A Simple Approach to Good Nutrition

by Janet Luhrs, www.simpleliving.com

Have you noticed that every year, more and more new studies come out about the latest, greatest way to lose weight and eat well?

Does your head spin with so much conflicting information? Mine sure does. So let’s simplify things.

  • Carbs. Bad word, right? Whoa! Not so fast. We still need carbs – just not from processed food. Did you know that fruits and veggies are carbs? Who knew? Yup – they are the good carbs. So keep pre-sliced veggies in a bowl or bag in your fridge, ready to go whenever you want them. 
  • Protein. Our bodies need this, too. Protein preserves muscle mass and its essential for maintaining an active metabolism. Your body burns more calories to process protein than it does carbs or fat.
  • Good quality protein sources help manage our blood sugar levels and keep cravings at bay. Think eggs, grilled chicken and fish, as a start.
  • Fat. Yes! Certain fats are good for you! Avocados, nut butters, coconut oil, and olives are healthy fats that your body and your brain need to burn clean fuel. Stay away from processed foods with saturated or trans fats (hydrogenated oils).
  • Eat real food. Avoid processed foods, which is pretty much anything in a box or can. Eat food as close to the way it came out of the ground as possible. And stay away from packaged food that has ingredient lists that are long and full of words you can’t pronounce. Strive for more of your daily intake to involve raw food or food in its most natural form.
  • Water, water, water!  Most of us are hard pressed to get enough. It’s best to drink a third of your body weight in water every day, so figure out what yours is and then buy a water jug that makes the math easy. For instance, if you decide you should aim for 64 oz a day, then buy a 32 oz water jug and fill it twice.

I know that when my life gets too complicated, I tend to throw in the towel, so to speak and figure “oh what’s the point?” But when I keep things simple and basic, I experience greater success. Please share with us some tips that you draw upon to keep your nutrition simple and stress free.

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

Tips to Simplify your Workout Nutrition

By Janet Luhrs, www.simpleliving.com

What’s the best kind of food to eat to fuel your workouts and get into great shape? It’s confusing, isn’t it? One week it’s low carb, high protein, then it’s more omega 3’s, or high greens or loads of other “latest studies” and options. What to do?When it comes to pre and post workout snacks and nutrition, it helps to have a quick reference list to choose from so that you’re giving your body what it needs to compliment all the hard work you’re putting in.

Before we get to that simple reference list, here’s what you need to know: 

  • Carbs are not your enemy… starchy carbs are. Carbs are your body’s fuel and you need to fuel up before working out so that you can go the distance and train for results. Carbs are needed for immediate fuel sources and also to restore glycogen levels. Eating more carbs than needed leads to fat storage.
  • Consume as many of your daily carbs as is comfortable prior to working out, no need to spread them out during the day.
  • Proteins are needed to help preserve lean muscles.
  • Protein sources vary in effectiveness, but whey based proteins have better results for building lean muscle.
  • Protein is essential for repairing and rebuilding tissue. Strength training breaks down tissue, so consuming your proteins immediately after a workout are key to building lean muscle.
  • If you really pushed your workout and are drained, some fast acting carbs may be in order to boost blood sugars and glycogen levels.

Fast acting carbs for both before and after workouts:

  • Cereal with low-fat milk
  • Fruit smoothies with bananas, pears, grapes, watermelon, and blueberries
  • Raisins
  • Yogurt parfait with any of the above fruit
  • Steel-cut oats topped with dried fruit and almonds

Protein options:

  • Eggs, boiled or otherwise
  • Protein shakes or protein bars
  • PB and toast with half a banana sliced on top
  • Veggie omelet or egg scramble
  • Cottage cheese and fruit
  • Tuna salad and whole grain crackers or whole grain wrap, topped with grated cheese
  •  Pita and hummus

Remember, post workout your body needs critical liquids, so satisfy your thirst with a fruit smoothie and protein powder added and you get more bang for your nutritional buck. Learn to shop with the above list in mind and if you have these options on hand, you are more likely to make a good choice.

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

Reasons Why Simplicity is Important in Your Approach to Fitness After Fifty

By Janet Luhrs, www.simpleliving.com

There are so many opinions and approaches to getting and staying fit that sometimes it seems easier to just sit on the couch, doesn’t it? AAAK! When that happens, it’s time to seriously simplify things in a big way. Remember, your couch is not your friend when it comes to having a healthy and fit body.

