Monday, November 26, 2007

Refresh and Recharge Yourself for a Stress-less Holiday Season

Thanksgiving was over, but shopping and getting ready for the holidays just got started in full swing. It could be very overwhelming, stressful and draining your energy.

I know many people start to skip workout. The commercial gym that I go to regularly was quite empty on "Black Friday" (the day after Thanksgiving) morning. It was less than 1/10 of the usual traffic. But the parking lots in the malls was full and the stores were packed.

Staying stress-free in this holiday season in the #1 topic on the web and magazines. You may not have time to take the whole day off for yourself to relax. How about 2 hours? Can you spare an hour or 30 minutes? I'm sure you have many 5-minute breaks throughout the day.

Empowerment Life Coach, Work-Life Balance guru and Stress Management expert Hueina Su of Beyond Horizon Coaching has provided a list of mini energy break ideas for you to take. It doesn't matter whether you have 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 30 minutes or 2 hours. She has so many ideas for you to take a mini break to recharge and refresh yourself for a stress-less holiday season.

Read the full list of mini energy break ideas >>

Coach Hueina is hosting a FREE Teleclass "Joyful & Stress-less Holidays" on December 7th. Click the following to sign up for the FREE Teleclass and receive your BONUS gift.

Yes, please sign me up for the FREE Teleclass "Joyful & Stress-less Holidays" and send me the BONUS gift >>

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Stress, Mindless Eating and Fat Gain

Stress and More Stress

When we're stressed out, we tend to craze for sweet and greasy foods to make us feel good. Many people pig out on high-carb, high-fat, high-calorie but low-nutrient-value foods.

Eat, Eat and Eat More

By the time you realize it, you mindlessly shovel two bags of chips plus a jar of salsa, or munch a double cheeseburger along with a large order of fries and a supersized soda, or perhaps gobble six packs of beer with all the high-fat, high-calorie finger foods while watching TV all night. Enjoying a few drinks at night to unwind your stressful day could turn into an overeating disaster.

You Can't Stop Eating?!

You just cannot seem to stop eating 'til you really feel full and stuffed. That's very likely 1000+ calories of "feeling good" junk food. You rationalize that, "since I feel better now, I'll go to gym to work out tomorrow." You know that probably won't happen since your life spins around again with the same stress cycle. No wonder you've gained all the fat, particularly around the belly. That's why it's called "beer belly."

Does this stress eating sound familiar to you?

Does your stress sabotage your diet and make you fat?

Does the cold weather and winter blues make you feel depressed and feel like eating more?

You know your weakness in food. You know you have to stop it but simply cannot help it.

Tips for Taming Your Stress, Emotional and Impulsive Eating

I have the following tips to share with you as to how to use food to fuel your body, replenish your energy and soothe your stress while enjoying the food and eating mindfully to manage your weight.

  1. Recognize your stress triggers and signals. Your body releases a stress hormone cortisol that triggers the release of two neurotransmitters. These two brain chemicals make you increasingly crave for sugary and fatty foods.
  2. Take your time, sit down for at least three meals to eat mindfully. Enjoy the healthy, nutritious foods. Savor the tastes. You'll feel fuller and more satisfied than eating mindlessly. You'll eat fewer calories. Some natural herbs or their essential oils such as pepperment may help curb appetite and eat less.
  3. Keep healthy snacks in your home, office and car. When you're hungry and ready for snacks, you have all the healthy snacks in your reach. You won't run to the vending machine or drive through fast food joints to pick up the sugary, high-fat foods.
  4. Watch out for the few drinks, particularly during and after dinner, and in special occasions. The calories do add up. Don't "drink" your calories. Try to replace the sugary drinks with tea. Keep the alcohol to a glass of wine with dinner. Alcohol disturbs sleep pattern, which makes sleep-deprived you even more stressful.
  5. Eat a balanced diet by eating high-fiber, low-sugar breakfast and a good balance of complex carb, lean protein, healthy essential fats for other meals. Your blood sugar will be more stable throughout the day, leaving you less stressful and less likely to overeat mindlessly.
  6. Some nutrients are helpful in soothing stress such as B vitamins, folate, omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium.
  7. Eat antioxidant-rich nutrients or supplements to help absorb or neutralize superoxide free radicals generated from oxidative stress. The superoxide free radicals were proven to be causes of many diseases, health problems and aging.
  8. Learn and practice self-care and stress management techniques. Seek alternative or preventive methods beyond the traditional fix-it approach.

