How to Stay Healthy as a New Parent

Being a new Parent while Staying Healthy

Priorities shift in a major way the day you become a new parent. Regular sleeping, eating, and workout habits tend to fly out the window to work around the newborn’s schedule. This can last for weeks or even months while the baby and new parent acclimate to each other’s routines.

However, it doesn’t mean that all healthy habits have to be derailed completely. Now more than ever is an important time for you, as a parent, to maintain a strong immune system and dedicated wellness plan.

Fuel Yourself with Good Food

Being a new parent can seem hectic to say the least, but there are ways to stay healthy amidst the chaos. Healthy eating choices are best done when prepared in advance. Chopping up fruit, portioning out almonds, or having yogurt on hand to quickly grab for a snack is better than reaching for whatever food is nearby in a pinch.

When the baby naps or plays nearby, prepare a few make-ahead meals to store in the freezer or prepare for the week ahead. Salads, sandwiches, and a quick mix of rice and veggies are healthy options that don’t require a lot of time. Maintaining these healthy habits will make it easier to pass along to your little one as well.

Plan Daily Exercise

There are days when exercise might be the last thing on your mind with all you have to juggle, but you can always sneak in shorter bursts of exercise, if you can’t yet commit to a consecutive 30 minutes or longer.

Go for a morning walk with your baby in the stroller. Do an exercise video at home. Or, request a family member or friend to stay with the baby for an hour, so you can hit the gym for a workout.

Keeping active during the day will also help with staying healthy, but make sure you have planned time for yourself to lift weights, take a class, or spend time on the treadmill.

Decompress and De-Stress

As soon as you wake up, your mind and body may go into autopilot, moving quickly from one task to another. This hectic pace can eventually catch up with you causing stress.

Take a few minutes at the end of the day to meditate, read a few chapters of a book, or catch up on a guilty pleasure tv show to give your mind and body a chance to de-stress. Every so often schedule some “me” time to get a massage, unplug from any electronics, and take a “timeout” to relax and recharge. This will put you in a better state of mind to be a better parent for your child. New parents definitely need all the rest they can get!

Life with a newborn can seem overwhelming in the beginning. It’s uncharted territory to navigate, but the journey is well worth it. It’s important to take care of yourself as much as possible to ensure you have the physical and mental energy to be the kind of parent you wish to be. Staying healthy is good not only for you, but for your whole family as well.

How to Navigate a Grocery Store While Eating Healthy

Navigate a Grocery Store While Healthy

Eating healthy is a lifestyle and may require a few attempts before it becomes a habit, but it’s definitely easier when you know how to approach it. It’s all too easy to derail from healthy eating due to the “convenience” of fast food or the temptation of packaged treats or sugary drinks. In order to dodge unhealthy bullets when doing your weekly grocery shopping, make sure you’re following these helpful tips.

Map It Out

Did you know grocery stores are set up so the “good” stuff is on the outer edges and the frozen food or snack section is usually more geared towards the middle? Next time you visit your local grocery store, notice how the fruits and veggies, eggs and yogurt all line the outside perimeter. These whole foods are what you want to incorporate into your diet over frozen dinners, cookies, and sweets.

If your plan is to eat healthy, it’s better to beeline for the outer areas first to get the healthiest, freshest foods, which don’t include preservatives, added fats, or high sodium content. You’ll know what’s going into the meals you’re making when you start with fresh ingredients. This helps you control your fat and salt intake firsthand.

By taking advantage of shopping for foods without refined sugars or preservatives, you are eating clean, a win for your digestive system and overall health.

Stick to the Plan

In addition to how you navigate the grocery store, it’s also a good idea to go prepared. By pre-planning your meals and writing out exactly the items you need, you’re less likely to unnecessarily splurge or succumb to the impulse food purchase.

Without a list, your intention may be to pick up a few salad ingredients for the week, but you may leave with frozen pizzas because they were “easier.” Exercise is only part of an effective fitness plan. Diet is equally important and requires equal attention.

Pack a Snack

Never navigate the grocery store hungry. Not only will it be easier to graze the free samples, but it will make everything seem like a good purchase whether you even like that food or not.

