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When it comes to workplace safety and proper lifting form, Travis and his team at Work Force Strong and Fitness Artist don’t take any chances. And neither should you. For videos on how to perform a wide array of movements in a safe manner, (and much more!) let Travis and his highly qualified team walk you through it.

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Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Injury Prevention

Written by Travis Gil

Let’s face it, injuries are going to happen. From slips, trips, and falls to repetitive motion injuries, workers get hurt on the job every day. Your workforce put their bodies on the line more and more frequently leaving them susceptible to some serious harm. Not only is this costly for the workers themselves, but also their families and employers usually take the brunt of it. From lost pay and lost revenue to time off and high expenses, this is a lose/lose scenario.

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In addition, injuries also affect the rest of the team. Nothing can bring the morale at a job site down more than a teammate who suffers an injury. It can create animosity when other employees have to pick up the slack of an injured co-worker. It can also generate an environment where the rest of the team is in fear of getting hurt doing their job. This can lead to some serious production issues.

The good news is that most of these injuries can be avoided. Utilizing a proactive approach can significantly diminish the chances of them happening. This means that a lot of time and money could be saved for the workers themselves as well as their employers if they take the correct steps to prevent them.

With the right injury prevention program, chances of work related injuries happening are cut down quite a bit. A well balanced program helps educate employees of the steps that need to be taken to prevent future injuries as well as drives overall production up.

In order to keep health care costs down and employee morale up it’s important to invest in an injury prevention program such as Work Force Strong. Work Force Strong will tailor a custom program to the needs of your company. In addition to avoiding injuries, your employees will also receive the residual effects of optimal health. When your employees are healthy they are happy and when they are happy they are more productive! That means a higher profit margin for you in the long run.

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Wednesday, 08 August 2018

Wellness Program

Written by Travis Gil

If you aren’t a part of a wellness program, you should really consider joining one. Thanks to decades of research, employers are flocking to add a wellness program to their benefits. Wellness programs are the most researched benefits offered by business. These programs offer employees social support, tools, incentives, strategies, and so much more. All of which aid in disease prevention, weight loss, and your overall health. Check out the list I’ve compiled below of the top five benefits that Wellness Programs offer.

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1. Wellness programs Improve Employee Health Behaviors

Behavior change is at the heart of all good wellness plans. They help people pick up and keep healthy behaviors. This makes it the best benefit of having a wellness program.

Healthy behaviors lead to lower health risks which in turn leads to less chronic disease. When employees have less chronic diseases they have fewer health care costs.

Numerous studies have researched that wellness programs are able to improve health behaviors. The well-organized models that followed effective behavior change have the best results.

It’s important to maintain healthy behaviors for years. If you don’t, you won’t be getting the benefits that come with it. This means if you want your employees to have healthy behaviors for years you would benefit from getting them in a good wellness program.

2. Wellness Programs Reduce Health Care Costs

There are hundreds of studies that looked at the financial impact wellness programs have. They are tedious studies that take years to complete. What they found was it depends on how effective the program really is.

In effective wellness programs the health care cost savings will be more than the cost of the program. Most studies show a return investment that is positive.

3. Wellness Programs Improve Productivity

There are many reasons why people have low productivity at work. It could be that they are distracted, tired, or bored. The main problem for it though is poor health.

In the studies done, the employees with unhealthy diets were 66% more likely to perform poorly at work. Those who smoked were 28% more likely to have low productivity than non-smokers.

When you have a program that focuses on helping employees have healthy behaviors, it will eventually impact their productivity.

4. Wellness Programs Can Help Improve Employee Recruitment and Retention

In today’s world there is high competition between companies to get the best of the best to join their team. More often than not, employees are going to go with the job that has the best benefits.

When you include a wellness plan it really shows your employees that you care about the people working for you. It also makes your employees happier overall!

5. Wellness Programs Build Employee Morale

Wellness Programs help employees engage with each other and feel appreciated. After adding a wellness program to employee benefit packages, people find they like the way it changed the work culture.

When your employees are healthy and happy it makes for a better environment all around the board.

Giving employees the option for a wellness program lets them know they are cared for and respected. It makes people happy to be healthy and feel like they have some control in their lives.
Wellness Programs are great for everyone involved. Employees are happy, productivity is up, and health costs are down. Don’t wait to get your company involved in creating a better future.

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Monday, 23 July 2018

Getting Into a Morning Workout Routine

Written by Travis Gil

Waking up in the morning is a struggle for most people. Getting up for an early morning workout? Forget about it.

You have probably spent many a night pep talking yourself into waking up with the sun to get your morning workout in. For those of you who aren’t morning people, that’s probably as far as you got. It’s an automatic reaction to hit the snooze button once you are faced with your blaring alarm at the crack of dawn.

Never fear, I've put together some suggestions to help you achieve your goal of getting into a morning workout routine.

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The first step in starting a morning workout routine is sleep! Staying up late to catch your favorite show might seem worth it at the time... until you are struggling to wake up to hit the gym in the morning. Getting your eight hours in is not only important in keeping a healthy mind, it’s vital to maintaining a morning routine.

Once you’ve gotten into the habit of getting to bed early, waking up in the morning will be a breeze. It’s important when getting into a workout routine that you wake up extra early. This allows some time for your body to gear up for the gym.

You should always eat breakfast before your workout! Even if it’s a banana on your way out of the door, eating something for breakfast will give you the extra energy needed to burn some calories at the gym.

Just as important as eating before working out, your post-workout breakfast is what will get you through the rest of your morning. For most people who are on a workout routine, this consists of some kind of protein shake. I personally use a scoop of chocolate whey with some almond milk, bananas, chia seeds, and ice. It tastes delicious and it’s great for you!

While all of these tips will go a long way in helping you achieve your morning workout goals, it’s only half the battle. The rest all comes down to your state of mind! If you stay motivated and focused on your goal, nothing can stop you from achieving it. To get myself into the right mindset in the morning, I like to think of three things that I’m grateful for before getting out of bed. It starts my day off on a positive note while giving me some time to gear my brain up for the day.

Getting into a morning routine won’t happen overnight. It’s going to take a lot of motivation and self control. You already took the first step by researching what you need to do to make it easier. Now it’s time to put what you learned today to work!

Call 518-497-5440 to schedule your one-on-one session with one of our trainers who will double as your accountability partner and help you achieve that morning workout routine quicker than you thought possible! Make it a great day!

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Sunday, 24 June 2018

Why is worker’s compensation creating a huge dent in your profit?

Written by Travis Gil

While preparing a budget, most organizations make a provision for the management of injuries at the workplace. But, more than often, the actual expenses incurred due to the injuries exceed the tentative expenses allocated in the budget.

This happens because businesses tend to underestimate the expenses and the extent of injuries that can occur at the workplace. They also ignore or do not take into account the indirect expenses to be borne due to injuries.

And it is this ignorance that can create a huge dent in the profits. The importance of avoiding injuries at the workplace is not just associated with the huge amount of costs involved, but also with the fact that most of these expenses can be easily avoided. Let me reveal why healthcare expenses are eating into business profit and how it can be avoided.

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1. The higher risk of accidents at workstations

The cost of accidents at the workplace is an area of major concern for employers. Many businesses do not realize how much these accidents can cost. In fact, most expenses are not obvious.

Accidents involve direct costs like the hospital, medical, and rehabilitation expenses. These expenses are added further by workers' compensation payments, insurance premiums, and sometimes, loss of insurability.

Additionally, there are other less obvious, or indirect costs that are always uninsured. These include the disruptions to the normal work flow when the other workers stop to assist the injured employee, and a resulting drop in the production.

Also, if profits are not sufficient to cover the costs, the business may need to defer the procurement of latest facilities and equipment that could have improved profits.

2. Recovery period

The employee may have to take time off from work for varying periods depending on the extent and severity of the injury. It can cause a loss of income for the worker’s family and leave them in financial ruin.

This can create a significant psychological stress and even affect the personal relations of the employee. The stress can affect the employee’s productivity even after they resume work due to their deteriorating emotional support network at home.

3. Impact on others
The employee morale may hit the bottom after a serious workplace injury. The co-workers and supervisors, who worked with the injured employee, can be emotionally affected. This can have a detrimental impact on the quality of their work. This may result in a substandard production of goods and services provided by your employees. This may harm the reputation of your business in the long run and even result in the loss of business from unsatisfied clients and customers.

Also, after having witnessed how the accident occurred, and how it was handled by the company, can leave the employees resentful towards the employer. In extreme cases, the employees may resort to violence in the case where they feel the incident was handled in an unprepared or unethical manner without due consideration to the injured employee’s immediate treatment. Such disruptions in work can affect the normal business flow and reduce the profits.

4. Higher attrition rates

When the business doesn’t have accident prevention facilities in place, it can become difficult to retain talented and hard-working employees. The higher risk of injuries, lack of adherence to safety standards, and ignorance to employee health can create an impression of your business being “not employee-friendly.” This can also result in difficulties in attracting skilled workforce who would rather work in an organization that cares for employee safety.

These factors can have a huge impact on the quality of services you provide and thus, affect your business growth.

