Health and Fitness Tips and Inspiration

  1. The Calorie Burning, Leg Sculpting Elliptical Workout



    If you’re using fitness equipment to help you reach weight loss or fitness goals, try adding some body weight exercises to the mix to really fire things up. Here’s a fun elliptical workout, created by our certified fitness coach, Joli that will rev-up your metabolism and sculpt those legs. In no time you’ll be done with this very effective workout! Let’s start with why you need this: An intense interval session on the elliptical is a great way to burn some serious calories and get your lower body circulation ready for training. By targeting the large muscle groups of the lower body, you'll keep your metabolism revved up for hours, supporting your weight loss.

    Now, let’s get started:

    Warm Up:
    Start with five minutes of easy movement on your elliptical, bringing your heart rate up to 75% of your max effort. Increase your intensity working at 85% of your max effort for 90 seconds, recover for 45 seconds, repeat.

    Circuit 1:
    Lunges: Step in and out of a lunge 20 times on your right leg. Repeat on your left leg. Follow by completing 16 stationary lunges on each leg. For more resistance, add plates or dumbbells into each hand and complete a bicep curl with each lunge.

    Circuit 2:
    Elliptical: Reverse your pedal movement for five minutes. Maintain an uncomfortable level of intensity (you should be able to speak in short sentences.

    Circuit 3:
    Bodyweight squats: Keeping your torso upright, sit your bottom down as low as you can. Stand up. Repeat for 3 minutes. Rest for 30 seconds. Follow with a Wall Sit for up to 90 seconds, with breaks as needed.

    Circuit 4:
    Bridge with toe taps: Lying on the floor with heels close to your bottom and knees towards the ceiling, lift up into bridge pose. Pressing into your left heel, lift your right heel, leaving right toe on the ground. Lightly tap right foot up and down. Complete 16 reps. Repeat on the Left. Complete two to three repetitions taking a break between as needed.

    You're finished with this elliptical workout! Nice work. Now, make sure to stretch and recover your muscles so they're ready to hit this again in the next few days.
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  2. 4 Stretches To Do After Your Cardio Workout



    After you've finished your cardio workout it's time to give those those muscles a good stretch so you can avoid soreness, fatigue, back pain or even injury. The muscles you've worked so hard during your exercise need time to recover so they're ready for your next workout. Here are 4 stretches you should do after your cardio workout:

    1. Side Lunge Stretch
    The side lunge stretches the hip adductors. Tight hips can lead to a variety of injuries in the knees, back and hamstrings. To do this stretch: Stand upright, with both feet facing forward, double shoulder-width apart. Place your hands on your hips or thighs, in order to keep your back straight. Slowly exhale, taking your bodyweight across to one side. Avoid leaning forward, or taking the knee of the bent leg over your toes.

    2. Crossover Stretch
    The crossover stretch will help to release your hips, iliotibial (IT) band and lower back. To do this stretch: Lie down with your legs straight and your arms extended out to the side. Bend one knee up towards your chest and place your opposite hand on your knee. Slowly pull your knee across your body towards the ground until you feel a slight stretch. Hold for approximately 15-30 seconds.

    3. Hamstrings Stretch

    Tight hamstrings can cause back pain, discomfort and difficulty lifting your legs. Stretching these muscles regularly can help to alleviate these effects. To do this stretch: Move your right foot toward your inner thigh, so that it touches the top part of your left leg, if possible. Lean forward, bending but not rounding your back and waist toward the left foot as if reaching for your toes. Repeat with the other leg.

    4. Quadriceps Stretch After exercise like running, quads can tighten which can bring on strains and knee injuries. To do this stretch: stand upright and pull your leg behind you with the corresponding hand. Try to keep your knee pointing downward as you do this stretch to protect your knee joint.

