By Coach Meredith
As always, our safety should take priority in anything we do. This week I’d like to give you a few tips on staying safe and avoiding injuries.
If you’re an active individual, injuries are bound to happen every once in a while. We often prolong or worsen our injury by not resting long enough to allow our body to heal itself. However, there are ways to treat and avoid injury without disrupting our routines. Here are a few tips:
Apply ice & relieve pain. The two most portable injury healers are ice packs and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers. Applying ice and taking an anti-inflammatory will reduce swelling and pain quickly and effortlessly.
Avoid dehydration. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to speed up recovery. Dehydration can also cause injuries by increasing strain to dry muscle mass, so be sure to drink up each hour, as a preventive measure!
Eat plenty of protein. Proteins help your muscles rebuild after an injury or challenging workout. Consume eggs, lean meats, beans, or green veggies to get the right amount of protein!
Stretch often. Take a break once an hour while at work to stretch sore muscles. Simply standing up and sitting down is a great way to massage the body—but you can even stretch your neck and wrists while completing your to-do list. Also make sure to stretch and mobilize before and after class, as this will help to keep muscles limber and allow for proper range of motion.
By Coach Meredith
I’ve had a few people asking about the reason why we aim to complete at least 10,000 steps per day. Let’s take a moment to discuss the origin and clarify the reasons behind the 10k step movement. Should we be aiming for 10,000 steps or is there more to it?
The 10,000 number originally appeared in the 1960s when a Japanese company started selling pedometers called manpo-kei, which literally translates to "10,000-step meter." Health studies later on confirmed that people who take 10,000 steps have lower blood pressure, more stable glucose levels and better moods. Therefore, the number stuck as the standard number of steps an individual should aim for each day in order to benefit their health.
More recently, some researchers have suggested 15,000 steps might be even better. A snapshot study of Scottish postal workers found that individuals who walked an average of 15,000 steps per day had normal waistlines, healthy cholesterol levels, and a lower risk of heart disease.
Let it be known, most national and international health authorities don't have a daily step count recommendation. For example, in Canada it's recommended that adults get 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity per week, with no mention of a specific number of steps.
Setting a daily step count recommendation can be both beneficial and problematic for three reasons:
The first is that intensity matters.
-Taking 10,000 slow, meandering steps isn't the same as taking 10,000 quick ones. Recent research on HIIT training suggests that sprinting in short bursts (even as little as 60 seconds) may have similar benefits to walking for an extended period of time.
The second is that step counting is too narrow.
-It fails to account for movement that's not easily quantified in steps. For instance, an hour of yoga or weight training won't be accurately reflected in a step measure.
Despite advances in fitness tracker technology, many still fail to accurately capture non-step movements, like cycling and swimming. A person could be lifting weights and spinning for 150 minutes each week, be reaping all the benefits of physical activity, and never hit 10,000 steps.
The third is that when it comes to steps, more IS more.
-There's nothing magical about 10,000 or 15,000, or any other big number. Studies have confirmed that these numbers are associated with health benefits not because they signify reaching some amazing threshold, but because they're a lot of steps.
Research has unanimously concluded that the more movement you can do in a day, the better. Taking more steps means you're spending less time sitting, which is always a good thing. It also hopefully means you're taking more frequent breaks, which is also a good thing.
Your daily step target shouldn't come from a study of postal workers or a Japanese pedometer maker. Because more is always better, the right amount is whatever number encourages you to take the most.
FINDING THE RIGHT AMOUNT
For many, 10,000 is a reasonable target because it's ambitious but attainable.
However, depending on your lifestyle, 10,000 may seem discouragingly high. If you struggle to reach even 5,000, set a lower goal to start and then work your way up. Or, if you're a Scottish postal worker, 10,000 may seem too easy and you should set your sights higher.
To find the right goal for yourself, the first thing you need to do is establish a baseline. On an average day, how many steps do you typically take?
Track your steps for a week or two and see what you average. Then set a goal that is ambitious but that with a little additional effort, you can reach. In an ideal world, your goal should provide the nudge you need to sneak in more activity. You want to look down at your tracker at dinner time and think "If I just go for a half hour walk before bed, I could reach my goal."
Once you start reaching your goal every day, you can work on setting it higher. If you can easily get in 10,000 steps a day, bump it to 11,000 or 12,000. Try 15,000 if you really want to. As long as you're pushing yourself to walk more every day, and at a brisk pace, you can be sure you're doing your mind and body some good.
THE BROADER POINT
More generally, counting steps, however many, will never alone be a good measure of physical activity. No number of slow steps can replace the benefits of heart-pumping activity. Strength training is important for your muscles and bones, even if it doesn't help you hit 10,000 steps.