Also, with higher attritions rate, your business will also end up spending some amount on training the replacement staff. The business will also have to bear the cost of the hiring process including giving advertisements for vacancies, charges of HR consulting firms and so on. This will add to increased expenses.

5. Legal consequences

Workplace accidents have the potential to invite legal consequences including lawsuits and regulatory actions. The expenses involved in these would be higher in the case your organization has obviously violated the guidelines of relevant authorities and in worse cases, may result in the termination of your business licenses. This marks the importance of having safety facilities in place to avoid workplace injuries.

The benefits of adopting safety precautions to prevent injuries at the workplace
  • Companies are losing a lot of their hard-earned profit due to their employees getting injured. The loss of body alignment and mobility of the employees at the workstation is often hampered due to the repetitive movements and heavy lifting. Taking the right steps to minimize the risk of injuries can improve the profit significantly by bringing down the direct and indirect costs.
  • Avoiding injuries also means avoiding the loss of time due to the injuries and an improved productivity of your workforce.
  • When your workforce is aware of the steps their employer is taking to ensure their safety, it’s bound to have a positive effect on their morale. This will help them work with a better focus and positive attitude.
  • The lesser number of injuries will instill confidence in the minds of your workforce. This will also reduce the attrition rate and help you retain the talented employees.
  • The tax advantages you can avail by adopting safety practices to avoid injuries cannot be overlooked. The new tax laws allow you to save on the taxations by claiming the expenses involved in adopting safety training. This means, lower taxes to be paid and hence, a better profit!

Most of the workplace injuries can be avoided by increasing proper body mechanics, nutrition, and flexibility. The benefits a business can derive by taking precautions to avoid injuries are numerous. By hiring Work Force Strong, they can enjoy a higher return by investing in their employees’ health by reducing the costs involved in injury management, loss of working days, attrition rate, improved productivity, training of new staff, taxation, and so on. That is why, the businesses looking to improve profits favors bringing down workers’ compensation costs by avoiding workplace injuries.

To find out more how our Work Force Strong Program can significantly bring down workers compensation claims due to injury, please contact Work Force Strong at 518-275- 8348 or checkout our website at www.wfstrong.com.

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Sunday, 24 June 2018

7 Benefits of Working Out with A Professional Trainer

Written by Travis Gil

Many of you can relate to the following:

You get out of the shower, stare into the mirror and think “how did I get this way? How can I let myself go like this?”

Maybe you’re having a hard time keeping up with the young bucks at your weekend basketball game, not because you can't play (after all you had skills like LeBron James when you were in high school), but because you get so tired that you hardly ever make it through the first five minutes of the game.

Or possibly you just want to lose enough weight, so you can be in the right shape to wear that lovely dress you’ve always wanted to buy.

Ok, enough is enough! After the 1000th time of mulling over the idea of getting back into shape, you’ve finally decided to make a change.

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So fine, you grab your gym bag and head out because you need to put your plans of getting fit to action. But then, you’re rammed by some conflicting thoughts:

Do you repeat the same habit of trying it out on your own and signing up for that monthly gym membership only to be left in a crowded sea without a paddle? Or do you go against the grain, invest in yourself, and hire a professional?

I think you know where I’m getting to with this. In the world of fitness, confusion easily sets in without guidance.

Well, no need to worry because I’d be showing you in this post why you should hire a Personal trainer to help with your fitness goals, after all, you want to look and feel your best as soon as possible.

1. You Learn A Lot from Your Professional Trainer

Personal Trainers are teachers, well, in the world of fitness.

One of the reasons you should get a Personal Trainer is that they are trained in educating you on how to exercise. Although exercise in itself a part of your fitness plan (you also need to eat right and make some healthy lifestyle choices), doing it wrong will only give you little or no results.

Furthermore, when you don't know the right exercises to perform to reach a certain goal, the chances of you achieving such goals are highly astronomical. Say, your fitness goal is to gain muscle, but you spend hours throwing medicine balls, then your goal will likely be unachievable.

Also, instructions from your personal trainer reduce the chances of you getting hurt during your workout. People get hurt while exercising without proper guidance and this can have a negative impact on your fitness and health levels.

2. You Get the Best Advice on the Best Type of Exercise

Remember the old saying that goes "What is good for the goose is good for the gander?"

Well, it doesn't work like that in the physically demanding world of fitness and workouts.

What am I trying to say?

Different people, different abilities, different requirements.

Maybe, you had a shoulder injury that is just healing from surgery, the kind of exercises you need would be different from those of say a body builder or an aspiring marathon runner. Personal trainers help you choose exercises that meet your special requirements and abilities during your fitness program. Working out with a Personal Trainer is also a great idea if you’re pregnant and you want a workout that will make you fit and healthy, while at the same time being safe and effective.

3. They Help with Perfect Form

Correct posture and technique during a workout is very important, especially if you want to get the best results. A Personal Trainer will demonstrate the correct technique and will also help you achieve the needed form so that you can get the best from your exercise. When you perform exercises incorrectly, injuries occur making it hard for you to reach your desired goals (a sprained wrist or hurt back can make the idea of keeping fit a bad one, all of a sudden).

4. They Help You Set Goals That Are Practical

We all want quick results, who doesn't?

Some would love to have washboard abs within two weeks, others would like to have muscles that The Hulk would be envious of within a month and for others, a figure (that would make Jennifer Lopez look like a grandma) within seven days. To be honest, such goals are not normally achievable (maybe only if you have a time machine hidden somewhere) and when you don't meet them, chances are that you may lose interest and stop your training program.

Professional Trainers do not only help you set goals that are practical, but they also help you to stay on course by giving you proper advice on the type of exercises to engage in, and the setting of a realistic timeframe during which you can meet your goals.

5. They Help You Stick to Your Goal

Finding it hard to adhere to your training program? Feel like just skipping a day? Your professional Fitness Trainer can hold you accountable and make you overcome any excuses that you might have on your journey to getting fit. Bailing out isn’t so easy when you’re accountable to someone. You don't want to seem unserious now, do you?

6. They Take You to the Next Level

Getting tired of your current training? Do you feel like advancing to the next level? Then, you are not alone. We all get bored when we keep doing the same things, over and over again. A Personal Trainer helps you by bringing new challenges that test your body and mind as well as brings out the best in you.

7. They Make Your Workouts Fun

Exercises could be demanding and challenging. We all know how push-ups make us feel tired and achy and cardio makes us question our quest for fitness. We even look at squats with a sense of dread.

A good Personal Trainer can make your workout sessions, fun and beneficial. Training with a buddy (in this case your trainer) makes exercise a fun activity and working with a trainer who is fun to be with motivates you to want to train regularly.

Wrapping Up

Wanting to keep fit is a good idea. Planning to increase your fitness levels ahead of your next race or game is commendable, but with a Personal Trainer, you can meet your goals and get a body that would make anyone green with envy (well anyone except the Hulk).

Are you looking to take advantage of all these towards meeting your fitness goals? Get a Professional Trainer today!

Here at Fitness Artist, we have a team of highly certified personal trainers who will make you get the best from your training program. We also offer private one on one training, Private Small Group Training (2-4) and SWEAT classes (10+) to cater for different needs.

Click here in order to receive your complimentary consultation on us!

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Thursday, 30 March 2017

Say "I Do" to The Sculpted Bride

Written by Travis Gil

Wedding season is here and that means it’s crunch time for all of you soon-to-be brides and grooms. Let’s be honest: getting in shape is hard work, but it can seem even harder with the added stress of organizing a wedding. The Sculpted Bride program aims to rid you of some of that stress by designing a tailor made plan that will chart the best path to your particular goals, whether that’s shedding a few pounds or toning up. Hard work will still be involved if you want to see…

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Wedding season is here and that means it’s crunch time for all of you soon-to-be brides and grooms. Let’s be honest: getting in shape is hard work, but it can seem even harder with the added stress of organizing a wedding. The Sculpted Bride program aims to rid you of some of that stress by designing a tailor made plan that will chart the best path to your particular goals, whether that’s shedding a few pounds or toning up. Hard work will still be involved if you want to see results and that’s why we’re here - to push you toward your goals and encourage you along the way.

You’re putting a lot of work into everything being perfect on your wedding day. The memories you make on your wedding day will last a lifetime. Look your best when you walk down the aisle and do it the right way. We know time is of the essence and you can’t waste time trying different workout methods and nutrition plans to find what works. We’re taking the guess work out of the planning process for you.

We’ve found that most brides have a few top priorities leading up to the big day: losing weight, toning and sculpting and developing radiant skin. A boost is confidence can be seen as a fourth priority but if you take care of the first three, a confidence boost will come naturally. With these priorities in mind, this program offers the best mix of fitness and nutrition coaching

The Sculpted Bride is available in three tiers (see below) and each includes personal time with Fitness Artist body sculpters that will set you on the right path to looking your best. We’ll set you up with a custom nutrition plan to make sure your diet compliments the work you’re doing in the studio and constantly evaluate your progress throughout to make sure you’re staying on the right track. Our Bride By Design+1 allows the bride-to-be to bring a partner with her to all activities. That can be the groom, a bridesmaid, or another friend or relative. It’s totally up to you.

