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METropolitan Fitness

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Energy Boosting Snacks to Overcome Your Mid-Afternoon Slump

Posted on April 14, 2012 at 8:55 PM Comments comments (328)
    Hey all, hope you're enjoying a wonderful Saturday so far.  What a gorgeous day it was!  For many of you, trying to identify healthy, energy boosting snacks to get through your day has been a challenge.  As much as we talk about how important it is to make healthier eating decisions, it's understandable as to why those choices can be so taxing.  With the following blog, I wanted to be able to provide a few options to consider when faced with those mid-day energy slumps.  I hope this proves useful in satisfying your cravings while helping you stay on track with with your renewed focus on healthier choices.                                     

1. Oatmeal and Blueberries
Complex carbs like oatmeal provide steady, long-lasting energy, and help you feel full longer.  Top off 1/2 cup of hot oats with 1 cup of fresh blueberries, which are packed with nutrients that help promote brain function.
Nutrition facts: 243 calories, 56 g carbs, 5 g protein, 2 g fat

2. Spinach Salad
Mix up a fresh salad with 2 cups of spinach (rich in energy-boosting magnesium), 1 cup of antioxidant-packed strawberries, and 1/2 cup of black beans and one large hard-boiled egg for extra protein.
Nutrition facts: 200 calories, 35 g carbs, 17 g protein, 6 g fat

3. Oranges and Almonds
Staying hydrated helps you stay energized.  In addition to drinking water throughout the day, eat fruits like oranges, which are 90 percent water.  Pair one large orange with an ounce of raw almonds, which are loaded with fiber, protein, and heart-healthy fat.
Nutrition facts: 230 calories, 23 g carbs, 7 g protein, 14 g fat

4. Carrots and Hummus
10 carrots pair well with 1/2 cup of hummus.  This low-calorie combo is packed with beta-carotene, fiber, and healthy fat to help you feel full throughout the afternoon.
Nutrition facts: 245 calories, 26 g carbs, 11 g protein, 12 g fat

5. Low-Fat Cottage Cheese and Pineapple
Half a cup of low-fat cottage cheese is high in protein and calcium, while 3/4 cup of fresh pineapple offers a sweet topping that can decrease inflammation in the body and improve digestion.
Nutrition facts: 170 calories, 21 g carbs, 17 g protein, 2 g fat

6. Yogurt, Granola, and Cherries
Yogurt contains probiotics, which are known as the good bacteria needed for a healthy digestive tract.  Add some crunch to 1 cup of yogurt by mixing in 1 cup of low-fat, fiber-rich granola and 1/2 cup of dark cherries for a punch of antioxidants and phytonutrients.
Nutrition facts: 319 calories, 67 g carbs, 12.8 g protein, 4.5 g fat

7. Pear and Cheese
This simple snack is low in calories and perfect for portion control.  A pear and a fat-free mozzarella cheese stick are rich in calcium, vitamin C, potassium and fiber.
Nutrition facts: 160 calories, 26 g carbs, 9 g protein, 2.5 g fat

8. Apple and Almond Butter
Pair an apple with 2 tablespoons of almond butter for a heart-healthy, cholesterol-lowering snack packed with healthy fat and fiber.
Nutrition facts: 285 calories, 32 g carbs, 6 g protein, 16 g fat

9. Edamame
Snack on a 1/2 cup of edamame for a delicious, calorie-controlled snack that's rich in fiber and protein.  You can buy edamame fresh at the supermarket or keep a bag of frozen edamame in the freezer.
Nutrition facts: 100 calories, 9 g carbs, 8 g protein, 3 g fat



REFERENCES
  • Core Performance - Well at Work, Michelle Riccardi, November 2011

Is your body under attack?

