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Rise and Shine: 8 Stretches You Should Do Each Morning


One of the best ways to start your day in a healthy way is to take a moment to ground your thoughts by stretching and intentionally breathing.  It's amazing what you can accomplish in less than seven minutes to set your day on the right path.  
 
When you stretch deeply, you should always be warm.  So performing this series after a morning workout or after a hot shower is optimal. If you do it right out of bed, make sure you stretch more gently.  

Here are eight stretches to add to your morning routine to feel strong, flexible and grounded. These exercises cover all your major muscle groups and can be followed any time of day, including after your workouts.
Posted 4/11/2014  5:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 22 comments   83,482 views
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Getting Started with Strength Training in 5 Easy Steps


You know that strength training (also called resistance training) is good for your body. It can help you maintain and build muscle mass, rev your metabolism, make you a better recreational athlete, strengthen your bones and reshape your body. But unlike cardio, where you usually just pick an activity you enjoy and get out there and do it, strength training can be a lot more complicated to a novice. Most people don't just walk into a weight room, stare at the sea of weights, and know how to begin.

If you've never lifted weights before (or it's been a long time since you have), it can be intimidating to know how to start. There are so many weights, machines, classes and options. Which ones are right for you and your goals?
 
While the idea of strength training can be complex, hopefully these basics will point you in the right direction so you feel comfortable starting a training program.
Posted 4/8/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 1 comments   20,570 views
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Which Is More Important: Cardio or Strength Training?


This is a loaded question! If you ask 10 different trainers, you'd get 10 different answers. One trainer's answer is likely to be based on what they've seen help clients get the best results or their own personal preference for one type of exercise over the other.
 
There isn't a ton of research on this topic, but we know that people who do both cardio and strength training tend to have better outcomes in terms of weight loss, fitness and even improved blood sugar levels. These two modes of exercise each do very different things. If the issue is time, my answer would be to find a way to fit in both, whether each workout is a little shorter (and maybe more intense) to maximize your time, or you are doing both but doing each thing occasionally (such as just once a week each). Anything you can do will help. Another solution to fitting in both cardio and strength training is to seek out workouts that combine both efficiently. There are many workout DVDs (including SparkPeople's best-selling titles), fitness classes (including CrossFit) and workout options (including kettlebell training) that give you the best of both worlds. Circuit training, which involves lifting weights in a circuit of exercises without resting in between, is another good way to add an aerobic component to your strength-training workouts
 
Now let's look a little deeper at each exercise component and the role they might individually play in your fitness and weight-loss plan.
Posted 4/2/2014  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 5 comments   21,180 views
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18 Upbeat Songs to Pump Up Your Workouts


We thought it would never happen, but it's true: spring is finally here! If you've experienced some serious cabin fever over the long winter, you're definitely not alone. We're beyond ready to pound the pavement out in the sunshine while listening to some upbeat tunes. Here are 18 of our favorite feel-good songs to sweat to right now. Take them for a spin during your spring workouts! 
Posted 4/2/2014  12:00:00 AM By: Melinda Hershey : 22 comments   42,519 views
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Why You Should Have an Affair at the Gym


You put on your sweatpants and baggy T-shirt. Throw your hair up into a ponytail and wipe the make-up off your face. You fill your water bottle and head to the nearest elliptical. Headphones in, you tune out the world, focusing on the show you're watching or that new song you downloaded. You set your sights on the console and the clock, watching the numbers—calories, time, and distance—tick up until you've hit your goal on one (or maybe all three). Get in and get out, that's what the gym is to you. You're not there to talk or make friends. You're just there to get through your routine and go home.

But what if I told you that going to the gym could—and should—be a little more fulfilling? The truth is that having an affair at the gym happens more than you might think. It can change your mind and your body—and how you feel about yourself. If you've been going through the motions lately, feeling uninspired or tied down, then break free from monogamy and bring the excitement back with an affair!
Posted 4/1/2014  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 70 comments   58,433 views
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You Asked: Does Pilates Count as Strength Training?


This is not an easy question for me to answer. As a certified Pilates instructor and long-time Pilates practitioner, I've seen the many benefits of Pilates first-hand, and with many of my students. Pilates can sculpt your core, help you stand taller, improve your balance, tone your muscles and even prevent and relieve certain issues like lower back pain. I'm a huge advocate of Pilates and think it can benefit any body—male or female, young or old, beginner or athlete.
Posted 3/28/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 12 comments   18,882 views
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Fresh Workout Gear for Spring


As the days grow longer and the air gets warmer, going outside for a little exercise starts to sounds pleasant rather than daunting. Even if spring hasn't quite arrived in your hometown, there's nothing like a little pre-season shopping to get you in the mood to revamp your fitness routine. Here are some of our favorite pieces for the next few months.
Posted 3/26/2014  6:00:00 AM By: Megan Patrick : 19 comments   14,794 views
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Wake Up to a 10-Day Challenge This April!


