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The Simple Way to Health!

I know you want to be fit and healthy – me, too! But don’t you get exhausted sometimes trying to figure out how to do it?

Good grief – there’s so much information available – and much of it contradictory – that I don’t blame any of us for wanting to give up and sit on the couch. I completely understand, because I’ve been there, too.

But guess what? My huge desire to be fit and healthy inspired me to find a simple plan that works, and that cuts through all of the confusion.

When you really think about it, being healthy and fit aren’t that complicated. And once you get into a groove of being healthy, you can throw stress out the window, your head will be more clear, and you’ll start being more efficient in general. 

The bottom line is, being fit and healthy is totally worth it in terms of how fabulous you’ll feel – and look.

Ready? Here’s a list of things you can do, starting right now, that will set you on your path to being fit and healthy – without turning your life upside down. 

  • Set a schedule: Take a few moments to look at your weekly life and your commitments. Once you see where your actual blocks of discretionary time occur, you can then commit to guarding those for fitness pursuits.
  • Stay hydrated: Especially when working out, but also all day long.  Drinking plenty of water is known to help in many ways, including avoiding over-eating and keeping your body systems flushed and clear.
  • Find a fitness buddy: Even if both of your schedules can only gel one day a week, that sense of camaraderie and accountability can spill over and motivate you for the rest of your week.
  • Don’t eat after 7pm: Thats when your body begins shutting down for the day, so the last thing you need is for it to be metabolizing calories
  • Eat breakfast: You will have more energy and focus for the rest of your day, be less likely to snack on unhealthy foods mid-morning, and jump start your metabolism after 10 hours of “fasting”. Whole oatmeal, eggs, fruit, and nut butters make fast, simple and healthy breakfasts.
  • Add “Mini-workouts: It is amazing what a twice daily longer walk from the parking lot, combined with a 15 minute power walk on your breaks and lunches can do throughout your day. Even doing some office workouts will do wonders for keeping your metabolism charged all day long.
  • Mindless Eating: Pay attention to those habitual moments when you eat mindlessly. Plan to have healthy options such as popcorn or a boiled egg ready ahead of time so that you don’t reach for crackers.
  • Cut back on sugars: Cut out or greatly reduce processed sugars to reduce your glycemic index load, control weight gain, and reduce toxins in your liver, pancreas, muscles, and blood stream.
  • Add more leafy greens: In addition to the super nutrients added to your diet, leafy greens also help prevent a variety of aging issues, and produce energy via their high B vitamin content.
  • Increase protein sources: lean meats, eggs, fish, nuts, seeds and legumes.

Adding these simple fitness routines will not only help your body to be more efficient, but as you learn to make them a part of your daily approach, you’ll find that your priorities will change and you’ll become less and less likely to make detrimental health choices.

Talk to me! Share the health and fitness tips that work for you! 

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

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Simple Tips for Weight Training Success

By Janet Luhrs, www.simpleliving.com

I want you to take a minute to think about something really important. You probably already know this, but as we age, unless we keep up a regular program of resistance training – our bodies and muscles turn into marshmallows.

And that’s not good for a lot of reasons. So here are some basic motivational reasons for you to start or continue your weight training plan:

  • Muscle loss as we all get older is inevitable. A simple weight training plan not only fights that loss but can even reverse it and dramatically slow down the aging process.
  • As you strengthen your muscles, you draw oxygen and nutrients from your blood, which improves your cardio-vascular health.
  • Strong muscles also directly contribute to healthy blood sugar levels, preventing diabetes and providing weight control success.
  • Keep in mind some of these tips and workout ideas and you will be on your way to resistance training success!
  • All weight training is more effective and prevents injuries if you do a short cardio warm up to start. Simple 10 minutes on the treadmill or an easy run around your block should do it. Alternatively, jumping rope or jumping jacks works just as well.
  • Good technique and form prevents injuries and makes your movements and work more effective.  One or two sessions with a personal trainer will give you the basic education you need. This blog covers some of the reasons and questions around good form.
  • Don’t get overwhelmed with the huge variety of weights and equipment you see at gyms. You can do full body resistance training very simply with your own body weight. Check these out!
  • Try a simple fitness app such as Hot5 with tons of 5 minute video workouts so you can get down to business and workout without having to plan and devise a workout yourself.

