Thursday, September 30, 2010

If you aren't fired with enthusiasm,
you will be fired with enthusiasm.

Vince Lombardi

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Tailgating: 8 Tips to Survive the Football Season

By Stephanie S. Saunders

Are you ready for some football? Sure ya are! As the new season kicks off, we're all rooting for our favorite team to make it to the Super Bowl, or the Rose Bowl, or the Whatever Bowl. But in truth, my fellow Americans, the celebration isn't allabout the sport. It's about the pigskin, but it's also about the potato skins. It's about the Heisman, but it's also about the Heineken®. In other words, it's about tailgating. Is there anything more glorious than perching on the bumper of your Explorer, hot dog in one hand, cold beer in the other, telling everyone in earshot about the trail of destruction your team is about to make across the Pac 10? Well, that's great and all, but where your fitness goals are concerned, tailgating leaves a little to be desired. So how do we capture all the fun of tailgating without destroying all the progress we've made during our hours of sweat? Let's do some preparation for the game ahead.


  1. Work out first. A brand-new study by a team of Brazilian researchers (Public Library of Science, August 2010) concluded that exercise actually modulates feelings of fullness in the brain, causing us to reduce our intake of food. In other words, when you work out, you actually eat less. Which is good, because you don't want to spend an hour and a half working out in the morning and then destroy it all with cravings for fried food and alcohol. Now that you're training at Focused On Fitness www.focusedonfitness 6 days a week, you're a more efficient machine, and you'll have fewer cravings. So before you hang out in that jersey that hides your six-pack, make sure your six-pack is intact and get a good workout in before the party. Working out will help reduce your cravings and decrease your appetite. (Besides, it's pretty unlikely you'll feel like working out after the game.)
  2. Don't go hungry. Popular wisdom says you should never go grocery shopping while hungry. The same rings true for attending any kind of party. The worst thing you can do to your nutrition plan is wait until you're starving, then descend upon an endless supply of low-quality carbs and not-so-lean meats. It'll be 45 minutes before you realize you're no longer hungry, and you've just consumed your weight in cheese curls. Eat a clean, high-quality meal before you arrive at the gathering. You'll eat less garbage and you'll probably be a lot more pleasant to be around as well.
  3. Vegetables and MushroomsVeggie it up. I know, I know, you don't want to be that guy, but if you're going to bring anything to the party, your first choice should be a veggie platter. Not only can you save yourself from tomorrow's food hangover, you might actually do your body some good. Bite-sized pieces of broccoli, carrots, celery, bell peppers, cauliflower, and snap peas are all inexpensive, low in calories, and full of vitamins. Create a low-fat dip to accompany them, and you might just trump the team's QB as MVP. Just use any onion or ranch dip recipe, with nonfat yogurt, nonfat sour cream, or nonfat cream cheese as the base.

    Also, try the 5-to-1 veggie trick: for every five bites of veggies you consume, you're allowed one full-fat snack bite. You'll end up having to chew so much for that one morsel of evil, it won't really be worth it.

  4. Feeling fruity. Another great thing to bring tailgating is a fruit platter or fruit salad. Yes, I realize fruit has a lot more sugar in it than veggies do. But fruit is a lot lower in calories than potato salad, it's loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and most people like it a lot. What's more, it's high in fiber, so you'll stay fuller longer. Fruit skewers are a big crowd-pleaser, and counting the empty sticks will show you how much you're actually eating. Aim for watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, strawberries, apples, oranges, peaches, and nectarines.
  5. Pass (on) the suds. This is the section everyone's going to want to skip, but reading on will only work to your advantage. Most of us enjoy an adult beverage now and again. There's nothing more refreshing than a cold beer when you're sitting in the hot sun. But, people, they call it a "beer gut" for a reason. The empty calories in beer have accounted for more spare tires than the Michelin® Man. But since many people can't or won't abstain, try switching to light beer. Sure, some taste like flavored water, but there are a few low-calorie versions out there that are actually pretty good, especially if you squeeze a little (or a lot) of lime into them. Or try a cocktail made with a low-calorie mixer, or one that mixes a splash of fruit juice with soda water and either an ounce of your favorite liquor or a few ounces of white wine.