If you go around mealtime, a candy bar, bag of chips, or other easy-to-grab item is all too tempting while you shop. Make sure to pack a light snack in your bag. Either a handful of almonds or an apple should hold you over until you can sit down to a real meal. Also, it’s a good idea to always carry a bottle of water because hunger is often mistaken for being thirsty.

Treat Yourself

For the days you want an ice cream bar or a piece of pie, plan for those, too. Eating healthy means maintaining a good balance to keep yourself on track. While it’s not recommended to stock up on junk food on every trip, once every now and then, you may need a treat.

Meal planning sets you up for success when you want to eat healthy. Plus, it’s easier to decline temptation when you have a goal in mind. With the right game plan, convenience doesn’t have to be costly to your health or your wallet. It’s just as easy to pick up a bag of oranges as it is a bag of chips.

With a little preparation, time in the grocery store doesn’t have to be more than 15 or 20 minutes to shop for the week of meals and snacks. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be a chore. When you get the best of what’s in season, you’ll realize just how many options you have and how flavorful food can be without added fats or salt.

How to Get Fit While Playing Pokemon Go

Staying fit while playing Pokemon

Pokémon Go is more than a mobile game; it’s become quite the sensation! With more than 7 million downloads of the game already, it’s safe to say it’s not likely to go anywhere anytime soon. When we think of video games, it usually involves sitting for hours in front of a screen with little to no movement or activity.

The opposite is true with Pokémon Go, since the more you move, the better your chances are in getting to the next level. Its engagement has led to official meetups and informal gatherings of people banding together on the hunt for Pokémon. There has been a gamification to exercise which are keeping people entertained and in shape.

Automatic Exercise Incentives Built Into the Game

The goal of the game is to track down all the Pokémon available, which are scattered throughout the city in different locations. Yelp has even joined the Pokémon craze by adding PokéStops to reviews so users know if they’ll be able to catch one next time they’re dining out, going to get a haircut, or hitting the gym.

What does this all mean for fitness? One of the best types of exercise for people of all ages and fitness levels is walking. In order to track down as many Pokémon as possible, you’ve got to get moving. In the same way step trackers like Fitbit made walking a competitive goal to see who can get to 10,000 steps fastest, Pokémon encourages people to explore the city by getting out and walking.

Pokémon Go has a feature called Lucky Egg, which is when the player earns double Experience Points (XP) for free rather than making an in-app purchase. To gain the coveted XPs, players must incubate and hatch Pokémon Eggs. How do they achieve this? By walking anywhere from 1.2 to 6.2 miles, whatever is required, to hatch the egg. One such egg hunt will easily get in your daily recommended steps and exercise.

Plan a Day with Pokémon Go and Get Fit

Planning a day for playing Pokémon? Here are a few ways to get in a good workout at the same time:

Take the stairs. In areas where you’re tracking down Pokémon, take the longer route to get there or opt for stairs, instead of the elevator or flatter areas. You’ll still get to your destination, while also giving your quads a workout and getting your heart pumping a little more.

Bring your dog along. When you bring your pet along, you and your dog get the daily exercise you need. Your pup will be happy and so will you. A winning situation all the way around.

Dress accordingly. Wear comfortable shoes and loose-fit clothing to stay outdoors longer and enjoy the sunshine, fresh air, and feeling of triumph as you track down more Pokémon.

Pack snacks. Rather than stopping at the closest convenience store to fuel up, make sure you pack a few healthy snacks or bottled water to stay hydrated and healthy while out and about.

Think about life before Pokémon Go and how much you fit in exercise to your daily routine. The gaming sensation has created a way to burn calories while still having fun. Even if you’ve kept with a regular exercise program before Pokémon resurfaced, it’s still a great way to shake things up and keep yourself from getting into a workout rut.

Important Stretches to do Before Every Workout

Why do we stretch?

Not only does it help reduce the risk of injuries and increase blood flow to the muscles, it can improve flexibility and allow us to perform at a higher level. Before stretching “cold” muscles, it’s a good idea to start with a warm up. Light walking or other low-intensity exercises for five or 10 minutes can get the body going before stretching your legs, back, shoulders, and/or neck pre-workout.