The following workout is basic and covers the major body parts. It is a great example of where you can start on your weight training plan. For the exercises below, pay attention to your form, and perform 15-20 reps and 2-3 sets of each exercise.

All of the links included in this post are to assist you with a bit more detail as you learn more about weight training. Don’t let this information overwhelm you. Instead, use it to clarify your questions.

Most of all, keep it simple, get strong, and be healthy!

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

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Variety in Your Workouts Doesn’t Have to Be Hard or Complicated!

By Janet Luhrs, www.simpleliving.com

Do you find yourself falling into the same workout routine simply because it seems too complicated to change things up or think of a new approach? 

I get it. But guess what? I have a simple plan that makes it easy to bring variety to your workouts without a detailed, complicated plan or having to learn new techniques.

First, it’s not only your mind that needs variety to keep things fun and fresh, but your body needs the same thing.Doing the same cardio and resistance routines leads to your body hitting a “performance plateau” resulting in a lack of results. Changing things up allows your body to recover and also repair.

  • If you belong to a gym, changing your cardio can be as easy as getting outside of your comfort zone and taking a different group class than usual. If you naturally gravitate toward Pilates or yoga, register for a boot camp. Are you a devoted spin junkie? Get into a dance aerobics class instead.
  • No gym? No worries, try this simple approach to switching up your cardio: If you normally run, M, W, F, get out and cycle. If you normally hit the elliptical at home, get out and do an outdoor boot camp.  Your body will appreciate the break from your usual pounding on the same muscle groups.
  • Regardless of which new cardio you try, challenge yourself to use the HIIT method to make your cardio efforts more effective and keep your time manageable.
  • Body weight exercises keep your resistance training simple since they usually work multiple body parts at once. The simplicity is the lack of gear, weight machines, or even dumb bells.

In addition to the above, learn to see opportunities throughout your day to “workout” without having to head to the gym mid-day. Take the stairs, park furthest back in the parking lot as you can, do a full squat when you need to lift something.  Each time you need to move, do it with full use of your body as possible.

Let me know what strategies you have adopted to keep your workouts simple, yet fresh.

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com.

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Lose All of the Stuff: How You Can Exercise Without Lots of Equipment

By Janet Luhrs, www.simpleliving.com

Have you ever thought about the insanity of making exercise complicated? Something that should be so, well, simple, can get ridiculous. Take exercise equipment. Except for one friend of mine who actually uses the exercise equipment in her house – everyone else I know uses theirs as dust collectors. 

But it’s not even the equipment we buy for our homes that gets complicated – how about all that stuff in the gym? Stairclimbers? What happened to taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator? 

So think about it. Your life is probably complicated enough. How about simplifying your exercise routine as a way to start un- complicating your whole life. 

Here are some ways you can really simplify your exercise routine – and get the results you want:

Cardio Options

  • Who needs those huge cardio stair climbers, treadmills and stationary bikes when you have stairs at your disposal? Whether it is a staircase in your office building or a nearby hill climb or stadium steps, you don’t have to look far for stairs to boost your cardio. Meet up with co- workers at lunchtime for a daily stair workout or with friends on the weekend. Look around you city and you’ll be surprised how many great sets of stairs you can find.
  • Plyometrics in your own home. All you need is a 10’ x 10’ space to get your heart rate up and running. This video is jam packed with a wide variety of Plyometric exercises for you. If you’re not the disciplined type, then make a date with your partner or a friend and set a regular time to do these exercises.
  • Jumping rope…you remember, from recess?  Well, not much has changed and a jump rope is easy to take on trips and pull out as needed. Do it every morning before work. Start with any number you can and keep working up to longer and longer sessions.