For more information on The Sculpted Bride, visit the program’s page on our website or call 518-497-5440.

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Friday, 17 March 2017

Emerging Trends in Fitness and Nutrition

Written by Travis Gil

“The only constant is change” - Heraclitus, Greek philosopher. Our fitness and nutrition philosophy has stayed relatively constant over the years - create custom programs for our clients to achieve optimal results in relation to their goals. Each client is different and has a different idea of what success means to them. But as more research is released in these fields, we’re continually getting more insight into how the body and mind react to certain training methods. This research sometimes leads to fitness and nutrition “fads” which come and go quickly after a brief spike in popularity. Fads that come to mind include diet pills, the Atkins Diet, 8-Minute Abs, the ThighMaster. These all had brief moments of popularity but eventually faded away, either as the novelty wore off or they were discredited.

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Trends stick around longer and normally have some amount of research to back them up. Think yoga, resistance training and functional movement workouts. Even jogging at one point was considered a novelty. Here are some current trends we see gaining steam in the worlds of fitness and nutrition.

Gluten Free Diet

Those who are allergic to gluten have no choice but to seek out gluten free options. For others, it’s a lifestyle choice that they think will help them lose weight and feel better. Fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten free but there are also a lot of processed foods that make the claim as well. Always read the label on these as they can have additives in place of gluten like fat, sugar or substitute starches with no nutritional value. Cutting gluten from your diet won’t automatically lead to a healthier, leaner you. It’s best to consult your doctor or registered dietitian before giving up the gluten altogether.

Body Weight Training

Perfect for those who say they’re too busy to get to the gym as much as they should. Body weight training can be done at home (or just about anywhere, for that matter) as it doesn’t require any equipment, just the resistance of your own body weight. Exercises you can incorporate here include some of the classics like lunges, squats, push-ups and planks. These are all good for improving lean muscle mass. But remember: it’s important to switch things up so carve out some time to get to the gym!

Super Foods

These are nutrient-rich foods considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being. These are mostly plant based foods. For instance kale, spinach, blueberries, kiwis, potatoes nuts and seeds are considered super foods. But salmon, sardines and even some dairy products also fit the bill. There’s not a set parameter a certain food has to fall under to be called a “superfood,” it just has to be nutritionally dense. What we’re seeing gain in popularity today (and often falling into the “fad” category) are ancient grains. Everyone is looking for the next quinoa. These grains vary quite a bit but all have high protein content, making them a great side to any dish you serve. Consider pairing tonight’s main course with a little amaranth, sorghum or teff.

Wearable Fitness Technology

Because we live in a technology forward society, wearable fitness trackers have risen in popularity. Since the Fitbit hit it big, the market has been flooded with new devices that monitor heart rate, track steps, map runs and do just about anything when it comes to measuring your personal health and fitness. We’re all looking for results that are easily quantifiable and these devices give us that satisfaction. They can be a great workout partner but don’t expect them to hold you accountable when you miss a workout or fitness target. That’s why we’re not worried about being replaced by machines. My favorite fitness tracker is the Garmin Vivoactive HR. I love it primarily because it allows me to input the type of workout that I’m doing for the day and exactly how many calories I’ve burned, what my target heart rate is and how long I’m in that range. Finding out that information also gives me the motivation to do better next time I do that same workout.

High Intensity Interval Training (H.I.I.T)

You’re going to be a lot more efficient at burning calories when your heart rate is elevated. High intensity interval training alternates between periods of intense exercise and rest (or low intensity movement). High intensity is the key phrase, meaning in order to get anything out of this training method, you have to give it your all during those periods. If you do, you’ll start to quickly see a boost in your endurance. The rest periods are there to help you recover and prepare for the next set. Many of our clients have found success with this method, seeing a higher level of functional movement conditioning.

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Monday, 06 March 2017

Fitness Artist Team Completes CF Stair Climb!

Written by Travis Gil

On February 25, we had the amazing privilege of taking part in the Albany Cystic Fibrosis Stair Climb at the Corning Tower. The Stair Climb is an annual event to raise funds and increase awareness for Cystic Fibrosis , a disease that effects the lungs, digestive system, immune system, liver, and more. Inspired by dedicated FA client Erin Mark, who was diagnosed with CF as a child, Fitness Artist entered a team of four sculptors to climb 42 flights!

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After weeks of fundraising with a special customized meal plan promotion, we were proud to present a check of $600 to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The four FA sculptor team members: Travis, Kayla, Paul, and Nora formed our Fitness Artist relay team to race to the top! Never giving less than 100% effort, Team FA even took first place in the co-ed category. Thank you to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation - Northeastern New York Chapter for inviting us to take part in this inspiring feat. Needless to say, we will be adding stairs to our fitness routine from now on!

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Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Get Better NOW!

Written by Travis Gil

What comes to mind when you hear the word, SELFISH? I know… I get it, I get it! 99 percent of the time it’s considered a terrible word. We all know that friend or family member who always puts their best interests in front of everyone else’s. But, believe it or not, that one percent of the time when it comes to your health, it’s extremely important to be selfish! If you’re not going to take care of yourself, nobody else will. If you’re not willing to invest in you, it’s going to be an uphill battle to reach optimum results when it matters most.

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By now you may be thinking…

“I just don’t have the time.”

“What are you crazy! I have kids to take care of!”

“Who’s got the energy for this?”

Our brains tell us… I don’t have time.

The fact is you do have time! We know there are 24 hours in a day. That means we all have the same 86,400 seconds each day. Think about it. All you need is 3600 seconds each day to take care of your health. It’s the only way to GET BETTER NOW.

Our brains tell us… I have to think of my family first. I couldn’t possibly dedicate myself to fitness when they’re my responsibility.

The fact is you’re only good to your family if you’re in good health.

Our brains tell us… I’m too tired and can’t find the energy!

The fact is your body feels tired due to lack of exercise and your energy level will only continue dropping That will affect your family, your job and your friends. Let’s remember that change starts on the inside before we see it on the outside!

And that’s why what’s most important starts with you! Without our health, the list of all that truly matters will be our wish list and definitely not our reality.

At this point, I’m guessing some of you are thinking…This sounds like a good idea but not right now, maybe someday. If we look at any calendar, there are 7 days in the week and Someday definitely isn’t one of them!

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Wednesday, 01 February 2017

Start Taking Care of Your Heart Today

Written by Travis Gil

February is American Heart Month, which draws attention to the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. Although certain risk factors are unavoidable (family history, age), it is possible to reduce your risk of heart disease by as much as 80 percent with just a few lifestyle changes. Of course eating right and staying active will only benefit you when it comes to preventing heart disease and other health issues, but there are other measures that you can take to even further lower the risk.

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So take your first steps toward a healthier heart this month with this advice in mind.

Sleep!

Many of us forget that one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy is to get the right amount of sleep. Not sleeping enough can lead to a slower metabolism, making it more difficult to lose weight. A lack of sleep can also lead to other unhealthy habits like late night snacking. So how much sleep should you get? Well, everyone is different. Different people will need different amounts, but most people need around 7 hours of sleep per night. This benefits not only your heart, but your immune system too.

There are lots of things that you can do to improve your sleep habits. First, try to have a night time routine so that you can get into the habit of going to bed at a decent hour. It’s also a good idea to avoid extra caffeine, especially at night. And, of course, make sure you’re getting enough exercise.

Keep a Food Diary

Keeping a food diary can make it easier to see if you’re making healthy food choices. You’ll be able to pick out your bad habits and see what you can do to fix them. Keeping a food diary allows you to track if you’re eating enough food, drinking enough water and getting enough servings of fruits and vegetables. You can also track if you’re consuming too much sugar or fatty foods. With work and other daily activities you might have going on, it might be hard for you to stop and write down everything that you eat. To remedy this, there are tons of apps that let you quickly input what you eat and go on with your day. Some apps even allow you to input how much you exercise and scan barcodes on your favorite snacks to make entering the information even easier. Two that come to immediate mind are My Fitness Pal and Lose It.

Quit Smoking

In addition to damaging your entire circulatory system, smoking increases the risk of hardened arteries, aneurysm and blood clots. The deadly combination of some of these symptoms can lead to heart attack or even a stroke. It also reduces your lung capacity, which would make it harder to get in the right amount of exercise to further reduce your risk of heart disease. For every year that you remain a non-smoker, your risk for a heart attack drops and, just one month after quitting, you will no longer be short of breath after physical activity and your sense of taste and smell will come back.

Get Routine Checkups

With your busy schedule, it can be easy to forget some of the important things. A checkup with your doctor is not one of the things you want to forget. It’s crucial to schedule annual exams with your primary care physician. With the right tests, your doctor can tell you if you have any of the risk factors that could lead to heart disease. If you make note of the numbers they give you, such as your blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol, you can input them into your food diary apps to track your progress even further.

Healthy Alternatives

While it can be hard to give up your favorite foods, it’s easy to find a healthy substitute to satisfy your cravings. Are you a fan of French fries? For a healthier quick snack, try apple slices or carrot sticks. If you’re more into pizza, try swapping out some of the fatty toppings for vegetables and maybe even try a whole wheat crust. A healthy combination of both diet and exercise will ensure that you have the lowest chance of developing heart disease.

