Hiking for Health

I made a semi-spontaneous decision last weekend to go to Conkle’s Hollow at Hocking Hills, which happened to be just in time before the craziness of finals week began. A few of my friends asked me to go last minute and I went because it was something outdoorsy to do and I wanted to get off campus for a little bit. Much to my surprise, the hike was just what I needed to get some clarity back into my life and get some exercise and fresh air in. Don’t underestimate the power of a good hike with friends and exploring outdoors.

We walked up incline trails, up and down wooden stairs, and we had to step up onto higher platforms so we could continue on the trail. We made this effort to see the view from different cliffs. Overall, the hike was a beautiful way to get some cardio exercise in and it definitely made me feel that healthy burn in my muscles. Afterwards, you sit down and realize how exhausted your body is, but at the same time you feel rejuvenated.

There’s something about nature that brings you back into your being. Not only is a hike good for the physical body, but they’re also good for your mental and spiritual wellness. Personally, it removed unnecessary stress, worry and doubt I was having and helped me understand that I needed to let go of these things. Sitting on the top of the cliffs and being able to see for miles ahead allows you to clear your mind and get back on track to what’s most important in your life.

Hiking isn’t something most people make time to do or even think to do, but I promise it’s totally worth the physical, mental and spiritual growth. For a stretch of time you can remove yourself from your everyday routine and become immersed in nature and embrace life. It has the power to help you see more than what’s in front of you when you take the chance to climb.

Quick Ab Routine

There’s always time to do a quick ab routine. The below exercises can be done in your bedroom or dorm room and are a great go-to if your need a break from homework or quick boost of energy. You don’t need the gym or equipment for numerous ab exercises. Although I show a couple of ab exercises with pieces of equipment, you can eliminate it and still perform the exercise doing the same motion. Doing ab exercises are essential to tighten and strengthen your core. In fact, this will benefit you during all your workouts because the core is a central power house for stability and posture.

*Perform three sets of each exercise with a 30 second break in between. A set is the total number of reps. For example, you do 3 sets of 10 reps. This means you’ll perform the exercise movement 30 times. 

Plank with Alternating Arm Tap – Start in a straight arm plank. Be sure to keep your feet shoulder-width apart and keep your hips from sinking. Take your left hand off the floor and bring your forearm over to the right shoulder. Hold your hand here for 1 to 2 seconds and repeat on the other side. Keep up this alternation for a total of 20 reps.

Ball Pull-In – Get in a straight arm plank position and balance your lower legs on the top of the exercise ball. Balance and contracting your abs is crucial here. Gradually pull your legs in from the knees while keeping them on the ball. Allow the ball to roll forward onto your ankles and contract your abs muscles. Slowly bring your legs back to the starting position. Complete around 10 reps.

  • You can do a similar exercise without a ball. Hold a straight arm plank and bring one leg towards your body by bending at the knee and be sure to alternate which leg you bring each time.

Scissors – Lie flat on your back with your arms at your sides. As you lift one leg up off the ground and towards your face, reach the opposite arm up and tap the outter side of your foot. This creates a cross body motion and engages your abs. Complete 10 reps for each leg raise.

Russian Twist with or without Medicine Ball – Sit on the floor with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle. Hold the ball in front of you while keeping your back straight. Twist your torso as far as you can to left and then to the right. Do a total of 12 reps.

  • If you don’t have a ball, complete the same twist motion and bring both of your hands to each side as you twist from side to side.

Holiday Eating Tips

 

We’re approaching the most wonderful time of the year. Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks are right around the corner. Soon you’ll have delicious home cooked meals and be surrounded by family and friends. The holidays are notorious for people to gain a few pounds and forget their workout routine due to colder weather and the sun setting earlier in the day. But, this doesn’t need to be you! There are several ways to stay healthy and fit while enjoying all that the holiday season has to offer.