Posted on April 14, 2012 at 12:09 AM Comments comments (0)
    Hey everybody, hope this blog reaches you all doing better than ever!  As we continue pushing forward in our efforts to seek self improvement and boost our health and wellness, I want to reiterate how vital it is to our success that we don't overlook the importance of allowing for proper rest and recovery time.  Why is it so important to allow time to heal? It is inevitable, regardless of how young or old we are as we make this journey that we will all have to combat the issue of inflammation. 
    Inflammation.  It’s a normal process that is designed to help your body recover, which causes the occasional ache or pain. In small doses, this is fine.  But if you’re constantly putting your body under stress—whether from work, illness, or even exercise—your body flips into protection mode.  The inflammation that’s meant to protect you instead causes your body to fight against itself.  The system breaks down, and you become more vulnerable to injury or even disease.
    But all hope is not lost.  The process of healing your body can be improved with several small, simple changes.  For example, many foods contain anti-inflammatory compounds that can alleviate pain and swelling, and help protect your body.  That is precisely what brought me to search for the foods which provided the most powerful boost to your body’s ability to regulate and reduce inflammation.  Here are what I found to be some of the best:



Cinnamon
Once considered more precious than gold, cinnamon is one of the world’s oldest and most coveted spices.  Research has shown that cinnamon not only reduces inflammation but also fights bacteria, assists with blood sugar control, and enhances brain function. Sprinkle cinnamon over yogurt, cereal, or oatmeal, or add it to a smoothie or a glass of low-fat milk.

Ginger
This flavorful root is available all year and used in everything from soda to stir-fries. Ginger contains several anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols, which may relieve joint pain, prevent free radical damage, protect against colorectal cancer, and increase immunity.  Ginger is also a natural anti-emetic, often used to alleviate motion sickness and morning sickness.  Steep a couple of slices of ginger in hot water for ginger tea or blend it with soy sauce to top a stir-fried dish.

Onions
Onions are packed with sulfur-containing containing compounds, which are responsible for their pungent odor and associated with improved health.  These widely-used and versatile vegetables are believed to inhibit inflammation and linked to everything from cholesterol reduction to cancer prevention.  Try using onions as a base for soups, sauces, and stir-fries.  Other foods with the same benefits include garlic, leeks, and chives.

Tart Cherries
One of the richest known sources of antioxidants, tart cherries are an anti-inflammatory powerhouse.  New research suggests that tart cherries offer pain relief from gout and arthritis, reduce exercise-induced joint and muscle pain, lower cholesterol, and improve inflammatory markers.  Drink a glass of tart cherry juice in the morning with breakfast or combine dried tart cherries with nuts for a snack.

Walnuts
Walnuts are one of the healthiest nuts you can eat.  They’re loaded with anti-inflammatory, heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids and provide more antioxidants than Brazil nuts, pistachios, pecans, peanuts, almonds, macadamias, cashews, and hazelnuts. Walnuts are also a great source of protein and fiber.  Top yogurt or salad with a handful of walnuts or eat raw walnuts as a snack.

Turmeric
A mustard-yellow spice from Asia, turmeric is a spice often used in yellow curry.  It gets its coloring from a compound called curcumin.  The University of Maryland Medical Center found that curcumin can help to improve chronic pain by suppressing inflammatory chemicals in the body.  Make a homemade curry with turmeric or mix it into other recipes once or twice a week.

Pineapple
This tropical yellow fruit contains the enzyme bromelain, which is helpful in treating muscle injuries like sprains and strains.  According to a study in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Disease, this enzyme may also help to improve digestion along with aches and pains associated with rheumatoid arthritis.  Add pineapple to a smoothie or salad to help improve your body’s tweaks and twinges.

Flaxseed
Flaxseed is packed with omega-3 fatty acids which can help to reduce inflammation in the body.  The Harvard School of Public Health reports that omega-3 found in flaxseed may help in blocking pro-inflammatory agents.  Grind flaxseed to release the oils, and then add a spoonful of it to your salad, oatmeal, or yogurt.  For more omega-3-rich foods with anti-inflammatory benefits, eat soybeans, extra-virgin olive oil, and fatty fish like salmon and tuna.