Resistance Training

  • Resistance bands can cover a huge range of weight training exercises and they fold away in a drawer much easier than that set of iron weight. You can train every major muscle group using resistance bands.
  • Get even simpler and do most of the exercises above using a towel!
  • A chair is great for push-ups, squats, lat pulls, tricep dips, or ab exercises.
  • If you just have one piece of equ9ipment for your workouts, you can limit it to a kettle ball and accomplish a full body resistance workout with it.

Stretching

You see, you can keep your workout routine simple and easy and still hit cardio, resistance training, and stretching. Share with us your simple, go-to strategies for your workouts!

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com.

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10 Ingredients to Keep on Hand for Simple Recipes

By Janet Luhrs, www.simpleliving.com

We have all been there; it’s a weeknight after work and the very last thing you want to do is swing by the local market for inspiration and ingredients to start dinner.  And when you do this, you and your hungry stomach too often make less than healthy choices. But wait! I have a much, much easier, better plan!

Take 15 minutes and do a google search for simple, healthy dinner recipes. There are loads of them, and if you stick to simple recipes, you’ll find that they use just a few basic ingredients. What’s next? Go to the grocery store and buy those staples. Keeping them on hand will give you more options than you realize, and viola! You’ll have a plan and the basics to give you easy dinner options.  

I’ve included some ridiculously easy recipes to get you started. Each one of them will need a few more ingredients than  the basic 10 noted here, but having these on hand will cover you for the following recipes and many more!

  • Chicken breasts or rotisserie chicken (or in a real pinch, canned chicken)
  • Organic chicken stock or bouillon
  • Rice pasta, quinoa, or whole grain pasta
  • Onions
  • Canned diced, seasoned tomatoes
  • Veggies of choice: broccoli, carrots, spinach, kale…
  • Canned black beans
  • Peppers
  • Cheese
  • Fresh basil

This 12 minute chicken and broccoli recipe will be a winner for everyone in your household. Serve it with rice or quinoa.

If you keep salmon fillets in your freezer, or in a pinch, canned salmon, the Quinoa Pilaf with Salmon, Spinach and Mushrooms is jam-packed with nutrients and Omega-3’s.

A robust Mediterranean flavor accompanies this healthful Greek Chicken Pasta recipe. Plenty of fiber and protein will put it to the top of your go-to meal list for the week.

Served with beef or chicken, this Piquant Spaghetti with Peppers and Tomatoes brings Italy to your week. Capers are just about the only ingredient you need to grab that is not on the basic list.

These Oven Fajitas are unbelievably easy to prep if you don’t have a grill and you can get not only a great dinner out of the recipe, but some yummy lunches to take to the office.

This Tomato Basil Chicken recipe takes only15 minutes to prep and is high in protein.  Make it even simpler with canned, diced tomatoes if you don’t have fresh ones on hand.

Packed with protein and served over rice makes the Chicken over Black Bean recipe a yummy Mexican option in your repertoire.

Hopefully the ingredient list will simplify your quest for healthful and yummy diners as well as add some new options to your week.  Please share with us your go-to recipes and ingredients that you keep on hand.

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com.

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Simplifying Your Cardio Workouts for Maximum Results

by Janet Luhrs, www.simpleliving.com

You’ve seen them, and if you’re like me – go ahead and admit it – maybe you’ve been a little jealous! I’m talking about those devoted cardio machine junkies who faithfully pound away day after day, week after week on the elliptical, treadmill, or spin bike.  Or your neighbor who runs every morning, no matter what the weather. I know! You’re wondering what they have that you don’t, right? How come they seem to have so much discipline and you don’t? 

But wait! Sometimes things aren’t what they seem! Oftentimes when people do the same routine over and over and over – no matter how dedicated – their bodies don’t change all that much. They might have super healthy hearts – but that might be all. Why is this? They’re not exercising the right way. And you, my friend, can start now, doing things the right way – the way that’s far more likely to give you the results you want. Ready?