Raise your hand if you're a morning person!

…Anybody?

Ok, so waking up early is tough for most of us. However, when you make an effort to do so consistently, it's entirely possible to make it a habit—which is a great way to build more fitness and productivity into your day. So, how would you like a little extra boost of motivation to A) Get up in the wee hours, and B) Make strides toward your healthy lifestyle goals at the same time?

We're going to help you do just that with our ''Rise and Shine'' Challenge!
Posted 3/25/2014  12:00:00 PM By: Melinda Hershey : 249 comments   118,696 views
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The New No-Excuses Way to Work Out


There are a lot of excuses—or hurdles if you will—that get in the way of our intentions to work out. Not enough time. Not enough money. Fear of being judged by others. Not having easy or affordable access to equipment or a gym. Not enough options that fit your schedule. Traveling all the time.  Not knowing what to do on your own. Not having childcare. Bad weather.
 
Most of us have dealt with a number of these hurdles more than once in our lifetime. The truth is that working out is hard. All of these things are barriers that make it even more difficult to get and stay fit.
 
But there are a lot of amazing innovations that are bringing fitness to more people in ways that help you jump many of the hurdles above. One of my favorites recently launched. And while it sounds too good to be true that this one solution is affordable, accessible, flexible, easy to follow—and can help you get fit anywhere on your own time—it's true.
Posted 3/24/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 7 comments   20,804 views
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How to Prevent Muscle Loss When Losing Weight


When starting a weight-loss plan, most of us hope to lose body fat, specifically—not muscle mass. But when we lose weight, a large percentage of the total weight lost can be muscle. Is there any way to reduce that muscle loss?
Posted 3/22/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Becky Hand : 7 comments   19,372 views
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6 Fun Fitness Finds to Inspire Your Spring Workouts


The Polar Vortex is finally behind us! I know everyone is with me when I say Bring On Spring! Here in Cincinnati, we've had a couple 70-degree days giving us a taste of the warmer season to come. Granted, they were followed up by snowy days, but we'll take it!

Spring is such a great time for fitness. No matter how dedicated you are to exercise (or not) the change in weather seems to encourage everyone to get outdoors and get active. Even if you're not getting out yet (maybe it's still cold in your region), I'm sure you're noticing a heightened level of energy thanks to sunnier days.
For even more inspiration, here are some of the cool finds that are helping me stay fit and happy this spring. You just might find the right thing to put a little pep in your step, too!
Posted 3/20/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 12 comments   22,767 views
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8 Signs Your Cardio Workouts Are Doing More Harm Than Good


Aerobic exercise (think running, biking, and jumping rope) is good for your health, helps with weight loss and generally makes you feel good.  But believe it or not, you can have too much of a good thing—even exercise.  It's important to find the balance between challenging yourself, making exercise a regular part of your daily routine, and doing more harm than good. But where exactly is the line where a healthy amount becomes too much?
Posted 3/19/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 9 comments   48,338 views
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HIIT Workout: An Hour's Worth of Cardio in 20 Minutes!


These days, high intensity interval training is hot. More and more exercise researchers are discovering that steady state cardio still does a body good—but pushing your body during shorter bursts of high intensity effort can achieve similar—if not better—results in less time. Sure you have to work harder but I prefer to think of it as working smarter, taking a 60-minute indoor cycling class, for example, and getting all of the same health and fitness benefits in just 20 minutes. Who’s not up for that?
Posted 3/18/2014  5:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 2 comments   14,722 views
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5 Tricks to Boost Your Workout Motivation Instantly


We all have those days where, no matter how much we try, we just can't find the motivation to go work out. Here are our top five tips for motivating yourself to exercise even when you don't want to get moving. Watch the video, or read the tips in the video summary below.



Posted 3/18/2014  12:00:00 AM By: Stepfanie Romine : 4 comments   9,525 views
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You Asked: How Many Calories Does Strength Training Burn?


If you are concerned about how many calories you burn during strength training, chances are that you are actively trying to lose weight (or might want to ensure you are eating enough to support strength training without losing additional weight). Although strength training is challenging and requires a lot of hard work (especially when lifting heavy weights), it doesn't typically burn as many calories as cardiovascular (aerobic) exercises like running or cycling.
Posted 3/13/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 7 comments   41,866 views
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