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Want to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain? Burn It to Earn It!


Forget about all the food for a minute. Let's talk about the fitness. Holiday weight gain is a concern for many, but it's not just because of the food. Sure, we eat more rich foods than we probably should this time of year, but we also let our workouts go by the wayside. We're stressed out and busier than ever with mile-long to do lists. The uncooperative weather doesn't help—dark mornings and evenings make you want to curl up in bed—not to biceps curls. So how is it that we can manage to do everything else but not squeeze in a workout? And what does that say about our priorities (and our commitments to ourselves)?

Let's do things differently this year, starting with Thanksgiving. The solution really is simple. We know what causes weight gain and we know how to maintain and lose weight, too. So for the next few weeks, I propose a new philosophy that will keep winter weight gain at bay: Burn it to earn it.
Posted 11/25/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 115 comments   21,622 views
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15 Easy Ways to Go Green on the Cheap


During the past few years, "green" living has gone mainstream. Words like "carbon footprint" are commonplace and many companies are trying to highlight (sometimes even fabricate) how eco-friendly they are so that consumers will view them more favorably.

I have long considered myself an environmentalist, and the fact that eco-friendly options are more readily available and accepted by the masses excites me. But one thing you may wonder, whether you've considered switching to plant-based cleaners, energy star appliances, organic cotton clothing, or a backyard composter made from recycled plastic is this: Why does "doing good" for the earth have to be so darn expensive? Organic, natural, plant-based, recycled, biodegradable, and fair trade do—for the most part—cost more. And that higher expense, unfortunately, deters many consumers from changing their ways.

I care about the planet, but I also live on a budget and want to save money. Luckily, monetary constraints haven't stopped me from incorporating green products and practices into my daily life. In fact, many of the choices I make actually SAVE me money instead of costing more. If you're willing to spend a little time and think creatively, there are plenty of zero- and low-cost options to green your lifestyle, diet and home. In honor of Earth Day tomorrow, I wanted to share some of the cheap ways you can go green to protect our planet.
Posted 4/22/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 126 comments   31,758 views
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Cut Your Workout Time in Half


How do you fit in the ideal amounts of cardio, strength training, stretching, balance exercises, and core training—without living in the gym?
 
Well, you could do multiple workouts a day: Cardio in the morning, Pilates at night. Strength training the next day and a yoga workout before bed.  Or you could do one really long workout per day, such as 30 minutes on the elliptical followed by 30 minutes of full-body weight training (stretching each time, of course). While both of these options will work, they also take a whole lot of time. And when "lack of time" is number one on the list of excuses people cite for not exercising, I'll give you one guess how far longer and more frequent workouts will get you.
 
How about we all start working out smarter instead of harder? When you combine the right elements of cardio, strength-training and flexibility into a single workout, you're in and out of the gym in half the time—and still getting the results you crave.
Posted 1/25/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 18 comments   17,065 views
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Follow SparkPeople on Pinterest!


I have a confession. I am obsessed with a website that isn't SparkPeople. com. I think about it during the day. I visit the site before I go to bed each night. I even had a dream about it once. Don't get me wrong, I love SparkPeople and would recommend it to anyone for all of your healthy lifestyle needs, but I have a new flame. It's name is Pinterest. I could waste spend hours a day looking for cool ideas and pinning the ones I stumble upon on Pinterest. Sometimes I do! Pinterest has changed my online world for the better.
 
Those of you who have a Pinterest account probably "get it." Those of you who have no idea what Pinterest is are probably scratching your heads and saying, "Huh?"
 
Allow me to explain.
Posted 12/23/2011  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 30 comments   17,111 views
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Smart Exercise Modifications for Knee Pain


For many of us, exercise is the part of the day we look forward to. But for those who struggle with chronic pain, working out isn't enjoyable. It hurts.
 
Knees are particularly vulnerable to pain during exercise (and afterwards).  There are several common exercises (from lunges to those performed in kneeling positions) that are known to cause knee discomfort. But rather than skip some of these very effective moves, you can modify your workouts and still get great results—minus the pain.  
 
Here are four exercises that can cause knee pain, along with some simple tips to modify the exercise so that you can perform it safely and effectively.
Posted 10/12/2011  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 25 comments   22,495 views
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4 Easy Ways to Avoid Injury in the Weight Room


Strength training is an important part of any workout program, but it's not without its risks. That's why I am always (over)emphasizing safety and form in my workout videos and in real life when I lead people through a class. When you're hoisting weights around, especially when attempting new moves your body isn't accustomed to, your risk of injury goes way up compared to exercises that use your body weight alone.