    Another tip we suggest here at 2nd Wind is to try mixing up your workouts for better results and to avoid muscle fatigue. If you're sore from your previous workout, try changing up the muscle movements next time. For instance, if you like to run, try a rowing exercise the next time around. This change offers less impact on the joints and changes your muscle movements.
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  3. Increase Productivity with These Midday Pick-Me-Ups


    If you’re feeling drained, tense or stressed at work, try resisting the afternoon coffee or energy drink jolt and consider these alternatives. Too much afternoon caffeine or sugar is just going to cause a crash and negatively affect sleep. Here are some natural ways to add a little energy to your day:

    Take a Midday Stroll

    Get your energy up with a lunchtime walk, or even a few short strolls throughout your day. Whether it’s a short walk outdoors or to a meeting, this effort can have a big impact when it comes to your overall health. It’s incredible how much this little addition to the day impacts productivity, creativity and motivation. In fact, this blog post was written while doing a little workday walking on a treadmill desk ! Being a writer, I’m noticing fewer word blocks which allows me be much more efficient with tasks like this.

    Unplug!

    Disconnecting from technology during breaks allows us to clear our head and regain focus. Practice mindfulness by meditating in a quiet space. Take a break from the computer or smartphone to rest your eyes. Walk outdoors and take in nature. Research shows that green spaces help restore the mind and improves mental health. More importantly, be in the moment and try to stop your mind from racing.

    Stretch it Out

    If you’re sitting or even standing in the same position for long periods of time you need a little stretching action. Stretching can provide a quick boost of energy because it helps the blood flow throughout the body and relieve toxins. Try a few of these to help give you a little boost. desk stretches

    Take a Sip

    Sip on green tea or ice cold water. Green tea has a lot of nutritional value and revs up your metabolism. Ice cold water awakens your insides and helps you stay alert – oh, and both green tea and water will help you stay hydrated which is always a good, healthy habit.

    Chomp on Gum

    A stick of sugar-free gum is always good to have in your desk drawer. The flavor change in your mouth will give you a little extra boost of energy. Make sure to stick with the sugar-free kind, and be on the lookout for the caffeinated versions.

    If you're interested in adding some movement into your workday, while you (or your employees) work, check out our workplace solutions .
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  4. Seven Ways Exercise Helps Your Mental Health


    It's pretty obvious that exercise is great for your physical health, helping with weight management, cardiovascular health, and blood sugar management among other benefits, but it turns out that getting your heart pumping can be great for your brain as well. Here are seven ways that exercise can do great things for your mental health.

    Exercise can make you smarter. It turns out that the same hormones that make your body stronger as a result of exercise (growth hormones) also positively affect your brain leading to better function in the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is associated with learning and memory. Additionally, exercise is also associated with increases in BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor), which also positively impacts memory (more on that in a bit).

    Exercise can improve your pain tolerance. Whether you're managing arthritis or struggling with an achy back, your best prescription may be to get moving. A recent study demonstrated that improvements in aerobic fitness are correlated to increases in tolerating pain. While improvements in strength and circulation could be a factor, it's likely that the psychological perception of pain also changes as a result of exercise, causing pain to be perceived as more tolerable and less limiting.

    Exercise can help you manage your stress. As a simple explanation, exercise is a healthy way of responding to the "fight or flight" scenario that our bodies create in response to stressful situations. By providing an outlet for the elevated cortisol and adrenal response, as well as through the creation of endorphins (commonly referred to as feel good chemicals), exercise can help you keep the negative impacts of stress on your body and brain within healthy levels.

    Exercise can help you sleep better. Moderate physical exercise has been demonstrated to reduce the time that it takes to fall asleep and to improve the quality of sleep. Even single exercise sessions of moderate intensity have been demonstrated to improve sleep for that night, while the benefits increase in the long term. Just remember to avoid exercise for two hours before your bedtime in order to give your body and brain sufficient time to cool down before you turn in.

    Exercise can improve your self-esteem. One of the best things about sticking to a regular exercise routine is when you begin to see improvements. Whether you find yourself able to lift more weight or bike longer and harder, those changes in performance make you feel good about what you're doing. This feeling of competence directly impacts perceptions of self-worth, making you more confident over time.

    Exercise can help depression and anxiety. It just makes sense that something that improves sleep, self-esteem, stress levels, and concentration would also be good for depression and anxiety, doesn't it? Exercise can have the added benefits of increasing social support and involvement and positively impacting the dopaminergic, serotonergic, and noradrenergic systems of the body, neurochemicals that are also affected by many anti-depressant medications. If you're struggling with clinical depression or even managing a case of the blues, add in exercise to assist in better managing your symptoms.

