Does your coffee break look like this?

Coffee-and-DonutsIf so, this reminder is for you.  As we are in the midst of holiday baking and parties with lots of sugary options, it is good to remember some important things about what all that sugar is doing to your body.

Every time you eat sugar, your immune system is supressed for hours afterwards.  That is especially important to know with all the crud going around right now.  It’s hard to get enough sleep during some of the busiest weeks of the year and to remember to wash your hands more frequently and keep up with your stock of hand sanitizer without making it even easier for those nasty germs to take hold.

Eating lots of sugar messes with your metabolism.  It sends a signal to your body to store fat, so those fat free candies find their way to your fat cells no matter what the package says.  Even things that aren’t normally fattening can become so when your body is primed to store everything.

Here’s a typical scenario.  You’re at an evening party and you’ve made healthy food choices thus far, even avoiding the special cookies brought in by a co-worker by hiding out in your office or decided not to eat until the party.  Your brain by this point is having a hard time continuing to make good choices because it is tired.  Exerting will power uses up energy in your brain.  By the end of the day, there’s not much energy left.  You cave… you know you do.  Then you sample one of everything and go back for seconds and thirds of the things you really loved.

There is a better way.  Here’s the same day but with a game plan.  If you know you’ll be having a big meal for dinner, eat 10 to 15 grams of protein every 2 hours throughout the day focusing on lean meats and veggies.  Have a salad with chicken for lunch.  Drink lots of water throughout the day.  Then when it comes time for your dinner, you’ve kept your blood sugar level and won’t store all that food you eat for dinner as fat.

If you are heading out for a party where the focus will be on dessert, have some fruit with breakfast and lunch, eat lean protein for snacks and drink plenty of water throughout the day. Have some good quality fats with your dinner.  You will go to your party with your body feeling happy with your food choices, not desperate to hold on to everything you put into your mouth.  You’ve made your food choices ahead of time so didn’t need to exert brain power to decide whether or not to eat something.  Plus, since you didn’t starve yourself all day, you’ll be more likely eat just what you really enjoy.

Just as importantly, when you do get to your party or dinner, enjoy it.  This will be a lot easier to do if you’ve followed your game plan.  And be aware that guilt can add those unwanted pounds just like pound cake.

Building a Stronger Self

Unknown-1Great article in the Star Tribune today entitled “Building a stronger self“.  The article is written about Harvard social psychologist Amy Cuddy.  In 2012 she gave a TED talk on what she calls “power poses”.  You can tell a lot about a person by how they carry themselves.  Those that feel powerful stand tall, with shoulders back.  Those who feel insecure or powerless curl in on themselves, slouching, crossing their legs and arms.  The message she wants everyone to know is that when it comes to being and feeling powerful, how you carry yourself can change not only how others perceive you, but how you perceive yourself.  She has studied these changes in her research and has discovered that just two minutes of standing or sitting in a power pose raised testosterone 20% in both men and women and lowered cortisol 25%.  In other words, these poses left people feeling more powerful and less stress reactive — a great combination!  One simple power pose is to stand like Wonder Woman, arms akimbo, as my daughter likes to say.  So before your next presentation, test, social outing, spend two minutes (in a bathroom stall if need be) standing in a power pose.  Even if you don’t feel powerful, her mantra is “Fake it ’til you become it”.

Why am I writing about this?  For one thing, if you haven’t watched Ms Cuddy’s TED talk, I highly recommend you do so.  The other reason is that I see a parallel between her power poses and Original Strength resets we do in class.  Resets can leave you feeling powerful in the same way.  I bet research would show that the resets also raise testosterone and lower cortisol.  So why do you need resets instead of just the 2 minute power pose?  Because OS resets can physically make you stronger helping those power poses to feel completely natural.  I don’t think you’d have to “fake it” if you’ve been doing resets.  Not only will you feel stronger, you will be stronger!


Time to Take a Balance Test

There was a great article in last week’s Wall Street Journal on balance.  One of the big dangers of getting older is falling.  We’ve all heard about elderly people who’ve fallen and broken a hip and then are hospitalized and immobile.  I’ve written before on the importance of movement for maintaining brain health.  A fall can quickly become a life threatening event.  If you can’t move, both your body and brain suffer.  Knowing this I was still surprised at the following statistics from this article:  “In the U.S., falls are the leading cause of injury for people over 65, according to a 2005 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Every 17 seconds, someone in this age group is treated in an emergency room for a fall.  Every 30 minutes, one will die from injuries caused by falling.”