There are two main categories of stretching: static and dynamic. With static stretching, the movements are slower and the positions are held for longer periods of time. Typically, this is most beneficial at the end of a workout. With dynamic stretching, the movements are repetitive and more challenging to help alleviate stiffness and loosen up the limbs before your regular workout or other fitness activity.

The American Council on Exercise considers stretching one of the five components of fitness. It lists numerous benefits of incorporating it pre- and post-workout, including improved posture and circulation, decreased risk of low back pain, and increased range of motion. There are several stretches you can do to get your workout off to a good start, but here are a few of the most common.

Quad stretch

In a standing position, grab the top of your right foot behind you and bring it closer to the buttocks while slightly pushing the hip forward. Hold for several seconds before alternating to the left foot and repeating the same movement.

Trunk stretch

In a seated position, bend and cross the right leg over the outstretched left leg. Twist the body to the right allowing the left elbow to rest on the right knee. The important thing to remember with this stretch is to sit up straight and engage the core. Hold the position for several counts before switching sides.

Bridge

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Raise your hips while keeping feet flat and the core engaged to protect the lower back. Hold the bridge for a few seconds at the top without allowing the glutes to droop. Then, slowly lower down and repeat.

Standing stretch

While standing with legs hip-width apart, clasp your hands behind you and extend the arms. Slowly bend forward from the hips until the back is parallel with the floor in a “tabletop” position and raise the arms. Repeat the motion several times.

Hamstring stretch

Either standing or seated, extend the leg you’re stretching out in front of you with a slight bend in the knee. Reach forward and grab your leg either at the shin or foot to help loosen up tight hamstrings.

Our bodies hold tension throughout the day. By stretching pre-workout, we help alleviate this stress on the muscles and joints as we get our bodies in prime fitness mode.

A complete workout starts with a warm up and ends with a cool down with stretch time buffering both ends. Take 5 or 10 minutes before every workout to incorporate a few dynamic stretching exercises and see how your body reaps the rewards.

How to Become More Flexible

The focus on flexibility often gets overshadowed by the desire for increased strength or improved endurance when it comes to our fitness routines. However, flexibility is a key part of a comprehensive workout regimen, which makes it important for us to have a better range of motion.

Flexibility helps decrease the chance of injuries, while increasing muscle strength and balance. It can also aid in improved posture, lengthened muscles for a leaner look, and in some cases, it can enhance athletic performances.

Flexibility is not only important for our workout routines. Elasticity declines as we age, so the incorporation of these types of exercises and movements are valuable for our day-to-day activities as well.

According to JustStand.org, studies have shown we sit an average of 7.7 hours a day! Sitting for such long periods of time can easily cause our muscles to tighten up and eventually cause long-term pain and discomfort. Even if we don’t always have time for the gym, there are ways to become more flexible.

Say “Yes” to Yoga or Pilates

Want a way to improve flexibility while also focusing on your mind-body connection? Incorporate yoga or Pilates into your weekly routine for a well-rounded workout that focuses on all parts of the body. Mindful breathing and holding poses for longer periods of time contribute to a stronger sense of balance and flexibility. Over time, you will see the difference in how you look and feel the difference in how you move.

Don’t Skip Stretching

Do you stretch as often as you should? Our bodies can benefit when we start and end our workouts with stretching, but too often it’s skipped. Not only does stretching help keep our bodies limber, it just feels great, too.

There are both dynamic and static stretches you can do pre- or post-workout, but also several you can perform while sitting at a desk or on the couch. The upper body often becomes strained and stiff by constant hunching or slouched posture throughout the day. One easy, go-to stretch is to lace your hands behind your head and pull back gently to release your back and shoulder muscles.

Keep Moving

Dynamic stretching, such as windmill exercises, walking lunges, or jumping jacks, are basic movements meant to keep our muscles engaged and warm up our bodies for a workout. Another way to stay active is to take a 10-minute break every few hours to walk around the block and loosen up the limbs. Finally, simply standing rather than sitting immediately improves posture and helps burn extra calories.

These are three of the many ways to achieve greater flexibility and prevent muscles and joints from becoming too stiff from lack of activity. You may notice there will be days your flexibility will be better than others, which is perfectly normal. Don’t overdo it and risk the possibility of an injury.

