Fast Food and Fitness

My daughter had an interview at a fast food restaurant. The interviewer pointed out the store manager and regional manager during the process. Both were (if I were guessing) obese. I wondered if the company attracted overweight employees, or if employees became overweight while they worked for the company. The perverbial chicken (nugget) or the egg (breakfast sandwich). It started me thinking that these fast food establishments are missing a golden opportunity. Why not offer employees and managers a wellness/fitness program through the company? There would be numerous benefits, but the one that comes to my mind first is that it would be awesome advertising. What if you walked into your local fast food place and all the people behind the counter were fit and healthy looking? Wouldn’t that make you less afraid to eat more of the product? What if they could point you to the healthiest food choices because they were making those choices themselves? Maybe the big fast food restaurants should start thinking seriously about some quality wellness programs for their workers. It would be great advertising.

Healthy Recipe: Steak Salad

 

My family loves this steak salad in the summertime. It’s cool on a hot day and tastes delicious!

Ingredients:

Sirloin steak (about 3 ounces per person)

One bag of Dole hearts of romaine lettuce

One bag of Dole spring mix

One box cherry tomatoes

One container of feta cheese

Your favorite low fat or low calorie dressing. I like Kraft Sundried Tomato Vinaigrette

Directions:

Cook steak on grill to your desired doneness.  Cut into bitesize pieces and cover with foil. Toss lettuce, halve the cherry tomatoes and add to lettuce.  Sprinkle with feta cheese and toss.  Add the steak and toss again.  Dress with your favorite dressing.  Serves four.

Childhood Obesity

I am a teacher and it is contract time.  Lately it’s been stressful.  The federal government is not required to balance its budget and has accumulated an enourmous deficit.  State governments and local school districts are required to balance budgets. States are tightening their belts and education is on the chopping block this year.

Last week our school district voted to cut all specials from the elementary school in order to lessen an 8 million dollar budget deficit.  “Specials” include Art, Music and Physical Education.

Art and Music are bad enough, but Physical Education in an era when childhood obesity is a problem we hear about almost daily in the news?  When the percentage of overweight adults stands at 65% and the obesity rate for children stands at 25%?  When study after study shows that students who participate PE on a regular basis score higher on the standardized tests that the federal government requires for No Child Left Behind?  Really?

It’s hard enough  to beat back the media messages of junk food and sedentary entertainment.  If we don’t have the 30 minutes, twice a week to counteract those messages, how will we ever ingrain the love of a healthy lifestyle into our younger generation?

That’s why this website has become even more important to me than ever before.  This is where I will continue to get the message of exercise, fitness and nutrition to you through great information and exercise and nutrition programs that I believe in.  YOU can make a healthy lifestyle a priority for you and your family even if the government does not.

What are your thoughts on cuts to physical education in public schools around the country?

Healthy Breakfast Foods. Eat Them!

Are you one of those people who skips breakfast?  Do you tell yourself it will help you lose weight?  Do you tell yourself you just don’t have time? Well, stop it already! You are doing the nutritional equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  I’m sure you have heard that before, but maybe you just aren’t listening.  Your body has had no food (and no nutrients) all night.  You need to “break your fast” in the morning.  If you don’t, you are running on an empty tank.  Your blood sugar will be low, your brain won’t function properly and you will be mentally sluggish.

Now here comes midmorning and you are starving!  You will eat anything to cut the growling in your belly and you usually do.  That donut someone left in the staffroom, those Famous Amos Cookies in the vending machine or that high calorie breakfast burrito you ordered when someone ran around the corner to get coffee.  Now you have filled up on empty sugar and simple carbohydrate calories.  This fills your belly, but these are nutrient poor  foods.  Your body is still hungry because you didn’t feed it the fuel it needs.  You only gave it empty calories.  Gain you spell WEIGHT GAIN??

Here’s a better idea.  Eat a breakfast that includes complex carbs and protein.  This will give your body what it needs to power you through the morning.  You won’t be starving by 10 a.m.  If you are a little hungry, try some high protein light snacks like nuts or cheese to get you through until lunch.  You will now have the energy and mental clarity to work productively through your day.