There’s no better time to start taking care of your heart than right now. Join us at Fitness Artist to start improving your heart health today.

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Thursday, 19 January 2017

Work Force Strong featured in Saratoga Business Journal

Written by Travis Gil
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Fitness artist is proud to announce that our Work Force Strong program was featured on the Saratoga Business Journal! Click here to read the article.

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Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Rise of Preventable Cases of Type 2 Diabetes

Written by Travis Gil

Over the last several decades, an epidemic of so-called lifestyle diseases has developed in the United States. This is due to a more sedentary lifestyle and an increase in portion sizes. We’re just less active than we used to be. As such, we’re seeing rises in many diseases that were already among the most prevalent in our society: cardiovascular disease, obesity, hypertension and diabetes.

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Let’s focus on diabetes - 29.1 million Americans have diabetes, or 9.3% of the population, and one in every four who are living with the disease don’t even know they have it.

There are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, which means there is no way to prevent it from happening. In most cases type 1 diabetes develops at a young age. Type 1 means eventually your body does not produce any insulin. For type 2 diabetes, meaning the body cannot use insulin properly; most cases are preventable, although some are hereditary. High blood pressure, obesity and poor nutrition are also considered major risk factors. Studies suggest that without weight loss and moderate physical activity, 15-30% of people with pre diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years.

Research has shown that a healthy balance of diet and exercise can help to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes in adults. Losing between 5% and 7% of your body weight by a healthy combination of exercise and a diet consisting of less saturated fat and a lower caloric intake can be a huge help. The exercise can help to control your blood glucose and blood pressure. It also can help prevent heart problems that can lead to heart disease, one of the major health complications resulting from diabetes.

For everyone, we recommended that you participate in moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes for 5 or more days a week, but this is even more important if you’re at risk of developing diabetes. Perform activities around the house or hit the gym, but make it a commitment to fit this level of activity in every week. Consult your healthcare provider and/or personal trainer to help you come up with a workout plan that works best for you.

In addition to finding an activity that works for you, you also have to remember to make sure your diet lines up with your goals. One important thing for you to do is cut the amount of fat in your diet. There are a lot of ways you can do this. You should try your best to cut back on foods that are high in trans-fat and saturated fat (fried foods, certain salad dressings, and products made from whole milk).

It’s also important to cut back on foods that are high in sugar and salt (soda, canned soups, and processed foods). Talk to our registered dietitian, Kristen Gil or our nutrition coach, Zack Feeney, so that they can help you come up with a diet that works best for you.

Fitness Artist is a proud supporter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). Please consider a contribution to ending juvenile diabetes.

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Friday, 23 December 2016

Flexible Dieting For Beginners

Written by Zack Feeney
Forget What You’ve Been Told.

You hear it from the time you’re in diapers. There are healthy and non-healthy foods. Soda and ice cream are always bad, while chicken and broccoli are always good. This is perpetuated so frequently that it becomes an accepted truth and dangerously no one questions it. That is about to change.

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What is a healthy or, better yet, a “clean” food? Is it whole grain? Is it organic? Is it green? Herein lies the problem with the over simplistic notion of inherently good and bad foods. There are as many definitions as there are food choices.

Your body doesn’t respond to marketing claims or subjective ratings of food, all your body sees are nutrients: primarily fat, carbohydrates and protein (note that micronutrients are extremely important for basic processes in the body as well) and these are referred to as macronutrients. Nutrients are broken down into the body as glucose, fatty acids, amino acids. This means that your body does not see broccoli and say “Oh good, build muscle, lose fat,” instead, it sees the carbohydrates, fiber, and micronutrients found in broccoli, this is no different than any other food. Knowing that our body sees only nutrients is the first step to understanding flexible dieting. Carbohydrates

One example of the body’s recognition of nutrients comes from research varying the sources of carbohydrates.

Example 1: Sugar is bad and turns straight to fat… right?

Numerous studies [1] have shown that when both subjects are in hypocaloric conditions (consuming less calories than burning) and macronutrients are matched between groups, that a high sugar diet vs. a low sugar diet shows no differences in weight loss or metabolism.

Therefore, whether your carbs are coming from sweet potatoes or Sweet Baby Ray BBQ Sauce your body sees the amount of carbohydrates coming from each one. Obviously, these two foods differ in other nutrients. Sweet potatoes have more potassium and fiber, to name a few, but the body sees 50 grams of carbs from sweet potatoes just like it sees 50 grams of carbs from the BBQ sauce. I would never advocate someone getting all of their carbs from BBQ sauce, but this does prove a point. Protein

The same principle can be applied to protein. Your body does not see steak and say “let’s get fat” or see chicken and say “let’s get lean.” It’s rather a matter of quantity. Do red meat, fish and chicken all differ in their micronutrients? Of course, but again, your body will see 50 grams of protein from fish just as it will see 50 grams of protein from chicken. (Note: there are such things as complete and incomplete proteins, as a beginner I recommend not concerning yourself with that and instead hitting an overall protein goal. It’s pretty difficult to eat a high protein diet without the majority of it coming from complete protein sources.) Similar to the carbohydrate example, the overall number of grams of protein at the end of the day is what matters most. Fat

Lastly, there is fat. Saturated and unsaturated fats differ slightly. The fear of saturated fat is largely overblown, especially considering other healthy lifestyle decisions and I won’t get into specifics. If you’ve understood the last two paragraphs this should be easy: 30 grams of fat from olive oil = 30 grams of fat from peanut butter. It’s All About Context

Labeling foods as inherently good or bad is foolish. It is the equivalent of saying that 50 cups of broccoli a day is good, just because it’s broccoli. Contrastingly, 1 oz of chocolate is bad, just because it’s chocolate. When you put foods into context you really start to understand.

Micronutrients and fiber are very important, which is why I recommend getting at least 80% of your nutrients from lean meats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. So, what about the other 20%? Well, if you’d like, they can be more of the same. Note that regardless of what the calorie source is, if you are in a caloric surplus (consuming more calories than you burn), you will gain weight. This 20% can also come from the “forbidden foods” most people will tell you to avoid if you are serious about your health such as ice cream, Oreos, Pop Tarts, cheesecake, etc. This is also known as “discretionary calories,” a concept even recommended by the USDA. “Discretionary calories” is a way of saying once the basic nutrient needs are met, the additional calories may come from whatever you would like, assuming you stay within your daily allotment. You Can Do This “Diet” For Life

Hopefully, this article is a helpful introduction to what I like to call flexible dieting. This is not a typical diet for you to “try” for 2 months; this is just basic nutrition and physiology that will help you become healthier and achieve your fitness goals.

You can forget all the fad diets.

Forget having to pack your meals and eat separately from your family.

Learn the content of foods: what are fat, carb and protein contents and learn how to allow foods to fit your needs.

The diet should fit your life, not the other way around.

Simple Rules of Flexible Dieting (for those who skim):
Stay within your macronutrients or calorie numbers
Use the 80-20 rule
Consume at least 20-30 grams of fiber/day
Consume at least 1 serving of fruit/day
Consume at least 2 servings of vegetables/day
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9094871 Zack Feeney NASM PT - Fitness Artist Body Sculptor
518.203.8951
http://fitness-artist.com/team-zack.php
National Level Powerlifter
National Level Strongman
OCB Bodybuilder
USAPL NYS Referee
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Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Introducing Work Force Strong

Written by Travis Gil

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to fitness and nutrition. Unfortunately, a lot of exercise programs are just that – giving a “broad strokes” approach without taking the individual’s specific needs into account. This is a trend I also noticed in workplace wellness programs. It’s not enough to just get people away from their desks and moving. The trainer and client should have specific goals in mind. Does the client want to increase productivity? Reduce workplace injuries? Cut down on sick time? All of the above? The corporate world…

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There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to fitness and nutrition. Unfortunately, a lot of exercise programs are just that – giving a “broad strokes” approach without taking the individual’s specific needs into account. This is a trend I also noticed in workplace wellness programs. It’s not enough to just get people away from their desks and moving. The trainer and client should have specific goals in mind. Does the client want to increase productivity? Reduce workplace injuries? Cut down on sick time? All of the above?

The corporate world needs a more in-depth and personalized approach. Enter Work Force Strong.

Work Force Strong (WFS) is a corporate wellness program designed to increase employee productivity, prevent workplace injuries, and introduce healthy alternatives to companies and government agencies. The program is individually tailored to give your company a competitive edge, while also giving employees the opportunity to meet fitness and mobility goals.

We place great emphasis on injury prevention as we feel other wellness programs downplay this aspect or leave it out altogether. Meanwhile, New York has emerged as one of the states with the highest average total workers’ compensation claim costs. The more employers I work with, the more I learn that most of them believe workplace injuries only occur in dangerous environments.

The truth is injuries can happen anywhere. That’s why a proactive approach is so important. The health and well-being of a company depends heavily on the health and well-being of its employees. WFS sets out to identify threats before they occur and offer the corrective measures.

