With the holidays just around the corner, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. You’ve always liked to have choices, but at this time of year, sometimes the sheer number of choices isn’t helpful — what you crave is simplicity.
That’s why Oxygen is making it easy for you to get back to basics, to what ultimately is most important — your fitness and health. It doesn’t take complicated routines, endless hours in the gym or countless hours slaving at the stove. All you need is a quick and dirty primer on what’s necessary to stay sane — and healthy — during the holidays.
Three Heads Are Better Than One
According to the American Council on Exercise, a number of shoulder injuries occur because of the over use of just one shoulder exercise: the front raise, which trains only the front portion of the shoulder. (You also can overuse the front shoulder muscle by doing a lot of chest training and not focusing on the remainder of the shoulder girdle, the other two sections.) Fact is, you must train all three areas of the shoulder: front, side and (very important for those hunched over computers all day) rear delt. The ACE says most effective exercises include the dumbbell shoulder press (affects overall shoulder structure), incline row (stresses rear shoulders and upper-back muscles) and lateral raise (for side shoulders). (The National Institutes of Health estimates 1.2 million Americans visit U.S. emergency rooms annually for shoulder problems. Studies show 69 percent of the population will experience a shoulder injury at some point.)
In terms of rep speed, slower is better. Lifting too rapidly can lead to injury of the delicate shoulder-girdle structure. Consider one second in the concentric phase and one or two seconds on the negative or lowering phase. As a rule of thumb, the more time under resistance, the better your muscles will grow and gain strength.
17 Percent Better
Eat organic whenever possible. While a 2012 study found no nutritional difference between organic and conventionally grown foods, more recent research published in the British Journal of Nutrition turns the earlier finding on its head. Conducted by British scientists, the research found that organically grown crops averaged 17 percent more antioxidants than their relatives who’ve been grown with the aid of pesticides, fungicides and chemical soil amendments.
Bottom line? Antioxidants may help protect the body and mind from environmental assaults, especially as the weather gets colder.
No. 1 When Time Is Short
If you can’t spare the time for a complete workout, try this combination exercise called the squat-burpee. The movement will hit every major muscle group, get your blood flowing and race your heart. Do this and you won’t feel guilty about missing a gym session.
Here’s How To Do It
Stand with your feet spread hip-width apart. Raise your arms to chest level, palms facing downward. Next, bend your knees and squat downward until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Reverse the action until you are upright and your arms are extended at your sides. Next, squat again, but this time, bring your palms flat against the floor 1 to 2 feet ahead of your feet. Pop your legs rearward until you reach the plank (push-up) position. Do a push-up, and then quickly return to the squatting-palms-on-floor position and jump into the air, extending your arms overhead. Land softly on your toes, get into the starting squat position and repeat. Do six squat-burpees, rest 45 to 60 seconds and repeat four more times.
Seven To Nine Is The Magic Range
The National Sleep Foundation reports that 95 percent of the population uses some sort of electronic device — television, tablet, mobile phone, computer, video game, etc. — in the last hour before turning in for the night. As it turns out, the blue lightwaves emitted by most electronics disrupt your circadian rhythms, preventing the release of the brain’s sleep hormone melatonin.
Neurosurgeon Brett Osborn, M.D., CSCS, is a diplomate of the American Board of Neurological Surgery and American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. He says this about sleep: “The critical need for sleep in the context of health has until recently been unappreciated. Far lesser are the days without sleep you can survive than are the days without food and water.” Harvard Women’s Health Watch reports that chronic sleep loss weakens the immune system, can lead to high blood pressure and result in weight gain.
To feel fully rejuvenated, rested, alert and de-stressed, the NSF suggests adults get seven to nine hours of sleep per night, depending on individual circumstances. If you work out or if you’re highly stressed, for example, you might consider the higher number to fully recover and keep your daytime stress levels under control. As much as possible, avoid using electronics at least one hour before lights out.
Carbs Before 6 p.m.
Shy away from carbs? If you’re like many women, you tend to think of carbs as the enemy when in fact they are sustenance to your active lifestyle. Take in good carbs but at the right time. Try to eat whole-grain-based carbs at breakfast, snack time and lunch (along with protein!) and then forgo starchy carbs and pack down non-starchy carbs at the dinner meal.
Starchy carbs include corn, peas, potatoes and yams, as well as pasta, white rice and prepackaged baked goods, including breads. On the other hand, non-starchy carbs include all the lettuces, broccoli and broccolini, cucumber, entire mushroom family, spinach, peppers, tomatoes and onions.
Feeling pressured and anxious, nearly everything becomes a nuisance, you feel weepy for no specific reason, you’re jumping out of your skin — these and other symptoms of stress appear to be part of the holiday experience even more so than at other times of the year.
The simplest tool at your disposal — called paced deep breathing — can significantly combat the impact of seasonal stress. Writing in Yoga Therapy: Theory and Practice (Routledge, 2015), Patricia L. Gerbarg and Richard P. Brown observe that paced deep breathing (approximately six to eight breathes per minute) generates “calming, soothing messages of safety that dissolve anxiety and worry, reduce defensive behaviors and enable more loving, affiliative emotions to influence behavior.” Additionally, according to the Harvard Health newsletter, paced breathing also can “slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure.”
Simple steps, for big rewards: Do the following, starting with a five-minute effort, adding five minutes to the practice every several days, until you can do the breathing exercise for 15 minutes. One session per day will shortly help attenuate your symptoms — though research suggests a greater impact if you can do the exercise twice daily.
- Sit comfortably in a chair, feet flat on the floor, hands on your belly, eyes shut.
- Inhale deeply through you nostrils for six seconds, making sure that your belly rises.
- Exhale slowly for six seconds (through your open mouth or nostrils, whichever feels more natural).
- Become aware of the sensations in your body (heart rate, progressively more relaxed muscles, etc.)
30 For Fat Loss
Oxygen has already pointed out that an ideal breakfast for the active woman should contain at least 30 grams of protein. According to fairly recent research, however, each of your three main meals per day — don’t skip any — should contain at least 30 grams of protein, if you want to preserve your muscle while losing weight on a diet. Of course, you will certainly lose weight if you don’t eat that much protein, but you will lose both muscle tissue and fat. Also, protein helps your metabolism to keep humming along. Here are a few common sources of 30 grams of protein that may help you stay in the groove:
- 4 ounces lean ground beef
- 6 ounces tempeh
- 4 ounces skinless chicken breast
- 1 can water-packed tuna
- 5 large eggs
- 1 cup cottage cheese
- ¾ cup tofu
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