Simplicity is the key to successfully sticking with it as well as successfully attaining the results you want. Here are some tips to keeping it simple and finding success:

  • Time it right: choose a time of day that works for you and your lifestyle. If you are a night owl, early morning workouts are not going to work for you unless you first change your schedule. Be realistic and choose a time that makes sense for you.
  • Be consistent: Tell yourself that you will stick with it and that hard work pays off, but it does take time. No one sees true results overnight.
  • Add variety: You are more likely to stick to a workout plan that allows for some variation. Think of these as option “B”, but again, keep them simple.
  • What you “know” may be wrong: There is a lot of bad and old information that’s still circulating. If you are working with a trainer, make sure to choose one who stays current with certification and continuing education. You need to be willing to let go of those “facts” about fitness that you have held onto all these years. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks!
  • Keep it basic: You can go crazy with multi-joint exercises or complex, challenging lifts, but if you keep to basic squats, deadlifts, and bench presses, you have the foundational moves for all strength training.
  • Use your 3 legged stool: Strength, flexibility, and cardio are the basic building blocks of a well-rounded workout plan. Make sure that your week includes all three of these at least 2-3 times a week for each one. But take the pressure off yourself to hit all 3 each time you work out. Strength and flexibility one day, cardio and flexibility the next, and so on.
  • Break it up: If you can’t set aside a full hour, don’t toss in the towel. Give yourself permission to do 20 minutes of cardio in the morning, then some strength training or flexibility in the evening.

Hopefully you can cut yourself some slack and look for success in the simplicity of a plan. The most important thing is that you stick with it…THAT is success!

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

Simple Tips for Stretching Success

By Janet Luhrs, www.simpleliving.com

We know how it is – you have your morning routine, your gear is all set out and ready to go, your workout plan is in mind.  But whoops! Sometimes your eagerness to get going causes you to skip or minimize the stretching part of your workout.

Sure – stretching seems so boring, doesn’t it? But in order to really stay in shape and avoid injury, you have to do it.

I find that the best way for me to be sure to stretch is by keeping my stretch routine verrrry simple. So simple that in time, my body can do the routine without me having to think about it. In other words, so simple that it becomes as routine as brushing my teeth.

Here are a few simple tips for stretching successfully:

  • Warm up with a light jog in place or outside,  jumping jacks, jumping rope, or even a short bike ride or walk.
  • As  you work out, stop whenever your muscles get right and do a short stretch.  Stretching doesn’t have to just happen before or after a workout.
  • Breathe during stretching. It sounds obvious, but many people unknowingly hold their breath during stretching. In fact, breathing deeply and slowly during stretching actually helps you to stretch more deeply.
  • Never bounce, or push hard and fast into a stretch. Be gentle.
  • Don’t hold deep stretches longer than about 15 seconds, as this can lead to oxygen deprivation to the muscles.
  • Stretch out your spine in between compressive sets of weight lifting or impact sports such as running. Athletes can sometimes lose 20-40 millimeters of height after a workout. Hanging from a chin up bar can relieve that stress on your spine.
  • Save your static stretching for the end of your workout once your muscles are already warmed up. They will help you to avoid much of the following day’s soreness.

This wiki has a great list of basic stretches for your whole body with really helpful photos to show exactly how the stretches are done. Choose the stretches that seem easy to you – not too many – because your goal is to do them regularly and from memory.

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

Stay Cool and Fit This Summer with These Fun Activities

By Janet Luhrs, www.simpleliving.com

What? You’re 50 or over and you think playing outside in the summer is for kids?

Never mind!  As you’ve noticed reading this blog, my mission in life is to inspire you to move that beautiful body of yours – and to find pleasure doing so. Especially during the oh-so-sweet months of summer, there are loads of things you can do that provide great exercise and a wonderful time.

Granted, I’m probably asking you to push yourself out of your comfort zone by trying some of my ideas below – but then again – that’s why you’re reading this blog – to get pushed just a little.

So even for the most die-hard of couch potatoes, read through this list and see if you can find at least one activity to try. And then write to me and tell me how it was. My guess is you’ll feel so proud and happy that you got outside and tried something new and fun.