We should resist the urge to latch onto the big, trendy number and instead aim to lead an active life filled with a variety of activities. We should set a personal goal and work toward it.
And we should also remember that all steps are not created equal. If you're intent on taking 10,000 a day, make sure at least a few are the fast, heart-pumping kind that leave you sweaty and winded.
By Coach Meredith
How can we increase movement throughout the day if we have a standard 9-5 desk job? My answer to you is: there are A LOT of ways to increase activity even if you have to remain at your desk for the majority of the day. Here I will go over just a few ways to focus on core strength and increase physical activity throughout the day.
Even with standing desks, parking at the furthest end of the parking lot, walking to meetings and trying to walk at lunch, most people STILL spend the majority of their workdays sitting. Booooo!
Fortunately, there is a way to sneak strengthening exercises into your daily routine, even if your day is packed with meetings. One trick is using isometrics. These are moves that use contraction and relaxation to engage muscles.
HOW ISOMETRIC EXERCISES WORK
On a basic level, muscles contract in three main ways. Concentric contraction happens when a muscle tenses, which means you’re shortening it. Eccentric contraction occurs when that muscle tension is prompted through lengthening, such as resistance or lowering a weight.
For example, with a bicep curl, you have concentric contraction as you bring the weight toward you, and eccentric contraction as you lower the weight.
With isometric contraction, muscles tighten without changing length, and there is no movement in a joint. Examples include pushing against an immoveable object like a wall or holding plank. You remain in one position without movement, but are still doing plenty of work.
Isometrics are also called “static strength training.” These exercises can be so effective they bring muscles to fatigue quickly and the effects last long after they’re done.
Try some of these isometric exercises throughout your workday. Although they seem like modest moves, they can help to keep your muscles working:
Clasp your hands or press your palms together in front of your chest, elbows bent, exerting equal pressure in both arms. Hold each press for 10 seconds, then release. Repeat 5–6 times. This will work your biceps, chest and triceps — maybe while you’re reading emails.
Sit up straight in your chair, with shoulders relaxed. Breathe deeply and engage your abs as if you’re bracing for a punch. Hold for 5 seconds, then breathe out while “crunching” your abs upward as if you’re doing a sit-up. Exhale completely, take a few breaths, then repeat. This can be a great exercise during long meetings, since the action is subtle and no one will know you’re doing a major ab workout while you’re taking notes.
Strong glutes help to protect your back, especially when you’re chair-bound for most of the day. A simple isometric exercise is to squeeze your glutes and hold the contraction for 10 seconds, then release.
To get some movement in your shoulders and engage your core, stand about 3 feet from a wall and place your palms against it at shoulder height and width apart. Press firmly against the wall for 10 seconds, then release. You can also make this into a push-up by lowering your torso toward the wall and pressing back up.
The main benefit you’ll see with isometric holds is stabilization of the muscles. Isometric exercises are done in a static position which means they won’t help improve speed or athletic performance, however they can help maintain muscle strength.
Isometric movements are often used in physical therapy to rehab injured muscles, so if you’re trying to bounce back after injury or other issues, putting some isometric exercises into your everyday schedule can also be useful.
There is also another advantage to performing these movements, especially for work: Isometric exercises can help lower blood pressure. That means you can de-stress and fit in some workout moves at the same time.
You should try incorporating a few exercises per day, and do them at about 30% of your max effort. From there, you can start to build more into your workdays and increase intensity over time.
Like I mentioned, this is just one way to increase your physical activity with a desk job. There are also bodyweight movements and other exercises you can perform to improve your strength while on the job.
By Coach Meredith
It’s that time of year where the spotlight is on that beach bod. Some of you may have already started months ago working towards your new summer body goal, whereas some may be getting frustrated with where they’re currently at and want to make a change ASAP. When setting weight goals, it’s easy to pick a number that seems as low as possible, or at least lower than you are now, or to illogically choose a time in your personal history when your weight seemed just right. Maybe that was high school, pre-baby or just a few months ago.
Some may choose to go with a standardized number, like the “normal” range of your body mass index (BMI), or even compare yourself to some of the fitter people on your social media feed who seem to be around your height, age, and build.
The fact is: Choosing an ideal number for your weight isn’t easy. This is because age and gender play a role as well. Body weight does have a relation to optimal health and can be useful for preventing health risks that come along with being overweight or obese, however that number isn’t the “end all be all.”
