The SparkPeople Blog

50 Simple and Savory Single-Serving Meals

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
1/17/2017  12:00:00 AM   :  0 comments   :  510 views

If there's anything tougher than cooking for a crowd, it's cooking for one. When you have a single mouth to feed, it can be difficult to muster the motivation to shop for ingredients, prepare meals, cook and clean up—especially when most recipes yield multiple servings that will likely languish in the fridge before ultimately getting pitched. For many one-person households, the takeout menu often takes priority over the recipe book…but that convenience comes at a cost to your pocketbook and your waistline.

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Feel the Lower-Body Burn With This Quick Circuit Workout

By: , – Jessica Smith, Certified Personal Trainer
1/16/2017  12:00:00 AM   :  0 comments   :  9,803 views

Love it or hate it, leg day or at least spending time flexing those leg muscles is a must for any strength training schedule. Lucky for you, you can get in a mile's worth of steps and a solid all-over leg burn in just 15 quick minutes.

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Is There Such a Thing as a Healthy Sugar Substitute?

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
1/13/2017  12:00:00 AM   :  7 comments   :  1,877 views

These days, sugar can seem like a four-letter word, especially if you're trying to lose weight or adopt a healthier lifestyle. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an excess of added sugars is one of the main culprits behind not only weight gain and obesity, but also an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The FDA recommends consuming no more than six to 11 teaspoons of the sweet stuff each day.

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Steals & Splurges for 11 Workout Wardrobe Essentials

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
1/10/2017  12:00:00 AM   :  7 comments   :  10,000 views

Just as it's important to mix up your workouts, it's also good to freshen up your workout wardrobe every so often. Invest in the right staples and you'll be able to mix and match items that are equally appropriate for yoga or spin class." Plus, with three different price point options, you can choose to splurge on socks and save on shorts, or swap in a colorful, budget-friendly T-shirt to go along with your favorite-but-worth-every-penny black leggings. Now the only thing you'll have to worry about is proper plank form. 

T-Shirts

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

C9byChampion ($14.99),  Adidas ($19.99), Lucy ($45),

A staple of just about every workout, the t-shirt sure has come a long way from the cotton Garfield screen print of your youth. Most athletic shirts worth their weight are made of wicking material, which means they'll keep you cool when your body temperature rises.

Tank Tops 

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Tough Cookie Clothing ($15.50), Kohl's ($34), Alo ($46)

Whether you have two tickets for the gun show, loathe chafing or want to workout in comfort, there sure are no shortage of workout tanks on the market, and in a range of prices sure to fit any budget.

Leggings

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

90 Degree by Reflex
 ($18.99), Kohl's ($29.99) Athleta ($79)

Leggings win the gold medal for workout wardrobe staples. Short or tall, big or small, shiny, matte, stretchy, slouchy, bootcut or mesh, leggings come in nearly every color combination, print and price point imaginable.

Jackets 

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Old Navy ($16.50) MotoRun ($29.99), Victoria's Secret ($59.50)

Most workout jackets are lightweight, easy to take off and on for layering and great for going from gym to grocery. Half zip, full zip or pullover, owning a jacket you love can mean the difference between a meh workout and a great one.
 
Headbands
Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Kenz Laurenz ($9.98), itFit ($15), Nike ($20)

Nearly everyone can use help keeping stray hair out of their eyes and in place during a serious sweat sesh—and these three options get the job done. From basic to bold, slip one of these colorful bands on and head out the door—your hair will thank you. 
 
Hats

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

G7 Explorer ($9.99), Under Armour ($24.99), Lululemon ($58)

Featuring sweat-wicking technology or the ability to keep you safe on nighttime runs with reflection protection, hats are a great way to keep your head warm, your hair back and the sweat away from your body so you can stay dry and cool, no matter your activity.
 
Long-Sleeved Shirts

Photo courtesy of JCPenney 

Xersion ($9.99) , Matymats ($21.95), Lululemon ($88)

A long-sleeved workout tee is great for wearing alone when the temperature is just a tiny bit cooler during the change of seasons or as a layering piece for colder-but-not-quite-yet-winter days. Some even extend beyond the wrist for keeping your hands warm as well as  your arms.
 
Shorts

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Old Navy ($4.97), Champion ($10.69), Reebok ($30)

No matter the weather outside, put on your favorite workout shorts and soon you'll be thinking of warm summer days where the only sounds you hear are the birds chirping, children laughing at the pool and the "whoosh, whoosh" of your shorts as your legs pass furiously by each other.

