Health and Fitness Tips and Inspiration

  1. Healthy and Delicious Memorial Day Recipes

    Friends eating at a picnic table outside for Memorial Day. Memorial Day is everyone’s favorite kick off to the summer.  Cookouts, family reunions, and activities with the kids make portable Memorial Day Recipes essential.  These (mostly) healthy recipes fit the bill, ranging from beverages to Memorial Day desserts.  Best of all?  These crowd pleasers all feature beautiful ways to showcase the healthy foods of early summer.

    Beverages:

      Whether you’re sipping iced coffee or staying hydrated with fruit infused water, the right combination will make the ordinary extraordinary.   Try a Coconut Iced Mocha  for an afternoon pick me up.   Or pack up enough of Blackberry Sage Infused Water to keep the crowd hydrated at your next beach party.

    Appetizers:

    The best Memorial Day Recipes for appetizers are portable, easy to prepare, and, of course, delicious.  Not too heavy and featuring plenty of fresh produce, here are some of our favorites.
    • Greek Salad Skewers: With all the fresh goodness of your favorite Greek Salad in the convenience of a skewer.  These round out the barbecue but you might want to save a few for your lunch on Tuesday.
    • Golden Goddess Turmeric: Level up your hummus by adding turmeric for a festive color with a nutritional punch.  Serve this as a veggie platter with cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, olives, and feta.  You’ll please the vegetarians and carnivores alike.
    • Portobello Nachos While Portobello Mushrooms are featured here, if you have access to other seasonal mushrooms, this is a fantastic way to showcase them! Roasting the vegetables ahead of time brings out their sweetness, making this appetizer one that will disappear in no time.
    • Smoked Salmon and Roasted Zucchini Roll-ups Grab and go meal prep ideas translate well to fresh, no fuss appetizers. This fresh combination is pleasing to the eye and the palate.  Need a vegetarian alternative?  Spread your roll-ups with this tasty Lemon Goat Cheese spread
    • Sausage Stuffed Bacon Wrapped Dates: While these fall more into the treat category, they’re sure to please the paleo crowd. Fortunately, the chewy sweetness of the dates makes a little bacon go a long way.

    Salads:

     While you could stick to a tossed salad or a quart of potato salad from your local deli, Memorial Day Recipes for salads that are beautiful and delicious will be a showstopper at your next Memorial Day Cookout.  Grilling the Potatoes in this Grilled Potato Salad adds a layer of flavor that will have your guests loading their plates.  The dressing and bacon can be a bit heavy, so consider adding a few more potatoes to stretch this out.  Need a lighter option?  Beets are a great workout recovery food and contribute color to your buffet.  Try this Beet Wild Rice Salad alongside your favorite grilled beef or mushrooms.

    Main Course: 

    In the unlikely event that you find yourself doing something other than grilling, it’s nice to have a Memorial Day Main Course recipe that can be prepared before the guests arrive, feels festive, and will survive hours on the buffet table.  This Instant Pot Carnitas fits the bill.  It also plays nicely with the fresh salsas and guacamole that are likely to make an appearance.

    Dessert:

    Unless you’re finishing the party with your first root-beer float of the year, the perfect Memorial Day Recipe for dessert should showcase the beautiful and delicious berries that are just starting to come into season.  This Shattered Blueberry Yogurt Cake is so stunning and delicious you won’t even notice it’s gluten free.  Try garnishing it with a few fresh strawberries for a celebration in red, white and blue.  Need another option?  Try this nut free, Apple Summer Berry Crumble that is equally comfortable at your next brunch. Sorting out the best recipes and food blogs can be overwhelming.  Need some suggestions?  Try these recommended food blogs to keep you inspired all summer long!  
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  2. Bike To Work Day: 7 Easy Tips For Commuting On Your Bike

    Bike to Work Day. Person commuting to work on a bicycle. We’ve all seen the occasional cyclist commuting on our daily drive to work and have probably even thought about doing it yourself. Not only does bike commuting help the environment, but it also saves money (gas, wear and tear on your car, etc.) and is a great way to stay fit and burn a few extra calories.