Let’s talk a bit about the problem with using a BMI (Body Mass Index):
Although it’s common for physicians, insurance companies, some schools and even the Centers for Disease Control to use BMI for measurement, there are plenty of issues when it comes to using that for gauging weight.
First off, those with more muscle mass are automatically heavier and will be put into a higher BMI. So technically speaking if we are using the BMI scale, the fittest, most ripped person you know will be considered obese (For example: Rich Froning, Katrin Davidsdottir = obese). Even with those who are “normal weight,” the BMI doesn’t allow for insight into muscle versus fat.
Adding to the difficulty of using BMI, there have been several different formulas in the last 50 years for determining “ideal weight.” Even within the BMI, the range of recommended weight can be wide, four formulas in particular — Hamwi, Devine, Miller and Robinson — each come with their own set of criteria, and while the results may be similar, there are still variations.
For example, a 30-year-old woman who is 5-foot-4 would be considered within a healthy range if she weighed between 107–145 pounds. Using the most recent formula, the Robinson formula would put her ideal weight at 123. But a woman who has solid muscle mass may weigh more than the “ideal weight.” So does that mean she needs to risk losing that muscle just to reach a lower number? That seems ridiculous. The BMI gives a very imprecise estimate of a person’s activity level, which is recognized as contributing to successful aging and greater health.
What’s a better way to measure?
You can track body fat percentage, waist-to-hip ratio and other measurements, OR you could simply ditch the numbers altogether. Step away from the scale, set a goal, write it down and work toward it. When I say set a goal here, I mean set a more tangible goal like having your clothes fit better or be able to run a 5k within a certain time. Fitness related goals usually create the body composition changes you want without the reliance on weight.
Don’t get me wrong, the scale is a great tool to measure progress, but it is not the only one AND your weight needs to come into context with other aspects of your lifestyle—Nutrition, physical activity, sleep and stress ALL come into play here.
If you’d like a more accurate measure of your health, you can set up a time with Coach Meredith to get measurements.
By Coach Meredith
I hope you all have been enjoying your summer so far. Can you believe it’s already July?! Let’s start off this month by talking about getting your whole family active. Summer months are the most active for Ohioans and you and your family should definitely be taking advantage of it!
Active parents raise active children. It’s a fact. Research shows that children will take after their parents and have similar physical activity levels. So, as you find the balance between work, family, and extracurricular activities, be mindful that your children will follow in your footsteps, literally. Fitness should always be a priority in a family’s daily schedule.
It is recommended by the American Heart Association that from the age of 2 and above, you should participate in an hour of moderate to vigorous activity every day. Children who meet this goal will find it easier to maintain a healthy weight as they work to prevent heart disease, cancer, stroke, and other metabolic diseases.
One hour each day might sound like a large chunk of time, but there are several different ways to incorporate physical activity into your family’s routine little by little.
Here are some ideas:
There you have it, some top tips for increasing your family’s activity level.
By Coach Meredith
We are half way through May and summer is right around the corner! Last week I discussed ways to bring your indoor workouts into the outdoors. As The Bar Athletics is concerned with our overall health and wellness, this week I would like to discuss the prevalence of ticks and how to take precautionary measures while still being able to enjoy the outdoors.
There is a new, and potentially fatal, tick-borne illness called Powassan, that we all should be aware of. Researchers are saying this summer looks like it might be one of the worst on record for an increase in the tick population.
Ticks are most active during the spring, summer, and early fall months. Approximately 75 cases of Powassan disease have been reported in the United States over the past 10 years. According to the CDC, most cases have occurred in the Northeast and Great Lakes region. That’s a big red flag for us Northeast Ohioans!
So what is Powassan?
Powassan is a virus that can be transmitted through a tick bite. Signs and symptoms can include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures and memory loss. Long-term neurological damage may also occur.
There's currently no specific treatment or prevention for the disease. People with severe Powassan often need to be hospitalized to receive respiratory support, intravenous fluids or medications to reduce swelling in the brain. Fatality rate is approximately 10% if inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) occurs.
Because of the milder winter in the Northeast, a dramatic increase in the tick population is expected.
Ticks carry a host of several diseases. They carry bacterial diseases such as Lyme, viral illnesses like Powassan and parasitic diseases like babesiosis.
Since the late 1990s, the number of reported cases of Lyme disease in the United States has tripled, and the number of counties in the Northeast and upper Midwest that are considered high-risk for Lyme disease has increased by more than 300 percent. According to the CDC in 2015, about 30,000 cases of Lyme disease were reported in Americans, but the number was likely much higher.
To protect yourself from a tick-borne infection, the CDC recommends:
It is important, we as Northeast Ohioans, take these precautionary measures to ensure we have a safe and enjoyable time outdoors this year!
