SparkPeople Guest Blogger

Why Every Runner Should Add Hill Repeats to Their Workout

Whether you are a trail runner, a roadrunner or a combination of the two, you need hills. As challenging and unpleasant as they sound, hills can be used to work on uphill endurance, improving strength and building turnover (taking more steps per minute) to help your run form.
 
While most outdoor running routes will have some level of hills, repeating shorter runs on the same hill (a.k.a. hill repeats) is going to be more effective in reaping the many benefits you can gain from the added incline.
 
Hill repeats are a way to overtrain and exaggerate race-route conditions. Most race courses will not have as many hills at that grade or they’ll be more spread out with flat stretches in between to recover. Thus, because you’re repeating one tough hill multiple times, you're challenging your legs and lungs to adapt to the difficulty level and be better prepared when a hill does hit on a traditional race course.

Posted 8/27/2018  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 25 comments   5,784 views

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5 Things to Consider Before Buying Workout Leggings

When you're at the gym or running around the neighborhood, the last thing you want is for your clothing to get in the way. Exercise is hard enough without your shorts sliding up your thigh or fabric getting in the way of your dumbbell rows. That's why so many people choose leggings. Comfortable and flattering, leggings are designed to stay in place whether you're striking a pose in yoga or trying to beat your personal best on the track.
 
Of course, you have to choose the right pair of leggings to enjoy the benefits. With a fully saturated athleisure market, finding the perfect leggings for your shape and sport can be a challenge, oftentimes leaving you with a closet full of options that you can't wear. The only thing worse than leggings that ride up during your run is feeling like you wasted your money on athletic wear that doesn't hold up. Make the next pair of leggings your favorite pair by following a few simple tips before you head to the checkout counter.

Posted 7/11/2018  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 55 comments   24,863 views

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How Thinking Like an Athlete Can Help New Runners

Tired of struggling through each run? Wondering what other people know that you don't? How do the elite runners make it look so easy?
 
Besides the 100-mile weeks, specific eating plans, daily massages and naps, elite runners are just like you. While their training and commitment might be just slightly more intense, any runner can adopt an elite runner's way of thinking to tackle challenging daily runs or races. As with any physical taxing activity, finding success as a runner comes down to being mentally tough to overcome the voice in your head telling you to stop when your heart starts beating faster and your breath becomes more labored.
 
To push a little farther, stay focused on your ultimate race or pace goals, or just to learn to enjoy your run more, focus on implementing these tips sports psychologists offer elite runners.

Posted 7/3/2018  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 42 comments   12,661 views

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Discover Self-Love at Any Size With This HeavyWeight Yoga Workout

For me, yoga isn't just an exercise, it's a way of life. Forty-six years ago, my mother-in-law gave me the precious gift of a few hours to myself shortly after giving birth to my son. I walked into a YMCA Mother's Day Out program where they offered a yoga class. That class would forever change the course of my life.

Believe it or not, up until I walked into that YMCA, I had never even heard of yoga. After that first class, I fell in love with it and started studying on my own. Without the internet or even a VCR, I had to learn most of my yoga practice from books. After discovering Lilias Folan teaching a class on the local PBS TV station, her program became my "me time" during my son's naps.

Although I practiced yoga regularly, I didn't receive my teaching certification from Kripalu until June 2004. During my certification training, I realized I had been actively adapting yoga to work for my ever-growing and aging body without realizing it and made a commitment then and there to bring yoga to people of all sizes. HeavyWeight Yoga is my way to show the world that every body can be better with yoga.

Yoga Is for Everyone


I hear a lot from people who are overweight that they think they can't do yoga until they lose weight. Let's get this straight once and for all: Everyone needs to realize that the benefits of yoga can be had by anyone, regardless of their size or situation. One of my students who is bed-bound will never be able to come to the floor or be on a yoga mat, but from her bed, she can move her body to gain muscle strength, expand her lung capacity and improve her sense of well-being. All of this helps reduce her intense stress levels. Remember that if you are breathing, your body hasn't given up on you—so don't give up on your body.
 
Fear of injury is another common fear for people who are overweight, and it's a legitimate fear since some beginning yoga poses can be dangerous if you carry excess weight. As with any exercise routine, modifications can be made to accommodate your fitness level, weight and age, so don't be afraid to ask for recommendations from instructors.

People often come into yoga thinking only about the improvements to their physical self: flexibility, core strength, balance and the like. While all of that will happen, it's the sense of well-being that keeps people coming back to their mat for more. While we might think about yoga in terms of being able to touch our toes, it's more important to practice yoga in order to put on our shoes and socks or work through errands and responsibilities with less stress. If you're like most, the benefits of your practice begin as soon as you take your first yoga breath.

While yoga can be a great tool for helping you lose weight, the most important thing yoga does is to remind us that we often try to hate ourselves into getting thin. Lasting change can only come through self-love, though, and yoga highlights the path to loving yourself just as you are in this moment.

