Summer Sizzle Tips

Now that the summer is officially here, you owe it to yourself to enjoy a little seasonal excitement. Whether you are fit, balanced, happily pudgy or pushing yourself to achieve a major health goal, these next two months should include a few key elements of the summer before time quickly fades into Labor Day memories. 

Water Water Water
This time of year is so perfect for water based activities, and even we urbanites have plenty of aqua options. Hit the beach or the pool and get all the way into the water. Water soothes, salt water helps rid the body of toxins, and moving around in water is exercise without feeling like exercise. 

More Water
Hydration matters. It really does, and it doesn't have to be fancy. Your body is 60-70% water but that level can vacillate between 50% and 75% and many physiological effects happen at that dehydration end of the spectrum: low energy, hormonal imbalances, poor decision making, etc. A big glass of water in the am, coupled with a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables is almost completely sufficient in terms of hydration. Athletics notwithstanding. 

Try New Activities
Mix it up! Your body and your brain learn from new and different activities! By trying new physical activities, your brain is stimulated and creates new physiological connections, which can positively impact the entire body. Tennis, soccer, badminton, even ping pong are fun ways to spend time with friends or family AND mitigate the effects of sedentary life.

Protect Your Skin but Get Some Sun
Don't spend the summer indoors! A couple of times a day, you should get outside, though most experts agree that between the hours of 11:00 am and 2:00 pm, the sun is particularly harsh.  Invest in sunscreen and make outdoor time a daily ritual - our suggestion is a little in the am and a little after dinner. A NYTimes blog post from last year is a great resource for sunscreens, as they are definitely not all alike.

Grow Something
New York City is more than 3/4 of the way to planting a million trees as part of its environmental campaign from a few years ago. If you live in the city hopefully you've taken part in this program in some way, and hopefully this has encouraged you to grow something alive in your living environment. Regardless of where you are, however, these are excellent months to get something growing. And there's an added benefit: gardening is exercise! Taking care of your yard or even a little fire escape garden requires physical activity - it all makes a difference.


Metabolic Chess

Chess players think beyond the direct consequence of their current choice. They have to play out, in their heads, variations on the results of their next move, that of their opponent, and so on. Highly successful chess players maintain the ability to potentially see many moves down the line in order to make the best move now. 

Most of your food choices should be based on a similar principle. Think of poor health as your opponent. Poor health is a mastermind in metabolic chess. He knows how to tempt you with salivating flavors and textures, confusing you as you decide at mealtimes or snack times. He tries to stay a step or two ahead of your game by downplaying the negative significance of certain choices. 

So much of modern nutrition can be viewed as a product of these sneaky tactics:
- drive throughs
- manufactured snacks
- juicing
- energy boosts
- on the go meals
- labeling lies and marketing campaigns

When you take on the game of metabolic chess with poor health as your opponent, you start thinking about the power of each moves' potential consequences. Taste and convenience are great! But if the immediate gratification then leads to blood sugar spikes, hormone imbalances, the conversion of ingested carbs to fats - you will ultimately lose the game.

Think ahead, to what happens to food after it passes your taste buds and quiets your growling stomach. You have somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 trillion cells and more than 1000 trillion bacterial cells in what you call your body. That's a big responsibility in terms of providing the proper nourishment every day. When your body wakes up from sleep, it needs a jump start, and not just caffeine. Empty calories in pastries and boxed cereals lead to poor health consequences inside the body. The ones mentioned above, but worth mentioning again: blood sugar spikes, hormone imbalances, and the conversion of ingested carbs to fats. Noticeable effects can take years to develop but when they do, the game becomes a war.

You can win, AND still enjoy food. That's next weeks topic!

Why are you hungry?

Ever wonder what exactly is going on in your brain and body when you feel hungry? Before you reach for a dollar and head for the vending machine or hit the cookies counter at your local coffee shop or deli, STOP and think about your hunger for a moment. Everyone experiences all three forms named below, and one of the biggest benefits of understanding the differences among the three is knowing how to feed each with satisfaction AND healthy choices.  