Find what works best for you. Listen to your body and know your limits as you strive to meet your fitness goals and keep your body in healthy shape.

7 Workout Motivation Tips

For many fitness fanatics, daily workouts are as necessary as brushing their teeth or taking a shower. It’s a healthy habit that’s become part of their everyday routine. Whether exercise gets their day off to a good start, makes them feel more energetic, or is a way to alleviate stress, they require little motivation to get in a regular workout.

However, there are those who require a bit more inspiration in order to stick with their fitness plan. If you fall into this second category, don’t worry; you’re not alone. Everyone experiences times when an extra boost is necessary to power through and stay on a healthy track.

We understand self-motivation doesn’t always come easy, so we’re delivering 7 helpful tips to keep the momentum going.

  1. Pick an empowering playlist. Music can set the mood for our workouts. Choose songs that energize you and push you to work out a few, additional minutes or go the literal extra mile. Alternatively, if you need to wind down, select relaxing tunes while you soak up your time of self-care.
  1. Set fitness goals. When you have something to aim for, it can make each workout more worthwhile. Goals can be long-term like focusing on improved health or a lifestyle change. Or, it can be more specific and short-term, such as completing a 5K or dropping a pant size or two.
  1. Create accountability. A workout partner or trainer can be a powerful “tool” to stay the course with your exercise habits. Schedule gym dates with friends or get moving outdoors with a hike or bike ride. If you have someone counting on you to make a workout happen, it can create a greater sense of urgency and commitment to follow through as planned.
  1. Get out of a rut. Too often we quit our regular workouts because we’re burned out by the treadmill or don’t like the monotony of our routine. In order to shake things up, try new classes on a rotating basis or challenge yourself with added weights or repetitions. Small changes are an easy way to add a boost of motivation and sidestep boredom.
  1. Get back on the bandwagon. Maybe it’s been a few weeks (or months) since you’ve worked out and you feel like it’s too big of a hurdle to overcome and start again. The first step is often the hardest, but you’ll soon be back in the swing of things, if you set realistic expectations. Don’t go full throttle all at once. Ease into exercise one step at a time, maybe 10 minutes to start, and build from there.
  1. Schedule it. It’s easy to fill our schedules full of activities but forget to add in a workout. By making an “appointment,” we are purposefully creating time to focus on our fitness. Even on hectic days, 15 or 20 minutes of exercise will do the trick and make you feel so much better.
  1. Update your workout wardrobe. It might not be an incentive for everyone, but a new pair of sneakers or gym outfit may be just the inspiration needed to look and feel good while at the gym. Celebrate milestones with small rewards like these to help keep your health in check and exercise a regular part of your lifestyle.

How To Fit In A Workout While You Travel

Hotel Workout

Summer is a prime time to travel, which means you may soon be jet setting or road tripping to an exciting destination ready for rest and relaxation. When our schedules get busier and we step out of our daily routines, it can be easier to start slacking on our diet and workout regimens.

Vacation doesn’t have to be an excuse to let go of our good health habits. If anything, it provides the opportunity to try different ways to work out, which helps us avoid ruts and keeps exercising fun.

Here are a few ideas to mix up your workouts, whether you’re headed to staycation in your own city or traveling to somewhere you’ve never been before.

Take Advantage of Hotel Amenities

Utilize the onsite gyms at hotels whenever possible. Most major hotel chains offer premium amenities including well-equipped gyms and heated pools. Enjoy 20 minutes of swimming laps or lace up your sneakers for the stair climber before you head out for the day. It will give you the energetic boost needed to make the most of your trip.

Additionally, many hotels now offer yoga, free class passes, bikes, kayaks, and other ways for you to fit in exercise without feeling like you’re spending your vacation in the gym.

If the idea of working out is altogether less than appealing when traveling, simply being a tourist can help burn calories. Walking city tours and hiking trails are perfect examples of interactive ways to get the heart rate going, while exploring a new city at the same time.

Bring a Workout with You

Don’t worry about a separate bag for your workout gear. Many travel-friendly workouts can be done without any equipment at all.

Pack a jump rope and sneak in 10 or 15 minutes a few times a day. It can easily be stowed away in a suitcase pocket or carry-on bag. You can use a jump rope nearly anywhere, whenever it’s convenient for you. It can get your blood pumping as you start your day or before a night out on the town.