    The month of May is National Bike Month, with the biggest day being Bike to Work Day. In 2017 that day will be recognized on Friday, May 19th.

    Bike to Work Day has been around for quite some time, having originated in 1956 by the League of American Bicyclists. Since its inception, a growing number of communities have embraced the event and used it as a way to promote the bicycle as a healthy and safe alternative for commuting to work.

    It must be working. . .the United States has seen a 62% growth in the number of bicycle commuters since 2000!

    So if you’re not among the growing bike commuters across the country, why not use Bike to Work Day as your reason to give it a shot! Even if you only commute a handful of times, it’s better than none at all. And who knows. . . once you give it a try you might fall in love with it!

    Here are 7 tips to help get you started on your bike commute to work:

    #1: Consider the Distance

    If you live only a few miles from work, it’s very conceivable to commute both ways by bike. However, if that distance is a bit longer, consider hitching a ride to work with a co-worker and bringing your bike along for the commute home. As you get used to the distance, you may find that you want to make it a 2 way commute.

    #2: Map Out Your Route Options

    You’ll definitely want to consider distance, traffic volume, road conditions and terrain on all of your bike route options. Some routes may be a bit longer, but if they are safer, it could be a better option. Test out your potential routes on the weekends and see which is the best fit for your commute. There are also bike route apps and websites that can be very useful in helping you find your best options.

    #3: Set a Frequency Goal

    For many first-time bike commuters, it’s a pretty lofty goal to commit to biking to work every day. To start, set an achievable goal of biking to work 2-3 times/week. After you can consistently do that, then definitely add to it!

    #4: Dress the Part

    Most bike commuters don’t like to wear their work clothes (unless they have a very short commute), so investing in comfortable bike clothes (bright colors, bike shorts, etc.) will be well worth it. Make sure your bike has reflectors or a flashing light if you’ll be biking in the early morning or evenings. And, it goes without saying, wear a helmet!

    #5: Don’t Forget Your Cell Phone

    A phone can come in very handy - and no, not for talking or texting while you’re riding – but in case you get a flat tire or have any other issues that may cause you to be late getting to work or returning home. A call to your boss explaining the situation will go a long way!

    #6: Clean Up!

    You might work up a bit of a sweat on your commute, so be sure to plan accordingly when it comes to cleaning yourself up before work. If you’re lucky enough to have a shower at work, great! If not, your co-workers will appreciate you having the appropriate supplies to freshen-up before your work day starts.

    #7: Get in Bike Shape

    It can be tough to just jump into a regular bike commute if you don’t have an appropriate level of fitness. I don’t think your employer would be too happy if you showed up to work worn out and useless for the rest of the day! Get out and ride your bike to develop a fitness base or, incorporate an indoor exercise bike into your fitness routine.

    Happy Biking!
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  3. Active Mother’s Day Ideas for 2017

    Mom and daughter canoeing on a lake for Mother's Day Thinking of the perfect Mother’s Day 2017?  Rather than gifts, Mother’s Day activities let you build memories with the special lady in your life.  Here’s our guide to the best Mother’s Day ideas for every level of fitness and adventure.

    Plant a Garden.

    This traditional activity remains popular each year.  Early May is the perfect time to clean up Mom’s garden beds.  In Northern climates, plant cold-hardy annuals or get a start on sowing summer vegetables.  Frost tolerant greens and veggies, such as snow peas, can be started as soon as you can work the soil.   Or spend the day planting herbs and planters that can be moved outdoors when the weather warms.

    Meal Prepping.

    We’re all trying to eat better, right?  Why not combine a Mother’s Day cookout with a healthy fridge of grab and go weekday meals.  The simple concept of meal prepping combines well with a Mother’s Day brunch or buffet.  Just focus on grilling plenty of protein and veggies.  You can even throw fruit on the grill (think pineapple or pears) to serve as dessert on Mother’s Day.  Later that week, Mom can use it to top her yogurt for breakfast.  You can find some easy inspiration here.