    Exercise can improve your concentration. Exercise is not only linked to increased intelligence in the long run, but it can also improve your immediate concentration. In addition to impacting BDNF described above, exercising and moving around uses more brain cells, increases circulation to all parts of your body, and results in better regulation of blood sugar and metabolism. Try scheduling "walking meetings" or lunch break workouts to keep your concentration on point through your afternoon.

    While we tend to emphasize greater intensity and longer training sessions when pushing for performance and physical change in our bodies from exercise, it's important to know that the mental health benefits of exercise are attainable for everyone. Even ten minutes of exercise positively impacts aerobic fitness and blood pressure and can be effective in generating the psychological benefits described here.

    Bring your exercises home and feel great on a daily basis with your very own home cardio machine.
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  5. 5 Foods Under 40 Calories (With Recipes)


    1. Coffee

    Calories: 0

    Love coffee? That’s completely OK! If you drink it black you’re not adding any extra cals for the day. Black coffee is one of the lowest-calorie drink choices around, and it’s a great weight loss ally. Coffee alters levels of gut peptides, the hormones naturally released to control hunger or fullness.

    Coffee drinkers may be a lower risk of liver and colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease, and it may help you live longer: A 2008 study found that women who drink coffee regularly – up to six cups a day – were less likely to die of various causes during the study than their non-coffee-drinking counterparts. And, caffeine in coffee can speed up metabolism and fat-burning, which helps lower your risk for type 2 diabetes and obesity.

    Try this recipe: Healthy Iced Coffee



    2. Beets

    Calories: 37 per ½ cup

    This sweet, yet light on calories snack cures that sweet-tooth without the guilt. And, beets are also rich in cancer-fighting antioxidants. Beyond their rich, earthy deliciousness, beets are also a nutritional powerhouse nutritional powerhouse. Rich in iron, fiber, folate, and potassium, they’re an excellent way to boost the nutrition in a salad or pasta dish.

    Try these easy beet recipes



    3. Brussels sprouts

    Calories: 38 per cup

    Brussels sprouts are super-low in calories but loaded with cancer-preventing phytonutrients and fiber. These veggies, sometimes called little cabbages taste great, especially when roasted with a sweet or tangy sauce.

    Try this roasted Brussels sprouts recipe


    4. Asparagus

    Calories: 27 per cup

    Another great tasting vegetable, especially with a light sauce or pinch of lemon – Asparagus is traditionally known as a detoxifying food, because it contains high levels of amino acid that acts as a diuretic, flushing excess fluid out of your system. It also helps speed up metabolism of alcohol and other toxins (it’s a surprising hangover remedy). Asparagus is also a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, E and K, B6, folate, iron, copper and even protein.

    Try this grilled asparagus recipe


    5. Arugula

    Calories: 4 per cup

    This delicate, full of peppery flavor green is amazingly low in everything you don’t want, especially calories, fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. However, it is loaded with fiber, vitamins A, C and K, and other nutrients, including potassium.

    Arugula is perfect in salads, soups, over pizza or within pasta.

    Add arugula into your diet with these recipes

    For another low-calorie food option, try our spaghetti squash recipe.
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  6. [Recipe] Sugar-Free Dark Chocolate Truffles

    sugar free dark chocolate truffles Ingredients

    5 ounces unsweetened, dairy-free baking chocolate, chopped

    1/4 cup coconut oil

    3 tablespoons honey

    Sifted cocoa powder, for garnish

    Directions

    Combine all ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave for 30 seconds. Then stir. Repeat microwaving and stirring in 30 second intervals until the mixture is completely smooth. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 3-4 hours, or until the mixture has hardened and cooled completely. Remove the bowl from the fridge, let warm up for 10-15 minutes. Use a heaping table spoon to scrap out then with damp hands roll into balls. Roll each ball into sifted cocoa powder, tapping to remove excess. Refrigerate the truffles until ready to serve. Nutrition per serving (1 Truffle) : 165 calories, 16g fat, 11g carbs, 2g protein Enjoy!

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  7. Super Easy Spaghetti Squash Recipe



    Personal Trainer and Fitness Consultant here at 2nd Wind, Elizabeth, tells us about her favorite "heavy carb to light veggie swap" spaghetti recipe. It's much lighter in calories and still gives you the same great spaghetti taste so you feel full and satisfied. Here's Elizabeth's recipe...