Carrots
Colorful orange carrots are rich in carotenoids, a group of phytochemicals known to help protect cells from free radicals and boost immunity.  They also help regulate inflammation, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center.  Add carrots to your salad or cook them as a side dish for any meal.  Other carotenoid-rich foods include apricots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and pumpkin.

Dark, leafy greens
Dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale are packed with flavonoids, a phytonutrient that boost heart health and may help ward off cancer.  According to the Alzheimer’s Association, flavonoid-rich foods may also reduce inflammation in the brain, possibly slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.  Eat a spinach salad a few days a week for a powerful punch of flavonoids.  Other good sources are kale, soybeans, berries, tea, or even a glass of wine.


REFERENCES
  • Livestrong.com - The Silent Attack On Your Body, April 2012

Strategies to Ensure Running Longevity: Strategy #2

Posted on April 12, 2012 at 11:08 PM Comments comments (0)
    Hey everybody.  I hope you all have enjoyed a fabulous training week so far.  Lots of great things continue to happen in the lives of our members, and it certainly is well deserved.  With the recent focus on running, I wanted to continue sharing strategies consistent with ensuring running health and longevity.  Here's another, enjoy!

Strategy #2: Run Hard
If we want to continue running fast, we must continue to run hard.  We begin to lose skeletal muscle mass at about age 25.  While slow-twitch (endurance) muscle fibers are resistant to age-related atrophy, fast-twitch (speed and power) muscle fibers disappear at a rate of up to 1 percent per year.  To slow this trend and help prevent fiber shrinkage, we must incorporate sprint and hard interval training into our running.

"It is well known that to stay young, intensity of exercise is more important than volume," says Earl Fee, author of The Complete Guide to Running: How to be a Champion from 9 to 90.  Fee, now 83, knows a thing or two about being a champion, having set more than 50 age-group world records at distances ranging from the 300m hurdles to the mile, including a 70-second 400m at age 80.

Speed training presents a classic case of "use it or lose it."  A comparison of masters' sprint and distance records reveals that sprinters show less decline in ability as they age. That's because masters sprinters partially arrest their decrease of intermediate and fast-twitch fibers, while masters distance runners don't; distance runners "lose it."

But speed negligent older distance runners needn't despair.  A 2009 study on aging and running found that sprint training led to "significant gains in maximal and explosive strength and improvements in force production during running."  In other words, we can reverse some of the damage.

One or two weekly sessions of hard running can maintain - or recapture - much of our speed.  Who knows, maybe we'll even run a 70-second 400 when we're 80.


REFERENCES
  • Running Times - Long May You Run - May 2012.  Pete Magill

Strategies to Ensure Running Longevity : Strategy #1

Posted on April 8, 2012 at 10:49 PM Comments comments (0)
    Hi everyone, hope you all enjoyed a wonderful Easter weekend.  I wanted to make sure I introduced the next series of blogs now because I believe it perfectly coincides with all of our focuses towards improving our running abilities.  Far too often we are looking at only the workout itself,  and forget the importance of our post-run/workout recovery.  It is this oversight I wish to address in the following blog.  Please continue to follow this series as there will be additional installments to come.

Strategy #1: Recovery, Recovery, Recovery
If there's one thing we need to understand about training, it's this: It's not the training we do that counts; it's the training from which we can recover.  But recovery involves more than plopping our butts on the couch post-run for some food, TV and a nap.  Recovery is a multi-layered strategy for ensuring that we benefit from the training we do.

Recover Post-Workout
The most important part of our workout is the first 15 minutes after we finish.  This is the time to replenish muscle glycogen (50-100g of carbohydrate), rehydrate and do our post-run static stretching and exercises.

Recover At Night
Studies show that people who sleep seven to nine hours per night live longer.  Living longer is an essential part or running longevity.  Good sleep also repairs cell damage, strengthens our immune systems, lowers stress, increases flexibility and keeps us alert and refreshed.