    One cup of light limeade, 1 ounce of tequila, and 1 ounce of orange liqueur blended with ice is roughly 100 calories—and really tasty. Crystal Light® and vodka make for some pretty yummy low-cal drinks, and will still be under a hundred calories. And remember that both white wine and champagne come in at about 100 calories a glass. Remember, a couple of drinks in an afternoon is fine, but if you're putting so much away that the dude in the body paint starts to look, well . . . sexy, it's time to cut yourself off.

  6. Get your hand out of the bag. When you're running late on game day, the path of least resistance is to run into a 7-Eleven® and grab a few bags of chips and maybe some dip. Everyone loves 'em, right? Well, your waistline doesn't. You can easily consume a couple of meals' worth of calories by shoving your hand into a bag a few times. So plan ahead a tiny bit and replace those greasy potato chips, corn chips, and cheese curls with baked tortilla chips and salsa, seasoned air-popped popcorn, multigrain pretzels, and mini rice cakes. You'll still get a ton of crunch and flavor, without consuming 13 grams of fat per handful.

    If you want to add a dip, try this low-fat/high-protein guacamole recipe: Take a 16-ounce container of plain nonfat Greek yogurt; 1 peeled, pitted, and coarsely chopped large avocado; 4 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro; 2 teaspoons of minced jalapeƱo; and 1 small minced clove of garlic. Throw them into a food processor and blend until smooth. Chill before serving.

  7. Shrimp and Meat on GrillMain course, to stay on course. Most experienced tailgaters include a barbecue in the festivities. You can smell charcoal and propane for miles around any stadium on any given Sunday. And with the right food choices, a barbecue is a healthy way to prepare good sources of lean protein. Unfortunately, it's a lot easier to throw hot dogs on the grill. So forget the path of least resistance (and all those hot dog nitrates) and try a main course that'll keep you on course.

    Replace a beef or pork hot dog with a turkey or tofu dog, a 20-percent-fat beef burger with a 99-percent lean beef one (or a chicken, turkey, or veggie burger), or a fatty pork sausage with the low-fat chicken variety. Place any of these on a multigrain roll, or stuff them in a pita pocket. Try a low-fat grilled chicken breast instead of those messy, fatty ribs. Skewer up some veggies for a tasty low-calorie main dish. Little pizzas made with prebaked crusts, tomato sauce, low-fat cheese, and veggies grill up brilliantly on a barbecue. You can make ground-turkey-and-three-bean chili in advance in a Crock-Pot® and warm it up on the grill. Just a little forethought and some lean meat choices can make a huge difference.

  8. Just desserts. Most of the time, dessert at a tailgate party comes in the form of beer, with an occasional Oreo®thrown in. No one puts a lot of thought into making desserts for one of these events, and they put even less thought into how many cookies or brownies they're shoving in their mouth. Instead of satisfying your sweet tooth with enough calories to fuel a defensive lineman, try replacing those high-calorie desserts with one of these ideas.

    Grill pineapple slices or spears for 1 minute on each side, baste with dark rum, grill for 1 more minute, and serve warm with mint sprigs. Make low-fat banana bread by replacing the butter or oil in the traditional recipe with applesauce. Buy a premade angel food cake, slice, and serve with fresh strawberries and either light Cool Whip® or one-third whipped cream with two-thirds drained plain nonfat yogurt folded in. In advance, bake apples stuffed with dried fruit and honey in a pan of apple juice, then heat up later on the barbecue. Make a low-fat batch of oatmeal cookies with whole wheat flour and vegetable oil. There are lots of sweet options out there that can also be sweet to the size of your gut.

Football season is long, especially if you're a Buffalo Bills fan. In those 17 weeks, you could do a considerable amount of damage . . . or you could have the body of your dreams. Since the NFL rules the airwaves for roughly 5 weeks longer than it takes to drop 20 lbs at Focussed on Fitness, it's well worth it to put a little effort into your tailgating choices. And although your friends might give you a hard time, consider how their faces will look at the end of week 15, when you have a rock-hard six-pack, and they have more of a keg. Yeah, it's worth it.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

11 Tips to Get Fit at 40

To get back my youth, I would do anything in the world,
except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable.

