5 Ways Balance Fitness and Life + #prAnaSpringStyle

5 Ways to Balance Fitness & LifeIt’s now unofficially spring, how are those New Year’s goals progressing? Whether it’s general health and wellness, getting in bikini shape, or nailing a specific fitness goal on your list, I bet there has been hurdle or two in the road. Or, at least there has been for me!  Work obligations, family duties, a defeatist attitude and even the weather are obstacles that can get in the way of accomplishing your daily workout. Thankfully with the temperatures warming up, we can all get outside and move when and where we like and enjoy the feel-good mojo some good old-fashioned, natural vitamin D sunshine!  So, if your fitness good intentions have been waning loately (or weren’t even there at all), get back on track with these

5 Ways to Balance Fitness & Life.

1) Be Efficient: Have a game plan, don’t just show up at the gym and wander around aimlessly trying to decide what to do. I’ve seen focused people get a more solid and productive workout in 20 minutes than lollygaggers do in 2 hours.  High intensity activities like running, CrossFit, interval training, and rowing can all get you big gains with low time commitment.

 2) Be Sneaky: Use little bits of down time to fit in fitness. For example, do a few isometric exercises in the car while you wait for the light to turn green or close the office door and bust out some burpees.  Even if you pass up your after work run for a marathon of the latest television show, don’t fast-forward through the commercials – get up and move for the duration. Everything adds up and something is better than nothing!

3) Be on a Schedule – Don’t just “pencil” your workouts in, use permanent ink! While that may not be completely realistic in light of the constantly changing demands of life, it is good to have a general idea of when and where you are going to accomplish a sweat session.  When an activity is “on the books,” there is accountability and it becomes much easier to arrange other obligations around the workout or say “no” to things you deem less important.

4) But, Be Flexible – I’m not talking flexible as in bendy (although that’s good too, so try some yoga!), but as in adaptable when fate doesn’t seem to want to allow for a run or workout.  Sometimes “the schedule” gets put in total override; so view your workout as not “lost forever” but temporarily postponed and/or altered. Instead of running 5 miles in the morning, climb the stairs for 5 minutes every hour at work or knock out high-intensity intervals (like burpees, jumping jacks and air squats) while your kiddos are finishing up piano lessons.

5) Be Ready:  Because squeezing in workouts can sometimes be unpredictable, I always wear clothing that allows for a wide range of movement and is moisture-wicking. If your lifestyle doesn’t allow for wearing yoga pants or running shorts all day (haha), then keep a fully-stocked gym bag in the car at all times. Don’t forget your athletic shoes, swimsuit, sunglasses and yoga mat – you never know what opportunity will arise!

jen and lucy prana

I also wanted to share about prAna,  one of my all-time favorite brands that fits with my healthy, active, fun-loving lifestyle (and what you’ll find on my bod or in my bag to meet Tip No. 5). I feel so lucky that my “job” doesn’t require me to wear stuffy suits and high heels, another benefit of being your own boss! I’m on-the-go all day, from fitness class to famer’s market to coffee-shop client meeting and need clothes that are functional, but also fabulous and free-spirited. PrAna meets all my look-good-play-hard needs, plus all the pieces I own can be tossed right into the washer and dryer.

Kara Jean at prAna.com use discount code PSSS16TFF to save 15%For example, these Kara Jeans may just be the best pair of jeans I’ve ever owned – they fit true to size, are flattering, have a bit of stretch to accommodate the daily leaping, lounging, lifting and impromptu yoga poses in my life. Plus, they come in 11 different colors and patterns!

 

Kara Jean at prAna.com use discount code PSSS16TFF to save 15%

Another reason to love prAna is their mindfulness to where and how their beautiful clothes are made. Their creations are made with organic cotton, wools and hemp – and even recycled polyester and repurposed down feathers. They are stalwarts of sustainability, traceability, and fair trade practices and, since 2012, have partnered with bluesign® to ensure that the materials in the clothes I’m putting on my body meet the highest human safety and environmental standards.

Cali Sundress from prAna.com use discount code PSSS16TFF to save 15%I also added another prAna sundress to my spring wardrobe, I already have four or five of their dresses, they are just so very cute and versatile.  This one is the Cali Dress and it’s available in a variety of solid colors and prints (mine is Safari Guava) – I can’t wait to wear it and feel warm rays on my shoulders!