    "Everyone has that one food that they cannot live without, unfortunately for me, mine happens to be spaghetti. Given my choice to live a healthy lifestyle, spaghetti does not fit into my regimen, so it was a miracle when I came across this healthier option at only 31 calories per 1 cup serving! I eat this multiple times throughout the week, changing up sauce combinations and toppings. My favorite is spaghetti sauce with spinach and ground turkey, a healthier substitution to ground beef and just as tasty! When it’s prepared spaghetti squash will have a very similar consistency to angel hair pasta and tastes pretty darn close too! You can also save the leftovers in the fridge for up to a week!

    What you will need:

    1 Spaghetti Squash

    Olive Oil

    Salt

    Spaghetti Sauce (optional)

    Spoon

    Sharp knife (You will need to be cutting through the whole Squash)

    Cutting Board

    Roasting pan or cookie sheet
    Fork

    Prepping and Cooking:

    • Preheat the oven to 400°F before you start prepping the squash

    • Slice the squash in half: Using your knife, cut the squash in half the long way. The spaghetti squash will be hard, so you need to put some Umph into it!

    • Scoop out the seeds: Using your spoon you are going to scoop out all of the seeds. Be conscious of the pressure, you don’t want to get any of the meat when you’re scooping; that will become our pasta later!

    • Coat the cut sides of the squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Lay both of the halves cut side down on a baking sheet.

    • Cook the squash for 30 to 45 minutes: Depending on the size of the squash it could take more or less cooking time. My easy tell-tale for when it’s done is to pierce it with a fork, if the fork easily pierces the skin, you’re good to go! If you’re not sure, pull it out of the oven, flip it over and scrape it with the fork; if the meat separates easily into spaghetti strands it’s done. If you’re STILL not sure, taste those strands to make sure it’s the consistency you want!

    • Scrape out the spaghetti: Using your fork, scrape the meat horizontally. I like to get everything I can out, so I go all of the way down to the skin. Now, all that is left is to top it with some sauce, or a little bit of olive oil and parmesan!

    Enjoy!"

    Don't forget dessert! For a sweet, yet not so high in calorie after dinner treat, try these Sugar-free Dark Chocolate Truffles
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  8. Is Heart Rate Important For Weight Loss?

    Yes!! It’s a common misconception that if you’re looking for the best weight loss results you should workout in your "fat burning zone" at about 60% to 70% of your maximum heart rate. However, the fat burning zone burns fewer calories than working out at the higher intensity “aerobic” zone (70% to 85% of your maximum heart rate). The body may burn a greater percentage of fat in the fat burning zone compared to higher intensities. But, in the aerobic zone you burn way more total calories AND more fat calories overall than at lower intensities. Of course, caloric burn also depends on a workout's duration and it is easier to work out longer when exercising at a lower intensity.

    Electronic heart monitors, such as Polar products, typically consist of a wristwatch-like display and an electrode-studded chest strap that provide accurate, real-time heart rate information. Using a heart rate monitor can help you pace yourself and can also motivate you to exercise. With your heart rate monitor you can observe if your workouts are helping you to lower your resting heart rate. You can also monitor your workout routine to see if you can maintain the same pace but get your heart to pump more slowly or to see if you can shorten the time it takes your heart rate to return to normal after a workout.

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  9. 20 Minute Rowing Machine Workout



    If you're using your fitness equipment to help you reach a weight loss goal, bringing strength training into your home gym can make a big difference. Simple circuit style training combined with home fitness equipment workouts creates time efficient training that will get you big results. The best home gyms include options for strength as well as cardio, without adding a lot of space or expense with exercise equipment that you won't use. Functional movements that include bodyweight or light to moderate resistance will get you stronger and leaner while improving your form and even your cardiovascular performance, letting you work harder and more efficiently on your home exercise equipment. Let's take a look at a few programs that can be tailored to any fitness level to build muscle, improve metabolism, and support weight loss.

    Rowing Machine and Upper Body (20 minutes): Why you need this: Most upper body home workouts fall short when it comes to targeting the back muscles. Adding rowing into your upper body training, targets the muscles of your posterior chain, including the traps, lats, and shoulder stabilizers, helping to support good posture and core strength. This efficient workout combines short periods of rowing with opposing movements for the front of your body and has the added benefit of getting you on your way in as little as 20 minutes. For a bonus round, repeat the workout or add on one of the other two options giving you up to an hour of training.