Oscar Wilde, from The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891

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11 Tips to Get Fit at 40

By Jeanine Natale

When I turned 40 this past February, one of the pledges I made was to look and feel much better than I had at 39, or at 38, 37, or 36, for that matter. I'd become pudgy and very out of shape through a combination of a badly broken toe that stranded me on crutches for months, terrible eating habits, and, of course, no exercise other than stumping around on those sticks.

Woman Holding Dumbbell

Even after I got off the crutches, it was several more months before I could really walk and move around normally again. Sick of how I was feeling and looking, I made up my mind that by the Big 4-0, I was going to be fabulous! Here are 11 tips that have helped get me to where I want to be.

  1. Favorite sports, new activities. My big transformation happened over summer, which meant I got to surf free of my wetsuit! Even without the effort of struggling into a suit, it takes good overall fitness, especially solid core strength, to carry that longboard over long stretches of sand, paddle, and master the all-important pop-up maneuver. If surfing isn't your thing, think about the kinds of activities and workouts that you loved doing when you were younger, or perhaps always wanted to do and never got around to. And if you've got kids, take a look at the kinds of things they like to do for fun. Okay, maybe learning to skateboard at 40 isn't such a bright idea, but playing basketball or soccer are both great workouts, as are ballet and martial arts.
  2. Chalene JohnsonSolid workout. While trying new activities is always a thrill, it's also a good idea to have a solid, regular workout program for developing overall fitness. Classes like Focused On Fitness's 1 Hour Muscle Conditioning or Spinning provide an excellent system to get yourself back in shape if you've let yourself go, so you can get back to those activities you love to do without the frustration of struggling to catch your breath in the middle of a game, when everyone else around you is raring to go. Then, too, the workouts are challenging—and fun—in their own right! Remember, you're as young as you feel, and as aging causes us to start losing muscle mass and bone density, getting back in shape doing something you love is a great way to fight back.
  3. Take a hike and do some yoga. Getting back on my feet, I found that doing a daily low-impact walk was a great way to get rid of specific sore spots in my feet and knees from limping around on crutches. And warming up before and after any kind of walk or run is a good way to avoid undoing your efforts at exercise by just being stiff and sore for days after. There are several studies showing yoga to be one of the best stretch exercises around at any age, but especially for those of us 40 and over. Even my own mom and dad, who have NEVER been fitness buffs, have discovered yoga and stretching at the ages of 70 and 80 respectively. I've seen the positive changes especially in my dad, who suffers from osteoporosis, peripheral neuropathy, and now Parkinson's disease. My mom, recently recovered from a broken hip, makes a great yoga buddy for my dad, and as the two of them have been at it for the last 6 months, I see my dad up and taking walks now, and eating healthy (something he also never did before!). And my mom isn't limping anymore or getting stiff knees. They're smiling more, too. I took an informal poll, and I found that at least 85 percent of people I know over the age of 20 who are in good health and good shape do yoga on a regular basis.
  4. Get a little color in those cheeks (but not too much!). Taking a walk on a sunny day is one way to do that. However, it is crucial to be safe and smart about it. That baking-sheet-style, lie-out-roasting tan isn't good for your skin at any age! Wear sunglasses with UV protection and carry sunscreen with you at all times when you are out in the sun. Apply it liberally and often! If you are working up a sweat, or you're walking on the beach splashing in the waves, sunscreen washes off—even the waterproof kind. Also, if you're taking a calcium supplement, a moderate amount of sunshine is one good way to get the vitamin D necessary to help your body absorb calcium. But I repeat, do NOT forget sunscreen!
  5. Woman Applying Cream to Her FaceMoisturize! No matter what time of year it is, I'm finding that my skin really is more sensitive to humidity levels, and dries out much more quickly. Do some research and find the products that are suited to your skin type—you'll be able to tell pretty quickly which lip balms and lotions are right for you—and use 'em! For summer especially, make sure they contain a strong enough sunscreen. Keep a little sample-size bottle in your car, another in your backpack or purse, and don't leave home without it!