By Coach Meredith
I’ve had some people asking me about the best ways to go about ‘Meal Prepping.’ There are more than these options to go about it, however I find that most people are able to stick with these 3 food prep schedules:
1. Sunday Service
You don’t have to do this on Sunday, of course. You can choose any day you like, but pick 1 day during your week that works best for you.
I say Sunday because it is often a time when people are more free, more relaxed, and more able to devote time to this type of task. It is also a time when we’re usually thinking ahead to the upcoming week.
Whatever day you choose, set aside 2-3 hours once a week to do the following:
Meal prepping in advance helps to give yourself a little extra buffer zone. You never know what unexpected challenge might strike at 6pm on Wednesday, and when it does, you’ll be glad you stocked away an extra meal in the freezer.
You can combine what you do on Sunday with a Daily habit — for example, by preparing the labor-intensive staples such as lean protein on Sunday, and then adding some quick-prep items, such as fruit and veggies, every day.
It often takes about as much time to prepare a few items as it does to prepare one.
For example, it’s nearly as fast to chop 3 carrots as it is to chop 1, or to scramble 6 eggs instead of 2. During the Daily Ritual, you can prep a few extra items to have on hand for later in the day, or the following day.
Another option for the Daily routine is the Morning routine – this is where you use some of the time-saving strategies to whip up a healthy breakfast or lunch:
Or try a Dinner routine where you simply make extra portions and save the rest for tomorrow.
Again, it doesn’t take much more time to prepare a few extra things, so cook in bulk where possible.
3. Healthy meals made for you
I briefly touched on this in a previous blog, however it is another great option to eat healthy. Many grocery stores now offer a wide range of grab-and-go meals. This includes salad bars, pre-washed and cut vegetables, and individually-portioned lean protein. There are also many specialty food store chains that offer healthy food takeout and delivery.
There are also options for a healthy meal delivery service, if only for one or two meals a week. Some of these include Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Paleo To Me (which delivers to our gym!). If you don’t enjoy cooking, or are extremely busy, you may find that having a break from the time and hassle of meal prep is worth the money. It might just mean the difference between a delicious, nourishing, physique-friendly lunchtime salad and another regrettable fast-food run.
The goal here is: Do what works best for you, your life, and your goals.
You can mix and match all of these food-prep options, in any way that works for you. Anticipate, plan, strategize.—This is the key to mastering your nutrition.
By Coach Meredith
Spring has sprung and I hope you all have been able to get out and enjoy some outdoor activities. This week I’d like to give you a few tips for your wellness journey. Whether you’re just starting on weight loss, finding yourself in the middle of the struggle, or working on maintenance, here are some tips to keep you on track:
1. BEGIN NOW AND BEGIN SMALL
So you’ve gained some weight. Of course this isn’t ideal, however it isn’t the end of the world. You must keep moving forward. It all starts with you. Stop saying “tomorrow will be the day.” Once you start you are that much closer to your goal.
The toughest part is showing up. There are days I don’t want to work out, but I know how much better I will feel once I do. All I have to do is step foot in the gym (or if you’re a runner, maybe it’s on your favorite trail) and that right there is enough. I showed up, therefore I HAVE to do something or else it was a waste of my time and I know if I don’t I will still feel crappy. Once you get moving, the endorphins start flowing telling your body it’s happy to be moving, even if it’s just for a small amount of time.
This same philosophy can be applied to food and goal setting. Instead of focusing on the 50 pounds you want to lose, put your energy towards the five pounds you can realistically lose in a month.
The best part is, if you’ve fallen off the wagon completely, taking a few small steps typically results in changes pretty quickly.
2. DON’T TAKE A GUILT TRIP
It is very easy to feel ashamed, guilty, and embarrassed if you’ve gained or regained weight. Weight gain is natural throughout different periods of our lives. The important thing is that we must shift our focus from the past and set some goals or actions you can take to move forward.
Do not beat yourself up over having that ice cream last night, instead focus on what you will do tonight to change that negative habit. Is there a healthier option to satisfy that craving? Most likely. Having a piece of fruit for those sugar cravings is always a better option or something with a little protein like Greek yogurt or a handful of nuts will rid you of that nighttime hunger.
Make attainable goals and celebrate yourself when you’ve hit them. Reward yourself with non-food items such as a night out seeing that movie you’ve been wanting to see or maybe it’s a trip to the mall for the gadget you’ve been eyeing up.
Remember to strive for progress, not perfection.