Have a favorite Pilates or yoga DVD? Bring it with you to wind down and stretch after a long day of exploration. Better yet, use your iPad or smartphone to look up an exercise video on YouTube. Do a quick search for the muscle group you want to focus on and you’ll receive a library of results to choose from, which can be based on the amount of time and space you have.

Add Daily Activity

Your vacation may consist of little more than sipping drinks poolside. However, consider adding at least one activity a day to your schedule. This can range from snorkeling in the ocean, biking to a local cafe, or hiking a nearby summit. Take advantage of options not readily available in your hometown.

The biggest part of staying fit is maintaining healthy habits. Learn to adapt to your surroundings wherever you decide to travel and know you can squeeze in time for a workout wherever you go.

How To Choose The Right Protein Powder

Protein Powder

Not long ago there were limited choices in the kind of milk we could add to our coffee. In most cases, there was skim, 2%, and whole milk. Now we have the option of almond, soy, organic, lactose-free, and the list goes on and on. The same type of variety can be applied to protein powders for post-workout shakes.

People who use protein powders as part of their regular diet know all too well the wide array offered at any fitness store and most retail markets. For first-time users, the selection can be a bit overwhelming.

If you’re deciding which protein powder is right for you, first determine why you want to add protein powder to your diet. Do you want to build muscle? Ensure you have enough protein in your diet? Or, maybe it’s a combination of the two.

Second, consider any allergies you have or specific tastes you prefer. Protein powder is used by mixing it into a health drink or smoothie. The more you enjoy the taste of the powder, the more likely you will use it on a continuous basis.

Four popular types of proteins are:

  • Whey;
  • Hemp;
  • Pea; and
  • Soy.

Whey is the most commonly used protein. It’s derived from cow’s milk and contains all 9 essential amino acids. This type of protein is used primarily to build muscle. Athletes and fitness enthusiasts use it within about an hour after their workout. Whey is the way to go if you want to increase the amount of your daily protein or maintain muscle. Many brands offer whey powder in several flavors such as chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.

Hemp is a non-dairy protein. As the name indicates, it is made from hemp seeds and provides a lesser amount of protein than other powders. It still maintains a good source of fiber and is often combined with pea protein. This protein is not recommended if the goal is to build muscle, but rather if you want to improve your overall nutritional intake.

Pea protein is plant-based and is a good option for people with digestive sensitivities and vegetarians or vegans who want to avoid soy or dairy. Unlike whey, it’s not a complete protein and is usually paired with hemp or rice to meet the essential amino acid profile.

Soy protein comes from ground soybeans and has a greater amount of amino acids than pea or hemp powders. Of all the plant-based proteins, soy is considered the best for building muscle.  It also helps with the immune system and digestion. People who want to steer clear of dairy for health or dietary restrictions, choose soy. This powder is effective in helping to build muscle and reach the daily recommended protein.

The choice for the “right” protein powder comes down to dietary, health, and fitness needs. Different taste profiles, concerns with digestion, cost, and effectiveness of each product will vary from person to person.

In order to choose the protein powder that will work best for you, it’s best to narrow down your search by identifying requirements you want your powder to have. Then, simply test what’s best.

3 Healthy Breakfasts To Take With You On The Go

Smoothie Bowl

There’s not always enough time for the most important meal of the day, so it often gets neglected. While protein shakes or power bars can work in a pinch, especially post-workout, there are benefits to eating a proper breakfast.

Fortunately, there are endless recipes for quick, easy morning foods to take with you on the way to work, the gym, or when you need to start your day in a hurry. Breakfast is an opportune time to add in protein to keep you satisfied until lunchtime. A cup of coffee on an empty stomach simply won’t cut it.

Here are three healthy breakfasts you can whip up in no time and get your day off to a delicious and healthful start.

Smoothie Bowls

Gone are the days of drinking your breakfast. Smoothie bowls are the latest trend that is both satisfying and scrumptious. Take the same ingredients you’d want to use in your smoothie and add it to a bowl topped with your favorite nuts and berries.