  • Stand up Paddle boarding or SUP: We have to start out this post with a shout for SUP, one of the hottest new workout trends in the last few years. SUP started as an off shoot of surfing when it made it possible for surfers to paddle farther out to catch those great waves. There are SUP yoga classes, moonlight paddle board events, paddle board races. Whether you choose to kneel and paddle or stand, it is a great workout for many major muscle groups and especially so when you practice your SUP yoga
  • Kayaking: Kayaking is a wonderful workout for shoulders, back and abs as you really dig in. Focus on good technique and some of these tips here and you can make it as much of a cardio challenge as you like by paddling in long spurts.
  • Tubing: Even though the boat seems to be doing all the work, holding onto that tube really works your back, shoulders, and abs. Make yourself swim out to the boat to start and do the same on your way back and you’ll really have a great workout!
  • Full Body Water Aerobics: People tend to associate this with older seniors who have fewer fitness options. Even though this is great for those with joint issues, this deep water workout is not for the faint of heart and really gets your heart pumping with a whole body challenge.
  • River Float: While river floating doesn’t exactly conjure up images of hard cardio and strength training, it certainly burns more calories than sitting home.  And if you find a good launching place that has a trail along the river, you can float down, then walk back up and get in your workout that way!  Or just consider the whole day your reward for working hard the other days of the week  😉
  • Water Skiing or Wakeboarding: either one is a great all body workout from your shoulders, back, core, and legs. Definitely some cardio involved as well! And just as with tubing, a swim out to the boat and back is in order to make it a full workout.
  • Scuba Diving: Ok, this one is not something to just pick up one random weekend, but if you have been curious or have a vacation to tropical places coming up, consider getting certified. Many dive shops sponsor PADI certified courses that can be done in as little as a week with a weekend of concentrated open dives. Once you have experienced the undersea world, you will wonder why you had not tried it sooner!

Regardless of which warm weather water workouts you try this summer, don’t neglect to warm up and stretch, especially your back and shoulders for the activities listed that really challenge those areas. No one wants a pulled back at the end of a good skiing run! And of course use your sunscreen!

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

Stay Outside and Play Longer with These 5 Simple Dinner Recipes

By Janet Luhrs, www.simpleliving.com

Who can resist these fabulous summer evenings cycling or playing on the lake, only to have to come home and spend time cooking and getting dinner ready?

We know you don’t want to scrap your commitment to healthy dinner ideas that support your fitness goals, so here are five ideas that take very little prep time and you can even do most of them ahead of time.

  • No stir Risotto with Scallops provides great protein and added power greens. You likely already have most of these ingredients on hand and bonus is you can serve this hot or chilled as a grain salad.
  • These Fish tacos with Summer Salsa will quickly become one of your favorite go-to meals all year ‘round! Great protein and Omega 3’s, zucchini from the garden, and all important avocados and you are right on track to a healthy dinner in only 30 minutes.
  • The Mediterranean Quinoa Salad is packed with power foods and serves chilled for those hot summer evenings. Make it the night before and the quinoa really absorbs the flavors, as well as keeps you out of the kitchen when you come home to a cool, ready-to-eat meal.
  • Try this Avocado-Buttermilk Soup with Crab prepared in your blender and stay cool all summer long! The lemon juice and fresh grated orange rind give it a refreshing citrus addition.
  • This Turkey Salad With Tomato and Avocado will put your garden tomatoes to good use and guarantee no cooking time as you use sliced deli turkey or other sliced meats. The arugula and avocado provide important greens for the week.

Since most of these are either no-cook or can be prepped ahead of time and chilled, you can easily spend that extra time enjoying summer and you still get to eat healthy and light.

Featured photo source: ReadySetEat.com

5 Simple Exercises to do…anywhere!

By Janet Luhrs, www.simpleliving.com

 

In our high tech world, gear-crazy-gotta-have-the-latest-new-gadget, we sometimes overwhelm ourselves when it comes to working out.

Sure, you can go online and find all kinds of complicated fitness plans, workout regimes, and specialized gear and equipment to use at the gym or at home.  But if any of the above also requires intricate instructions, planning and a professional guide, well then, perhaps things have gotten just a bit too complex. 