1. Biological Hunger is genuinely physiological. This hunger doesn’t go away, increases over time, and is genuinely a function of your body’s need to replenish fuel. It is characterized by fatigue, a rumbling stomach, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and/or lightheadedness. By definition, the body experiences this hunger every single morning, though it is not always recognized as such because it coincides with the grogginess most people feel when they wake up. A shortage of time in the morning is the other reason that people tend to suppress any feeling of true biological hunger - they are in a hurry to get out the door and get to the office, and the body's needs end up taking a back seat to modern life.

Satisfying the body's needs requires a well balanced meal that includes natural carbs, protein, and healthy fats. Or more aptly, eating a breakfast every single day with whole grains, lean protein, and fruits or veggies. Most Americans don't have to worry about the extreme level of this type of hunger, and for the most part, even throughout the rest of the day, the hunger you feel is one of the other two listed below.

2. Sensory Hunger is when your body has food in the digestive tract, but your taste buds are not satisfied. This is a big problem for people who suffer from yo-yo dieting and other dietary challenges because they often make nutrient poor food choices (processed and sugary foods which trick the mind).  Enhancing the color, flavors, texture and even the appearance of your food can satisfy this hunger.

3. Emotional Hunger is when the urge to eat is psychological, and this is the biggest problem people have who can't properly manage their weight.  Eating feels emotionally pleasurable at the time, but doesn’t actually improve how your body feels.  In fact, eating to sate emotional needs often makes the body feel even worse, which triggers a domino effect because you continue to eat to feel better.

Our team would be pleased to help you understand how your eating habits and exercise regimen need to work together to manage your weight properly, maintain energy, and enjoy life. Click this link to go to our no-obligation health history form. Someone will contact you via email within 24 hours.

Skipping Out on Long Term Health

Skipping Out on Long Term Health

You find doughy, achy, drug-laden bodies in cubicles, on private jets, working cash registers, taking exams...pretty much everywhere. Inferior levels of fitness and overall health have seeped into every crevice of the population and stand only to get worse. Read our take on several absolutes in fitness that you cannot afford to ignore, our classification of exercises and learn how to achieve long term health

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Meatless Monday Indulgence - Bulgur Arancini

Meatless Monday doesn't have to be a painful exercise in dull food. And full disclosure, we love meat! When consumed in small quantities, wild and small farm meats taste wonderful and sate the body! This vegetarian option, a take on an Italian delicacy, is a treat.

1 cup bulgur rice
2 cups veggie stock
3 tsp olive oil
1/3 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/3 cup fontina cheese, shredded (or just use all moz)
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 tbsp pine nuts, chopped
1 large egg
3/4 cup italian bread crumbs

Prepare bulgur rice with a dash of salt and about a tablespoon of olive oil. We used veggie stock but water will work - you just want to make sure that the rice doesn't dry out. Cool it completely.

In a small bowl combine cheese/s, parsley, and pine nuts. 

In a larger bowl, whisk egg, add the remaining tsp of olive oil, and a dash of salt. Fold in bulgur rice and 1/2 of the breadcrumbs. Feel free to do this with your hands - they are sure to get messy in a few minutes anyway.

Tip for making the balls, which are about the size of a golf ball, is for your hands to be damp. Rinse them every few balls and then place them on wax or parchment paper. 

Next, use your finger to make the ball into a cup, and spoon about a tsp of the cheese/parsley/pine nut mixture into the ball. Squeeze the tips together and reshape the ball, then roll in the remaining breadcrumbs before returning to the plate.

Refridgerate balls for at least one hour. In a deep pan (we used a heavy but small sauce pan, filled 3 inches high with canola oil, and heat until a droplet of water crackles. In small batches, deep fry each ball for about 4 minutes, until browned. Cool for 3-5 minutes but serve immediately there after.

Little White Food Lies

Little White Food Lies

Mass marketed, packaged food companies will do anything to get you to buy their products. Baked with Real Fruit is totally misleading, but they can do it because to some degree it's true. They started with real fruit, months ago when a 500-gal vat of machine picked strawberries were boiled down to mash, mixed with sweetener, and stripped of ALL nutritional value. Don't kid yourself - this is NOT FRUIT. 

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Perfecting Your Posture

No matter what your body type, age, or current physical fitness level, you can benefit from better posture! Perfect posture helps you breathe more efficiently, mitigates back problems, and forces you to tighten your questionably absent ab muscles. These slight adjustments all in turn, work to boost your metabolism and energy, and help you feel great!