Whether you are a yogi, climber, runner, traveler, suburban mom or urban warrior, you’ll discover must-have clothing that helps turns any day, every day into the BEST DAY and gears you up to fit fitness in wherever you may be! Check out the new #prAnaSpringStyle for yourself! You can use my Discount Code PSSS16TFF to save 15% at prAna.com plus Free Shipping on orders $99 or more .

Five Ways to Balance Fitness and LifeSo, how are you balancing fitness and life? What is your biggest obstacle? Have you ever found a skinny jean that is perfect? What is your favorite yoga pose? Share any or all in the comments below – XOXO, Jennifer

This post was sponsored by Fit Approach on behalf of prAna. All opinions and enthusiasm are my own.  

Headstands and Hot Dogs + Healthy Chip #Giveaway

headstand balance challengeFirst, let’s just get the headstand out of the way. This is not your ordinary inversion. It’s a headstand that will challenge you to the very core as you tighten every muscle trying to maintain balance – I’ve thrown in balance busting elements including WIND and WEIGHT! To try this, you’ll need a heavy-duty garage fan, 4 to 10 pound medicine ball and the ability to safely kick up and hold a headstand for at least a minute (you don’t want to crash into the fan). To add in the balance challenges, grab a medicine ball between your feet on the way up, fully extend legs upward, and then bend knees downward. Repeat as long as possible. To test your balance further, continue the upside down medicine ball leg presses, but have a friend turn the garage fan on full blast. Whoohoo!

Hot dogs are a staple of summer – I can’t imagine how many dogs the world has downed at ball parks, boardwalks, and backyard barbeques. Sure, some foodies might be too high faulting for a hotdog, while fitness-oriented folks may shy away assuming all frankfurters are loaded with fat, random animal parts, chemicals and other questionable stuff.  Okay, well maybe the most widely available hotdogs are not so “hot” in the nutrition department, but there are lots of healthier options around today including this round up of grass-fed, all-beef hotdogs from Health.com.

hotdog ingredients

It can be quite confusing to pick a healthy hot dog!

Definitely read labels; that’s your job as a consumer. For example, when the package rattles off ingredients such as “by-products” or “variety meats,” this means the hotdog may have as little as 15 percent muscle meat , the amount required by the USDA. Depending on your preference, make sure beef or grass-fed beef is the number one, first ingredient. Also, if you think you’re getting an uncured, chemical-free hot dog, think again because I don’t think it’s possible.  It’s common practice, even by “healthy” companies, to label products as “uncured” and “nitrate free”  . . . . .wait for it . . . “with the exception of nitrates naturally occurring in celery salt.”  It’s not like celery salt is innocently added to perk up a hot dog’s flavor. Instead, when this water-dense plant is grown in nitrate-rich water and then dried, ground and passed off as “salt,” it also passes on (you guessed it) a concentrated level of nitrates. Studies have shown that hot dogs labeled “nitrate free” contain between ½ to 10 times the amount of nitrates found in conventional hot dogs – WOW!  Check out this interesting article on What’s Inside the Bun from the New York Times.

Sonya Thomas competes in the 2012 Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Eating Contest at Coney Island in the Brooklyn borough of New York

Champ Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas getting it done!

So, even with all of these questionable issues at hand, I’ll still eat an all-beef hot dog every now and then, especially in the summer.  Really it’s about moderation, I’m only eating one hot dog at a sitting, a couple times a year – and not trying to break the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island. By the way, the men’s record is 67 hot dogs and the women’s is 45 – in ten minutes! Okay, so this is more than a little gross, but so morbidly fascinating – and it does sort of appeal to my competitive spirit. But, for now I will just weenie out and remain a spectator!

fit rank toppings

Another way to make your hot dogs “healthier” is to top them with fresh, nutritious ingredients. I recently shared my recipes for “Healthy Hot Dog Toppings” on Litehouse Foood’s Living Lighthouse blog. Instead of adding gut-busting chili and cheese, I used the new line of Opadipity Greek Yogurt Dips to create gourmet dogs. Head over to Litehouse Foods to check out my Greek God Hot Dog, Garlic Green Machine,  and Cha-Cha Chipotle Dog!

jennifer thefitfork food should taste good

Okay, you can’t have hot dogs without chips – and of course, I’m talking about healthier chips! Food Should Taste Good (aka FSTG) recently sent me a box full of their delicious, nutritious flavors to test out – and I also get to give some away! I’ve loved these tortilla chips for a long time . . . . but had only tried the Whole Grain flavor until recently . Holy guacamole . . . there is a Guacamole flavor .  . . and an Olive flavor . . . and a Jalapeno Cheddar flavor and a gazillion other creative flavors – too many to mention!

