5 Fitness-Related Gift Ideas under $100

So you want to give someone a gift that they will not only enjoy, but will make a positive difference in their physical life.  Here are a few great ideas for some at-home fitness aids that I recommend, most of which will cost you less than a month’s membership at your local gym, listed from least expensive on up (complete with links to the brands I would choose):

1:  Resistance Band Set $30:  They don’t have the money or the space to outfit their garage with a full set of dumbbells?  Give them a set of resistance bands like the one linked here.  Train the whole body with the dozens of exercises available to them, with 7 different resistance levels possible.  A must for increased metabolism and muscle toning, and in a space-saving package!

2:  Stability Ball $30:  Not just for abs, this workout implement can enhance both upper body and lower body training, as well as supply flexibility variations.  Improve neuromuscular coordination while eliminating the need for a workout bench.  Give them an extra challenge to push them to new exercise heights.  Get the 65cm for most men and 55cm for most women.

3:  Pull-up Bar $40:  You no longer need to destroy your doorjamb to get a great back workout.  Not only for pull-ups, this versatile workout tool can enhance your push-ups and ab work as well.  It makes for a great anchor for your resistance tubes too, and paired can even allow you the option of doing assisted pull-ups for those that struggle to crank even one rep out.

4:  Body Weight Trainer $60:  Get all the benefits of the $200 TRX Body Weight Trainer for a fraction of the cost.  Add a functional component to their workouts.  Strengthens shoulder, hip, thigh, and core stabilizers while stressing all the major muscle groups.  This implement hardly takes up any space and is guaranteed to give them a challenge unlike anything they’ve experienced before.

5:  Non-Bouncing Medicine Balls $45-80:  They will work up a sweat while slamming and tossing this tool around.  Or they can use it as a regular, stationary weight to increase the difficulty of body-weight exercises.  Not only will it make their workout more effective, but more fun and varied at the same time.  10-15 pounds for most women, and 20-25 pounds for most men should do the trick.

6 (Bonus):  2 Months of Personal Training $99:  OK.  I couldn’t resist.  The star on top would be a personalized exercise program complete with strength training, flexibility work, cardiovascular training, and a nutrition plan.  Help them put those tools that Santa brought to good use with my help.  Give them a head-start to a new year and a new “them”.

Stuff their stocking with the gift of better health, and don’t break the bank at the same time!  Enjoy!

J

5 Nutrition Tips for a Practical Thanksgiving

Those of you that know me well know that I take a very pragmatic approach to my advice, especially in the area of nutrition.  Trust me.  I took the demise of the Twinkie pretty hard.  However, the most notorious overeating day is upon us.  And while I know you want to enjoy all that the dinner table (and kitchen counter, side table, and stove top) has to offer this Thursday, I’m sure that most of you don’t want it to put a complete fork in your nutrition plan (yes, pun totally intended).  So I am here to offer you a few practical ideas to help you, if not keep your nutrition plan on course this Thanksgiving Day, at least keep you from running it aground completely.  If you want 10 ways to cook a fat-free Turkey or a treatise on the overindulgence in our society, look somewhere else.  Here is just some real advice for real people.  Hope it helps.

1:  Skip a Meal.  There is nothing that says you have to stick to your 5 meals-a-day plan on Thanksgiving.  It’s about calories.  Store up the 400 breakfast calories and spend it on Pumpkin Pie for dessert.

2:  Just Say No.  If your Thanksgiving meal is anything like mine, there are about 12 different things to choose from.  Pass on the things that show up on your dinner table other times during the year, and enjoy the items that only come around on Turkey Day.  The dinner rolls won’t take it personally.

3:  A Little Goes a Long Way.  To borrow from a great everyday tip, have what you want, just in smaller amounts.  Give yourself a taste of everything so that you are not feeling like you’re depriving yourself, and avoid feeling like you’re going to explode at the end of the day.

4:  Keep it Clear.  You’ve got 364 other days to partake in all manner of calorie-laden beverages.  Skip the extra calories and just have water.  There are plenty of other taste-bud pleasing options out there.

5:  Hit the Turkey Trot.  A workout first thing in the morning will jumpstart the metabolism for the rest of the day.  Plus, when someone gives you that look as you go in for seconds, you can say “I already worked this one off”.

Feel free to share any of your tips…

Enjoy!