The trick when making a smoothie bowl is to make it a little bit thicker than the average breakfast shake, closer to the consistency of yogurt. A fruity favorite includes: pineapple, banana, coconut water, and honey mixed in the blender. Pour into a bowl and top with blackberries, sliced almonds, or chia seeds for extra texture and crunch.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Toast Toppers

This popular breakfast craze hasn’t died down. In fact, it’s only gotten bigger with people becoming more and more inventive with what they’re choosing to top their toast. Avocado has been the long-standing, popular choice, which makes for a simple breakfast needing no more than a sprinkle of salt or a dash of red pepper flakes.

Other tasty combinations are: peanut butter and banana, hummus and cucumbers, pineapple and cottage cheese, or pear and ricotta. Try different protein-rich foods combined with fresh fruits or vegetables with an agave syrup drizzle or swirl of hot sauce, depending on if you’re in the mood for something sweet or savory for your first meal of the day.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Breakfast Tacos

Homemade breakfast tacos are a good option as a make-ahead meal you can store in the freezer. Take out an individual serving to heat up whenever you’re ready to walk out the door. To create a diet-friendly version, load up on roasted veggies sprinkled with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add in cooked slices of chicken breasts or mashed up black beans for protein. Use whole grain tortillas for added fiber and don’t forget the salsa for an extra spike of flavor.

Prep time: 20-30 minutes (to roast veggies and chicken); 2 minutes to heat fully prepared tacos in the microwave

The fuel we feed our bodies is essential to getting in a good workout and making sure we are consistent in our health goals. Start the day out strong with a filling, good-for-you breakfast and see how much better your body feels when it’s properly nourished.

The Best Arm Workouts You’ve Never Done

If you’re ready to pump up your guns like never before, it’s time to try some arm workouts you’ve never done. These exercises can be integrated into your normal fitness routine, and it’s recommended to do them two to three times per week for optimal results. If it’s mass you’re after, go for a heavier weight and fewer reps. To build muscle tone and endurance, do the opposite — more reps with less weight.

Check out our picks for the best arm workouts you’re probably not doing — but should be!

Reverse Grip Barbell Curls

Reverse Grip Barbell Curls

This exercise is simple, yet effective. Reverse grip barbell curls are performed just like regular barbell curls; the difference is, of course, the reverse grip. Rather than using an underhand grip, go overhand. This exercise can be performed from either a standing or seated position, either way, the forearms will get an excellent workout.

Squat Concentration Curl

Squat Concentration Curl

The squat concentration curl combines two exercises — the squat and the concentration curl. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and squat; thighs should be parallel to the floor. From this position, curl one arm for 60 seconds (if this is too difficult, start with 30 seconds). Repeat the 60 seconds of curls with the other arm, then return to a standing position.

Lying Dumbbell Triceps Extension

Lying Dumbbell Triceps Extension

This exercise is performed on a weight bench. Lie on your back with palms in and arms extended. Lower the dumbbells until they reach face level, then complete the exercise by straightening your arms. For best results, elbows should be kept in a stable position and motion should be slow and fluid.

Parallel Bar Tricep Dip

Parallel Bar Triceps Dip

The parallel bar tricep dip isn’t a popular exercise, but it is one that can make a real difference in arm strength. When done correctly and carefully, the parallel bar tricep dip helps build arm mass and gives the triceps an incredible workout. First, position yourself on the parallel bars, then push your arms up until they’re straight but not locked. From there, lower yourself down. When arms become parallel with the ground, raise yourself back up to complete one rep.

Spider Curl

Spider Curl

The spider curl was made famous by Larry Scott, who has the distinction of being the first Mr. Olympia. The reason it’s called the spider curl is because Scott performed this exercise on a bench with eight legs, however, a vertical preacher bench will work just fine. Lie on your stomach with triceps positioned against the padding and arms kept straight. To complete one rep, raise the barbell to shoulder level then slowly lower arms back down.

Tips for Arm Workouts

Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to arm workouts; keep your movements controlled and resist the temptation to go too fast or to give in to momentum. When combined with a regular cardio workout and a proper muscle-building diet, these exercises can help you achieve the attention-getting arms you’ve always wanted. Practice makes perfect, so don’t get discouraged if you can’t do as many reps or handle as much weight as you’d like. Just put in the work, and you’re sure to see the results!