 

  1. Don’t save your stomach for that big holiday dinner. I’ve done this before and always end up regretting it. Eating meals throughout the day will keep you from overeating. Try to eat foods rich in fiber, such as fruit, veggies and whole grains.
  2. Add physical activity to your day after a holiday meal. It’s tradition in my family to go for a walk after our Thanksgiving meal. It helps with digestion and decreases uncomfortable cramping and bloating. Also, create a workout routine that works with your holiday schedule. Going earlier in the day will help with the lack of motivation you have towards nighttime.
  3. Before you go out to a party have a healthy and filling snack. This will help curve unhealthy and fatty foods served at the party. It’ll save you many unnecessary calories and keep you feeling well.
  4. Manage your portion size. It’s better to start out with less than more if you’re watching your calorie count. This is simple to do if you use a smaller plate!
  5. Pick which sweets you want to indulge in. The holidays call for seasonal deserts that usually only come once a year. Instead of indulging in typical foods, choose the ones you only have once a year, such as Christmas cookies and pumpkin pie.

 

 

Photo from finetunedfinances.com

The Power of Protein Powder

I began drinking protein shakes about four years ago when my mom had brought a container of EAS vanilla soy protein powder home. I had heard about protein powder and saw many ads and athlete promotions of it in Oxygen and Muscle and Fitness “Hers” magazine. I had a yearly subscription to both of these magazines and it was totally worth it! Now, we see sponsored athletes and fitness gurus on social media promoting certain proteins and other products to their followers. Aspiring to feel health and see my hard work in the gym pay off, I decided to give protein powder a try. Since then I have continued my protein powder advocacy.

It may be easy to believe that protein powder isn’t as nutritious for your body as solid foods, but for an on- the -go college student, protein shakes are quick and fuel your body. I usually mix one scoop of my Optimum Nutrition chocolate whey protein powder with water and shake it in a Blender bottle. I try and do this immediately after getting back to my room from the gym. Post -workout is the best time to digest a protein shake because your muscles need healing after working them. The protein repairs the muscle fibers and helps build and maintain muscle. I also notice it helps curve cravings for sweets and makes me feel full.

An important part of a healthy lifestyle is to eat small portions of food throughout the day and snack cautiously. I find it helpful to pour a scoop of protein powder into a Ziploc bag or my Blender bottle and pack it into my book bag for when I get hungry in between classes. Don’t forget to pack a water bottle in order to blend the protein! This will also help you stay hydrated throughout the day.

In case you are worried about the flavor or protein powder, in order to eliminate any taste you don’t like, mix the powder with cold water. Personally, I don’t mind the taste of protein powder mixed with water, but mixing with low-fat milk or almond milk can mask the taste of the protein and give the protein shake a different texture.

I hope you find that the protein satisfies your hunger and reduces bloat that can occur in your lower stomach area from heavy eating or snacking. When I’m consistent with lifting weights and cardio I notice a flat stomach and a toned appearance. When I drink protein, I know I’m fueling my body right and just one step closer to my personal fitness goals!

You can pick up protein powder at your nearest grocery store or drug mart such as CVS. I have the best luck at purchasing protein powder at Walmart, GNC, or online sites such as bodybuilding.com. There are many different manufacturers, types of protein and flavors. I recommend whey protein in chocolate or vanilla. I choose protein powder based off of the grams of protein in one scoop compared to the amount of calories and fat calories being consumed. The protein brand with the most grams of protein with the least amount of calories is a great purchase. Start with the basics and find out what you like best. Your body will thank you!

No matter what your fitness goals may be, try picking up the healthy habit of drinking a protein powder shake when you wake up, for a snack or post workout. It won’t turn you into a massive body builder and it may just help you develop a better appetite that benefits your body. Those who are regularly active or aren’t frequently active can benefit from protein powder’s power!

DIY Chipotle

I’m definitely a Chipotle fan. It wasn’t until I got an apartment this year and needed to cook my own food that I realized I could make my own! This ultimately saves me money and I know the nutritional information of the food I’m eating. My DIY is slightly different, but still tastes amazing. Also, if you make enough food at once you can save the rest for a few days! This is super helpful because you already have dinner prepared for a few days and have lunch to bring with you to work or class. Not to mention it’s healthy and filling for your body!