In a survey of 260 small companies enrolled in worksite wellness programs, 97% reported that worker wellness improves worker safety.
Pinnacol Assurance Health Risk Management Study

Prior to initial training sessions, our team will first evaluate each participant through a Functional Movement Screen. This will help us identify functional limitations and asymmetries that may lead to injury or chronic pain in the long term. Once this is determined for each participant, our trainers will provide a personalized exercise program aimed to restore mechanically sound movement patterns. All of this is delivered in one-hour training sessions either on-site or at a Fitness Artist location. Goals will be reassessed at the mid-point of the program. We will also bring in a registered dietitian for nutritional coaching. She will present information and tips on basic nutrition, healthy food options, and create custom meal plans (upon request).

We’re focused on changing your employees’ lives for the better. We know you want to see benefits. The success of a company depends greatly on the health and well-being of its people. That’s exactly why we’re dedicated to customizing what we offer based on your employees’ particular needs.

For more information on Work Force Strong and how it can benefit your workforce, please contact me at travis.gil@fitness-artist.com or contact us through this website.

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Thursday, 08 December 2016

Five Questions with Travis Gil, Owner of the Fitness Artist

Written by Travis Gil

Travis Gil is the founder of corporate wellness company Work Force Strong as well as founder and CEO of Fitness Artist, which has locations in Clifton Park, Loudonville and Saratoga Springs. How does Fitness Artist differ from other fitness studios?From the moment you walk in the door of one of our studios, you’ll see that we aren’t like your traditional gym. You’ll notice a more spa-like atmosphere and an inviting environment that lends itself to both private and exclusive small group training. It’s this look and feel that sets us…

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Travis Gil is the founder of corporate wellness company Work Force Strong as well as founder and CEO of Fitness Artist, which has locations in Clifton Park, Loudonville and Saratoga Springs.

1. How does Fitness Artist differ from other fitness studios?

From the moment you walk in the door of one of our studios, you’ll see that we aren’t like your traditional gym. You’ll notice a more spa-like atmosphere and an inviting environment that lends itself to both private and exclusive small group training. It’s this look and feel that sets us apart. Many of our clients take advantage of our personalized, one-on-one fitness and nutrition offerings, but they might also want their own personal gym space. We’re not just one giant, box gym. We’re more segmented. It’s not uncommon to have a client getting a massage in one room, a couple clients working with their body sculptors in separate rooms down the hall, and a class of six working out in our exclusive small group area. Clients with widely varying fitness goals can find what works for them, both mentally and physically, under one roof.

2. How did owning a string of fitness studios come about for you?

I entered the fitness industry professionally in 2006. After graduating from Plattsburgh State University, I found myself waiting tables and acting on stage and in film, but I didn’t know where my life and career were headed. I started to think intensely on both what I was good at and what made me happy. I realized that helping others and working out were things I loved to do on a daily basis so I decided to jump into the world of personal training. I’ve worked in the Capital District for many years training everyone from seniors and stay at home parents to world-class athletes and body builders.

In February of 2010, with very little money and a huge dream, I decided to start up my own company. It has since grown to three locations in Saratoga, Clifton Park and Loudonville, and a Corporate Wellness company called Work Force Strong. This allows me the opportunity to change the lives of so many in so many positive ways.

3. Where do you see the company moving from here?

I see Fitness Artist continuing to grow, not just in our client base, but in the amount of specialized services we are able to offer. It is my personal mission to create the best fitness studio on the planet and I won’t stop until we get there. Right now, we have 15 sculptors (trainers) across our three locations and each one has their own set of certifications and specific areas of expertise. We pair our clients with the trainer whose skill set best fits their goals – whether that be weight loss, body sculpting and strengthening, flexibility, injury recovery, or just overall health improvement. I’d like to continue to build and diversify in that sense.

I’m also continuing to build Work Force Strong. We’ve had success working with corporate clients and their employees. The more clients I work with, the more refined and in-depth the program has become so I’m excited for that to continue.

4. Describe what the Work Force Strong program entails.

Work Force Strong is a program that aims to provide participants with the knowledge and ability necessary to reduce workplace injuries, implement healthy alternatives into their lives, and increase productivity. The overall goal here is to establish a healthy, productive workforce for our clients that can ultimately save money for the company.

My team and I visit the companies that we work with anywhere from two to four days a week usually, and lead specialized group fitness sessions. We’re very much focused on achieving tangible results so we evaluate each participant beforehand to gauge their baseline levels. At the midpoint and conclusion of the program, we measure again to quantify the progress they’ve made. Nearly all of the participants we work with see a boost in their strength, confidence, energy, flexibility and stamina. We also bring in a registered dietitian as part of the program to guide participants toward healthy choices in the kitchen.

5. What’s been the biggest challenge in creating and growing Fitness Artist?

Starting a business is taking a big risk and there have been many ups and downs along the way. It’s always been a challenge to balance the business management side of things with my constant fitness coaching duties. We train our clients to keep a positive attitude and to always keep their goals in mind, even if the results don’t come right away. I’ve applied those virtues to being a business owner and it’s allowed me to succeed. In high school there was a running joke that if there was an award for “Most Likely to NOT Succeed,” I would’ve won. That’s one of my biggest driving forces. No matter what your past is, you always have the future to change it. I’m always looking for ways to evolve and get better–both personally and professionally–and that’s what I love about fitness. Fitness allows you to improve from within, giving you confidence, energy, and the drive to be better from the inside out.

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Thursday, 08 December 2016

Staying Fit Over the Holidays

Written by Travis Gil

Keep the extra holiday pounds off with some quick, calorie-burning exercises. Fitness Artist owner Travis Gil and Kayla Radliff demonstrate a high-intensity workout on WNYT. See more fitness and nutrition tips on our blog

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

10 Tips to Deal with Holiday Eating

Written by Travis Gil

For dieters, the holiday period from around October through to January can be a true minefield. Between the specific holidays of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, along with endless goody baskets and parties, folks can run into problems maintaining the habits they strive to follow the rest of the year. A lot of strategies exist to deal with this time, although I’d consider few of them particularly healthy from a mental or psychological standpoint. One is to skip all food during the holidays. While this might avoid food issues, it’s also…

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As we’ve previously discussed, our Northeast winters tend to drain our motivation for regular exercise. Cold temperatures and a lack of sun are partly to blame, but if we become more sedentary this time of year, we also place ourselves at risk for Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD is a type of depression that’s common during the winter months, affecting an estimated 16 million Americans. The good news is that there are documented ways, which work to keep symptoms at bay.

The reality is that exercising can be just as effective in treating SAD as medication is for other mood disorders. Moderate exercise—such as walking or jogging—releases endorphins and serotonin, boosting your overall mood. So although it may be cold, it’s still important to get outside and get as much sun and fresh air as possible. Make it a priority to get your runs in each morning if possible (as it’s dark by the time many of us leave work) and keep the feeling with you throughout the day.

On those days when you can’t get outside, find other ways to get your heart rate up and your neurotransmitters firing. Sitting on the couch, watching Netflix isn’t going to do a lot to boost your mood, and it’s definitely not going to burn any calories. Instead, break up your T.V. time with short, quick exercises. Fitness Artist Kayla Radliff and I recently demonstrated some of these high-intensity workouts on WNYT.

>Along with exercise, diet can help you manage the symptoms of SAD. One study showed that people with SAD selectively eat more carbohydrates, particularly sweets but also starch-rich foods. This not only adds extra calories to the diet, but can worsen symptoms for those already feeling the effects of SAD. Serotonin is derived from the amino acid tryptophan, so do your best to incorporate foods rich in this chemical throughout the winter months. Lots of lean meats, fish, fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, nuts and seeds should do the trick.

Keep in mind that SAD shares many symptoms with major depressive disorder (MDD), and diet and exercise are just two suggested treatment options. In more severe cases, medication may be needed, so please consult a physician if needed. If you know someone prone to SAD, encourage them to prioritize exercise and balanced eating. By working together, we can make it through the “winter blues.”

And that includes us. Fitness Artist is always here to help clients reach their fitness and nutrition goals, and will even be expanding its nutrition offerings this January. Stay tuned!

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Wednesday, 16 November 2016

10 Tips to Deal with Holiday Eating

Written by Zack Feeney

For dieters, the holiday period from around October through to January can be a true minefield. Between the specific holidays of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, along with endless goody baskets and parties, folks can run into problems maintaining the habits they strive to follow the rest of the year. A lot of strategies exist to deal with this time, although I’d consider few of them particularly healthy from a mental or psychological standpoint. One is to skip all food during the holidays.

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While this might avoid food issues, it’s also a way to make sure you won’t fully enjoy the holidays and the time with your family and friends.

I’ve even heard the need to take a meal or food with you in a Tupperware bowl. Newsflash folks, not only are we talking about a borderline eating disorder at this point, that kind of insanity just makes your family uncomfortable. So don’t do it. Better to stay home than be that person.