I love that these chips are made from real ingredients, have zero trans fats, and no cholesterol – plus, they are certified gluten free and Kosher, making them the perfect anytime snack for pretty much everyone!  My husband eats these healthy chips straight out of the bag while I like to crunch them up and use them as croutons on my salad. Or with dip, dips are good – especially my favorite Chipotle Ranch Dip made with Greek Yogurt. And with my new favorite FSTG chips – Jalapeno Cheddar. Chips, super double good. Dip, good. Got it? Good. Now get it! Or, win some good food (see Rafflecopter app below):

food should taste good jalapeno cheddar

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Ode to my Exercise Ball and At-Home Proprioceptor Stimulating Moves

Yes, I’m an ‘on the ball’ kind of runner!

Sitting alone in the corner
Super-sized yet oh-so taut,
Let me re-introduce myself,
Mr. Ball, show me what you’ve got.

To some, you’re just a child’s plaything,
But, oh, I know, you’re so much more.
We’ll rendezvous, just me and you,
Let’s rock and roll from quads to core.

Hello crunches, planks and deep side bends,
You’ve got magic moves, not for the weak.
For sure, I’ll be sore but craving more,
So let’s hook up “same time next week.”

I know, it’s weird, but I’m in a meaningful relationship with my exercise ball. Obviously normal people don’t feel the need to wax poetic about a giant rubber sphere. So, how much do I love my exercise ball? Let me count the ways:

  • With an exercise ball, I can perform a seemingly never-ending array of fitness moves that target every part of the body (I’ve included four great entry-level ones to start with below).
  • Many standard gym moves, like bicep curls or skull crushers, can be made more challenging by sitting, bridging or, in some other way, balancing on a ball.
  • As far as fitness equipment goes, an exercise ball fits perfectly into anyone’s budget. There are plenty of options in the $20 buck range.
  • It hardly takes up any space. When not in use, I hide my exercise ball in the bathtub and close the curtain!
  • It’s easy to take on a trip, just deflate and toss in the suitcase. Most hotels have an air pump and will send up a bell hop to inflate or deflate, as needed.
  • When each of my boys was a baby, gently bouncing on an exercise ball while holding him would help with fussiness.

Semi-Scientific Words on Proprioceptors and the Exercise Ball

The job of proprioceptors is to connect our brains with our bodies; in other words, to help us have a ‘sense of self.’ In constant communication with the brain and spinal cord, these neuromuscular receptors are linked to how the body moves through time and space. Proprioceptors run interference on everything imaginable, from the position of a joint to the tension of a muscle. Procioceptors in tip top shape are essential for good balance and, according to an interesting article in Runner’s World, we’ll lose up to 75 percent of our balancing ability between the ages of 25 to 75. You can join me in trying to fend off Father Time and challenge your proprioceptors to stay young by performing tasks on an exercise ball. The body’s increased need for stability and balance on an exercise ball stimulates the workload of proprioceptors, which in turn can make you a more agile, aware and injury-free athlete.

Try These Exercise Ball Moves at Home

Triceps Dip

 Sit on a workout bench or sturdy chair and place hands on edge with fingers forward. Rest your calves and ankles on top of exercise ball. Next, straighten arms while lifting hips upward. Bend arms to lower torso and then straighten arms to return to starting position. Three sets of 10 reps each.

 

 

Low-Ab Crunch

 Lie on your back with arms at side and calves resting on the ball. Without arching back, raise hips upward while keeping abdominal muscles engaged for support (see A). With hips still raised, bend your knees and roll the ball toward body with feet until they’re flat on top of the ball. Slowly return to the starting position. Three sets of 10 reps each.

 

 

Plank

Keeping toes on the ground, lean on the top of ball with forearms while keeping remainder of body in a tight plane. Engage abs and align neck with spine for proper form. Three sets of 30 – 90 second position holds.

 

 

Crunch

Rest middle back on top of ball while keeping arms straight and palms placed on upper thighs (see A). Next, slowly curl upper body forward, one vertebra at a time, while keeping hands on top of thighs. After each crunch, lower back slowly to the starting position. Three sets of 10 reps each.