Case in point: A study published last year in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that between 1990 and 2007, almost 1 million Americans injured themselves badly enough to warrant visits to the ER. And during that nearly two-decade time period, strength-training injuries increased by 48% annually.

These injuries ran the gamut from minor sprains and strains to serious issues like dropping weights on one's own body or crushing a body part (like a foot or hand) between weights or weight equipment. Ouch.

But don't think that only newbies are at risk. It's easy to slack off on your form when you've been lifting weights for a while, and the fitter you get, the heavier weights you should be lifting—which means you're even more at risk. So whether you're new to weight training or a seasoned pro, here are four quick tips to remember so you can stay away from the doctor, too!
Posted 5/11/2011  9:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 13 comments   8,918 views
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One Simple Tip to Tone Your Trouble Zones


One of the most common questions I hear from new and seasoned exercisers alike isn't about which exercises are most effective or whether you should work out on an empty stomach. It's a question of timing. Should you do cardio or strength training first?

Most fitness experts agree that there is no right or wrong answer here—that you should do whatever matters MOST to you first. So if your goal is weight loss, you'd probably be better off doing cardio (which burns a lot of calories and fat) before you strength train; and if your goal was building muscle size and strength, you'd do strength training first.

But what about the exercises you do during a single strength-training workout? Does it matter which moves you do first when you pick up the weights? Conventional exercise wisdom has always said the same thing: You should work your larger muscles before you train the smaller ones, meaning you'd train your glutes before you train your calves or your back before your biceps. But an interesting study conducted at the Rio de Janeiro Federal University in Brazil may change that advice if your goal is to tone up a particular area of the body.
Posted 4/29/2011  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 15 comments   9,905 views
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6 Secrets to Take the Dread Out of the Treadmill


There are two kinds of people in life: those who love the treadmill and those who can't stand it. In case it wasn't already obvious from this blog's title, I'm in the latter group! I will run outdoors in a foot snow, below freezing temperatures, 90-degree heat, and even torrential rain before I will run on the treadmill. But I do draw the line somewhere: ice. When conditions are icy (OK, also if temps hit single digits), I'm not willing to risk injuring myself by running outside. Luckily, this winter has only forced me inside (count 'em) three times, and with spring on the way, I have my fingers crossed that I won't have to use the treadmill again until next year.

Usually, I can only muster about 10 or 15 minutes on the treadmill before boredom wins and I leave the gym feeling frustrated with myself. So I had to come up with some new ways to make the most of the treadmill. And to my surprise: These tactics really worked. I'm not talking about listening to music or watching TV either. If you really want to have fun on the treadmill—or at least pass the time more easily—this is how you do it.
Posted 3/2/2011  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 124 comments   67,433 views
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How to Find a Qualified Personal Trainer


45 percent: That's the number of personal trainers who claim to be certified but really aren't, according to the IDEA Health & Fitness Association. If you've ever worked with a trainer, or think you might in the future, a statistic like that should worry you at least a little bit.

A few months ago, I shared tidbit, along with some other scary and startling facts about personal trainers. From what certifications to look for to what makes a trainer really qualified, I laid down the cold, hard truth about navigating your way through this confusing profession so that you don't get scammed into working with a trainer who just isn't any good.

Now there is an even easier way to find a credible and certified personal trainer—and verify that what he or she says about their education and experience is actually true. This quick and simply tool is a must-use for anyone who works with a trainer or thinks they will someday in the future.
Posted 2/18/2011  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 18 comments   10,314 views
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Tricks to Stay on Track during the Holidays


Not so fast! Sure it's cold outside and the holiday hustle in full force, but that doesn't mean you should give up on eating healthy and exercising this month. The best defense against holiday excuses is a good offense: You need a plan in place to clear every hurdle that gets in your way this season.

Whether you're dealing with stress (too much to do, not enough time), travel, rich and tempting party foods, or a lack of motivation to exercise on these darker days, we've got you covered. Follow these tips to stick with your goals while still enjoying every moment of the season!
Posted 12/10/2010  2:00:00 PM By: Nicole Nichols : 12 comments   12,186 views
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Slim Down During the Holidays with These Smart Tips



As a fitness instructor, this is the time of year that I dread. Attendance drops dramatically in my classes, and I notice a lot more empty spots in the gym parking lot than ever before. I know people are busy, but I also think that people give up, planning to get back on track next year.