    Hike a Trail.

    Beautiful trails and state parks are within a short drive of nearly everyone. Spring is the perfect time to enjoy them as the leaves and flowers come back from winter.  While summer sun and insects won’t have reached their peak, you’ll want to remember sunscreen and insect repellent. Pack a picnic lunch for the trail or the picnic area that is probably near your vehicle. We love these Wisconsin hikes as a special Mother’s Day idea.

    Start Paddling.

    Beautiful May Day?  Ready for a little more adventure?  Paddling is a Mother’s Day activity that lets you and Mom experience the beauty of our rivers and lakes.  You can easily rent kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards at parks and private businesses. Need inspiration? Michigan locals and other Midwesterners can find suggestions for paddling trips in these links.

    Get your Bike Out.

    Whether you rent a bike or use this Mother’s Day 2017 excuse for a tune-up, early spring is the perfect time to enjoy a cycling adventure.  If you and Mom are up for adventure, head out to one of the Midwest’s local bike trails.  Stop along the way for a small-town lunch.   If a long ride is beyond your comfort zone, pedal to a local farmer’s market or florist. You’ll still enjoy the fresh air and time with your special person.

    Jump Around.

    Want to burn some serious calories while playing like a kid?  Trampoline parks are a fun Mother’s Day activity for any age.  You can find a park near you in almost any location. Bring your littlest companions along or just stick to the adults on this fun for all ages adventure.

    Wall Climbing.

    This indoor activity is another family friendly Mother’s Day idea.  Indoor climbing walls are surprisingly easy to find and you don’t have to worry about the weather.  You’ll get functional workout using nearly every muscle in your body.  The challenge of climbing a wall is great for building confidence and inner strength, both for Mom and kids.

    Ropes and Ziplines.

    Definitely a thrill for Mom and school age kids, outdoor ropes and ziplines are a challenging Mother’s Day adventure.  Frequently located near state parks and natural beauty, you can probably combine this with a stop for ice cream at a nearby park or waterway.  Here’s a great resource for finding ziplines and high ropes near you that you probably never knew were there. Mother’s day ideas are endless with a little planning and a spirit of adventure.  While the above activities are easy to tackle in an afternoon, you could combine them into a full weekend with camping or a getaway.  You can also combine two or more of these activities for a full day of adventure that will make Mother’s Day 2017 your most memorable yet. About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Joli.
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  4. How Indoor Cycling Will Improve Your Outdoor Cycling Performance

    Man on Horizon Fitness exercise bike in his home.

    Did you know that continuing your indoor cycling workouts this spring can do amazing things for your outdoor rides? Outdoor cyclists need serious stamina to be prepared for a variety of terrain and conditions. Here are the most effective ways to continue training on your indoor cycle as you gear up for outdoor cycling.

    Build Climbing Strength:

      My favorite indoor cycling advantage is building climbing strength.  Indoor cycles let you practice repeated climbs, without worrying about surrounding conditions or finding sufficient hilly terrain.  The best cyclists focus on creating power from behind the hips by using the glutes as well as the quads.  Focus on maintaining a low, “hips back” position, while pulling slightly back on the handlebars to build posterior strength.  Work in heavy loads at cadences of 55-75 RPM, as well as at slightly lighter loads at a cadence of 85-100 RPM at a level you can maintain for less than 2 minutes.  This will build strength and explosive power that will let you blast over your next set of outdoor hills.

    Increase Turnover:

      It’s easy to get a little too comfortable with your cadence outdoors. Skilled riders can adapt their cadences to respond to changes in wind direction and terrain.  Dedicate specific portions of your indoor ride to holding a quick cadence while maintaining sufficient load and core engagement.  This high power output is just what you need to press to the front of the pack in your next outdoor race.

    No Coasting:

    Using a weighted flywheel means that indoor cycles require some level of constant effort (i.e. no coasting).  This teaches recovery in the saddle. Use lower intensity times to maintain an aerobic level of effort as your body recovers from the peaks of your workout.  On outdoor rides this translates to working recoveries that still increase the overall power output of your ride.