3. SEEK HELP
Find someone to help hold you accountable. This could be your coach, wellness coach, registered dietitian, doctor or therapist. Depending on your situation, it can also help to sit down with a professional to discuss why you may have gained the weight in the first place and what steps you should be taking to make a change that sticks.
Coach Meredith is a Wellness Coach with a degree in Nutrition. She offers meal planning and nutrition assistance. If you have any questions please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
If you have preexisting medical conditions, are trying to lose more than 100 pounds or have a BMI of 40 or greater, we always recommend consulting a doctor first. This ensures you are embarking on the plan that is best for your health.
4. MEAL PLAN
It’s always helpful to plan out your meals and prep ahead of time. This helps to prevent you from falling back into old bad habits. Cooking at home saves time and money. Personally, I take 1-2 trips to the grocery store during the week, one is a big trip and the second is to pick up a few produce items that won’t last all week. I use my Sundays as meal prep days, washing, chopping, and cooking everything in big batches and dividing it up for the week. I try to incorporate as many veggies as possible into every meal (yes, even breakfast). If your schedule isn’t conducive to meal planning and getting groceries in advance, try a meal delivery service. There are plenty of services out there now that provide healthy meals when you’re too busy to think about it. Some examples are Paleo To Me (Which delivers right to The Bar!), Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, the list could go on and on.
5. FRIENDSHIPS ARE THE BEST SHIPS
Talk about it. Tell your family and friends you are working on your weight-loss goals. They may want to join you and even do a challenge together or join and exercise class. Your family and friends can also create an environment that’s more conducive to your goals by keeping junk food out of sight or by not bringing unhealthy food around in the first place. Sometimes it also just helps to have someone to vent to throughout the process.
Lastly, I want to mention -- do not let a number have power over you. As you exercise and strength train, you will be gaining lean muscle mass. Muscle weights more than fat. Period. The more lean muscle mass you have the easier it is for your body to burn calories. It may weigh more, but it is functioning more efficiently then it would if it were fat. Weight will always fluctuate. There are too many variables to remain 100% consistent every day.
The conclusion is-- Weight gain happens and weight loss is hard work. Don’t give up or feel defeated if you are struggling: You’ve got this and you are not alone.
I hope you all have a great week and a Happy, healthy Easter!
By Coach Meredith
First off-- Happy First Day of Spring!
Here’s to hoping that Groundhog over there in Pennsylvania was wrong and our Spring stays Spring! Today I’d like to touch base on ‘Resiliency.’
We all face challenges and difficult situations in our lives which tend to cause a significant amount of added stress. This in turn affects both our mental and physical well-being. Unfortunately we cannot go through life without experiencing stress and pain. Resilience is the ability to withstand those stressors and to be able to adapt to them in quick, healthful ways.
Resiliency is not something we are born with, it is something we learn over time. All of life’s experiences help us to grow and learn as individuals. The key is to take what you’ve learned and continue to grow in a positive, productive manner.
Resilience means seeking support. Identify those people in your life who are a positive influence and reflect the same morals and values you appreciate. Keep these relationships close and push the “Negative Nancy’s” to the side. Build your own support army. The more positive, supportive people you have on your side, the easier it will be to withstand difficult times.
Two last points I’d like to touch on are: Put your health first and make each day count.
Resiliency is also taking the time necessary for your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Take time each day to do something you enjoy. That could be reading a book, listening to your favorite music, cleaning, or exercising (my personal favorite! – Get those endorphins flowing!). Do your best to focus on eating healthily and making sure you get plenty of rest. We only have one life people! – Make sure you are taking care of yourself enough to actually live it and ENJOY it. (The key here is LIVING and ENJOYING)
Lastly, MAKE EACH DAY COUNT. – Each day set a small, attainable goal for yourself. This doesn’t have to be anything crazy. It could be- ‘Ok, I haven’t been so good about eating breakfast in the past, so today I will make sure I have something to eat for breakfast.’ Small, simple goals that make your day and life better. This way at the end of your day you can feel a sense of purpose and achievement from completing your goal. This helps to build positivity and reinforce good habits.
Practice positivity in any and all areas of your life. Instead of being afraid of your problems or ignoring them (which most of us tend to do because we don’t want to deal with the difficulty of them), figure out what you need to do (seek out help if you need to), make a plan, and get after it!
I hope this helps to open your mind to living a more positive life and you are able to begin working on building your resiliency. Stress is a natural thing, but anything in life is all how we react to it and we as individuals have complete control over our actions and reactions.
Need help on setting some daily goals or more tips on how to deal with those added stressors in our lives? – Please feel free to reach out. I’m happy to help!
Provided by Coach Meredith
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