1. Pretend that you are a bust! 
Have you ever seen a marble bust with a head down and rounded shoulders? Didn't think so. The sculpted bust represents someone with pride, strength and fortitude. His/her eyes look straight ahead, the ears are in line with the shoulders. They are relaxed but back. The chest is high. Pretend that your upper body is the subject of a sculpture.

2. Check yourself out in a full length mirror. 
Kids like to look at themselves in the mirror but most adults skirk away as quickly as possible. Spend a few moments really checking your body out in a full length mirror. I'll bet that you won't slouch. You will stand up tall to gaze at your image, if for no other reason than to be able to stand there longer than you normally do. Burn the image in your mind, then think about how you stand in this view a few hours later when you are in the office or the market.  

3. Sit up straight! 
Seriously, there's no excuse for curling your back when you are seated in a chair. Did you know that sitting is actually harder on your back than is standing? By sitting down, you collapse your abs as you slouch forward, and in turn shift pressure to your back, glutes, and hips. When you sit, contract your tummy muscles, keep your chin up, and make sure that you breathe. The full use of your diaphragm, the muscle that resides just underneath your lungs, helps your body operate on all cylinders...your light at the end of the tunnel.

4. Practice kegels all of the time.
Sorry boys, though I've been told that men are able to perform a kegel of sorts, women are the true beneficiaries of this wonderous postural adjustment. A kegel is an isometric contraction (squeeze) of the pelvic floor muscles. It's generally practiced by holding in the muscles that one might use to postpone urination. When you commit yourself to focusing on the pelvic floor area, you inadvertently better your posture by tilting your pelvis back, tucking in your tailbone. This postural correction helps lift the torso and prevent pressure ont the lower back.

5. Draw an invisible line down the side of your body.
The most important tip that we can remind you to honor is that you need to envision an invisible dowel line down the side of your body. It starts at the top of your head, runs down, next to your ear and over your shoulder. After this, the line passes over your hip and knee, then stops along the front of your ankle. This exercise helps you understand the proper placement of your body parts as you do any and all of the exercises above. 

Better posture ups the ante on your body's metabolic cylinders, so it's worth it for you to consider these tips in the coming days. It can also make a huge difference in your ability to enjoy your life more, something we all deserve. Enjoy!

Tummy Time

This week we've got two pieces of the hard truth. To get your body ready for the summer, you need to do two things:

1. adjust your meal plan big-time
2. focus your workouts

Adjusting your meals! 
The fat cells around your waist (in the front with men, creating the "gut" and on the sides and hips for women) are the most prone to size increase and replication. This means that if you are eating more than you burn off, particularly if what you eat is high in fat and/or empty calorie-laden, you are going to develop this belly fat. Calories that are not worked off, get converted to fat, so the first important step in eliminating the gut is to re-evaluate your diet.  Here are four challenging but results-oriented tips, and we want you to try them at least for the next week:

 - Completely rid your diet of processed foods (refined sugars, foods containing trans fats, saturated fats, large amounts of sodium & sugar).  Anything made with white flour should be eliminated, and never buy anything in a store whose package contains two or more ingredients that you cannot pronounce. Seriously, check the ingredients on any package
 - Opt for fresh root vegetables, leafy greens, fruits, legumes, lean dairy, and nuts at most meals. If you eat meat or fish, do so ONLY ONCE per day.
 - Think about how your food will look if you wear it around your waist. If you are used to eating big plates of really wonderful food but know that you overdo it (read: you need to lose weight), consider this visual imagery. Try to picture in your mind what that meal will look like ground up and looped around your waist like a belt, because that's where it's headed. Get into the detail - dripping butter, flakes of pastry sticking to your clothes, a buckle made of bones. 
 - Throw the rule of eating breakfast, lunch and dinner out the window.  Eating 5-6 mini meals, with the final two meals the smallest during the day, is one of the keys to keeping your metabolism revved throughout the day. Always eat within an hour of waking; in fact, you might target a half hour window in order to adjust your mind. Have breakfast at home, right when you wake up. At least 250 nutritious calories. That could be two hard-boiled eggs with a small salad or cup of fresh fruit. If you must do something bigger, and you'd normally opt for toast or a bagel, prepare some quinoa or barley the night before and have that with your eggs.