Of course, at the other extreme are the eaters who just go completely crazy and eat everything in sight, gaining a considerable amount of weight and fat in the three months of holidays. It can happen and I’m not saying that it can’t. Of course, if you’re a bodybuilder or powerlifter, you can just say “I’m bulking” as you shovel down the third piece of cake but I’ll assume that you actually want to keep a lid on weight/fat gains during this time period. Balance please.

As always, being a middle of the road kind of guy I am, I’m going to suggest some strategies that, while not quite as disturbed as taking broccoli with you to Thanksgiving, also doesn’t put you in the trap of gorging on fudge. In no particular order of importance, here are some tips to deal with holiday eating to not let it get out of hand.

1. Make Better Bad Choices

I forget who I stole this this idea from offhand but it’s nothing new. The simple fact, and I’ll come back to this point later, is that many people fall into the trap of “If I’m going to eat junk, I might as well jam as much of the worst stuff I can down my food hole.” That’s silly.

Instead, try to make better bad choices. Limit portions (you know that you don’t really NEED three pieces of cake to be satisfied). Pick the lower calorie or lower fat/high-carb stuff at the dessert table. People training hard can handle an influx of carbs acutely better than fat so pick that stuff. Maybe have a little bit of two or three different desserts, just get a taste and move on. You get the idea.

2. Take a Lowered Fat/Calorie Dessert or Dish to the Party

Whether a work party or holiday dinner, it’s not uncommon for people to bring their own thing to add to the food table. So make something that you’ve de-fatted or lowered in calories, there are zillions of recipes out there. And, please, I’m not talking about black bean ‘cake’ that you think tastes like the real thing.

Find a happy medium between the high-sugar/high-fat stuff and clean eating. Most American desserts have about twice the sugar and butter that they usually need and, who knows, you might even convert someone into realizing that they can eat sweets without it having to be 1000 calories per piece.

3. Train with a Bit Higher Volume Prior to the Event

One of the best ways to increase the ‘sink’ for incoming calories is to deplete muscle glycogen. When you do that by using a higher volume (more sets, higher reps) of training, not only do you increase fat oxidation, you give incoming carbs somewhere to go for storage instead of being use for energy.

You can simply bump up your volume a bit in the days before a specific event where you know there will be junk. Even a heavy training session on the day of the party can be beneficial here.

Train in a nice hypertrophy zone (get about 40 reps per muscle group) and you’ll increase protein synthesis so that incoming calories will support recovery. Training also tends to acutely blunt hunger so if you train right before the party, you’ll be less likely to overeat. Well, unless you’re a dis-inhibited eater who falls into the trap of “I trained, I deserve 10 pieces of fudge.”

4. Start with Lots of Lean Protein and Vegetables Before Hitting the Dessert Table

Lean protein has the highest short-term satiating power (this means it keeps you full) and the high-bulk of vegetables helps to fill your stomach which also sends a fullness signal. I’ve yet to be at a holiday party that didn’t have a vegetable plate (limit the high-fat dip) or plate of cold cuts. Load up on that to get some fullness going before you hit the desserts. You won’t be as hungry and, assuming you don’t like eating yourself sick, this alone will do damage control.

5. Have a High-Protein Snack with some Vegetables or Fruit about 30 Minutes Beforehand

If you’re in situation where Number 4 won’t work or won’t be available, have a small snack before the party or dinner. Some lean protein, veggies and fruit about 30 minutes will give you a feeling of fullness and help to limit overconsumption of ‘junk’ at the party.

6. Consider Intermittent Fasting on the Day of the Event

Intermittent Fasting (IF’ing) is a recent dietary approach that involves not eating for 14-18 hours per day and then either having an ‘eating period’ or roughly 4-6 hours or even a single meal. There’s some interesting research on it which I’ll save for another article. But it’s one good way to deal with holiday parties.

Know that you’ve got a 7pm dinner party where there will be lots of good food? Try IF’ing (or only have small meals of lean protein and veggies) most of the day. Unless you go completely berserk, you’ll be unlikely to exceed your entirely daily caloric requirement in the one meal. If you can train beforehand, that’s even better.

7. Consider a Short Mini-Diet in the Days Before the Event

Let’s say you have an event or two coming up on the weekend and you know that there will be lots of food and you may have control issues. Well, consider doing a short, possibly hardcore diet in the days before. Four days of a rapid fat loss style diet can actually reduce body fat by 1-4 pounds (depending on your size). Call it pro-active damage control.

8. Ok, I Was Actually Kidding in the Introduction About the Tupperware

Let’s face it, you know that nothing tastes as good as lean feels. You know how good discipline feels. You know the truth. You know that 50 years from now, you’ll know that it was worth it, sticking to your diet 365 days a year and never actually enjoying a moment of life.

So you go ahead and take your Tupperware with chicken breast, broccoli and sweet potato and eat it while everyone else around you actually gets some joy out of life.

No, really, I’m seriously kidding about this, don’t do it.

9. Stay Off the Damn Scale

No matter what happens, we often see the scale spike up after a big party; this is especially true after Thanksgiving. The typical carb-depleted trainee is especially prone to this; the high-carb intake of your typical holiday event along with extra sodium both can jack up scale weight a bit. But you know deep down it’s not really fat. The simple fact is that, unless you go nuts, you can’t eat enough in a single meal to put on appreciable fat. It’s only water and it’ll come right back off in a few days.

But stay off of the scale anyhow.

10. Don’t Be Your Own Worst Enemy

This goes back to what I alluded to in point 1, a lot of people fall into a dreadful trap over the holidays, figuring that if they’ve eating a little bit a junk food, clearly they’ve blown it and might as well retire to the corner with the entire tray of fudge and eat themselves sick.

The above is amazingly prevalent and exceedingly destructive. Extremely rigid dieters fall into a trap where they let events such as the holidays become a problem because of their own psychology. They figure that one piece of dessert has ruined all of their hard efforts so they might as well eat ALL the dessert. This is, of course, nonsense. Say that piece of dessert has a few hundred calories, or say, 500 calories. In the context of a weekly plan that is calorie controlled with training, that’s nothing.

Unless the person lets it become something. They figure 500 calories is the end of the world and eat an additional 5000 calories. Instead of just taking it in strides and realizing that it’s not a big deal, they make it a big deal with their own reaction.

Simply, don’t do that. Realize that there is only so much damage you can do in the short-term. Apply the other strategies in this article and realize, at the end of the day, what you did for one meal that week simply doesn’t matter if the rest of the week was fine. Not unless you make it.

And that’s that, 10 strategies I hope will help you to enjoy the holidays. Eat a piece of cake for me.

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Friday, 04 November 2016

Staying Motivated Through the Cold

Written by Travis Gil

It’s common this time of year to suffer from a lack of motivation. School and sports are back in session, work is picking up…we just tend to be busier at this time of year. So, when we do find ourselves with some free time, exercise might not always be the first thing that comes to mind.

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Staying Motivated Through the Cold

It’s common this time of year to suffer from a lack of motivation. School and sports are back in session, work is picking up…we just tend to be busier at this time of year. So, when we do find ourselves with some free time, exercise might not always be the first thing that comes to mind.

Being in shape is as much a mental state of well-being as it is physical. Working out gets our endorphins flowing and lifts our mood. As many of us know, the mental hurdle of taking that first action can often times be the hardest to overcome. We know we should be exercising and we know it will make us feel better, but where do we find the motivation to start?

Accountability

We can be each other’s greatest source of motivation. You can accept an excuse from yourself that a friend never would. You can easily take a shortcut when no one is watching. Working out with a friend can ensure that you have each other’s backs and hold each other accountable. Working with a personal trainer is even better as they will know exactly what you need to do to achieve your goals and where you should be focusing your attention and effort.

Creativity

When there’s a foot of snow outside of your door, it can seem easy to come up with an excuse to skip your workout. Instead, try to think of creative ways you can still exercise at home. For example, you can burn around 233 calories for every half hour that you spend shoveling your sidewalk or driveway. You can also try digging up some old workout videos or finding some online. This way, the whole family can get involved too.

Strategize

With the holiday season just around the corner, it might seem hard to turn away from your favorite holiday treats. A good way to get around this is coming up with different strategies so that you don’t overindulge. A registered dietitian can assist you in crafting the perfect game plan for keeping your diet on track through the holidays. Remember, you don’t have to deprive yourself, just eat smart and stick to a strategy. One may include smaller portions with healthier sides and cutting down on the alcohol, for example.

Plan

With your busier schedule, it might seem hard to find time to fit in your workouts. If you plan ahead and come up with a set schedule, getting in your workouts for the week will seem like just another thing to cross off your to-do list. You can try joining a gym that’s on your way home from work or coordinating with a friend who lives nearby to meet up afterwards.

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Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Diet and Exercise are Essential for Breast Cancer Survivors

Written by Zack Feeney

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, according to the American Cancer Society (lung cancer kills more women each year). Every October brings an annual awareness campaign, stressing the importance of regular self-exams and getting screened for breast cancer. While early detection can led to a more favorable prognosis, cancer treatments, and even surgery, are often needed.