If you want to go beyond just having a healthy heart, but also to make changes in your lean muscle/fat ratio, then you need to understand how your body burns fat and how your heart rate factors into that process.

Much has been written by exercise scientists and trainers regarding the “Fat Burning Zone”, HIIT (High intensity interval training) and other discussions around the most effective way to not only get a healthy heart, but to lose unwanted weight. It can get pretty complex. Check this out if you really want to get into the details, numbers, and science of it.

It is true that lower-intensity cardio burns a higher percentage of fat to energy extended than a higher intensity workout. As a result of this, people are reasoning why work so hard (25% higher) to only burn 20 more fat calories? The problem with this thinking is two-fold: First, the focus is primarily on burning fat calories during the workout only. And second, little to no consideration is given to the calories and fat burned after the workout, as well as total calories burned.

Training using a HIIT method affects your metabolism both during the workout and long afterwards. HITT demands more of your body in the recovery phase and thereby continues to burn calories and fat long after you finished your workout.

Another bonus is that your muscles are protected with HITT workouts since longer bouts of cardio at steady rates tends to burn muscle. Short bursts will preserve your muscles.  More muscle burns fat and it becomes a positive cycle.

Additionally, more fat that is stored in the muscles is broken down following HITT workouts; hence the Afterburn Effect.

What exactly IS a HIIT workout and how do you know you are training at the proper level? Optimal post-exercise calorie burn occurs for most people when hard exercise is performed at 70-80% of your maximum heart rate. A HIIT workout consists of repeated sets of all out cardio (running, burpees, cycling) for short bursts followed by a recovery period performed for half the time of the high burst segment. For example. 60-120 seconds high burst followed by 30-60 seconds recovery.

The longer you can keep up the sets, the more calories burned during the Afterburn cycle.

But who wants to do all that math to be sure you are on target to the best fat burning results? Just make sure that during your high intensity segments, you are unable to talk and you will likely be performing at that 70-80% rate.

By simplifying your cardio workouts and focusing on the following, you can achieve maximum results:

  • 5 minute warm up
  • Workout at high intensity for 60 seconds, then recover for 30 seconds.
  • Continue this for 6-8 sets
  • 5 minute cool down

Alternatively, here is a great Do Anywhere HIIT workout to get you started. Most importantly please keep in mind that your underlying motivation should not just be to burn fat. Doing an HIIT program helps you to maintain and build muscle, be fit for life, increase your metabolism; all of which result in burning fat.

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com.

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Keeping Fitness Simple Keeps it Fun!

By Janet Luhrs, www.simpleliving.com

Don’t you hate it when you really, really want to get to the gym, or go for a hike or long walk – anything – but your crazy, complicated life gets in the way? I know how it is. Sometimes I can let months go by and all of a sudden I realize I’ve totally fallen off of my workout routine. But when too much time has passed, we all know what’s next – it’s almost impossible to get your lazy rear off the couch. So try something that’s worked for me – keep your workout simple. 

First of all, check your complex attitude at the door. Are you always striving for the perfect conditions, or the perfect set? Do you feel compelled to hit all body groups on a regular schedule each week, week in and out?  You may be a workout perfectionist and that attitude may be killing your joy.