Focus your workouts
Start rethinking the way that you approach exercise. Plenty of men and women alike successfully hit the gym several times a week only to belly ache season after season of unsuccessful weight loss. If you truly tackle the easier of the two tips above about food, you owe it to yourself to adjust your exercise regimen.  

Follow these three:
1. Exercise in the morning, five days per week. And if you need to lose more than 20 pounds, plan to exercise again in the evening 2 or 3 times. No two workouts should be the same, and do strength training and core work before any cardio.  High intensity intervals with active recovery are an excellent way to approach all of your sessions. The team at inSHAPE specializes in this type of workout, and we would be happy to consult with you if you have any specific needs, so please let us know how we can help.

2. Engage the core by pretending that you have a marble in your belly button that you don't want to fall out. As you draw in your naval, you lift up, which in turn lifts your rib cage. You also want to and intensely on the contraction of the muscles at work. Don't just move - move with purpose. All functional exercise uses, therefore, works, the core. Focus on control through your movements, and every single exercise that you do will help build strength and tone in the abs and back.

3.The best way to remember correct breathing during weight or resistance training is to EXHALE on EFFORT. Exhaling at the sticking point, or peak of each exercise is the correct breathing technique and if performed effectively can help your muscles perform at their optimal level.

Exhale when pushing, pulling and pressing. When you do a push up, inhale deeply as you bend your elbows and lower your body towards the ground. Exhale as you push away from the ground and bring your body back to the start position. When you are pulling or rowing, exhale when the weight comes toward you and inhale as you return to start. Finally, when you press (like a shoulder press), exhale when the weight is pushed away from your body and inhale as you bring it back towards you. Remembering this will make your workouts more efficient.

By addressing both your diet and your workout patterns, you could start to see results in about a week, just in time for the summer. Memorial Day will be here whether you are ready or not, so get started tomorrow.

Know Your Resting Metabolic Rate!

We aren't proponents of dieting, and we absolutely hate the idea of restricting your diet, but some realities are hard to ignore. If you are overweight, you are at risk of countless lifestyle conditions which limit your enjoyment, restrict your movement, and alter your potential for old age. Each added pound also adds 3-4 extra pounds of pressure onto your joints so you owe it to yourself to SPRING FORWARD with a plan to get into the best shape of your life. 

Knowing your estimated RMR, the number of calories that your body needs in order to keep your body working properly (i.e. keep your heart beating, and your brain functioning), is a great way to map out your journey. To determine your RMR, use the Harris Benedict formula. This formula is based on your height, weight and age, and can give you an estimate of the minimum amount of calories you should consume in a day. The formula differs for men and women, because as we know, the metabolic rates of men and women differ. Remember this formula tells you how many calories you need if you were laying in bed all day, and does not include your regular activities of daily life, or any additional exercise. You will need additional calories to support those activities.

Harris Benedict formula:
Women's RMR =
655 + (4.35 x weight in lbs.) + (4.7 x height in in.) - (4.7 x age in yrs.)
Men's RMR =
66 + (6.23 x weight in lbs.) + (12.7 x height in in.) - (6.8 x age in yrs.)

Say you calculate you use this formula and get a the number 1500.  This means you need 1500 calories in order to maintain your current weight, without any additional activities. As most of us don't just lay in bed all day it is important to remember to add additional calories in order to provide energy for extra activities. For example if you run 2 miles in the morning you should add about another 200 calories to your RMR.  If you walk a mile to the train station for work you should add about 100 calories.  

It is important to feed your body the correct number of calories in order to maintain a healthy weight, and knowing your RMR helps you do that within logical reason. This formula is a general estimate - it doesn't take into account body composition, so if you want an exact number, let us know.  inSHAPE can perform a BodyGem RMR analysis that will provide and even more accurate calculation of your exact RMR.

For most people, the estimate is more than enough information to understand whether you generally consume the number of calories that your body needs and realistically burns on a regular basis. OR - whether your equation is significantly off balance. 

Increasing Your Metabolic Rate
The first step is really understanding what your overall needs are, and that's what we've given you above. If you know how much food is needed to keep your body running without moving, you'll know how much you need to move.