What's too bad is that sticking it out not only has a multitude of benefits for your fitness level, weight management goals, and stress reduction, but also prevents you from starting over later. And as we all know, getting back on track after being OFF track for so long is never easy.

So here are some tips for you to stay focused this time of year—and maybe even ring in the New Year a little lighter.
Posted 11/26/2010  10:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 51 comments   41,191 views
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Help for a Healthy Halloween


Halloween can be a healthy eater's nightmare! Candy everywhere you turn? Buckets of sweet treats at your disposal? That's enough to torture even the healthiest of eaters--and if you're trying to lose weight, Halloween is probably not your favorite holiday. Never fear! We've rounded up our best Halloween stories, recipes, and tips to help you scare away temptation and stick to your healthy eating plan.

No Tricks! Just Healthier Halloween Treats!

Our Best Halloween Party Recipes

11 Halloween Treats Under 100 Calories

Halloween Party Recipes for Kids

The 4 Most Fattening Fall Foods

Tricks for Healthier Halloween Treats

Time for Some Calorie-Free Halloween Fun!
Posted 10/28/2010  11:19:33 AM By: Stepfanie Romine : 8 comments   8,485 views
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Healthy Eating Tips for Singles: 5 Ideas to Help Your Waistline and Your Wallet


Editor's Note: Cooking for one can be tricky! It's even more challenging to eat healthy on a budget when the world (and the grocery store) seems to cater to couples and families instead of singles. So what's a healthy eater to do? Coach Nicole recently asked her good friend Lauren (that's her in the picture to the left), a single gal who loves to cook and eat healthy herself, to share some of her best tips for eating healthy when you live alone. Maybe the other singles out there can learn some good tips from this list!

By Lauren J. Finefrock

Cooking for one can be tremendous challenge that many feel isn't always worth the effort. You don't have anyone there to support you, except yourself, and no one to appreciate the fruits of your labors in the kitchen. So what's the point? Well, as with any challenge in life, if you break it down into pieces, you will find that what you thought was a mountain in front of you is in actuality just a small hill. I love to cook for myself, have friends over for dinner and try new recipes. But it can be challenging since I live alone and don't NEED a lot of food in the house. To prevent waste, save money, and stick to a healthy diet, here are the strategies that I've put into place.
Posted 10/13/2010  6:41:02 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 53 comments   20,050 views
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Study Reveals Tips to Make Your Healthy Habits Stick


There are no shortcuts to living a long and healthy life. By now, it's common knowledge that exercise, a healthy diet, and abstaining from tobacco are critical lifestyle choices that help people maintain a healthy weight and reduce their risk of countless diseases, including heart disease—the number one killer of men and women in the United States. Still, Americans are getting heavier—and unhealthier—despite a growing library of scientific evidence telling us what we should and shouldn't do in order to prevent these problems.

We know what to do. We know which foods are healthy and which ones aren't. We know that we should exercise more, combat stress, stop smoking and get more sleep (among other things). The problem lies in actually DOING it.

How do people change a lifetime of poor habits? How do you lose weight when a toxic food environment tempts you with unhealthy fare to eat at every turn? How do you stick with an exercise plan when it's uncomfortable—or just plain easier to relax on the couch after a stressful day at work? WHY aren't we doing what we know we should be doing?

To answer these questions, the American Heart Association (AHA) looked at 74 published studies on weight-loss, physical activity, and dietary interventions to find out which behavior-change strategies helped people reach their goals and stay heart-healthy. They weren't looking for what to eat or how to exercise; they searched for the specific habits, behaviors and strategies that helped people adopt these healthier habits and stick with them. Their findings, released online last week (view the statement in its entirety here), will also appear in the July 27 issue of Circulation.

They discovered that adopting a healthy lifestyle could boost Americans' average life expectancy by almost 7 years—and doing so is easier than you may think.
Posted 7/21/2010  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 96 comments   96,163 views
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Habits of Healthy Eaters: Organize the Fridge and Freezer


You've started cooking at home, and you stick to the perimeter of the store when grocery shopping. You even measure portions. So why are so many of us wasting healthy food and reaching for takeout menus?

Open your fridge and freezer, and the answer might be simpler than you think. If you're spending good money on healthy food, but your fridge and freezer are messy and disorganized, it's going to make healthy cooking more of a chore.

Posted 6/8/2010  10:01:00 AM By: Meg Galvin : 91 comments   21,448 views
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