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Studies on the breast cancer recovery process have indicated that exercise and dietary choices may play a role in improving the quality of life and lowering the risk of reoccurrence for survivors. These studies point survivors toward diets that are:
- Packed with carotenoids (orange-colored fruits or vegetables, spinach, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, kale, tomatoes, and salmon)
- Low in starchy carbohydrates
- Limited in saturated fats and alcohol
- Rich in whole grains, legumes and nuts
- Include the spice Turmeric to your diet (you may need a supplement to get enough curcumin)

Aerobic exercise is also recommended to help maintain an ideal weight, improve cardiovascular fitness, increase energy levels and help alter the activity of your body’s enzymes. As offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this can include 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly such as walking briskly, jogging, biking, tennis, or any continuous activity that raises the heart rate and causes you to break a sweat. Strength training is also recommended at least two times per week.

Breast cancer prevention starts with healthy lifestyle habits and changes. It’s important to understand what you can do to lower your risk.

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Wednesday, 07 September 2016

Pregnancy Fitness: Finding what Works

Written by Nora Matthew

As featured in Mamatoga Pregnancy and Newborn Issue Spring 2016. Mamas, we live in an exciting time. When strong is the new skinny and fitness is an essential accessory to the modern woman’s life, exercising during pregnancy is a natural progression for healthy-minded mamas. With exercise classes and training opportunities for expectant mothers popping up on a regular basis, how do you decide what’s best for you and your blooming babe?

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Not only is exercise during pregnancy encouraged by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), but the December 2015 guidelines cited strength training, Pilates, and jogging among the activities that are “safe to continue.”

Not convinced?

Research has shown that women who continue to exercise during pregnancy are less likely to have excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes, or require intervention during labor and birth. Babies of active mothers tend to experience less stress and complications during labor, maintain a healthy body composition, and actually perform better on standardized intelligence tests through early childhood.

Here are my top 5 tips for staying fit during pregnancy:

1. Check your ego at the door.

There is nothing wrong with breaking a sweat when exercising, but don’t be surprised if you need to slow down and modify certain exercises. Pregnancy is not the time to compete with others or yourself. You will have the rest of your life to run that marathon or deadlift 200lbs!

What intensity should you maintain? Although some medical professionals still cite heartrate guidelines from 1985 (not to exceed 140bpm), a much more reliable measure of intensity is the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE). On that scale, 7 is classified as “very, very light” and 19 is “very, very hard”. During pregnancy, your perceived exertion, or how hard you are working,should remain between 13 to 14 or “somewhat hard”. More simply, you should be able to talk fairly comfortably while doing your exercise of choice.2.

2. Continue to Train your Core.

A strong core prior to pregnancy will help with a faster recovery and can prevent back, pelvis, and hip pain. Maintaining strong core muscles during pregnancy is not about crunches and planks! These muscles are key in stabilizing your posture as your belly grows and your lumbar, or lower back, curve becomes more exaggerated. It’s best to avoid exercises that involve lifting your head off the floor (such as crunches and Pilates “hundreds”), and movements that put extra stress on your rectus abdominals or “6-pack” muscles.

Diastasis Recti is a separation of the abdominal muscles down the line of tissue called the Linea Alba that affects approximately 3 out of 4 women during pregnancy. Engaging the rectus, or "6-pack," muscles by performing exercises such as front planks, sit-ups, crunches, leg lifts and the like can worsen the separation, which may lead to tissue damage, lower back pain, and may require rehabilitation and/or physical therapy postpartum.

The best core exercises during pregnancy include glute bridges, Pallof Press, farmer walks, reverse planks, and diaphragmatic breathing.

3. Breathe Well.

Correct breathing technique is essential! Always inhale on the easier part of an exercise (“breathe in to prepare”) and gently exhale during the more difficult part (“exhale on exertion”). Avoid holding your breath or forceful exhalation, which is also referred to as a Valsalva maneuver. This can cause sudden changes in blood pressure which may lead to dizziness or fainting.

Belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing is a fantastic way to engage your pelvic floor and core muscles simultaneously.

Try this: picture your belly as a balloon. Inhale slowly and quietly through your nose to “inflate the balloon” and engage your diaphragm. Send your belly button away from your spine and allow your rib cage to expand, while keeping the shoulders still and send the breath as low in the abdomen as possible. At full capacity, exhale, and “deflate the balloon” through a slow, controlled breath out of your nose.

Efficient breathing is the body’s natural coping method for stress and pain and good technique can be extremely helpful during labor.

4. Lift Weights.

Women who maintain strength and fitness levels during pregnancy not only have less aches and pains during pregnancy but they also have quicker recoveries and less physical complications during the postpartum period. Lifting weights is an excellent way to maintain and improve stability and posture, and to support the extra weight you will be carrying. Yes, you may need to decrease your weights towards the end of your pregnancy, but this is completely normal. Ensure you are following a program that is designed for pregnancy and can be modified every trimester as necessary.

5. Train with a Purpose:

When you walk into the gym or outside to exercise, know what you want to achieve. Stay strong and unless you are a competitive endurance athlete, keep cardio to 20-30 minutes 3-5 days a week (or even less if you are doing intervals). Full body strength movements can absolutely be prioritized over exercises that only train one muscle at a time. Explore your options, find your focus and go for it!

You may find at certain points in your pregnancy, you have less energy and less motivation to work out. Use your drive and your time wisely.

When you need a rest day, take it. Remember, you are making a baby!

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Wednesday, 07 September 2016

Stop trying to get your pre-baby body back

Written by Nora Matthew

Stop trying to get your pre-baby body back. Postpartum is a time of extreme highs and lows. Every 24 hour period can bring hundreds of different emotions and often they are totally inexplicable. In the months following birth, you can definitely chalk much of this up to hormones. The sudden fall in estrogen and progesterone alone can make an even temper a thing of the past.

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That being said, every woman is different.

Everyone will react to the postpartum period in a different way, and that’s ok!

As a trainer and a mom myself, I know the insecurity, doubt, and inner conflict that can follow child birth. Women are bombarded by images of models and actresses flaunting their perfect beach-worthy tummies less than a month after giving birth.

Is that real?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

While many moms know that having a perfect dimple-less body postpartum is unlikely and unattainable for most (especially for #2 and beyond), we all want to feel confidence or at least experience what our bodies were like before baby.

Let me put it into the perspective of a sports injury. Say you’re a competitive runner and you break your foot. You have a cast on for a couple months so it can heal unhindered. The cast is removed and you are sent to physical therapy to regain movement, strength, and function in your foot. You return to running a little bit at a time. What will happen if you go run a race on the way home from getting your cast removed? You get the gist.

Child birth is not an “injury,” per se, but it is one of the most physically, emotionally, and - some would say – spiritually challenging events that can happen to a woman. Because the wounds are not visible in everyday life, those on the outside sometimes forget what a mom has gone through. It’s no wonder that proper recovery is often overlooked by doctors, nurses, midwives, and moms themselves. Why should women pretend like child birth was a walk in the park?

Rest, recovery, and rehabilitation should be words we hear postpartum.

So where do we start in changing this perspective?

LET’S STOP TALKING ABOUT GETTING OUR PRE-BABY BODIES BACK.

My body will never be “pre-baby” again. Nor should it be! What an absolutely miraculous feat it has accomplished – a feat that first needs to be acknowledge in my own head and in my own heart. Every stretch mark is a reminder of my little miracles and although we may be told they are not aesthetically pleasing and we may spend 5 minutes every night rubbing cocoa butter on them, they are part of what made our experience ours.

“Alright,” you’re thinking. “But I still want to be able to wear a bikini and not wear a maxi dress all day at the beach in 95 degrees.”

Fair enough!

Even if you or someone you know is at her “pre-baby” weight (lucky duck), no woman will say that her body is the same. Aside from the very obvious changes “down under,” your uterus needs weeks (or months) to go back down to its starting size and your boobs (breastfeeding moms, especially) are giant and/or not your own anymore and don’t even get me started on the rounded shoulders and sad, droopy bum!

So, if we can’t get our “pre-baby” bodies back, what should we be doing?

Here’s my step-by-step guide for getting, for lack of a better term, “in shape” postpartum:

Rest. Seriously, give yourself a chance to recover. Even if every morning you check your reflection in the mirror to see if things look any different. Have you heard the term “good things come to those who wait”? It applies here very well. This is your time with baby (and possibly other children), so treasure this time and they, and your body, will thank you later.

See a women’s health physical therapist. If anyone can give you a good idea of where you’re really at with recovery, it’s a good physical therapist who specializes in women’s health. This can involve both external and internal therapy and can be immensely helpful to deal with trauma, scar tissue, wound healing (from tearing or a c-section), and abdominal muscle rehabilitation from stretching and separation. Check out this PT locator http://www.womenshealthapta.org/pt-locator/

Be honest with yourself about pain and discomfort. Anyone who has had a baby knows that there are many “bits” out of place postpartum. Bleeding can last for weeks or months and usually this is totally normal. If anything seems abnormal, for example, if you experience blood clots, get in touch with your doctor or midwife. Their job doesn’t end when they catch baby! Better to be safe than sorry in the long term. Additionally, if you have vaginal swelling, bleeding, or pain after activity, that may be your body telling you to dial it back. Do what you can and if you can’t, ask for help.