That said, you can also do a few other things to rev up the engines:
1. Eat within an hour of waking up. NOT just a bagel or a scone. Eat a fresh fruit. Include a protein. Make it substantive so that you can get through most of the morning.
2. Don't stuff yourself. Ever. When you overeat, your stomach stretches, your hormone levels get all out of whack, and your metabolism will suffer.
3. Crazy thought: move more! Exercise is a must to keep your body operating on all cylinders. Even when you devote just 10 minutes to it.
4. Be a real food disciple! Packaged health foods, tons of processed carbs, and an overabundance of candies and other sweets, are powerful agents of your metabolic slowdown. Food that grows in the ground, spices, whole grains, and natural probiotics are ambassadors of high metabolism. Learn this stuff. Your body deserves the best, and you can eat well on any budget.

Interaction with Gravity

Gravity is the naturally occurring attraction between physical entities, most commonly used to refer to the weight an object has to a surface. In regular life, you probably don't think much about gravity, but we'd like to introduce you to the concept of "interacting with gravity" as a functional priority of your exercise regimen. 

Coach Kim was recently introduced to a book written by the former Director of Life Sciences at NASA, who worked with astronauts on the effects space life had on the body and mind. Now a well-known phenomenon, anti-gravity conditions wreak major havoc on astronauts' bodies.  Muscles, bones, and other tissues deteriorate rapidly in space, and Dr. Joan Vernikos, now believes that sedentary humans create what she calls a "quasi micro-gravity" condition here on Earth. 

Even people who exercise regularly for the recommended thirty minutes 3-5 times per week live in this altered condition if they sit for most of the rest of the day. Regular, frequent interaction with gravity, she believes, is one of the single most important ways that a person can sustain long-term health. The bottom line is that you need to interrupt your seated position every 10-20 minutes during waking hours. You don't need to stand up and move around for long - even standing up then sitting right back down makes a difference. 

Easy ways that you can interact with Gravity:
     1. Men: stand up when a woman enters the room!
     2. Stand up to take a phone call.
     3. Get up when a commercial comes on. Stream your programming? Pretend that there are commercials.
     4. Play with your kids on the that you have to get up for all of the other things going on in your home.
     5. Incorporate gravitational interaction exercises in your daily regimen. 

This last one is our favorite of course! Interacting with gravity is one of inSHAPE's eight functional fitness priorities, and this week, we offer you the Burpeeta in our Master the Motion series as a great total body effort that definitely interacts with gravity. Other moves include squats, of which there are countless varieties. And taking stairs is another tried and true way to say hello to gravity everyday. 

The Polar Vortex is Back - watch out for S.A.D!

The winter of 2014 is one for the record books, we don't need to tell you that. You are living it again this week. As the month of February ends and March begins, we may all have high hopes that in a few short weeks, Spring will be sprung, S.A.D. continues to fester. 

What's S.A.D? Seasonal Affective Disorder is a temporary depressive condition brought on by shorter daylight hours, more time spent indoors, and changes in other behaviors (like eating more) during the winter months. We are all suffering from it to some degree. Kids are cranky, and we adults? Well we pretty much run the gambit of sleeping poorly, eating terribly, exhibiting short tempers, and worrying about everything. 

Coping skills are mandatory, and one of the best ways you can mitigate the affects is to exercise regularly, as in at least five times per week. That doesn't mean that you have to spend an hour at the crack of dawn with your trainer or in a structured class! Two-three of these intense sessions should anchor each week and should push you to your limits.

On other days, however, do a little something as soon as you wake up. Five or ten minutes of body weight moves, a few stretches, and a giant glass of water will boost your metabolism and your energy. Sure, it is always easier said than done, but give it a try. Tomorrow morning is Saturday. You have fewer commitments. You don't even need to put on your gym clothes - just march into the living room and start moving.

And if you need programming ideas, please let us know. You can also click on to, our customized workout module, which is in beta-test and completely free of charge until the end of March. 

One other tip: get outside for some fresh air each day. Even when the temperature dips way down. Your lungs literally need this fresh air! Bundle up and take a walk for ten minutes. The sunshine gives you a Vitamin D boost, and your energy will perk up immediately. For more information on S.A.D., click here to read an article from the Mayo Clinic.