Short on time?  Prepare a nutritious breakfast a night ahead.  Have the whole wheat toast and the peanut butter laid out on the counter.  Hard boil an egg you can eat with your whole grain cereal and skim milk.  That’s not going to add big blocks of time to your morning and think of the nutrition and health benefits.  If you want something quick and easy to fix that has lots of nutrients you need for you crazy day, check out Shakeology.  I drink this stuff every day and it only costs about $4.00 per meal.

Do You Know Your Nutritional Stats?

It’s a sad fact that only 9 percent of Americans know the number of calories and what nutrients they are supposed to eat in a day.  Most of us can’t even take an educated guess!  If we don’t know how many calories we need to eat in a day, we’re not even close to knowing what nutrients we need.  Your body is your vehicle and your food is your fuel.  If you put sugar water in your car’s gas tank what happens?  It won’t run.  If you put the wrong types of foods into your body what happens?  Your body can’t run efficiently. If you put too much fuel in your body, it can’t store it efficiently and you gain weight.

It’s time to educate yourself!  Here’s some sites to check out.  mypyramid.gov can help you figure it out.  Enter your height, weight, and activity level and this site will tell you how many calories you should be eating.  It will also give you a breakdown of what food groups your calories should be coming from.  I find this site overestimates the amount of calories I need. I’m pretty sure that if I ate the 2200 calories that My Pyramid says I should, I would gain weight.  I do better at about 1700 calories a day, but you have to remember, that the site does an estimate of average calories.

Another site I like to use is dailyburn.com. Daily Burn will calculate how many calories you should have similar to My Pyramid.  It goes a step further by asking you how much weight you want to lose (or gain depending upon your stats), and adjusts your daily calories accordingly.  Daily burn will also keep a running daily total of your calories and certain nutrients as you enter the foods you have eaten.

Both of these sites are FREE so now you have no excuses!  Figure out you nutritional stats.

Muscular Endurance

Remember the last time you went for that very first jog when you weren’t in shape yet?  Remember how after a while your legs felt like lead and didn’t want to take another step?  Now think about that same jog about a month into your daily exercise routine.  Your legs felt stronger and less fatigued didn’t they?  You were improving muscular endurance.

Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to continue to perform without fatigue.  Many repititive fitness activities will improve muscular endurance.  Riding a bike, swimming, spinning classes, running, and certain types of calesthentics will all improve muscular endurance if they are performed on a regular basis.  If you are weightlifting, using lighter weights while increasing repetitions will improve muscular endurance, while lifting heavier weights at decreased repetitions will increase muscular strength. What’s your favorite way to improve your muscular endurance?

Muscular Strength

Do you want to be able to do your favorite physical activities without tiring out right after you start?  Do you want to be leaner? (more muscle/less fat) Do you want better posture? Do you want to have less chance of injury? Sure you do!  Muscular strength is defined as the amount of force a muscle can produce in a single effort.  You can improve muscular strength by getting involved in strength training exercises.  Ladies:  Strength training will not turn you into a giant walking muscle.  It will replace those flabby places you don’t like with more muscle mass.  Guys:  Strength training will bring you quick and very visual results that I’m sure you will like.

You can strength train by using free weights (dumbbells and barbells), weight machines (check out your local gym), or your own body weight (crunches, push-ups, pull-ups, leg raises etc.)  You can also use a combination of these in your training routine.

When you start a fitness program it’s so so important to work on muscular strength as well as cardiorespiratory endurance.  Two of my favorite fitness programs that incorporate strength training into an overall fitness program are Beachbody’s P90X and ChaLean Extreme.  These programs include cardio, strength training, muscular endurance and flexibility with a progressive plan to improve your fitness level.  What are some strength training programs you think are effective?

My Five Fave Flexibility Exercises

Good flexibility will prevent injuries and keep your lower back happy and healthy.  Here’s five of my favorites.  These are the ones that make you go “ahhh…” after you have completed them.

1.  Cross Foot Hamstring stretch This one will stretch your upper back, lower back and your hamstrings.  You get three stretches in one.

