The 5 Rules of Flat Abs

Do you have trouble flattening your tummy no matter how much you try? Women’s Health gives 5 rules for flat abs. The basic re-cap is below. You can view the entire article here.

1. Attack your hidden core muscles- You should forget about the crunches because they only work your “superficial” ad muscles. Women’s Fitness says that, “Instead, you need to target the muscles that lie beneath the superficial ones: your transverse abdominis, multifidis, and internal obliques. Strengthening them pulls in your middle like a corset, keeping the area looking flat and toned.”

2. Move your butt-  Women’s Fitness explains that your butt and belly are actually connected in that sitting around all day “renders your glutes practically useless and causes your hip flexors—the muscles that connect your hipbones to your legs—to become stiff.” This couch-potato combo tilts causes your pelvis to tilt forward and “increased the arch in your back which puts stress on your spine. From a cosmetic standpoint, it pushes your abdomen out, making even a relatively flat stomach bulge.” So in order to get flat abs, you need to work your glutes.  3. Eat flat-belly foods- Protein & good fats will make your belly appear slim. You should eliminate added sugars, watch the salt, and even watch good stuff like broccoli and beans because they can cause belly bloat. 4. Stop stressing -  Often, anxiety produces extra cortisol, a hormone that encourages the body to store fat, and it goes straight to your belly.  5. Work your abs less often- Stop the daily ab workouts, it’s actually not helping. Women’s Fitness explains,“You’ll see benefits quicker if you give your muscles a day to fully recover between workouts.” Apparently, when you stress your muscles during a workout,  you are breaking down the tissues, and “they need rest days to rebuild and get stronger.”
Hate Crunches? Tone Your Abs Without Them!

Have I mentioned I hate crunches? I really, really do. Sometimes yoga teachers will try to make us do crunches at the end of a yoga session and I’ll just go into child’s pose and completely refuse to do it.

That’s why Fitsugar’s article on how to tone your abs without crunches caught my eye today. Most of the moves are pilates or yoga inspired and/or require an exercise ball or small weights. Still, anything’s better than boring old fashioned crunches and sit-ups!

FYI: The move pictured above is called, “Leaning Camel.” Check out the article for details!


Berrylicious Microwave Minute Muffin in a Mug

l was craving a muffin with my coffee this morning and this hit the spot. l love this recipe because you can just make one at a time, as desired. And of course, it’s healthy. Check out the video!

Shape Magazine's 8 Moves to Lose the Pooch

When working out the core, it seems that the upper portion of the abdominal muscles tighten up and become defined first, but getting to those pesky lower abs is another story all together. If you aren’t doing the right exercises, it may even seem impossible.

If you’re aiming to get rid of the lower ab “pooch” this year, try Shape Magazine’s 8 best moves for the lower abs!


Running Analysis of Heel Strike Vs. Forefoot Strike

Check out this before & after running instruction video posted and narrated by a sports medicine doctor in New Jersey. 

The same runner is filmed running incorrectly, inefficiently, and in an injury prone matter with a heel strike. Then after instruction, the video shows her running correctly, efficiently, with a forefront strike. 

Take a look and ask yourself if your technique could use some improvement!

Amazing Butternut Squash Recipe

I made this butternut squash recipe 4 times over the holiday season, and it’s been a hit every single time. You can make it a little more or a little less healthy depending on how much olive oil you add just before putting it into the oven. 

You will need: 2-2.5 lbs of butternut squash, 5 garlic cloves minced, ½ cup chopped parsley, salt and pepper, 3 tablespoons of flour, extra virgin olive oil, a shallow baking dish

Preparation Instructions:

-Preheat oven to 325 degrees

-Lightly oil a shallow glass or earthenware casserole dish 

-Peel the squash and cut it into 1 inch cubes

-Toss the squash cubes in a bowl with the garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper

-Add the flour and toss again until all pieces are lightly coated

-Pile the squash into the dish and drizzle extra virgin olive oil generously over the top (or lightly if you prefer)

-Bake, uncovered, until squash is brown and tender when pierced with a knife. This should take around 2 hours in the oven.

Cancel Out Your Holiday Binge With a Healthy Recipe Tonight

Maybe you were successful in staying healthy over the holidays. Maybe you indulged in sweets and heavy foods, but were able to do so in moderation. Maybe you said “to hell with it all” and binged on cookies and cakes for the last couple of days. Maybe you put your workout routine on hold while traveling and visiting or hosting family members.

Personally, I brought healthy food to our holiday dinner - a fantastic butternut squash recipe - but everyone else brought heavy foods like baked ziti, meatballs, and other carb & red meat heavy dishes. And let’s just say I didn’t exactly avoid them! And between the traveling, last minute shopping, and time with family, I don’t think I’ve worked out in over a week. 

No matter what your holiday experience was like, most likely your health and fitness routine was disrupted in some way. Breaking routine isn’t a bad thing! But it's important for your body, mind, and overall well-being to get back on track as soon as you can. 