We have simplified it for you with these 5 simple exercises that can be done just about anywhere because they are super easy and don’t require equipment:

  • The Low Belly Leg Reach targets your lower abs like few other exercises can! While lying on your back with your knees bent at 90 degree and stacked over your hips, crunch as you lift your shoulders. Hold and inhale for 4 seconds, exhale as you extend your legs to 45 degrees, hold again for 4 seconds and feel the squeeze in your low belly. 2 sets of 10-15 reps.
  • Split Drops target your hamstrings, glutes and give you added cardio benefit. Perform this one with explosive movement for full benefit. Starting position is with your feet together and then jump off both feet, landing in a split squat, one foot in front, one in back. This is not a simple lunge exercise. Jump back to the landing position and that is one rep. Continue 20 times.
  • Triceps dips and pushups on a bench or chair work those arm muscles that all of us wish were stronger. For triceps, sit with your knees bent and hands flat on the bench alongside of your hips. As you lift your hips off the floor, your weight should shift backwards so you feel the challenge in your triceps. Bend at the elbow and straighten 20 reps. Switch to the traditional pushup pose and knock off 20 of those! Alternate Triceps and pushups for 3 sets total.
  • The Warrior III works on your balance, core, and challenges your muscles all up and down your legs. Make sure to keep your core engaged and your thigh, hips, and toes of the raised leg aligned while keeping your back as straight as possible. It is one of the more challenging yoga poses, try it and you will see why!
  • Crab Walks really work your lower back, shoulders, and core. Make sure to hold your back straight and not to dip. This one has it all and can be done anywhere.

So, give these 5 a try and you will hit most of your major muscle groups. Let us know how you do!

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff …Just Sweat!

by Janet Luhrs, www.simpleliving.com

In our uber-competitive culture that focuses on attaining perfect, Hollywood looks, the big picture often gets lost in our never-ending quest for the flattest abs, losing the last five pounds, or getting perfect biceps.

Working out endless hours in the weight room can certainly result in bodacious biceps, but those same people with ripped chests and legs are likely going to score pretty low on cardio fitness and even work-life balance. Why is that? Because in order to work out to the point of having a near- perfect body – something has to go, and often what goes is regular, relaxed fun stuff, like going for a hike or bike ride with friends and family.

Yes, its great to have a workout plan and solid, attainable nutritional goals. But if sticking to those goals becomes a bit anal for you and you find yourself choosing those things over the people in your life or over enjoying one itty-bitty ice cream cone on a hot day, then you are sweating the small stuff and forgetting the most important.

The goal should not be an intense, gym lifestyle, but rather a life lived full out and with no regrets. A life lived in health and balance in all things, diet, exercise, work, spirituality and most of all the people you love. When your focus is on the small stuff, then the joy of just getting out and getting active gets lost.

So, don’t forget the big picture of living a well-rounded life of health through your nutrition, activities, and mental health. Quit sweating the small stuff and simply get out there and sweat!

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

Find the Right Fitness Program for You – Part II

By Janet Luhrs, www.simpleliving.com

Last week I covered some of the most popular strength training and aerobic programs that can help you get stronger and more aerobically fit. 

But what I’m going to talk about today is the piece that too many people skip, and that is flexibility. As we get older, I can’t tell you how important this is. 

Athletes young and old tend to put the flexibility and balance portions of their workout on the “optional” tab. However, as we age – and especially after 50 – we lose balance and flexibility, making us more prone to injuries due to falls and muscle strains.

Maintaining flexibility allows you to keep up your cardio and strength training, because it helps you to avoid injury.

You can make your flexibility program easy, by doing simple stretches or a restful yoga routine, or you can really challenge yourself with Pilates, Barre Method, and advanced or more fitness-style yoga classes. 

Here are a few of the most popular flexibility programs:

·       Barre is a ballet inspired, bodyweight-based workout that develops long, lean muscles, and develops strength and tone. Don’t be deterred by the fact that this workout originated in dance moves, because no experience is required. Most classes start with a mat-based warm-up that includes push-ups, arm exercises, and planks. You will move to the bar and work on your lower body and then finish by focusing on your core. Barre movements target multiple muscle groups at once. Although barre is bodyweight focused, it differs from most strength training programs because of its isometric, one-inch increments, rather than large compound movements like squats and leg presses. As a result, there is less risk of injury to muscles or tendons. The downside to barre is a lack of functional fitness (higher levels of movement) and there is really not much cardio benefit. That is not to say that you won’t work hard or come away unchallenged. You will be, but consider adding a barre class once or twice a week to reap its benefits while also incorporating other cardio and strength training activities.