Recover Between Hard Workouts
Recovery days allow our bodies to adapt to the training stimulus of a hard workout.  This is when our improvement occurs.  Easy running during these days adds to our training volume and aids repair of damaged muscle fibers and connective tissue.  It allows replacement of muscle glycogen, hormones and enzymes.  A fit 25-year-old requires two to three days of recovery between hard workouts, while a 70-year old might need twice that.

Recovery From The Daily Grind
They say stress kills.  But before it kills, it'll do lots of damage along the way.  Stress lowers immunity, increases inflammation, slows healing, decreases bone density, decreases muscle mass, increases blood pressure, increases fat and intensifies blood sugar imbalances.  So find an outlet.  Shoot some hoops.  Read a book.  Write.  Paint.  Dance.  Work in the garden.  Or there's always some other alternative that will allow us to relax and decompress.  Recovery makes us better runners. So seriously, find a way to chill out!



REFERENCES

  • Running Times - Long May You Run - May 2012.  Pete Magill



Naturally Dyed Eggs

Posted on April 5, 2012 at 10:46 PM Comments comments (0)
    Hey everybody, hope you've all enjoyed a wonderful week so far.  I thought that with the Easter holiday just a few days away a recipe to naturally dye our Easter eggs would come in handy.  It would also allow us to save some money, and avoid using any toxic coloring ingredients.  Have a wonderful, safe holiday!


    Color your Easter eggs with dyes made at home using fruits, vegetables and spices. Experiment with other colorful ingredients such as red cabbage, blackberries, coffee, tea, ground paprika or grape juice, too, if you like.



Ingredients
2 cups roughly chopped, raw beets (for pink/red) 
OR 
2 cups blueberries, crushed (for blue/purple) 
OR 
1 teaspoon ground turmeric (for yellow) 
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar 
Hard-boiled eggs

Method
Put your choice of coloring ingredient (beets, blueberries or turmeric) into a small pot with 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, discarding any solids, and then stir in vinegar. Set aside to let cool until warm or room temperature. 

To color eggs, submerge in dye, turning often for even coating, until desired color is reached. For more colors, dye eggs first in one color, then wipe dry and dye in a second color.



The Top Ten ANDI Scores

Posted on April 4, 2012 at 8:53 AM Comments comments (94)
    Hey everybody, good morning!  By now it's no secret that eating right is a vital component to your health and wellness success.  The following information should provide some additional insight as to which foods provide the best compliment to those efforts.  If there's one thing I'd like you to take away from this (other than just the nutritional info itself), it's to be open to trying new things and experimenting a little bit.  Don't assume you won't like something, try it and find out!

Top Ten ANDI Scores
ANDI stands for "Aggregate Nutrient Density Index." An ANDI score shows the nutrient density of a food on a scale from 1 to 1000 based on nutrient content. ANDI scores are calculated by evaluating an extensive range of micronutrients, including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidant capacities.

GREEN VEGETABLES
1. Mustard/Turnip/Collard Greens - 1000
2. Kale - 1000
3. Watercress - 1000
4. Bok Choy/Baby Bok Choy - 824
5. Spinach - 739
6. Broccoli Rabe - 715
7. Chinese/Napa Cabbage - 704
8. Brussels Sprouts - 672
9. Swiss Chard - 670
10. Arugula - 559

NONGREEN VEGETABLES
1. Radish - 554
2. Bean Sprouts - 444
3. Red Pepper - 366
4. Radicchio - 359
5. Turnip - 337
6. Carrot - 336
7. Cauliflower - 295
8. Artichoke - 244
9. Tomato - 190
10. Butternut Squash - 156

FRUIT
1. Strawberries - 212
2. Blackberries - 178
3. Plum - 157
4. Raspberries - 145
5. Blueberries - 130
6. Papaya - 118
7. Orange - 109
8. Cantaloupe - 100
9. Kiwi - 97
10. Watermelon - 91
11. Peach - 73
12. Apple - 72
13. Cherries - 68
14. Pineapple - 64
15. Apricot - 60