    Raise Lactate Threshold:

      Your lactate threshold offers tremendous training potential that can result in a higher V02 max and stronger cardiovascular output over time. Lactate threshold training is tougher than aerobic, causing lactic acid to begin to build up in our muscles.  It remains below anaerobic, without the accompanying muscle failure.  Lactate threshold training makes us more comfortable with continued tough efforts. Our bodies also become more efficient at clearing lactic acid from our muscles, ultimately increasing our lactate threshold.  Target your lactate threshold by completing indoor rides of 20 minutes at 85% of your maximum heart rate.  Intersperse lactate threshold training into other rides by including five minute efforts at a heart rate of 85%.  Your lactate threshold efforts will require a great deal of concentration and willpower, but you can be held for more than 3 minutes at a time.

    Planned Workouts:

    Varied conditions are one of the best things about outdoor riding.  Preparing and training for those conditions is tough without a big commitment of time spent on transportation and planning.  Your indoor cycle provides a fixed environment and adjustable loads to focus on drills that replicate the most challenging portions of outdoor cycling.

    Serious Calorie Burn:

    Even active recovery workouts on an indoor cycle result in an enviable impact on your metabolism.  To burn the most calories during your indoor cycling workouts, focus on your form.  Support your bodyweight and keep your core strong throughout your workout.  Avoid leaning on the handlebars.  Since you need to use your arms to create a strong base,  this is not the best time for catching up on your reading and social media.  Keep an eye on your wattage.  If it’s lagging, so is your power output, and by association, your calorie burn.

    Safety and Convenience:

      Outdoor riding can take a lot of time to prep your bike and your body for the experience.  On long weekdays, rainy or windy weather, or even during extreme heat, indoor cycling will blast calories and let you concentrate on your form.  Additionally, we all know that there are safety risks associated with outdoor riding.  When riding outdoors, concentrating on your surroundings can sometimes result in planned workouts and riding form suffering as a result.  While there is no substitute for the outdoor ride, the indoor cycle is really the best option for completing specific drills and accommodating scheduling and weather related challenges.

    Perfect Form:

     When you aren’t distracted by outdoor safety issues or challenges, you can focus specifically on your cycling position.  Drill these habits in your indoor rides so that you maintain them even during challenging conditions.  Good areas to notice include upper body tension, alignment of your knees, back position, and core engagement.  Breath control is another excellent area to focus on during indoor training rides.  You’ll be able to use it during both your pushes and recoveries in outdoor cycling events. Post-workout you can even complete a little cycling specific mobility work in the comfort of your home.

    Indoor cycling is not a replacement for outdoor cycling, but it does offer the perfect cross training complement to your outdoor rides. On your indoor cycle, mimic the conditions you want to train for as closely as possible.  Use your cycling shoes and consider trying out new clothing or nutrition options on your indoor ride so that you know how they will affect your performance out on the road.  Remember to hydrate just as you would for an outdoor ride. Lastly, plan your workouts by targeting specific drills and formats.  Both HIIT and Active Recovery days are important on the indoor cycle, as they can be difficult to stick to on outdoor rides.  Including drills targeting all of the areas discussed above will let you smash the varied challenges of your outdoor rides.
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  5. How to Start a Home Gym with a Strength Training Focus

    How to start a home gym. Two people exercising on a home gym Strength training in your home gym is a possibility.

    By now, you all know that a strong body is a healthy body.

    You also know that strength training can be one of the most efficient ways to lose unwanted body fat.

    And, ladies, you know that you won’t get bulky by incorporating strength training into your fitness routine.

    While treadmills, ellipticals and stationary bikes are great and can be a solid addition to your home workouts, I highly recommend the following pieces of strength equipment to not only give you unlimited options on the exercises you can do, but also to help you build the strong, healthy, fit body you deserve!

    Barbell & Weights

    A weightlifter using a standard barbell or Olympic barbell in a home gym. Barbells can come in various lengths and sizes but there are two main types that you’ll most likely have to choose from…standard and Olympic.