J

Featured Exercise: Stability Ball Leg Curls

Featured Exercise: Stability Ball Leg Curls

Primary Muscles:  Hamstrings

Secondary Muscles:  Glutes, Lower Back, Hip Flexors

How many of you have that big, blue dust-collecting prop in the corner of your room?  You’ve nearly broken your neck tripping over it and you’re constantly kicking it out of the way, only to have it rebound off the corner of your bed and take out your legs in retaliation.  Well, dust it off and give this one a try.  Here is a great exercise for the hamstring muscles.  Deceptively difficult and extremely effective.  I love this one for the guys because it looks so easy, yet it gets them crying in only a couple of repetitions.  The hamstrings are an underutilized muscle.  For those that have sedentary occupations, the hamstring muscles spend a great deal of time being sat upon.  Being in a shortened position for long periods of time leave these muscles weak and tight.  Give the hamstrings a jolt with the Stability Ball Hamstring Curl.  Here’s how it goes:

Lie on your back with your feet propped up on a stability ball, feet together just over the apex of the ball.  Hands should be at your sides, palms down for support.  From this position, pushing through the backs of the legs, lift the hips off of the ground until you’ve achieved a straight-line position with the body, with heels, knees, hips, and shoulders in line.  This is the starting position for the exercise.  From here, exhale as you pull the ball towards your glutes by lifting your hips and driving the heels back.  Make sure to pick the hips up as your heels come towards the glutes, maximizing the work in the hamstring muscles and minimizing the work in the hip flexors.  Once you have pulled the legs in as far as you can, inhale as you slowly bring the legs back out to starting position, dropping the hips back down as the legs extend.  You should feel a significant amount of work in the backs of the legs.  Start with as many repetitions as you feel comfortable.  Work your way up from there.  As always, if you have any questions feel fee to leave a question in the comments section.  Enjoy!

J

When the Going Gets Tough…

I used to think that if I tried something and I received resistance, or a push-back against accomplishing what I set out to do, that it was somehow a “sign” that it wasn’t the right thing to do.  I think that many of us feel the same way, especially if we set out to on a path that we are not sure is the right one.  The road starts to get bumpy and we immediately start to question whether we made the right choice.  But one important lesson I’ve learned, especially from my adoption experiences, is that the “rightness” of a decision has little or nothing to do with how difficult the result might be.  In fact, I believe that the more difficult the road, the more “right” it really is.  In battle, the closer you get to the enemy the more the bullets start whizzing over your head.  Head in the wrong direction and you’ll probably find the road pretty easy going.  Please be careful when someone tells you “this is an easy way to lose weight”.  Chances are the road is not taking where you really want to go.  Or, “what you’re doing is really hard, and I think God is telling you that you should stop and try something else.”  Standing tall in the face of adversity is a true sign of courage.  Don’t give up.   When the going gets tough, the tough keep going.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.

J

The Truth About hCG

Question of the Week:  Finish this sentence:  When the going gets tough, …

Nugget of the Day: The truth about hCG for weight loss.

A client recently asked me what I thought about hCG as a weight loss tool.  For those of you not familiar with hCG, it stands for Human Chorionic Gonadotropin.  It is a hormone released by the placenta of pregnant women.  (Huh?  Yeah, that’s most people’s response)  Believed to stimulate the consumption of excessive fat tissue in the pregnant mother in support of the growing fetus, it has been hypothesized to assist in metabolism of fat as an energy source in non-pregnant individuals, as well as suppress appetite.  When accompanied by what can only be classified as a “starvation” diet of 500 calories, it is believed to promote significant weight loss.

There are a few issues here to address.  The first is the effectiveness of hCG as a weight loss tool.  As of right now, both the Journal of the American Medical Association and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition have concluded that hCG is neither safe nor effective as a weight loss aid.  The second is the starvation diet of 500 calories.  Obviously, any diet that absent of calories is going to promote weight loss, at least for a time.  However, not only does it wreak havoc on your metabolism, but it is nearly impossible to adhere to for any length of time.  Since it is not a plan that promotes healthy, long-term eating habits, most people will regain much of the weight, if not all of it when returning to their regular eating plan.  And, third, the FDA has prohibited the sale of over the counter hCG products and homeopathic versions, declaring them illegal and fraudulent.  So if you are going to try to skirt the physician-prescribed route, don’t waste your time or your money.  There isn’t enough real hCG in there to have any metabolic effect at all.

In conclusion, the hCG diet is no more than another “quick fix” scheme that is unproven at best and downright dangerous at worst.  It is simply another “starvation” diet routine that leaves you undernourished and destroys your metabolism, increasing the likelihood of you not only returning to your pre-diet weight, but even getting heavier in the long term.  Don’t be fooled.  There are no quick fixes that beat good, solid hard work and lifestyle change.   Stay the course, keep up the hard work, and don’t give up!

J