Health and Fitness Tips and Inspiration

  1. The Best Stretching Exercises to Improve your Cardio Workouts (Part 2: Post-Workout)

    While stretching before your workout provides you with a greater range of motion and makes your workouts more comfortable, stretching following your workout is a great opportunity to improve flexibility and to reduce tension in the muscles while they are still warm and benefiting from the increased blood flow of your cardio workout. After your next workout, give these stretches a try to reduce your soreness and improve range of motion the next day. Stretches following your workout can address areas that you typically hold tension or feel unbalanced and can be held for a much longer period of time (up to five minutes!).

    Supine Hand to Foot Stretch (Hamstrings): Lying on your back, using a strap or exercise band, loop the band around your right foot. Gently lead the right leg towards your right shoulder, lengthening the hamstring. Hold for up to 2 minutes, bending the leg slightly if you feel a pull behind the knee or on the sit bone. After holding for up to 2 minutes, keeping both hips on the ground, lead the leg across the body and towards the left shoulder. You should feel a stretch on the outside of your right leg and hip. Hold again for up to two minutes. Finally, bring the leg as far out to the right side as you can comfortably hold, feeling the stretch on the inside of your right leg. This stretches all three segments of the hamstrings and can be helpful for low back pain.



    Half Bow (Quadriceps and hip flexors): Lying on your stomach, bring your hand or a yoga strap around your right foot. Keeping the right knee in line with the right hip, draw the right foot close to the body until you feel a stretch through the front of your thigh. You may also kick back into your arm or strap, elevating the knee. Hold for up to three minutes. Repeat on the left.



    Figure 4 (Hips): Lying on your back, bend your right leg, bringing the foot to the floor and the knee to the ceiling. Bring your left foot on top of your right thigh, flexing the foot and pressing the knee away from your body. For a greater stretch, pull the right leg closer using your hands or a yoga strap. Repeat on the left.



    Supported Bridge (Low Back/Psoas): Bringing both heels to the floor, lift up into bridge pose. Now place a yoga block or bolster under your low back supporting you in bridge pose. Lower your back onto the block. Over time, straighten both legs. Over time, come into a higher bridge and bring the block into a higher position.



    Seated Spinal Twist (Shoulders, hips, and back): Seated on the ground, cross your right leg over your left bringing your right ankle to the outside of your left knee. Place your right hand on the ground and bring your left arm over your right ankle as you rotate your shoulders and torso to the right. Hold for up to two minutes while focusing on opening the left shoulder and releasing the middle back. Repeat on the left side.



    Adding these flexibility exercises to your home fitness program will prepare your muscles for the demands of your cardio and strength training, allowing you to perform better and more effectively. They will also improve your range of motion and reduce muscle tension, allowing you to recover quicker and making your daily activities more enjoyable. For the best pre-workout stretches, read this blog post.

    About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin.
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  2. [Recipe] Hearty and Healthy Vegetable Lasagna


    Save weeknight time by prepping your meals on the weekends (so you have more time for the gym or summer evening walks!). This lasagna recipe is easy to prepare and easy on the waistline with healthier additions that'll still fill you up. Leftovers make a great weekday lunch or dinner!

    Change-it-up Tip: This recipe doesn’t include meat, but if you’d like to add that flavor, try adding ground turkey or chicken instead of beef. Want to make this recipe even lighter? Swap out pasta with thinly sliced zucchini as the layering.

    INGREDIENTS:
    - 1 large zucchini
    - 1 large squash
    - 1 head broccoli
    - 1 cup pre-sliced mushrooms
    - 1 package (20 oz) frozen spinach, defrosted
    - 1 jar tomato sauce
    - 1 package pre-cooked lasagna noodles (swap out for zucchini noodles for an even lighter option)
    - 32 oz low-fat ricotta cheese
    - ½ cup grated low-fat parmesan cheese

    INSTRUCTIONS:
    1. Preheat oven to 350
    2. Cut zucchini and squash into thin slices, and chop broccoli into small pieces.
    3. On medium heat, toss all veggies into pan and stir-fry for 3 minutes.
    4. Spoon tomato sauce to cover bottom of large lasagna pan. Then place noodles to cover the sauce. Again, spoon sauce to cover noodle. Layer veggies, ricotta, cheese, sauce, noodles, repeatedly until you reach the top of the pan. *If you’re using pre-cooked noodles, be sure to always cover with sauce, otherwise the noodles will be too crunchy. Sprinkle the top of the dish with parmesan cheese.
    5. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until noodles are soft. Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes, and serve or freeze (for later in the week).

    NUTRIENTS:
    352 Calories per serving Total Fat: 15 g , Saturated Fat: 9 g, Cholesterol: 54 mg, Sodium: 661 mg, Total Carbohydrates: 30 g, Dietary Fiber: 4 g, Sugars: 14 g, Protein: 26 g.

    Recipe is a favorite of ours, originally from Nutrition Magazine.

    Find a list of more healthy recipes here.
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  3. The Best Stretching Exercises to Improve your Cardio Workouts (Part 1: Pre-Workout)



    The best home fitness programs include three components, cardiovascular workouts, strength training, and flexibility. While it's easy to overlook the importance of flexibility training, spending a little time improving your mobility and range of motion can go a long way in preventing injury and improving your performance in your other workouts. Flexibility work is no longer limited to long periods of stretching (though those can be beneficial at times). It now includes dynamic movements and range of motion work directly targeted at improving your workouts and assisting in injury prevention. The best part about bringing stretching and flexibility work into your home workouts is the way it improves your functioning and reduces soreness from day to day, while requiring only a modest investment of time. Ready to get started?