Stand straight and cross your feet. Slowly roll each vertebrae down as you reach for your toes.  Let your body hang and look at your legs (or knees depending on your flexibility level).  Breathe deeply. Now slowly roll back up, one vertabae at a time.  Cross your feet the other way and repeat.

2.  Shoulder Stretch This feels great after an upper body workout.

Hold your right arm up and straight, bring your arm across your body and hug it to your body with your left arm.  Put your chin on your shoulder and hold.  Repeat with your left arm.

What are your favorite flexibility moves?

3.  Seated Leg Hamstring Stretch If I am having twinges in my lower back I do a few of these and it usually disappears.

Sit on the floor with your right leg straight and your left leg bent (your legs form a number four) With your back straight, raise arms then lower while reaching for your toes.  Think about bringing your ribcage as close to the thigh as possible.  Breathe deeply while holding the stretch. Repeat with the left leg.  Now extend both legs and repeat the stretch reaching for both feet.  If you are able to reach to your heels easily, add a yoga block.

4.  Pigeon Pose This is a Yoga Stretch that really opens up your hips.

Put your palms on the floor about shoulder width apart. Bring right leg through and sit on the floor with your knee bent.  The right side of your foot and leg should be on the floor.  Extend your left leg behind you.  Hold this position then repeat with right and left leg switched.

5.  Child’s Pose This is a great stretch after ab and core work.

Kneel on the floor and extend both arms, palms down on the floor in front of you.  Put your forehead on the floor and breath. Ahhh….

Components of Fitness: Flexibility

Have you ever seen that gym rat who is so muscular, but can’t get anywhere near touching his toes?  Have you ever seen the runner who can do 10 miles with ease, but has an upper body that is nothing but skin and bones? In order to be truly physically fit, you have to be fit in all five components of fitness.  In this post, we’ll concentrate on flexibility.  Flexibility is the ability to move a body part through a full range of motion.  If you can do this, you are less likely to get injured.  As you age, flexibility becomes even more important.  It prevents lower back pain and can also prevent or relieve the symptoms of arthritis.

My very first job was the Program Director of a YMCA. At one point, I taught a class called, “The Y’s Way to a Healthy Back”  People were sent to this class by their doctors as a last resort before back surgery. Students were tested for hamstring flexibility with a toe touch and for abdominal strength with a modified curl up (easier than a  regular one).  No one could come anywhere close to touching their toes on the flexibility test and most could not even do one curl-up.  The class consisted of a progressive set of stretching exercises and abdominal strengthening moves.  It lasted for six weeks.  At the end of those six weeks, not one of those students needed to go through with back surgery.

Sometimes people avoid flexibility training because it doesn’t seem like “real” exercise. If they are pressed for time, the flexibility training is what they skip.  My hubby is one of those people who is guilty of this and it drives me crazy.  Tomorrow he is going to see his doctor for yet another shoulder injury. (pulling my hair out)

Do yourself a favor and concentrate on flexibility at least once a week during your workouts.  Also make sure you are stretching after each workout during the week. Tomorrow you’ll get a rundown of some of my favorite flexibility exercises.  What are your favorites?

Managing Stress with Exercise

I am a huge proponent of managing stress with regular exercise.  Studies have shown over and over again that daily exercise can elevate mood and relieve stress.  People who are mildly or moderately depressed can get as much relief from daily exercise as they can from anti-depressants.  So now it’s time to put my money where my mouth is.  Our school district is in the middle of a huge reorganization, closing buildings, furloughing teachers and moving everyone who is left all around.  I have been teaching at the same school at the same grade level for 11 years.  Next year I will move from high school to middle school (6th and 7th grade).  Big changes equal big amounts of stress.  The last time I had a big job change I left my daily exercise routine slip and I paid the price.  This time I am determined to do better.  My health and well being will not take a back burner to a crazy schedule and new responsibilities.  I have to take care of myself first.  If I can stay focused on that, the rest will fall into place.  When have you had to make a big life change?  Did keeping your workout schedule keep you sane?  Let me know your story!