Copyright 2007 by C. Carey Yang.
All rights reserved.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Triple Your Back Muscles

I'll introduce you another triple-set circuit workout routine to work your back muscles. It's one of my training principles to work muscles in balance for strength, posture and injury prevention.
I'm sure you see a lot of more people (particularly men) in the gym working on their chest and shoulder muscles well more than their back muscles in terms of training frequency and volume. Do you see more people doing chest press or pullup?

On the other hand, there are also a lot more people having back problems due to relatively weak, less developed back muscles and poor posture. How many people you know are having back pain of all sorts and seeking pain management?

It's health-wise to include workouts that strengthen your back muscles (latissimus dorsi, teres major, rhomboid, trapezius) from different angles.

From physiological and aesthetic perspectives, working your lat increases the width of your back and gives the visually appealing "V" tapered upper body shape. Thickening your back muscles gives off the power sign of strength.

It's time to build a big wide muscular back.

Triple Back Muscle Attack
A. Seated Lat Front Pulldown x 8-12 reps
B. Standing Lat Pulldown (45 degrees) x 8-12 reps
C. Standing Straight-Arm Pulldown x 10-15 reps

Again, review the superset and triset training principles as to how to set up effective and efficient workout.

How to do it
Go to the lat pulldown station in the gym. You can also attach a resistance tubing around a secured point about 2 or 3 feet above your head level while standing.

Perform your standard seated lat front pulldown by pulling the bar straight downward towards your mid chest (sternum). Remember to squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull the bar all the way down to your mid chest. Contract your lat muscles. Avoid using momentum to swing or pull down the bar. Do 8 to 12 reps.

Then stand up and step back about two feet. You can probably use the same weight. Now do similar pulldown by pulling the bar down towards your mid chest. Due to the change in the angle of pull, it's now about 45 degrees. Do 8 to 12 reps.

Reduce the weight or resistance by half. In the same standing position, do straight-arm pulldown. Pull the bar downward like an arc motion pivoting from your shoulders towards your thighs and feel the muscle contraction on the back. Maintain your neutral spine position and stabilize your body. Do 10 to 15 reps.

The reason to reduce the weight is that you're close to temporary muscular fatigue on the your forearms and back from the first two exercises. You typically wouldn't be able to pull the same amount of weight as standard lat pulldown without using momentum. It's a great training practice to adjust (reduce) weight so that you're able to perform the exercise properly with smooth, controlled movement and put the target muscle under tension.

This tri-set back workout routine will give your old way of back training a new spin. It gives you new stimulus to your back muscles. Who don't want a "V" tapered body shape?

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Dealing with Hamstring Pain

Ouch! I pulled my hamstrings.

You know how painful it is when you pull your hamstrings. It could be from straight-ahead running or sprinting, particularly when you tried to accelerate and made longer stride than usual. You could also hurt your hamstrings when you kicked straight without flexing your knee and snapping back. Single-leg exercises such as lunges could be the culprit as well.

Where and what are hamstrings?

The hamstrings are located on the back of your upper leg (thigh) and made of three muscles: biceps femoris, semi tendinosus and semi membranosus. They work together to extend the hips (e.g., deadlift) and flex the knees (e.g., leg curl). When you're running, the hamstrings perform both actions.

See a picture of the hamstrings here >>

What to do first when you hurt your hamstrings?

When you feel strain on the hamstrings, you would feel pain and should look for swelling and discoloration. For the first 48 to 72 hours, ice the area for 10 to 20 minutes for every 2 to 4 hours to reduce the pain and swelling. If your hamstrings look like a big bruise, see your doctor immediately for possible torn muscle.

