head around the whole energy concept you may start to see connections.

Think about about a simple circuit. Different metals conduct electricity to a different capacity. For example, silver has a lower resistance than copper or aluminum, and will as such function in the circuit to a differing effect. In the same manner (maybe) there are different kinds of acupuncture needles. Gold, silver, or copper can be used by the acupuncturist to evoke a different response in a patient. So you might think of the needle as a conduit of energy in relation to the metal used to conduct electricity in a circuit.

One therapeutic means in acupuncture is via the circulatory system. For example, muscle tightness or constriction is an excess of cold and is treated by adding heat, i.e. by bringing blood flow to the affected area. Straightforward enough, right? Now take this thought process a step further. Blood circulating through our bodies is a form of energy movement. You can think of it as governed by the laws of fluid dynamics, or perhaps electromagnetic flux. Either way, energy is moving, flowing, changing.

And maybe, just maybe, those metallic needles had something to do with the way it did.

Stressed, Unfocused, Frustrated? Time For Exercise

Do you ever have the feeling of complete frustration, that there is too much on your plate and you cannot focus properly?

You try and work but nothing really gets done.

I have had that feeling the last couple of days and let’s just say the amount of work I’ve done is a lot less than I would have liked.

I woke up this morning and the first thing I thought about is how much I need to get through. Then my mind starts racing and creates a massive snowball of thoughts leading to anxiety and definitely no chance of actually being able to get anything done.

In that haze of anxiety I remembered articles that I’ve read about this and how beneficial exercise is, and then also remembered how amazing I always feel after I go for a run. I decided that no matter how much needs doing, a bit of fresh air and exercise will be the most beneficial for me.

I donned my running gear and off I went. Funnily enough it ended up being a below average run because I had a big stitch the whole way round, and even after that I feel brilliant. There is something so peaceful about being outdoors, listening to kids playing, and observing life still continuing as always, no matter what is going on inside me.

The amount of work that I've managed to do in the last 2 hours is almost triple what I’ve been able to achieve leading up to this.

So what I’m saying is, when you have that overwhelming feeling, take a breather, get away from your phone/computer and go stand outside for 5 minutes. Come back to your desk, make a list of your tasks and prioritise them.

If you can, go take a walk or run or gym session. Re-calibrate and make a pact with yourself to exercise for at least 15 minutes each day, no matter what kind of exercise it is or when it is.

You generally end up sleeping better and therefore focus better.

Give it a go, you will feel the benefits.

BS Excuses For Not Being Hot & Healthy: 'It's Expensive'

My very dear friend Aimee (awesome radio DJ from the Abstract Aimee show on 2 oceans vibe radio....check her out) is currently going through the very frustrating process of dealing with peoples' excuses. She has experience and a history of challenges (trust me) and she wants to help her listeners change their lives around like she did by changing her health. BUT, unfortunately, the “excuses” come with it. I know them all too well and handling them has been part of my job description for the past 15 years!

I get it, we all have different lives and different challenges but what I can say without a shadow of a doubt, if you REALLY WANT A HOT, HEALTHY & HAPPY BODY, you won’t have an excuse, you will have a reason.

Therefore over the next couple of weeks I have dedicated some time to blogging about the different “Excuses”, why they are actually B*** S*** and how you can overcome them. Listen here, I am going to be pretty blunt for most of the time but it's because I want to get the point across that you are self-sabotaging your ability to achieve amazing health AND an amazing BODY!

First excuse on the list......"it’s too expensive to eat healthy"

The next person to say this to me I will throw them with a butternut! Really, where are you shopping? Here are a few rules

  • Shop local. Things that don’t have to be imported from another country and then stored for weeks are normally cheaper & healthier.
  • Shop seasonal. Don’t buy berries if they are not in season, buy a freaking banana or any other fruit that is currently growing in season. That goes for veggies as well.
  • The more “convenient” you buy the more expensive it will be. So if you are too damn lazy to cut your own butternut, well then don’t complain if you are paying 50bucks a packet for peeled & chopped butternut.
  • If you can’t afford Woolworths, don’t shop there until you can. I can’t afford Woolworths every week even though I would love to so I choose the next best option which is Food Lovers Market. Yes, it is ideal to shop organic, free range etc etc but if you can't do the next best thing and shop fresh.
  • This leads me onto the next point, look out for specials at your grocery store. There are constant fresh produce specials for all the items that are in season....I just got a bag of 9 avos for R20 ($1.95) from Pick&Pay!!!!!
  • Because in order to eat healthy you must shop fresh therefore PLAN, PLAN, PLAN. If you don’t plan, you buy too much or the wrong thing, you end up not using it and then wasting, so yes, that becomes expensive.
  • And then PLAN some more so that you have lunches and snacks premade at home because if you are not prepared and hit a hunger bust, grabbing a packet of raw almonds from a convenience store is F%$#%@$ expensive so make sure you have planned your meals the day before that you are not left stranded.
  • Have a budget. Somehow, people always have the extra cash for that pizza, bottle of wine or pair of shoes (don’t get me wrong I believe in the odd treat for sure) but come on, please, don’t tell me you can’t afford a R15 bunch of spinach......heh? Really?
  • And last but not least, if you are going to follow some crazy ass diet, it is going cost you money. That is the main reason why they want you on those diets because you spend money on selective foods they want you to buy. If you follow a well balanced fresh, seasonal diet (like the programs I design!) you will NOT break your budget ever!

So, there you have it, first excuses squashed like a gem squash. Next blog excuse....”I don’t have time”.....this is a good one!

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