The Hardest Part Is Showing Up


My yoga practice is more than 46 years in the making, so the physical benefits of body movement for me at age 70 cannot be discounted. Being able to get on and off the floor with ease to play with my grandkids is priceless. However, if I had to pick one reason to practice yoga, it would be that yoga helps you to be at your best self when times get tough.

Make no mistake—yoga will never change what is happening around you. What yoga does do is change your reaction to that which you have no control over. It's easy to be your best self when life is good; yoga helps you be at your best when everything is going wrong. In time, it will become the invisible net that catches you so you don't hit the ground.

Even the first yoga class can connect people to their body in a way they haven't experienced in years--a lot of people cry. The question I most often get is "How did I get like this?" It's a question with so many answers. All I can do is hold the person and remind them that whatever their "it" is, it didn't happen overnight, and that starting now is what's important. I congratulate them for having already taken the first and hardest step—showing up.

Show up for yourself today with this 35-minute yoga routine that will leave you feeling balanced and at ease with where you are today.


About the Author
Abby Lentz is the creator of HeavyWeight Yoga, which she designed for people who are overweight or obese. She has been practicing yoga for more than 47 years and earned her Kripalu teacher certification in 2004. Her HeavyWeight Yoga DVDs continue to be top sellers on Amazon and she has been featured in leading fitness blogs including Women's HealthMag and BlindAlive. She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and their standard poodle. 


How does yoga positively influence your life?

Posted 6/29/2018  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 60 comments   30,979 views

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6 Kettlebell Abs Moves That Are Better Than Crunches

Arguably no area of the body garners more attention in the fitness world than the abdominal muscles. Having a chiseled six-pack is the ultimate goal for many fitness enthusiasts. Although the term "core" has become more popular than "six-pack" in recent years, the goal of attaining a sculpted midsection has endured.
 
Many people incorrectly presume that the core and abdominal muscles are the same. The truth is, the abs are just one of the many muscle groups that make up the core. The muscles that show up as a six-pack are the rectus abdominis muscles, a pair of vertical muscles that run the length of the abdomen whose primary job is to flex the spine. Also included in the core musculature are the internal and external obliques, the transverse abdominus, the erector spinae and the pectoralis major. Despite these other muscle groups, though, the rectus abdominis invariably gets all the attention.
 
While all these core muscle groups have their own specific and individual functions, they are collectively responsible for moving, supporting and stabilizing the spine. A vast majority of this moving, supporting and stabilizing occurs while you are in an upright position, and yet, a majority of the most common abs exercises are performed lying on your back.

Posted 6/19/2018  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 47 comments   52,798 views

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5 Common Myths About Natural Health and Healthy Living

When it comes to personal health and feelings of wellbeing, everybody knows what works best for their body. With varying personal opinions and a 24-hour news cycle, though, this can lead to a lot of opinions, anecdotes and sometimes misinformation about how the human body actually works. For many,  the nature of "natural health" leaves them feeling especially skeptical.

That's not to say that you won't disagree with some of the things listed below; rather, for some people, they need to find the underlying truth before deciding if they should modify their daily habits to find what works for their body and their routine.

Posted 6/12/2018  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 48 comments   10,428 views

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6 Yoga Poses That Can Soothe Menopause Symptoms

There is no question that the woman's body goes through a phenomenal series of changes. We are constantly evolving and growing into the next generation of ourselves. There is no other point in our life that this resonates as loudly as during menopause.
 
My experience with menopause began unexpectedly early. Due to extensive chemotherapy and radiation from my cancer treatment, I was thrown into artificially induced menopause. To say I was exhausted is an understatement. There were moments where I felt fully disconnected from who I was as a person—as if a stranger had invaded my body, hijacking my mental, emotional and physical being. 
 
It was during a checkup that I discovered that my body had rapidly been depleted of all hormones, and I was then beginning menopause. Together with my physician, I developed strategies to help bring my body and mind back in balance. Yoga was an essential piece of this puzzle for me.

Posted 5/18/2018  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 45 comments   35,257 views

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Rise and Shine: 8 Stretches You Should Do Each Morning

One of the best ways to start your day in a healthy way is to take a moment to ground your thoughts by stretching and intentionally breathing.  It's amazing what you can accomplish in less than seven minutes to set your day on the right path.  
 
When you stretch deeply, you should always be warm.  So performing this series after a morning workout or after a hot shower is optimal. If you do it right out of bed, make sure you stretch more gently.  

Here are eight stretches to add to your morning routine to feel strong, flexible and grounded. These exercises cover all your major muscle groups and can be followed any time of day, including after your workouts.

Posted 4/11/2018  5:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 96 comments   1,845,119 views

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How 3 Formerly Overweight Trainers Started Careers in Fitness

Fitness trainers are superhumans, able to simultaneously sweat and talk and work at the same time while challenging you to push yourself to be your best. They can be your biggest motivator, but they're on another level, nothing like you. Right? In fact, many people feel so inspired by their own weight-loss journeys that they feel compelled to give back and become trainers themselves.
 