Read the guideline for ice therapry >>

How to rehab your post-injured hamstrings

If the pain subsides after 48 hours, stretch your hamstrings slowly and start with small range of motion. You can warm up the injured hamstrings with a heat pad to promote circulation before stretching. Instead of doing traditional static stretching (e.g., sit-and-reach), you will do dynamic stretching by gently move muscles through their natural range of motion.

Start with simple side-stepping, backward walking, crossover stepping, exaggerated-length (giant) steps. When you're comforable with these exercises, you can gradually begin to lengthen your step, increase the speed at which you perform the steps, and add some stepups and squats. If the pain persists after 72 hours, see your doctor or physical therapist.

When you're recovering from hamstring injury, try to figure out why you're hurt in the first place and find proper rehab exercises to strengthen the weakness, balance muscle strength or stretch the tightness to prevent reoccurring.

For example, tight hip flexors tend to inhibit your glutes from extending your hips. It forces the hamstrings to work harder to extend the hips. This sets you up for a hamstring overload injury when you sprint, step up, squat or lunge. You can change up your training routine by including Romanian deadlift, hyperextension, good morning, and high stepup. These exercises strengthen the hip-extension action of the hamstrings.

Hamstring Injury Treatment and Stretching >>

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

High-Fat Diet Increases Risk of Heart Disease

Isn't it obvious? Do we need a research to tell us?

But not so. A few years ago, the low-carb, high-protein and high-fat Atkins Diet was in a full-blown fad.

People would get on any diet that promises them quick weight-loss in a month. They don't care about the long term adherence and health risks.

I've seen people eating double cheeseburger without the bread on supersized diet coke, 5 to 6 meals a day! What gives?

According to a recent research study at the University of Maryland, the high-fat Atkins Diet increased the study subjects' LDL cholesterol (the bad one) level and brought on symptoms of artery hardening - early signs of strokes or heart attacks.

The research also compared with two other diets, South Beach and Ornish, which both showed improvement in cholesterol and little change on artery condition.

The South Beach program allows a wide variety of foods and keeps fat at about 30 percent of total calories. The Ornish plan encourages a vegetarian-type diet, with 10 percent of calories from fat.

Regardless of the diet you're on, make sure it's a regiment that is healthy for you and you can stay on in the long run.

USDA and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services publish a food and nutrition guideline called The Food Pyramid. In the MyPyramid Plan, you can adjust the daily choices from each food group to meet your calorie needs. Visit www.MyPyramid.for details.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Obesity Increases Risk of Cancer

If you're obese with excess body fat and still haven't taken actions (regular exercises and physical activities, proper and balanced nutrition, weight management), take note now!

According to a new research report release by the American Institute for Cancer Research and the Britain-based World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), your risk of cancer is increased with obesity. Obesity is now linked to six types of cancer, five more than its last report, 10 years ago.

The report, an analysis by scientists from around the world of more than 7,000 studies, offers 10 recommendations to help prevent cancer. They include staying lean, getting at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, limiting your intake of red meat and alcohol, and avoiding processed meats.

Factors such as birth weight, childbearing, breast-feeding, and adult height and weight also influence cancer risk.

So what types of cancer are linked to obesity? The analysis of the studies found a definite link between excess fat and cancers of the esophagus, pancreas, colon and rectum, endometrium, kidney as well as breast cancer in postmenopausal women.

This report really reinforces the connection between being overweight or obese and the increased risk of many, if not all, cancers.

The basic recommendations from the panel are:
  1. Body Fatness: Be as lean as possible within the normal range of body weight.
  2. Physical Activity: Be physically active part of everyday life.
  3. Foods and Drinks That Promote Weight Gain: Limit consumption of energy-dense foods and avoid sugary drinks.
  4. Plant Foods: Eat mostly foods of plant origin.
  5. Animal Foods: Limit intake of red meat and avoid processed meat.
  6. Alcoholic Drinks: Limit alcoholic drinks.
  7. Preservation, Processing, Preparation: Limit consumption of salt and avoid mouldy cereals (grains) or pulses (legumes).
  8. Dietary Supplements: Aim to meet nutritional needs through diet alone.

To read the full report, visit the American Institute for Cancer Research. This 500+ page report is packed with research report, summary and recommendations.

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