0But, you say, I’m in my 30s (or 40s, or 50s).  I don’t really need to worry about this yet.  According to this article “[a]n important age range for improving balance is the 30s and 40s.  While most people don’t develop serious balance problems until well into their 50s, experts recommend that otherwise healthy people keep active and do simple exercises to challenge the body and keep steady into old age.” The article goes on to talk about the 3 important systems we use to maintain balance:  the visual, the vestibular and the proprioceptive.  If you’ve been coming to Forza! for any length of time, you’ve heard me talk about these systems and have learned the resets and other exercises we do to maintain or improve these systems.  The addition of the Surfset Fitness Boards has provided another method to work on balance in a challenging and fun way.

photo-7So for you Forza! clients out there, keep showing up for class knowing you are doing great things for your future selves.  But don’t stop there.  Invite your friends and family to join us.  Tell them how important they are to you and how you want to enjoy many more healthy and active years with them.  Tell them they need balance training in their lives.  Tell them Forza! can help.

Winter Squash Protein Muffins

Winter Squash MuffinsDSC03887

If you are looking for a slightly healthier alternative to all the sweets that tempt you during this holiday season, try these Winter Squash Protein Muffins.  We’ve been making these during the winter months for years without the protein powder and I make banana protein muffins almost weekly so I wanted to try these squash muffins with the added protein.   I adapted them by substituting protein powder for 1/2 the flour, used gluten free flour for the flour I kept in and left out the brown sugar in the batter entirely.Winter Squash Protein Muffins

They still turned out great and didn’t last long in my house.  They end up to be about 30 g of carbs and 10 g each of protein and fat, so they are still an occasional treat, not an eat every day item.  My next goal is to try to substitute a protein frosting for the crumb topping to reduce the carbs to 19.  I’ll let you know if I succeed.

Click on image to see full size recipe.

Happy Thanksgiving

tumblr_inline_mw35jwfKjo1qdei8mHappy Thanksgiving Everyone!  Winter is almost here is and with that comes fewer options for in season green veggies.  Kale and brussels sprouts are two that top the list.  I’ve come to really like kale, but I’ve always hated brussels sprouts.  Last week I found this recipe for brussels sprouts that has me singing their praises.  It is such a simple recipe and has great fresh ingredients.  If you have been a brussels sprouts devotee, here is another recipe for your arsenal:  Hashed Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Zest.  If you have never liked brussels sprouts, this recipe just might change your mind.   Use a food processor to shred them to make them even faster.  Enjoy!

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RKC REcertified!

RKC-Big-Six-III am stiff and sore but also reinvigorated.  My Saturday was spent at a Russian Kettlebell recertification in Wisconsin, lead by Master RKC Instructor Andrea DuCane.  It was challenging, but also rewarding and educational.  RKC instructors are required to get recertified every 3 years to keep up to date on the latest form requirements and teaching methods — the types of changes that occur when an organization is dedicated to excellence and not willing to rest on their laurels.  I encourage anyone who is looking for a physical challenge to look into getting certified.  The RKC (Russian Kettlebell Challenge) offers two levels of certification, a one day certification call the HKC (Hardstyle Kettlebell Challenge – a great place to start) that is challenging but not as rigorous as the RKC which is a three day extensive certification (which I first did in 2009).  I’d be happy to train anyone for either of these challenges and would love to have some additional instructors for Forza! Even if you’re not ready or looking for something like this, please get into Forza! over the next few weeks as I work through with all of you the modifications to basic kettlebell drills I learned this weekend.  See you there!

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Surfing at Forza!

1378673_10201575786790825_1448105239_nIt might be gray and rainy outside, but inside we were surfing at Forza!   Great job everyone!

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If you haven’t been in to Forza! for a while, you’ll have to come and try out the new SurfSet fitness boards.


Stand Up

There was a great article in Monday’s Star Tribune Variety section called Stand Up. Your Desk Job May Be Hazardous To Your Health.  This is not new news.  In the 1950’s a study in England showed that bus conductors who spent their day sitting behind the wheel were twice as likely to have coronary heart disease as the conductors who spend their days walking up and down the aisles and climbing the stairs on double decker buses collecting fares.

UnknownResearch in the last few years has shown that even if you exercise daily it still does not counteract the effects of sitting all day, although exercisers still fair better than non-exercisers.  What was most interesting about this article to me was that businesses are starting to do something about this.  Salo, a financial consulting and staffing agency, after participating in “inactivity research” done by the Mayo Clinic, has added 11 treadmill desks, desks that can be converted to standing desks, and telephone headsets that allow callers to walk and talk.  The results?  Employees cholesterol counts and weight went down while productivity went up!  A win-win all around.  Hopefully more companies will jump on board with this idea.

I would like to suggest that sitting can be harmful in additional ways not discussed in the article.  When you sit all day, you are turning off the muscles in your core that are meant to tie you all together from top to bottom and left to right.  When these muscles spend so much time turned off, they are less effective in doing their job when you do exercise and you are much more likely to get injured.  Sitting all day causes you to lose your reflexive stability.  So what do you do about that?  You press reset.DSC03733

Even if you don’t have access to a treadmill desk, there are resets you can do standing or even sitting that can help mitigate the effects of all that sitting.  If you haven’t read Original Strength:  Regaining the Body You Were Meant to Have by Tim Anderson and Geoff Neupert, I highly recommend it.  If you want to learn how to press reset, come to a Restore Your Core class at Forza!  See you there.