    Warm Up: Complete a five minute warm up on the rowing machine, focusing on pushing through the legs, keeping your core engaged and pulling strongly by bringing the handle in to your low ribs or mid chest. Choose a resistance level that allows you to do this well.

    Circuit 1: As many push-ups as you can complete in 2 minutes, rest for 30 seconds. Follow with 45 seconds of a plank hold, rest for 30 seconds. Repeat with a second plank hold before heading back to the rower.


    Circuit 2: Repeat 5 minutes of rowing. Concentrate on maintaining a steady effort and rowing a bit harder than you did during the warm up.

    Circuit 3: Banded Chest Flys. Using light weights or a resistance band. Bring your arms out as wide as you can at mid-chest level while lying on your back. Press them together at the top, completing one rep. Complete as many as you can in 90 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds. Repeat. Finish with one final minute of Push Ups.



    If you have time, repeat the entire series or add on one of the options below. Cool down with a few minutes of light resistance rowing.

    About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Stay connected with Joli on Facebook.

    For more calorie sizzling exercises, try these 7 workouts.
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  10. 4 Reasons Why I Decided to Build a Home Gym



    Written by Dave Indelicato, Fitness Consultant with 2nd Wind store, Oklahoma City. Dave is a NASM Certified Trainer, Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist who formerly managed 6 gyms and owned 5 nutrition stores. Fitness has been a part of his life for years. Read his take on why he chose the home gym route over a membership, and how it's made exercising so much easier and accessible each day with a young family.

    "Fitness has been a massive part of my life for as long as I can remember. I’ve always wanted to have some equipment at home to workout with, but I always told myself that no matter what, I would still need to go to the gym. I just didn’t think that I would ever be able to get the intense and various workouts I needed in my house. When my wife and I found out that we were expecting our 2nd child we decided to take a leap and tackle our fitness goals at home. We hoped that having what we needed at the house would make it easier for us to find time to workout once we had two children to chase after. We didn’t get too crazy when picking out our equipment: an elliptical, a bench, some adjustable dumbbells, and a home gym. Well, after 17 years of absolute certainty regarding my workout needs I officially stand corrected. 20 minutes into my first workout at home I could not stop counting the reasons why my gym was better than any I had ever paid a membership for. For those of you who have been on the fence about creating your own gym, consider the following:

    Money: My wife and I are saving approximately $135.00/month in gym fees, gas, and toll fees. Time: The amount of time saved is almost incalculable. There is no drive to and from the gym, less time getting ready to workout, there is no wait for equipment, there are no large parking lots to find a spot in, and there is no checking our sons in and out of child care. This is a major benefit to us because our time together is priceless.

    Childcare: Not everyone has to worry about this factor, but for those of you who do it is huge! Our “home gym childcare” is always open. It is also cleaner, more familiar, and more comfortable for our sons. We never have to worry about limits being met on the number of children, and if one of our sons has a cold or fever we can still get a workout in. Lastly, we don’t have to get the boys ready to go; another time saver.

    Adaptability: With our home gym we have purchased the equipment that we will use, nothing more and nothing less. We are not paying to maintain a cardio cinema, a pool, or any of the machines that we did not use in 17 years with a membership. If we decide we need an addition to our gym we can do it. We can listen to the music we want, stretch where we please, and we have a “bring a friend anytime” policy! Our gym is open 24/7, 365 days a year. It is not closed on holidays or during ice storms.

    NO EXCUSE environment: Let’s be honest, with all of our own equipment right behind a door in our house there is no excuse for ever letting our health slip away. We have an exclusive and private gym that is cleaner than any health facility, and dedicated to our individualized health needs. Fitness and health do not always have a “cookie cutter” solution. You have to utilize what is right for your goals. Even without a car we can still make it to the gym.

    Lastly, and maybe most importantly, we will be setting an example for our children. We want them to see that fitness is an important part of life that requires dedication, but rewards you with better quality of life."

    If you've been considering adding a gym to your home, find a store near you or visit us online to learn about the many options we have to choose from at various price points. All brand-name, gym-quality equipment you'll actually want to workout on! Also, with many financing options, it's easier on the budget to get the gym perfect for your home, budget and goals.
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