Ingredients you need:

  • Protein source: I buy raw chicken from the store and trim it myself. This takes a bit of time and it’s not the most pleasant task, but for me it’s worth it! You can also get pre-cooked frozen chicken breasts, but there may be hormones and additives in the chicken.
  • Black beans: My new favorite thing. I started asking for black beans in the Chipotle line over the summer and I am now obsessed. They have a substantial source of protein, so they can also substitute for meat if necessary!
  • Spinach: I dice up spinach leaves instead of adding shredded lettuce. I buy a pre-washed package at the store, which usually lasts me up to a week. Spinach is high in vitamins and is a big vegetable source.
  • Corn: You can either buy frozen or canned corn. I don’t think it makes a difference!
  • Bell Peppers: Just two will do. I get these in the produce section of the store. I know they don’t have diced pepper at Chipotle, but it adds another veggie source and is low calorie.
  • Quinoa: I use this instead of rice. If you’ve never had it before, it’s similar to rice, but has more protein and fiber.

*Buy shredded cheese if you can’t do without it!

 

As you can tell, this is a protein packed meal! It’s perfect to maintain muscle tone and keep you full.

 

So now that you have your ingredients, it’s time to start cooking. There’s really not much cooking you need to do. Everyone cooks their chicken or protein differently, but for me it’s easiest to boil chicken on the stove top. Once the water begins to boil, I throw the chicken in the pot and cook it for about 13-15 minutes depending on the size of the chicken breasts. After their done cooking, you can pull them apart to make shreds of chicken.

 

There’s cooking instructions on the quinoa box that you can follow. To cook this you must have another pot of boiling water as well. This usually takes about 18-20 minutes to cook.

 

Once the quinoa and chicken are done cooking you can add everything together in a large mixing bowl. I take the black beans right out of the can as well as the canned corn since they don’t require cooking. Once you have all the ingredients mixed together, you now have your own homemade, protein packed Chipotle.

Kettlebell Workout

So, the kettlebell is definitely a top three piece of equipment I use in the gym. You can use it for any part of the body and create your own exercises once you become more comfortable using the kettlebell. These exercises will focus on one muscle group of your body, but you’ll be getting a full-body workout simultaneously. It’s useful for beginner fitness and as a challenge to people who already have a steady fitness regime down. You’ll probably find that the kettlebell implements both strength training and cardio, which will help you leave the gym feeling accomplished!

Fit Tip: Complete three sets of each exercise and perform 10 to 12 reps.

 

  1. Kettlebell Swing – I suggest starting with this exercise because it’ll get your muscles warmed up and get your heart rate increasing. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, bring the kettlebell underneath your body as you squat down and then as you stand up swing the kettlebell in front of your body. Raise the kettlebell so that it’s level with your eyes.
  2. Deadlift – One of the best workouts to tone your hamstrings and glutes. With your feet shoulder-width apart, keep your back straight and bend at your hips. Keep the weight in your heels as your drive up from the squatting position.
  3. Squat and wrap around – Hold a stance in a squatting position and swing the kettlebell in between your legs and around by alternating which hand the kettlebell is in. This is a great core and glute burner.                                                                                          
  4. Squat with cross body pull up – Begin with the kettlebell in front of one foot. Squat down and reach for the kettlebell with the opposite arm of the kettlebell. As your stand up from you squat, pull the kettlebell across your body and up to your collar bone. You should feel this in your lower and upper body. Repeat on opposite side, too.                            
  5. Kettlebell Row – Slightly bend at your knees and hold one arm down with the kettlebell. Holding your stance, bend at your elbow and swing your arm back so that your upper arm is horizontal with your side. Repeat with opposite arm.                                                                                      

 

 

 

The Medicine Ball Workout

A medicine ball can be found in most gyms and is versatile for many exercises. I use it for my abs, lower body and arms. Some exercises work the entire body and are a great substitute for cardio because they make your heart rate jump. This equipment also gives you a choice of the weight you want to use during an exercise, which allows you train with a medicine ball at any fitness level.

The below exercises can be done in a circuit or at separate times depending on what part of the body you’re working out. Do three sets of 12-15 reps as this is relatively standard for these exercises!