Socks

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Asics ($9.77), Balega ($12), Feetures! ($16)

Ask anyone who's gotten blisters from running in ill-fitting cotton socks and they'll tell you that what you put on under your shoes are just as important as the shoes themselves. For runners, walkers, stair climbers and everyone in between, these high-performing socks come in the price range just for you.
 
Underwear

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Balanced Tech ($13.99), Lululemon ($18), Patagonia ($24)

Let's face it, no one likes to Zumba (or do anything really) with a wedgie. And if you think you have to Spin in a thong to avoid granny panty lines, think again. Today's no-show, sweat-wicking undies are a modern miracle for this common workout woe. Can we just get an "amen"?

Sports Bras

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Old Navy ($15), Glamorise ($25.89), Under Armour ($39.99)

We saved the best for last—no workout is complete without the super support of a good sports bra. Not too tight, not too loose, sometimes you can feel like Goldilocks looking for one that has just the right fit. One of these should do the trick.

Do you have any high-performing workout staples that you love? Share them in the comments!

We hope you love these products as much as we do! SparkPeople may collect a small percentage of revenue from the links on this page. 

10 Tips for Sticking to Your New Year’s Fitness Goals

By: , – Vionic Shoes
1/9/2017  12:00:00 AM   :  12,375 views

If you’ve ever gone to a gym the first few weeks of January, you know the scene: Jam-packed exercise classes and every piece of equipment in use with bright-eyed, highly motivated gym-goers wearing their brand-new workout clothes they received for Christmas. But come February, the gym returns to its pre-New Year’s state of the loyal faithful who have made working out a top priority in their life for the long-term–not as a short-term resolution. Hey, we’ve all been there! And that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set resolutions. They’re a great way to recalibrate your brain and decide what you want to focus on for the upcoming year. So, go ahead and set those resolutions, but make sure to follow our 10 tips for sticking to your fitness goals for a full 365 days.

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Why I'll Never Be a Runner and That's Okay

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
1/6/2017  12:00:00 AM   :  35 comments   :  16,908 views

In this industry, the phrase "new year, new you," tends to lose its pizazz right around September, after my inbox has been flooded for a month with PR pitches claiming their product—we swear!—is the one that's going to turn the common promise into a reality. The same tag has been used on this site, as well as countless other health, fitness and wellness websites, and for good reason—it's promising, catchy, optimistic, all the ingredients you need to inspire daydreams about New Year's resolutions.
 
However, whereas I used to find it cutesy, charming even, I now find it to be too vague, too idealistic and too problematic in most instances. The brevity and simplicity of the phrase implies that change occurs with the snap of your well-intentioned fingers, completely disregarding the small steps it takes to actually achieve goals. Experts say it every year, but sweeping your hand over your local gym as you vow to "Get fit" is not nearly as effective as setting a specific goal, such as, "I will go to my Barre class every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6 p.m." Furthermore, who says the new year is the only time to reinvent yourself? And does it have to be a completely new you? Can you still hold on to the good bits? The implication is that last year you kind of sucked, but this upcoming year you will definitely be better.
 
I prefer to think that last year you maybe had some flaws, but hopefully you were still kind and thoughtful and warm. Last year you might have let an exercise plan fall through, but you still worked and the fact that you're thinking about 2017 you means that you still have drive. This year, let's resolve to focus on the positive, the ways that we work to improve ourselves incrementally everyday, rather than overhauling, overwhelming and over-exhausting ourselves. New year, improved you; new year, determined you; new year, happier you—now, that's better.
 

Sweat: Runner's High? More Like Runner's Cry
 

My loathe-hate relationship with running started around the age of 10, right around the time my fourth-grade softball team started commenting on my short stride, which apparently was incorrect and detrimental to both my speed and stamina, not to mention my pride. The nickname, "S.S. Cappy" didn't stick around for too long, but it has stuck in my head all these years later. I think about it every time I hit two minutes on the treadmill and start feeling winded. I think about it when people talk about their marathon training. I thought about it when some coworkers decided to train together for a half marathon. I thought about it when my boyfriend and I signed up for a mud run with some friends and I worried about them noticing that I'd likely get winded between obstacles, despite being able to conquer the obstacles themselves. I think about it when it's a really nice day outside and I can see the Ohio river from our parking lot and everyone looks so relaxed and happy running across the bridge and maybe, just maybe, I should try to give this running thing a shot again.
 
Here's the thing, though: I've never struggled with being athletic otherwise. I played a variety of sprint-focused sports growing up (volleyball, softball, various dashes in track) and I've always prided myself on being naturally flexible with strong legs. No matter how fit I was back then and no matter how finely tuned I feel today, though, steady state cardio eludes me. In fact, I've more than once been asked if I was a runner based on my physique, to which I have to smirk and just say, "I wish." Because I do. Or, rather, I did.
 