·       Pilates is another method with origins in dance.  Pilates  utilizes mat exercises and a Reformer to work your core and spine strength and develop flexibility. You will not aggressively burn enough calories and raise your metabolic rate to lose weight, but Pilates is a great addition to a workout plan to keep your core strong and avoid injury. Most Pilates classes are similarly structured so you can expect almost the same flow from one class or gym to another. Although you can do Pilates on your own with DVDs, it is recommended to start with a professionally-trained practitioner to be sure your form and methodology is correct.

·       Yoga is great for a variety of people and fitness types. It is an overall fitness lifestyle that promotes spiritual peace and tranquility. Yoga promotes deep breathing and a focused practice of both standing and mat positions, designed to strengthen and increase flexibility. Each move in yoga has a counter move to create body balance and harmony. Yoga differs from Pilates in the flexibility of combinations of moves, so each class can be quite different from the other, depending on the instructor and style of yoga. There are multiple approaches to yoga such as hot yoga, Bikram yoga, power yoga, relaxation yoga, prenatal yoga, etc. Like Pilates, yoga is not reputed to bring up your metabolic rate to burn calories and lose weight, with the exception of power or sport yoga.

Hopefully, these two posts have given you a clearer idea of the various fitness programs available to you. The best program for anyone – especially folks over 50 – combines strength and aerobic exercises with flexibility moves. Let me know what works for you.

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

Find the Right Fitness Program for You – Part I

By Janet Luhrs, www.simpleliving.com

What to do? What to do? You’re motivated and ready to start your fitness program, but hearing about the huge list of options is not only overwhelming, but holding you back.

The fitness industry continues to grow in leaps and bounds with no end in sight, as more and more people look for a fit and healthy lifestyle.

So, to simplify your options, I’ve written a little fitness dictionary. I’ll take you through some of the most popular fitness programs to help you decipher what the terms mean and how to determine which ones will work for you.

Today I’ll share fitness programs that are designed for full body and strength training workouts. Next week I’ll highlight some flexibility approaches.

  • CrossFit has been the rage for quite a few years, and it’s not slowing down. It is an HIIT fitness approach (High Intensity Interval Training) that emerged from training for police, military, and special ops units.  CrossFit exercises are based on a variety of functional movements performed at high intensity that utilize body weight, HIIT, and various free weights and other tools. These core movements are a part of life such as squatting, lifting, pushing and pulling. CrossFit focuses on education for safe movement, and its goal is to effectively challenge your muscles and heart, as well as nutrition. If you enjoyed PE drills as a kid, a team approach, and intense workouts that leave you dripping with sweat, then CrossFit is for you. Don’t be deterred by the young, incredibly fit individuals at the CrossFit games because CrossFit is designed for everyone, including the elderly and those with heart disease. The load and intensity is scaled and personalized to each individual.
  • Bodyweight Training includes various methods such as TRX suspension training, resistance bands, and density acclimation training. Each method varies from the other, but they’re all essentially weight training programs that use your own bodyweight instead of machines or free weights. Most practitioners mix in HIIT training to incorporate cardio within the total workout. This is great for people who want a full body workout, but perhaps are intimidated or bored by weights and machines.
  • Zumba is a Latin-inspired,full body dance cardio workout using music and choreographed steps in a group, party atmosphere. Zumba gets participants charged and energized and offers more room for interpretation than do rigid aerobics classes.There have been questions about Zumba’s effectiveness for increasing fitness as compared to other approaches. Zumba certainly works all parts of your body and you will see an increase in tone, but not to the extent that you’ll get from weight training. Participants who push themselves to maximum output will see the most results. For people who are intimidated by HIIT and other strength training approaches, the party and dance atmosphere of Zumba can be just the thing to get them moving again.
  • Boot Camp is a military camp-inspired method that takes place in a charged, group atmosphere. Participant are taken through some traditional callisthenic and body weight exercises, interspersed with high intensity cardio training and strength work with dumbbells, kettle balls, or other equipment. The last portion of sessions usually incorporates some form of stretching and core work. If you enjoy an energetic, full body, social group approach, boot camp is for you!

There are many more approaches than I have highlighted here. Remember, there is no one perfect or most effective workout plan for everyone. Finding the one that you like and will be consistent with is the key to success. Whichever approach you take, make sure to include cardio, strength building, and flexibility and you’ll have a well-rounded, effective fitness program that works for you!

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com.