  1. Plank on Medicine Ball – I love doing this exercise first because it starts my workout with a strong core. The medicine ball plank helps my abs stay tight during my remaining workout. Aside from a regular floor plank, the ball adds more difficulty and engages your core more. Be sure to keep your hips slightly up and feet shoulder width apart. Tighten your core and breathe!
  2. Reverse Lunge – Hold the medicine ball close to your chest. Take one foot and step backwards into a lunge while extending arms away from your body. Bring the ball back into your chest when you return to the standing position. Repeat on opposite leg.
  3. Hip Thrust – Place the ball of your feet on the top of the medicine ball. Drive your heels into the ball as you raise your hips, keeping your shoulder blades on the floor. Squeeze your glutes at the same tip you raise your hips. Hold the position for a few seconds and lower back down.
  4. Wall Ball Toss – Face the wall and stand shoulder-width apart. Hold the ball close to your chest and squat down. As you stand up, throw the ball up and onto the wall. Catch the medicine ball as it falls and return back into a squat position.
  5. Ab Twist – Begin in a squatting position with the medicine ball in front of either foot. Pick up the medicine ball and gradually stand up from your squatting position. Swing your arms out and twist your upper body towards the opposite side that you placed the ball. Return to the starting position and repeat.

Can’t Resist the Resistance Band

I’ve found an affordable way to keep my workouts exciting and beneficial by purchasing a resistance band! Over the summer I decided to buy one off of Amazon because I watched many fitness experts use them in workouts and I used resistance bands during physical therapy for my knee. It occurred to me that resistance bands create less stress on your bones and joints during a workout than weights do, while still strengthening and toning muscle groups.

I love that I can incorporate a resistance band into the exercises I typically do and in many cases it replaces weights. The band keeps my workouts challenging and I don’t need to use weights. A resistance band is a practical purchase because they’re super easy to take with you anywhere and you can choose the level on resistance you want when you buy one.

The lower body resistance band workout below is exercises I’ve done with or without a band. Using the band, I’ve noticed a difference in my range of motion when exercising and my strength.

Fit Tip: Complete 3 sets of 12 repetitions to get the most out of the workout. Take about a 30 second break in between sets because you’ll be burnin’.

 

  1. Donkey Kicks – This builds your glute and hamstrings. I recommend doing this on a mat or soft surface. Be sure to keep your back flat. Add some straight leg pulses on each side for more toning.
  2. In and Out Sumo Jumps – Burn fat and increase your heartrate! I feel this exercise in my abs and lower body, so you’ll get some ab action here as well.
  3. Bent Over Abductor – Bending over helps keep your balance more and focuses on the outer muscle of your glutes. Make sure your back stays flat and to bend the opposite leg not doing the exercise.
  4. Step Ups – Step up on a bench or box with one leg while extending the other away from your body. Hold the weight down at all times close to your body.
  5. Lunges – One of my favorite lower body exercises in general! The resistance band pumps up my glutes, quads and hamstrings.
  6. Squat with Abductor – Keep your back straight and stance wide. Lower into a squat, pop up and alternate which leg to elevate away from your body.

 

Here’s the band I bought on Amazon.com. I have light resistance!

Self-Improvement Through Fitness

 

Before I get started, I want to say that fitness is not the only option to love and take care of your body. But, it is a part of me and what I use as a tool to show myself consistency and guidance. Not only does fitness help me physically, but this drive to push myself to be active leads me emotionally and spiritually.

What’s authentic about fitness is that it’s a choice. No one can force it onto you, it’s completely up to you to lead a fit lifestyle. Everyone can create their own definition of what it means to be healthy. To me, fitness gives YOU the power and it gives YOU the control to own your body and push yourself towards improvement. I usually discover that I am capable of so much more than I originally thought.

It guides me in the process of daily growth and becoming better than I was the day before. Also, working out is a great stress reliever. There’s nothing better than heading to the gym after a long day and sweating out negativity. Working out before you start your day full of classes, work, and other responsibilities puts my mind in a state to only accept positivity. This helps me stay focused on what’s important.

So, I encourage you to fit time into your schedule and live a healthier lifestyle. This doesn’t have to look like the gym and lifting weights. You can make it what you what it to be! Go on a walk, make a nutritious meal, or take a trip to the gym. It’s your choice. Fitness is an outlet meant for taking time to invest in yourself.