So tonight I’m making this vegetarian dish from Real Simple - zucchini with quinoa stuffing. It looks simple and light, and I have only recently discovered how incredible quinoa is, so I’m psyched to practice more quinoa recipes. 

What will you make tonight to bounce back from the holidays? 

10 Challenging Yoga Poses to Master This Year

Once you get into a groove with practicing yoga, it’s important to push yourself to the next level by focusing on proper form, especially with some of the more challenging poses. 

Unless you attend a very private studio with small classes or take private sessions, chances are you’re not getting the individual attention you need to help you make adjustments and improve your practice.

Fitbie walks you through what you need to know to master some of the 10 most challenging poses including chaturanga pose, crow pose, split pose (ouch!), dolphin pose, boat pose, locust pose, headstand pose, half moon pose, twisted half moon pose, and flying pigeon pose.  

Find a Fitness App That Works For You

(Screen shot of Nike Training Club app)

There are so many fitness apps out there designed to help you workout, keep track of your workouts and/or analyze your diet. 

Check out the Huffington Post’s article on the best fitness apps of 2012 which includes a description and screen shot of each one. The list mentions apps like Cardiio, Pocket Yoga, RunKeeper, Couch to 5k, Nike Training Club, Fit ID, Fitogo, Gym Ball Workouts, Simply Being Guided Meditation, Remix Workouts, Fleetly, and Sportaneous. 

Some that weren’t included that are worth checking out include MyFitnessPal and MapMyRun.  

Consider incorporating one of these apps into your fitness plan - it’s a fun way to use technology to get fit!

The Bikram Yoga Experience

Looking for a way to jump start your health and fitness plan? Try Bikram yoga. Rooted in Hatha style yoga, the Bikram style, also referred to as “hot yoga,” is a series of 26 yoga postures practiced in a 105 degree studio for 90 minutes a session.

Each pose is held twice for a very specific amount of time and is practiced in the same exact order every session. The Bikram routine never changes and is quite rigid, which is one of the reasons why it’s the subject of criticism from some traditional yogis, but its simplicity is exactly what makes it great for beginners. Newbies get to practice those same 26 poses over and over again each time which helps them get comfortable with the yoga and build confidence in their abilities. Plus, just about all of the poses have beginner, intermediate, and advanced modifications.

A few years back I decided to give Bikram yoga a shot – it seemed like a crazy challenge and the studio in my neighborhood, like most Bikram studios, offered a deal for beginners where you could attend unlimited classes for a week for only 20 dollars.

During the first session I was positive I was going to die. I was dizzy. I had to sit down several times. I kept thinking I couldn’t breathe even though I could. I was assured this was normal for first timers. The goal for beginners, the instructors said, was to simply stay in the room no matter what. So I did it. I stayed in the room, but I suffered. I went home with a headache and slept for a long time. But 2 days later, I went back and tried it again.

This time I hydrated myself properly (nearly 2 liters of water a day) in the days leading up to the session and I felt much stronger; I didn’t have to sit down once during the session. I was amazed at what a different experience I had when I was properly hydrated. Plus, there’s this sort of Bikram “high,” just like a runner’s high, you feel after a session.

 After my intro week, I was addicted.  I decided to embark on a 30-Day Challenge, and that was when I felt and saw serious changes in my body. Most studios offer a 30-Day challenge. You pay a fee up front and the idea is that you are supposed to do Bikram for 30 consecutive days. If you successfully complete the challenge, you get some kind of a prize. At my studio you earned your next month free. Unfortunately, Bikram is quite expensive at around $170 per month, so of course I was determined to win 30 days free.

I quickly discovered that like hydrating properly, eating cleanly and healthfully made all the difference during my session. I remember about 4 days in I had a bacon cheeseburger and fries and soda for lunch and I suffered through the class. I was dizzy, couldn’t keep my balance, and felt weak and discouraged. But on days when I ate right in addition to hydrating, I felt strong and capable. Yes, it is always challenging and yes you will always sweat, but there are times when it’s a good challenge and you feel strong and confident throughout the class, and I have found that it’s a direct result of how you treated your body that day and the previous day. We all know we need sufficient sleep; we need to drink water and avoid caffeine, and need to eat well. But how many of us actually do it? Because I knew I would be feeling the direct results of what I ate and drank that night in class, it forced me to think twice and make the right choices. I couldn’t avoid class because I had to win my challenge and get my free month! So if I had to go to class, I needed to make it as enjoyable of a time as possible, which required me to take good care of myself in terms of diet, sleep, and water.

In the end, I survived all 30 days and won the next month free. I watched my body contort in ways I never though possible. By day 14 I was doing poses I couldn’t do on day 1 and wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to do. My mind felt clear, my high stress level felt calmed down, my face, chest shoulders and tummy slimmed and my arms, legs and butt became more toned. I’ve always been an athlete, but I’ve never watched my body change in that way right before my eyes, day after day. Simply put: Bikram works.

So why’d I stop? A few reasons: 1) as I mentioned, it is rather expensive, 2) I relocated to a new city and just haven’t found a studio I like yet, and 3) those same 26 postures, while nice in the beginning, can get boring after a while.