    Before and after your cardio workout are the ideal times to include mobility work and stretching exercises, but you should treat these times very differently. Early in the workout, your muscles are not yet warmed up and will have a reduced range of motion. Stretching and mobility work at this time, should target areas that you are experiencing tightness, stiffness, or injury, as well as introduce the range of motion that you will need during your planned workout. For most athletes, this work should target your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, hips, and shoulders. Rather than holding one position, you'll want to repeat moving in and out of a position fluidly and slowly. Before the workout avoid deep held stretches, especially in the hamstrings and low back as these can reduce the elasticity of your muscles that you need to perform your cardiovascular activity. Keep reading for the best pre and post workout stretching routines! Pre Workout: Next time you work out, start with a light five minute warm up, and then add in these pre-workout stretches.

    Quad Stretch/Dancer Pose: Standing with your feet at hip distance, take hold of the top of your right foot in your right hand (you can also use a yoga strap to assist with this). Bring your knees together to evenly stretch the front of your thigh (position 1). Now kick back into your hand to bring your knee behind your hip and to level your hips toward the ground (position 2). Return to the starting position. Slowly repeat five times. Repeat on the left leg.



    Knee Ups: Standing on your right leg, bring your left knee up to your chest, clasp with both hands to hug it in closer. Now step forward onto the left leg and repeat on the right. Repeat five times on each side. This warms up the hamstrings and prepares the hip flexors for the work of running or cycling.



    Calf/Achilles stretch: Step your right leg directly back behind you at a distance that allows your heel to reach the ground and your toes to point straight ahead. Keeping the toes in the same position, slowly raise and lower your heel five times. Repeat on the other side. This prepares your calves for the work of running or the elliptical.



    Shoulder mobility: Holding a resistance band in each hand and applying little resistance to it, raise your hands from in front of your hips to overhead and then behind. You can also make a figure 8 pattern with the band. Repeat five times in each direction. This warms the shoulders to prepare for strength training and improves range of motion for daily activity.



    Cat/Cow: Kneeling on all fours, inhale and allow your stomach to drop towards the floor, extending the spine downwards (Cow pose) then exhale and press your stomach upwards, flexing the spine towards the ceiling (Cat pose). Repeat five times. This activates the core, reduces low back pain, and prepares the spine for exercise or daily activity. Read on for Part II on the Best Stretching Exercises to do After You Work Out!



    What about stretching after a workout? Stretching afterwards is also very important to help restore muscles so you can keep up with your routine. Click here to read another blog that includes the best post-workout stretches suggested by certified fitness trainer, Joli.

    About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin.
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  4. In a Workout Rut? Get Out of it With These Tips

    Get out of a workout rut Written By Trent – 2nd Wind Fitness Consultant at 2nd Wind Store - Edina, MN

    We've all been there. Your workouts are going great, you’re seeing great results, and then it happens. Stagnation sets in and your progress comes to a screeching halt. The effort is there, and you haven't changed your routine or diet, so what’s the issue? That in itself can sometimes be the issue. Your body’s used to the same old routine, and that halt means it’s time to mix things up. The change in the seasons is the perfect time to get out of a workout rut and explore new and exciting fitness routines. Our bodies change and adapt to the things we do, and sometimes, changing what we do will help spark even more changes. Here are some tips to help mix things up so you can start seeing results again:

    Avoid the plateau by adding variety:

    Adding variety to your workouts will keep your exercises from becoming ineffective. If you run at the same speed on the treadmill every day for 20 minutes, or do the same weight lifting routine week-after-week, year-after-year, your body will likely hit a plateau. You’ll still burn calories, but you’ll need to increase resistance levels, speed or weight routines if you want to maximize results. Simply trying different exercises for a body part will encourage more variety and confuse the muscle. For instance, try adding intervals to your cardio; speed things up every few minutes to help strengthen your endurance. Even just four minutes of high-intensity exercise during at 20 minute workout on a cardio machine like a treadmill, can boost energy, reduce body fat, promote lean muscle mass and improve cholesterol. For weight lifting, try a kettlebell workout or bodyweight exercises like pushups and planks.

    Reverse your workout order:

    Doing your routine in reverse order can also help. If you usually start your workout with strength training followed by cardio and stretching, try changing that around. Start with stretching and cardio and then move to strength training. You can even pick the exact same exercises, but do them in a completely different order than before.

    Give yourself a rest:

    I'm not talking about just the normal 8 hours a night. I'm talking about taking a break to let your body reset and heal. I have always advocated doing a 3-4 month training program, followed by one week off. This week can do wonders not only for your body, but for the mental monotony as well. It allows any nagging injuries to heal up and also gives a person time to just recharge and have something to look forward to for the next cycle of training. You can also take a week off from dieting. Don't just eat cookies and burgers and pizza, but also don't shy away from the foods you might have avoided during your training phase. In all, it allows a person to take in foods they might have been craving and to not feel as guilty about it. If you’re interested in changing up your workout routine or need suggestions on what equipment or accessories you can use to do so, I’d be happy to help you find the right fit for your goals, home and budget. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions regarding your workout routine. I’m available at the Edina, MN 2nd Wind store location.
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  5. The Best 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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  6. 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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  7. 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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  8. 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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  9. 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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  10. [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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