No matter how much weight you’re trying to lose or how drastically you’re looking to change your relationship with food and exercise, getting fit is a journey unique to each of us. Success stories can be the motivation you need to push you closer toward that finish line, and when those stories come from people who now make their living being fit, those stories are even more inspirational.

Posted 3/26/2018  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 32 comments   19,597 views

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An AMRAP Workout That's Perfect for Anyone With Limited Mobility

It happened again: You bent down to pick something up and your body yelled, "Nope, not happening." "Why is this so difficult?" you ask yourself. "Why won't my knees bend enough? Why does this simple movement trigger a stiff feeling in my back?" There's no denying that your ease of movement is just not what it used to be. Your body is starting to tell you your joints need mobility.
 
It's common to think you should stretch what feels tight, but sometimes the muscle that is tight is also weak. This tightness you feel could be your brain's way of protecting your muscles from instability. The motor neurons feeding your muscles sense excess tension and tell the muscle to relax. However, if this feedback loop in the nervous system continues over time, your muscles could become weak. Stretch after waking up stiff, for example, and you could be starting a cycle of constantly stretching, feeling looser momentarily and then having to repeat on a daily basis.

Posted 3/14/2018  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 112 comments   47,734 views

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This Heart-Pumping, 15-Minute Workout Is Perfect for Small Spaces

Why is it that when people hear the word "cardio" the mind automatically goes to a painful hour on the treadmill or a sweat-soaked afternoon in a fitness class? Perhaps it was an elementary school gym teacher who made you believe that an hour of running several times a week was the only way to stay in shape, or maybe it's a perception that you created after walking by the exercise room at your gym and seeing everyone drenched and panting after too many burpees. 

Whatever the cause of cardio's often-bad reputation, if you want to get your heart-pumping, you don't need to carve out a full hour to reap the many physical and mental benefits of engaging in cardio training. No, that's not true at all. In fact, you only need 15 minutes. 

Posted 3/8/2018  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 52 comments   24,748 views

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Why I Don't Do Cardio

I have a confession to make: I don't do cardio.

As someone who works fitness industry, it often comes as a surprise to people when I share this information. My aversion comes down to the simple fact that I don't enjoy cardio, and I know I'm not the only one who feels this way.

I used to run or spend hours on the exercise bike, and I still have a free-standing punch bag I used to use at home. Unfortunately, when I first started trying to lose weight, the novelty of being out of breath, sweating insane amounts and aching all over wore off quickly. After only a few weeks, I was done.

Posted 1/24/2018  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 101 comments   22,838 views

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8 Reasons You Should Never Set a Resolution

With a new year comes an onslaught of "new year, new you" conversations. How will you improve yourself in the coming year? What should you consider changing about your lifestyle to make your next year your best one yet? Can a little tweak here and a little change there be the ticket to your happiest self?
 
As New Year's resolutions dreams and plans swirl around your head, I'd like to make one request: Don't make resolutions. Really, it's not worth it. If your plan is fitness related, especially, seriously, do not even bother. It might sound crazy, but I promise there's a better, more effective way to approach your new year, new you.
 
First, let's check the numbers.

Posted 1/2/2018  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 102 comments   15,441 views

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Better than Store-Bought: Blueberry Muffins

Editor's Note: This is a part of a series about how to re-create some of your favorite healthy foods at home.
 
A double-dose of blueberries (frozen and dried) gives these muffins extra flavor, and whole-wheat flour adds fiber. Although they’re not the oversized, mile-high sugar bombs you might find at a gourmet bakery, these double-blueberry muffins are pleasantly light-textured in spite of being made with nearly half white whole-wheat flour.
 
At just 125 calories each, these blueberry muffins make a not-too-guilty treat to start your day. Add a carton of low-fat yogurt, and you have a satisfying and delicious breakfast of under 300 calories. (Compare that to a "low-fat" blueberry muffin from your favorite coffeehouse, which has 430 calories!)

Posted 12/21/2017  8:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 8 comments   25,544 views

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The True Power of Setting the Right Goals

When it comes to improving our health and well-being, many of us find motivation failing us when we need it most. It's a common feeling that plagues many, especially when it comes to weight loss, which might mean that weight goals are simply not effective at motivating most people over the long term.
 
Concern about weight feels like a powerful motivator in that moment when you decide you just can't live like this anymore. You start out intensely focused on the new, better life you deserve but, if you're like most people, that determination doesn't last.
 
It's especially frustrating when you know you want to change for compelling reasons like wanting to be healthier and live longer. These reasons make perfect sense but, surprisingly, they lack the deeply emotional appeal that most people need in order to stay focused for the long haul. You know that someday if you stick it out, you'll be glad you made the effort. That payoff can seem distant and obscure, though, when what you need is something that feels worthwhile and rewarding today.

Posted 12/15/2017  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 90 comments   24,372 views

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