Here are some suggestions to keeping your focus and fitness simple and enjoyable:

  • Keep your gym or weight training regime to less than 10 exercises. This reduces the pressure to hit it all and keeps your ability to succeed. Check out this great YouTube video for a simple, 15-minute full body workout! 
  • Be flexible. You don’t have to stop working out just because you leave town. Here are a few simple exercises that you can do anywhere, any time with no equipment.
  • Another of my favorites is the classic 7-Minute workout that I read about in the NY Times several years ago. You can now get the app and do it anywhere.
  • Make sure your workout schedule fits your life and your personality.  If you are not a morning person and find yourself dreading your morning workout, change up to after work.
  • Involve your significant others. If your relationships are strained and you are spending incredible amounts of time at the gym or running, then consider including your family in your workouts.
  • Change things up and get explosive. Plyometrics are high intensity movements that push up your heart rate as well as challenge major muscle groups. Ditch some of your regular routine and adds these for something new to spice it up!
  • If you are not seeing results, check your diet. It is said that getting fit is 85% diet, so if you are working out faithfully 3-5 times each week and not seeing results, your nutrition plan may be too complex. This one is just for 28 days to jump start things. Let us know what you think.

There is no one right way to get fit.  Having a plan that is sustainable for YOU and YOUR life is the key to success. The task is to choose what works for you and to stick with it. Let us know what you do to keep your workouts fun and simple and get out of the doldrums.

Don’t worry, be happy, and get fit!

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com.

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5 Fun and Seriously Simple Fitness Ideas

by Janet Luhrs, simpleliving.com

Argh. Have you hit a plateau with your workout plan?  Are you no longer able to lose weight or get in shape, even though you’re working out? Or maybe you’re just bored with what you’ve been doing. I have an answer for you – try switching up your routine and make it fun. Did you know that your body will hit a plateau if you keep doing the same routine over and over? Oftentimes, if you hate to work out, it’s because you haven’t been doing things that are interesting and fun – and your body responds by not changing. 

Keep in mind that “exercise” is any activity that elevates your heart rate and physically challenges you. That’s all! So play with me here for a moment and think outside of the (gym) box. Did you know that you can get results by doing any activity that you enjoy, and all you have to do is find a way to elevate your heart rate. Can’t think of what this could be? Here are a few ideas to jump start your imagination. 

  • Dance moves for your thighs and lower body: Inspired by dance pros, the plié squat and leg sweep are moves that are sure to strengthen your lower body and tone your thighs. If you enjoy these moves, then consider signing up for a dance class to really get your legs strong and in shape. Zumba, swing dancing and Tango are amazingly great workouts and if you seriously love to dance, I promise you’ll have so much fun you’ll forget you’re actually getting exercise. 
  • Hiking with friends:  This is such a fun, social opportunity to get out and breathe some fresh air and catch up with friends. Instead of meeting friends for lunch or coffee – suggest a hike instead, and choose a trail with some elevation gain. It’ll be a great workout. But if you want seriously fabulous results – you’ll need to do this regularly. How? Ask a friend to go with you say, every Tuesday or Saturday morning. Or better yet, sign up with a hiking club and meet new people who love getting outside. One of the most important things you need to do if you want to be successful at getting regular exercise is to be around people who inspire you to get and stay in shape. Being around couch potatoes will make you a couch potato. Being around healthy, active people will make you the same.
  • Geocaching: Who doesn’t enjoy a fun treasure hunt? Geocaching is a great social activity where participants use clues and GPS to hide and then find containers with a logbook inside. Once located, sign the logbook and follow the clues to the next treasure. Search online for local geocaching clubs near you and start your next adventure.
  • Play at the park: Who says playgrounds are just for kids?  Be a kid at heart and put your local playground to good use and get a full body workout in the process. Consider riding your bike there and back and you have added cardio. To amp this up to the next level, do what I’ve done at certain points in my life, and hire a personal trainer who will work with you outside, or find an exercise group that meets outside. For example, you can google “outdoor fitness meetups.”
  • Recess is on: Speaking of playgrounds, check out your local parks and rec guides and there just may be an adult recess class available!  Kickball, capture the flag, and tag are just a few games to take you back to those beloved days of recess.

 Remember that diet is responsible for 80% of your success to lose unwanted weight, so as you get more active, remind yourself of your efforts and don’t “reward” yourself with more treats. Your reward is greater health and fitness, so have fun and enjoy something new!  Let us know of any “non-exercise” exercises that work for you.

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com.