Understand that the 6 week postnatal appointment does not give you the green light to jump back into intense exercise. This is probably the most frustrating and difficult thing to cope with when you just want to get fit again. Simply stated, doctors and midwives are (usually) not in the fitness industry and (usually) know little about it. Were you jogging pre-baby? Were you Olympic lifting? Were you playing rugby? Do you see my point? Just because you get the go-ahead from your doctor does not mean you should dive right back in.

Deal with your core and floor first. This is paramount. What parts of your body took the biggest hit during pregnancy, labor, and birth? Your core and pelvic floor muscles. They need time, recovery, and re-strengthening. For now, avoid crunches, sit-ups, and full front planks (including the full push-up position), so that your core muscles & tissues may realign and regain strength and tautness. Avoid the “mummy tummy” by getting proper instruction for postpartum core exercises. Want a kickstart? Check out this amazing article by pre/postnatal trainer (and my idol) Jessie Mundell: http://jessiemundell.com/5-best-core-exercises-for-post-pregnancy/

Pay close attention to back pain. This is probably the most disconcerting postpartum issue in my opinion. Your spine’s “shallow S” shape on a normal, non-pregnant basis is replaced by quite a “deep S” during pregnancy. Most women have an exaggerated lumbar (lower spine) curve and rounded shoulders (thoracic kyphosis), during the later stages of pregnancy. This is totally normal, but your spine will not snap back into place when you give birth. The back should only be placed under load if it is in a neutral position, or the spine can be compromised. Herniated discs and sciatic nerve pain are among the issues that can result long term. Back pain can also be an indicator of core muscles that are weak and/or stretched and are not functioning correctly. Take your time before returning to weight training. When can you return to weight training? The key here is progression. Begin your first 4 weeks back (beginning at approximately 6-8 weeks postpartum after a normal, vaginal delivery and 12-16 weeks postpartum after a C-section) with bodyweight exercises only. Progress to about 20% of your normal weights for the next 4 weeks, then up to 40% for the next month, etc.

Ignore the promises of a quick-fix diet. If you are breastfeeding, you should wait at least 8 weeks before cutting calories to lose weight so that it will not affect your milk supply. For more info on that see here:http://kellymom.com/nutrition/mothers-diet/mom-weightloss/ . That does not mean you can justify those extra donuts in the morning. It means don’t put yourself on diet shakes (I don’t care what kind they are) and beds of lettuce with carrots for every meal. Those of you who aren’t breastfeeding, the same timeline applies to you. Why? Because your body needs nutrients to heal. There is a direct correlation between eating well and postpartum recovery time. Most of the time, if your body has what it needs, it will do what it needs to do. If you deprive your body, even if you lose weight in the short term, chances are the weight will come back with a vengeance sometime in the future. Cultivate good eating habits and you will not regret it. You can read more about weight loss and hormonal changes from the brilliant Girls Gone Strong advisory board member Dr. Brooke Kalanick Larson here: https://www.girlsgonestrong.com/fat-loss-for-new-moms/

Find someone in fitness who knows what he/she is talking about. Just because someone has had a baby or has known someone who had a baby or has seen someone from a distance who’s had a baby, does not mean that he or she is qualified to train a postpartum woman. Here’s a little test for a potential trainer: if he or she knows what the following terms mean (without consulting Google), they may be worth keeping: diastasis recti, linea alba, pelvic floor prolapse, kegel and pallof press.I jest. But seriously.Keep in mind that if you cannot find someone locally (ask your physical therapist), there are many resources online. I will list them at the end for you to check out.

Know that everyone is different. Just like every baby is different, every mom is different and will recover at her own pace and in her own way. There is an endless number of factors that affect postpartum recovery and you are not alone! Many women have gone through what you’re going through right now and that can be a great source of support. If you don’t know any other new mommies locally, see if you can find a mommy & me class that will let you meet fellow moms. Sometimes even one word of empathy can mean the world when you really need it.

When will you feel “normal” again? It will happen. Not immediately. Be honest with yourself and you will progress.

Deep breath, mama, you can do this!

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Friday, 12 August 2016

CHANGE BEGINS WITH AWARENESS

Written by Chantal Kurchner

Want a surefire way to lose weight? Become aware of what you eat and decide to make better choices one bite at a time! The best way to begin is by keeping track of what you eat in a Food Journal. A great app that is free is, My Fitness Pal. Knowing your eating habits, and fueling your body properly will keep energy levels steady, help with weight loss and can keep it off.

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Most of us have a general idea of what we eat any given day. When keeping a Food Journal, you may be surprised to really find out what, when, and how much (or little) you eat! Our bodies need a nutrient-dense, interval based eating schedule for optimal health. Regular healthy meals and snacks every few hours even helps speed your metabolism by challenging it to keep processing instead of storing them as fat.

I know it doesn't sound like much fun to keep track of what you eat, but by logging your food intake, you keep yourself accountable, and hopefully will make better food choices. Maybe you'll even start making that food-mood connection (i.e. Do you crash after having sugar/carbs? Does that food baby slow you down? Do you feel like a bad dog after that donut?)

I challenge you to keep track of what you eat for even just a few days to see what you learn. Remember that knowledge is power, and knowing your eating habits will help you achieve your health and fitness goals. Maintaining a good diet is sometimes the most challenging exercise of all!

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Friday, 12 August 2016

How Meditation Can Improve Performance

Written by Zack Feeney

While the sympathetic system is great when we need to respond to a stressor, it's not ideal to be bathing in it's hormonal milieu all day.

I simply call this "being on". I think we can all relate to that feeling. Feeling rushed to work, forgot to bring your textbook to class, pressing hard in the gym, getting stuck in traffic, then we get home and have to figure out what's for dinner. Our inability to turn off can quickly add up and lead to a feeling of burnout. Stress on stress on stress.

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I've been playing around with meditation post-workout in an effort to help me turn off. The results are worthy of suggesting the practice to others.

It's not long. Normally 5-10 minutes and can easily be incorporated into a normal cool-down routine of stretching and self myofascial release.

Why? Exercise is high-stressor, especially if you're a competitor, pushing your limits mentally and physically everyday. Post-workout meditation is a tool that can allow you to quickly turn off after training. Switch from a sympathetic state to a parasympathetic state. Heart rate slows down, catecholamines (norepinephrine and epinephrine) decrease, digestions is stimulated.

The faster you can switch states the more you'll recover. The more you can recover, the better you can train. It's a circle of success.

Becoming a better athlete isn't only about crushing yourself in the gym. It's about recovering enough so you can train hard the next session. Under recovering leads to underperforming. A circle of crap.

There's also supporting research showing that mindful meditation can decrease sensitivity to psychological stressors. (1,2,3)

This works in two ways.

First, mindful meditation can alter what you actually perceive is stressful. Maybe after a few weeks, waiting in line at the grocery store no longer makes you anxious.

Second, the same stressor you're presented with causes a lower arousal. Maybe sitting in traffic still sucks, but sucks less after meditation.

Meditation could also help improve empathy and coping skills. (4)

In trend with my message, we can't look at our life stressors in a vacuum. They accumulate. Learning to cope better with everyday stressors will ultimately improve your sport performance.

This tip can be used by everyone, but especially critical for those who knowingly have a hard time turning-off. You know who you are. It's those who want to write down every word the teacher says, checks their email 50x per day, always has to be doing something or they feel unproductive.

If you train early in the day, a simple 5-10 minutes can change the trajectory of everything that day. Finishing a workout, rushing a shower, eating while driving to work and screaming at the slow people in the left lane is not ideal for switching to a parasympatetic state.

If you train later in the day this method can calm you prior to bed. When I get home I have 3-5 hours of my day left.

I found that post-workout meditation after my nightly training sessions clears me. I can think easily about what's for dinner, what I need to get done that night and what is an appropriate time to get to bed. Post-workout meditation allows me not only to recover, but have more productive hours after training.

How? My post-workout meditation is simple.

Limiting external stimulus as much as possible. If you're gym is loud you may need to plug in some headphones to indulge in some relaxing tunes.

For position, I prefer to lay with my feet on the wall in the 90-90 position (90 degree angle at the hip and knee), but there is no correct position. Sit, lay, whatever is comfortable for you to breathe.

For breathing, focusing on big breaths into the belly. Inhaling through the nose, hold the breath for a slight second and then calmly exhale everything through your mouth. I find it helpful to place my hands or phone on my stomach to help feel my stomach expand and collapse.

No doubt the most difficult part of any meditation is controlling the mind. If you're a newbie this will feel like torture. Your thoughts will scatter and that's okay. Recognize that thought in your mind and then return to focusing on your breath.

What helped me get over the scattered thoughts was actually visualizing my breath - like it was tangible. I'd close my eyes and envision, then exhaling the air out into the open.

If this is too difficult you can focus your attention more directly toward your goals. Use this time to acknowledge how your technique felt, what you did good, what you can improve on, how fortunate you are to be doing what you love.

It's all about recovery. In the end - we can only train as hard as we can recover. We can only work as hard as we can relax. Use post-workout meditation to enhance recovery, your training, and your life.

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