Well, there you have it. Bikram, while somewhat controversial in the yoga world, worked wonders for me. The cost is a bit high and the routine can become a bit mundane after a while, but if you’re looking for a new challenge and need to kick start a fitness program, give it a shot and decide for yourself.

Citrus Crusted Chicken With Israeli Couscous

So The Everygirl did a piece on cooking with blood oranges including several fantastic recipes! For me, this chicken and couscous reciper takes the cake. You can skip the breadcrumbs to make the chicken a bit healthier if you’d like.

If you like this recipe, check out more blood orange recipes from The Everygirl here. 

Chicken Ingredients:
4 thin chicken cutlets (2 breasts sliced in half and pounded)
1 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
1 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon blood orange zest
2 tablespoons blood orange juice
olive oil

Place flour in one bowl/dish, the beaten egg and blood orange juice in another bowl/dish, and the breadcrumbs and various citrus zests in a third bowl. Dredge the chicken first in the flour, then egg, and finally the breadcrumb mixture, coating fully. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Once oil is heated cook chicken in oil for 4-5 minutes per side until crisp and golden brown. Remove and place over paper towel to remove excess oil.

Israeli Couscous Ingredients:
1 ½ cups Israeli couscous
¾ cup water
1 cup vegetable stock
2 teaspoons apple red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon mint, chopped
1 teaspoon blood orange zest
2 tablespoons blood orange juice
2 tablespoon olive oil
10-15 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/3 cup crumbled feta

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in medium size saucepan. Add couscous and let it toast (2 minutes) stirring occasionally. Add vegetable stock and water and let the mixture come to a boil. Once boiling, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients (red wine vinegar, remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, mint, orange zest, orange juice, tomatoes, and feta. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

What Are Superfoods, Anyway?

You’ve heard the term superfood, but what exactly IS a superfood? 

Dr. Steven Pratt coined the term in his 2004 book, SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life. 

According to Pratt, a superfood has to meet three criteria:

1)It must be readily available to the public

2)It has to contain nutrients that are known to enhance longevity

3)Its health benefits have to be backed by peer-reviewed, scientific studies

Some designated superfoods include: salmon, broccoli, spinach, apples, pomegranate, dark chocolate, pumpkin, soy, walnuts, turkey, tomatoes, oats, onions, low fat yogurt, kiwi, honey, garlic, extra virgin olive oil. Visit Pratt’s site to learn more about superfoods and their impact on you health, well-being, and weight loss. 

Rather than going on a restrictive diet that can make you feel deprived, consider adding in as many superfoods as you can into your daily food intake so as to crowd out the other unhealthy options. 


Cross Train With CrossFit

CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning program where participants perform "functional movements that are constantly varied at high intensity.“ Check out this video to see a women’s CrossFit class in action and get an idea of what it’s all about. Interested? Click here to locate a CrossFit gym near you.

Watch on blog.jumpfwd.com

Victoria’s Secret Models Full Body Workout

Ever find yourself leafing through the latest Victoria’s Secret catalogue and wonder what kind of workouts these women do? Give this 10-minute workout routine a shot and see what you think. It was developed by Heidi Klum’s workout trainer, Andrea Orbeck. 

Sore From Your Exercise Routine? Here's How To Keep Going

With the recent New Year and the resolutions that go along with it, you’ve probably noticed your gym, your yoga studio, or wherever it is you work out has gotten pretty…. crowded.

Many of us have started working out again after a long hiatus over the holidays, and others of us have decided to step up our workout routines to break through plateaus and take our fitness to the next level, some of us may have decided to start working out for the first time in a very long time, maybe for the first time ever. No matter what your fitness level is, one thing we’re all doing right now is challenging ourselves.

But, therein lay the problem. Yes, challenging ourselves is necessary, but when we’re sore, it makes it difficult to continue with our workout routine which can cause us to take days off, lose momentum, and derail our plans.

This is where Shape Magazine’s “Ultimate Recovery Plan” comes in. In order to recover from your workouts and minimize soreness, you’ll need the following:

1. A foam roller

2. A mat

3. A towel

Click here to view the recovery plan moves which include the slow cyclone, back extension chest opener, extended triangle twist, foam roller marches, bridge and release, kneeling hip and quad stretch, rolling cobra contraction, supine stretch and crunch.

How to Find the Right Running Shoe

How do you find the right running shoe? To many who are just getting starting as runners, the show may not seem to matter. But having the right shoe for your stride, type of foot, and type of running you’ll be doing can make you run more comfortably, efficiently and properly, help prevent injury, and even help you shave some seconds off your time in a race. 

Enter Runner’s World’s Shoe Advisor. The Shoe Advisor asks you questions about your height, weight, injury history, running experience, running frequency and distance, type of running, and perhaps most importantly: what is your arch like, how does your foot strike the ground, and what are your motion mechanics - as in are you an underpronator, overpronator, or normal? 

Click here to to take the quiz and get running show suggestions that are right for you!