BEANS
1. Lentils - 104
2. Red Kidney Beans - 100
3. Great Northern Beans - 94
4. Adzuki Beans - 84
5. Black Beans - 83
6. Black-Eyed Peas - 82
7. Pinto Beans - 61
8. Edamame - 58
9. Split Peas - 58
10. Chickpeas (Garbanzos) - 57

NUTS & SEEDS
1. Sunflower Seeds - 78
2. Sesame Seeds - 65
3. Flax Seeds - 65
4. Pumpkin Seeds - 52
5. Pistachios - 48
6. Pecans - 41
7. Almonds - 38
8. Walnuts - 34
9. Hazelnuts - 32
10. Cashews - 27

WHOLE GRAINS
1. Oats, old-fashioned - 53
2. Barley, whole grain - 43
3. Wild Brown Rice - 43
4. Brown Rice - 41
5. Barley, pearled - 32
6. Wheat berries - 25
7. Cornmeal, whole grain - 22
8. Quinoa - 21
9. Millet - 19
10. Bulgar - 17



REFERENCES
  • Wholefoodsmarket.com, Healthstartshere




METropolitan Fitness sneakers

Posted on April 2, 2012 at 9:18 PM Comments comments (1)
    Hey everybody.  I'm very excited to show you the customized sneaker I designed with Nike specifically for METropolitan Fitness.  After speaking directly with Nike, I was advised that these shoes will be available for purchase if you decide you like them enough to buy them for yourself.  Please contact me and let me know so I can forward the appropriate link info to you.  Thanks again for all your support!

Yours in health and wellness,

Mike

Running for women over 40

Posted on March 29, 2012 at 11:22 PM Comments comments (0)
    Hey everyone, hope you've enjoyed an amazing week so far.  I thought that the following blog was especially important to write at this time because it perfectly coincides with my challenge to all of you to work on running your best mile.  Over the course of the last few days I have had a few specific conversations with METropolitan Fitness members who expressed concern over whether or not taking on a challenge like this was feasible or not.  I hope that this information helps ease your apprehension and provides some reassurance that it can be done safely and responsibly.  Know that I will do anything I can to support your efforts!

Running is a very popular aerobic activity that provides many health benefits.  Many women over the age of 40 can safely begin a running program.  Running makes you stronger, healthier and more fit. However, if you are currently not physically active, get your doctor's approval before beginning a running program.

GUIDELINES
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women over 40 need to engage in at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardiovascular exercise, such as running, each week.  A woman should couple her running program with two to three days of strength training each week to gain muscle strength and build bone density.

BENEFITS
Women over 40 gain many benefits from running -- after all, running burns calories, which can result in weight loss.  However, the benefits of running go further than just weight loss.  Running decreases your risk for developing hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and other life-threatening diseases, such as cancer.  This intense workout builds your endurance and strengthens your muscles and bones, which helps to prevent osteoporosis, a major concern for women as they age.

GETTING STARTED
If you are new to running, start slow.  The first couple of weeks you should alternate between running and walking.  For example, run for 2 minutes and walk for 1 minute. Continue alternating between the two for 10 minutes.  As you gain endurance, increase the amount of time you run, and decrease the amount of time you walk.  Your goal should be to run for 20-30 minutes without walking.  Before each workout, warm up for 10 minutes with light aerobic activity, such as walking.  Walk to cool down for 5 to 10 minutes, with 10 minutes of light stretching, following your run.

CONSIDERATIONS
Before you start your running program, consult with a physician.  Your doctor may conduct tests to assess your current state of health.  Such tests might include a stress test, bone density test and blood tests.  After seeing the results, your doctor or trainer can help you develop an exercise plan that is right for you.


REFERENCES

  • Livestrong - June 2011, Nicole Waldo

The Benefits of Flexibility Training

Posted on March 26, 2012 at 11:12 PM Comments comments (106)
    As many of you already know, I'm a huge advocate of stretching in our continuing efforts to retain our elasticity and flexibility.  What I'd like to highlight here in this blog are some of the benefits realized from flexibility training.  In blogs to come I'll also discuss additional rules for stretching, provide examples of how stretching can lead to improved performance, and review additional stretching instructions.  Should any of you have any questions, please reach out to me directly or post your questions here so that the forum readers can follow along as well.