  6. Truly healthy juices, truly healthy shakes. And I mean serious juice—the kind with dark leafy greens, beets, ginger, carrots, etc. I do love my juicer. Why? Because it leaves all the fibery goodness in my cocktail and I can get a heaping plateful of summer-fresh fruits and veggies in one glass—I always replace at least one meal, if not two, with a big 16-ounce glass of juice.
  7. Vitamins, minerals, herbs, supplements. Feel free to explore the vast world of supplements, vitamins, and minerals. I tend to have a very sensitive stomach when it comes to taking the pill form of some vitamins and herbal remedies, but recently a 46-year-old friend of mine, who is an excellent massage therapist and yoga buff, made me a juice with the following supplements: echinacea, goldenseal, ginseng, gingko, biotin, spirulina, chlorella, blue-green algae, yerba santa, grapefruit seed extract, acidophilus, 5-HTP amino acid complex, and bee pollen. I washed down a handful of probably 20 pills and capsules with that juice, and was very pleasantly surprised that it gave me no trouble whatsoever and had me feeling good all day. Do your research and find the mix that works for you.
  8. Be nice to your body—it needs you. Pulling all-nighters, eating junk food, and hunching over the computer for hours moving nothing but your fingertips: Ahhh, the good old days! If you still love doing this and you've been out of college for more than a decade, at least trade in the junk food for a healthier choice. And your body will thank you profusely if you just stand up every half hour to move around and stretch, even for a couple of minutes. In all honesty, recovering from those late nights—whether you're out partying or fervidly working on an important project—becomes much harder to do as our bodies age. If you have to be at work in the morning after a rough night, it shows up under your eyes, in your back, in your knees, in the heavy fog coating your brain—you get the picture. You can't always be on an optimal stress-free schedule, but being mindful of your body really does help.
  9. Avoid late-night meals and midnight snacks. If you've been active on a beautiful long summer day, you'll be good and ready for bed. If you want the experience to be a restful one, avoid eating a heavy late-night meal. While there are many studies and opinions on the actual long-term health effects of this, the general consensus is that if you do eat just before bed, keep it light and simple. As Chris Idzikowski, Director of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre, says, "A heavy meal can sometimes lead to heartburn-type or reflux symptoms as you're lying down with a full stomach."
  10. Man SleepingGet a good night's sleep. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, sleep needs change over a person's lifetime, and older adults may produce and secrete less melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep. Being active during the day and getting enough exercise goes a long way to not only keeping you healthy, but leaving you feeling more relaxed and, well, ready for bed.
  11. Be proactive and be proud of your active self! Whether you've always been in shape and are now beginning to feel the effects of aging, or were out of shape and reached 40 with more of a beginner's outlook on fitness, the fact that you are taking steps to get fit and get healthy both inside and outside is a major achievement that takes time, commitment, sweat, and effort. The payoffs are many, including less time feeling out of sorts and less time in the doctor’s office. With all the science and knowledge we have so readily available today, there's no reason to despair about old age. Age truly is just a number. In fact, a recent 2010 study by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research showed that, overall, people aged 70 and older who had a positive mental attitude about aging and who were physically active reported feeling much younger than their years. Conversely, those who had a more negative attitude about getting older tended to be less active; and reported feeling at least their age, if not older; and reporting more health problems than the younger group did.

Way back when, a friend of mine commented that he just couldn't keep up like he used to on the volleyball court—that he was perhaps getting too old to do that sort of thing anymore. We were only 27 years old! It was probably the first time I had heard anyone my age mention something like that, and then—as now—I simply refused to accept it. Don't get me wrong, there is always the (unwelcome) possibility that some underlying health issue is a contributing factor, in which case serious medical attention must be sought. Fortunately, it wasn't so in this instance. But I remember being surprised by my friend's statement. He was in great shape—probably in better shape than I was—and at the time, I was riding at least 20 miles a day on my bike and was, indeed, quite healthy! Now at the ripe old age of 40, having "let myself go" only to make some much-needed and welcome improvements, I believe there's a lot to be said for being and feeling as young as you think you are, and there's no time like the present to be your best.