    Standard bars are one inch in diameter and utilize weight plates with 1 inch holes in the center. They’re a good starting point but are not the best option for heavier lifting (over 150 lbs.).

    Olympic bars, on the other hand, are built to handle a bigger load. They are typically 7 feet long and weigh 45lbs. without any weight added to them. The end sleeves are 2 inches in diameter, so the weigh plates have larger 2” holes through the center.

    Barbells allow you to do a wide variety of exercise from presses to pulls to squats to deadlifts. They also allow you to progress by being able to add small increments of weight as needed.

    Bumper plates are also a great option for your barbell and the home gym setting. These rubber plates are made for Olympic size bars and are easier to move around and a better (safer) option if you will be doing any floor-based lifting.

    Power Rack

    A in shape woman lifting with a power rack in her home gym. While it may sound a bit daunting, a power rack is actually one of the most versatile pieces of strength equipment you can add to your home gym.

    First of all, a rack goes hand in hand with your barbell. It allows you to do almost anything with your barbell from bench pressing to squatting to racking your bar for deadlifts, curls, push-ups, shoulder presses, etc.

    The power rack also adds the ever important measure of safety by allowing you to rack your weight and know that safety bars can be put in place in case you cannot complete a lift.

    Racks also allow you to add accessories to your home gym. Many offer built-in pull-up/chin bars and allow for add-ons such as dip attachments and band pegs.

    Racks come in many different sizes, so don’t be fooled by the thought of it taking up too much space. You’ll be surprised with just how much you can accomplish within a power rack with a barbell and weight plates.

    Dumbbells

    Chrome dumbbells in a row on a dumbbell rack. Dumbbells are just as versatile as a barbell and allow for an unlimited number of exercise options. And, like barbells, you’ll have a couple of different options to choose from.

    Selectorized dumbbells are also popular with the home-gym crowd these days. They’re a bit more expensive than the plate loaded bells, but allow users to quickly change their weight. They may not, however, be the best option for those in need of heavy dumbbells (above 50 lbs.)

    On the other hand, if you have more space and a higher home gym budget, you may want to consider going all out and getting a commercial-style dumbbell rack with fixed-weight bells. Most commercial gyms are equipped with dumbbells that range from 5-100+ pounds. This makes for a very convenient option as far as quickly grabbing the weight you need, but like I said, they will eat up a lot of space and add quite a bit to your home gym investment.

    Utility Bench

    A folding utility bench in a home gym. To get the most out of your barbell and/or dumbbells, I highly suggest adding a utility bench to your home gym.

    A bench allows you to perform any exercise that requires you to lay down (bench press, pullovers, tricep extensions, flyes, ab work, etc.) or work in a seated position (shoulder press, lateral raises, bicep curls, overhead tricep extensions, etc.)

    Benches are relatively inexpensive, but can get a bit more expensive as you move up to more of a commercial grade piece that is built with a heavier grade steel and often has more padding and higher quality upholstery.

    Benches can come in just a fixed flat position or one that can be adjustable up and down to accommodate for incline and decline exercises.

    The heavier duty benches should have wheels that allow you to easily move them around, while the home model flat benches are usually light enough to pick up and move.

    2 Bonus Strength Pieces

    A woman using TRX suspension kit in her home gym. While the equipment above will go a long way in providing you with a great strength-based home gym, there are a couple of budget-friendly/space-friendly pieces of equipment that you may want to consider adding:

    Suspension Trainer. Systems like TRX allow you to utilize your own body weight and are a great addition to a strength training routine. The straps are easily attachable to your power rack, a door or a support beam. They are relatively inexpensive when you consider the wide variety and overall number of exercises you can do with them.

    Resistance Bands. These are a great strength tool for any home gym and can be utilized for a wide variety of exercises. You can attach them to your rack, to a door, wrap them around equipment, or utilize your own body to stabilize them for a wide-variety of pushes, pulls, etc. Plus they take up minimal space….always a bonus when it comes to your home gym!
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