Benefits of Flexibility Training  

  • May decrease instances of lower-back pain: It is estimated that 80% of the adult population has suffered from, or is currently suffering from lower-back pain.  A lack of flexibility or range-of-motion in the hips and lower back may be a prognostic indicator of low back pain.  Most often rehabilitation for low back pain includes a stretching program to address any such issues.
  • Decreases chances of age related losses in flexibility: Studies show an age-related loss in flexibility which could lead to injury and/or loss of function as we age.
  • Stretching burns calories: Stretching may not be as effective as cardio, or even resistance training at melting away that fat but all the calories you burn up add up at the end of the day.  You can increase your flexibility and burn calories, while watching your favorite TV program.
  • Increases blood flow to muscles stretched: Stretching may be useful in reducing cramping associated with ischemia (insufficient blood flow to a muscle).
  • Move better: A comprehensive flexibility program may decrease restrictions caused by muscular tightness.  This will make movement easier and improve the efficiency of your muscular system.
  • Decrease post exercise soreness: Stretching and yoga have been shown to decrease the occurrence of post exercise soreness.
  • Stretching helps reduce stress: In a study examining stress reduction methods in Brazilian pre-university students, stretching significantly reduced symptoms.
  • Stretching post exercise may increase your performance in your next work-out: In one study, those individuals who stretched after a workout intense enough to induce soreness performed better during an exercise session 48 hours later than those who did not.


REFERENCES

Myth #7

Posted on March 22, 2012 at 10:44 PM Comments comments (0)
    Good morning everybody, hope you all are well on your way to another amazing week!  I wanted to share the next blog because I am often approached in the gym with questions regarding the best ways to target your "lower abs", especially now that the weather has been so unseasonably warm.  The following is something you all should know when it comes to the burn you feel when doing certain exercises.  For those of you who already train with me, this information will reinforce our approach to not spend all of our time focusing on exercises that involve leg movements.  While a portion of our training includes exercises such as bicycle kicks, flutter kicks and leg raises, we spend the vast majority of our time doing other things.  Hope this information provides some much needed clarification for those of you who were still unsure.

Myth #7: When I do leg raises, bicycles and flutter kicks I feel my lower abs.
What you should know: You are actually feeling a muscle behind your lower abs called your psoas.

    Many so called lower abdominal exercises involve leg lifts, bicycle kicks, or require you to bend at the hip (such as a sit-up).  Your rectus abdominus muscle originates at your pubic crest (you can feel your pubic bone just above your pubic area) and travels upward, attaching to the lower part of your ribs and breast bone.  It does not attach to your legs or hips, so it cannot move your legs.
    You may feel certain exercises in your lower abdominal region.  Chances are, you are feeling a combination of your abdominal muscles and the deeper muscles of your midsection.  During leg raises, knee ups and bicycle kicks, the abdominal musculature must hold your pelvic bone steady.  If your pelvic bone were to rock freely with your legs your spine would have to bend vigorously and that could lead to low back pain and possible injury.  Just as holding weight in front of you would make your shoulders burn, your abs burn as they attempt to hold your pelvic girdle steady during these leg movements.  However, this still does not explain why the majority of sensation is in the lower part of your abs.
    A powerful hip flexor known as your psoas lies just beneath your lower abdominal area and is responsible for lifting your legs.  Your psoas is the prime mover (most responsible) for leg raises, knee ups and bicycle kicks and this is likely the cause of the "burn in the lower abs".  This is not an ideal way to increase strength in your midsection, and may be too effective for strengthening your hip flexors.  Over development of your hip flexor musculature may reduce hip flexibility, causing posture problems and low back pain. Because more than 80% of the population has or will experience low back pain, these exercises are not recommended for everyone.



REFERENCES

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