For years, I've beat myself up about not being able to run, thinking it must be something I'm not mentally strong enough to do, not physically built to run. Roughly once a year since high school, on days I feel particularly strong, I lace up, hit the pavement with some empowering tunes playing, only to get to the end of my street or to the top of the first hill completely exhausted. I make deals with myself, "You can stop at the end of this song," "You can stop when you get to that tree," before shortening the deal and compromising. "You can stop at the two-minute mark in this song if you do 50 crunches," or "You can stop when you get to the trash bin in between where you are right now and that tree you were initially aiming for if you do an all-out sprint to get to the aforementioned trash bin." And every time I would take a shortcut or make a deal with myself or come home when I'm 16, sweating and sore, only to have my dad note that I was only gone for 12 minutes, I'd kick myself—right after I finally catch my breath, of course.
 
What's that quote that's probably in a boy band song somewhere? "You always want that which you cannot have." Running has been the Daisy to my Gatsby, always just out of reach no matter how many killer jams accompanied my jog or how great my sneakers might have been. As a result, I started to think it didn't matter that I could finally hold Lord of the Dance pose or that I had upped my sprint speed by four notches on the treadmill. Nope, the fact that I couldn't run a seven-minute mile seemed to be the only thing that mattered.
 
That was until this year. This year, as anyone who read this blog knows, I got more into high-intensity interval training, which led me to start seeking out cardio activities that fit my personal stamina and body type. Maybe I'm not a great runner because I have shorter legs, maybe it's simply because I never learned proper breathing, maybe it's a mental block, but I was in the middle of a challenging 35-minute interval treadmill workout last month when I realized that none of those worries should permeate every aspect of my training. Chances are there is a distance runner who wishes they could perform overhead presses with heavier weights. I've had friends who run marathons who wouldn't be able to touch their toes if a date with Chris Pratt was on the line.
 
As it turns out, everyone has his or her thing. Despite participating in muay Thai for more than a year and a half, sparring is still a skill that Coach Jen Mueller says struggles to improve upon. "My instructor has told me that when I spar, all of my technique goes out the window because I totally panic about hitting and getting hit."
 
For Chris "SparkGuy" Downie, it wasn't until he developed the 10-minute workout program that he finally learned to be consistent in exercise. In college, our digital marketing director Joe Robb says he found it frustrating that, despite rock climbing regularly and building up muscle in the upper body, pullups were near impossible. Reporter Melissa Rudy, a talented runner, still feels like a phony when she steps foot in the weight room. "It's like I'm a little kid playing grown-up or something," she says. "I always feel like people are giggling at me, judging my technique—which is ridiculous, but I can't shake it!"
 
Ask 10 different people and their strengths will likely be 10 different things. Why, then, do we keep comparing ourselves based on those things that we might never be able to comfortably do? This is all not to say that you shouldn't reach for new benchmarks of success. Just because you can't run three miles today doesn't mean you'll never be able to run three miles. (Trust me, I'll continue trying to build my stamina, slowly but surely. My point is simply this: Be gentle on yourself as you pursue your goals. Just because you had running four miles every morning at 6 a.m. in mind doesn't mean that's your only option. Explore a variety of training plans until you find something that your truly love and look forward to sweating to often. Cast aside your expectations that might be based on fit friends or family around you. Remember, they're on their own journey, too.
 
With this new flexible, empowered mindset, you can celebrate the days when you run for five minutes straight at a moderate pace without jumping to the rails, rather than looking at it as a failure because you couldn't complete 10 minutes. In the weight room, focus on the fact that two months ago you couldn't complete 10 bicep curls and now you're doing 12 reps at a higher weight, and ignore the ripped guy next to you who is pumping out reps with 50 pound dumbbells. I might never be a marathon runner, but I can continue to change up my routine, experiment with new paces, challenge my body and push myself to longer sprints.
 
Healthy living is all about finding what works for you, and I for one am finally ready to start embracing my other strengths rather than feeling sorry for myself that I'm not the girl who runs circles around the competition.
 
What is a workout or fitness challenge in which you are especially talented? 

Every month The Go Get It Guide is your destination for motivation, musings on random goals and probably pop culture references. It's a space where we'll sort through the PR pitches and news, then share our honest thoughts on what's happening in the health and fitness world, what's on the horizon and just what we think of that video the internet obsessed over last week. Check in each month to Spark, Sweat, Smile, Savor and Shop with us!

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