Everyone has past goals that they did not accomplish. Stop beating yourself up about that five pounds you didn’t lose before vacation or the 10K race that you didn’t finish. Dwelling on those things only creates barriers between you and your fitness potential. Wipe the slate clean, and start from scratch with your goal planning. Assess where you are in your fitness journey and set your goals based on who you are today.
Focus On Motivating Activities
Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean you have to love every activity. If you struggle to find exercises that you enjoy, start evaluating what motivates you. What puts you in a good mood and increases your energy levels? Is it being surrounded by nature or an upbeat song? Maybe you are energized by being with others or feel renewed after spending time alone. All of these factors can help you determine the right exercise for you. Also remember that not all workouts have to take place in a gym. Hiking or trail running may be the perfect fit. Maybe hip-hop or ballroom dance classes would make you excited to get moving. Focus on what uplifts your spirits and motivates you, and then set your fitness goals around these activities.
Find a Balance and Push Yourself
The general guideline still stands that your goal should be achievable. When you set unrealistic goals like losing 10 pounds in a week or trying to run a 5K with no training, you only set yourself up to fail. At the same time, safely pushing yourself can force you to step out of your comfort zone and accomplish more than you thought possible.
Your goals should have balance. They need to be achievable, but just far enough out of your reach that they motivate you. Have you always wondered if you could run a half marathon? You can. People just like you do it every day. The key is to find the right training plan that will help you prepare based on your current fitness level. Want to squat huge weights like the bodybuilders that motivate you? Pick up a barbell you can handle now and work your way up. Everyone has to start somewhere and push themselves to reach challenging goals.
Pick One and Be Specific
Having too many lofty goals can complicate your efforts. You will struggle with which to focus on, and you may not achieve any of them. Pick the one thing you want to accomplish. It might be for this quarter or for this year. Avoid general goals like losing weight or healthier eating. What is the one goal that will truly influence your health? For example, cutting out soda will have several results. If you don’t replace those calories, you will lose weight. You will reduce your added sugar intake and reduce your intake of caffeine. This is an example of a specific goal that will result in the general positive changes you seek.
These hearty muffins are made with fiber-rich whole wheat flour and yellow corn meal. Mashed banana replaces high fat oils and keeps the muffins tender while adding extra sweetness. Fresh cranberries add a seasonal twist with tart flavor. These muffins make a healthy addition to a holiday brunch and are easy to take along for an afternoon snack.
Yield: 9 muffins
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 20 minutes
1/3 cup mashed banana (about ½ a large banana)
1 large egg
½ cup raw sugar
½ cup lowfat milk
¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp fine ground sea salt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground clove
½ tsp baking powder
1 cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup fresh cranberries, chopped
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Spray 9 muffin cups in a standard 12-muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, stir together the mashed banana and egg until blended. Stir in the sugar and the milk. Continue to stir for 30 to 60 seconds to help dissolve the raw sugar. Add the vanilla.
Stir in the salt, cinnamon, and clove. Next, add the baking powder.
In a small bowl, combine the whole wheat flour and cornmeal. Gradually add the flour and cornmeal mix to the wet ingredients as you stir slowly. Mix just until all ingredients are combined. Fold in the cranberries.
Transfer the batter to the muffin tin, filling each of the 9 cups with an equal amount. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Let cool for 2 to 3 minutes and serve.
Nutrition information for 1 muffin: Calories 82; Total Fat 0.9 g; Saturated Fat 0.2 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 21 mg; Sodium 105 mg; Carbohydrate 15.6 g; Fiber 2.3 g; Sugar 1.8 g; Protein 3.4 g
Design a strength training program that will improve your health and help you reach your fitness goals. The process isn't difficult, but there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure your workout is both safe and challenging.
Types of Programs
The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) identifies three basic designs of strength training programs: full body workouts, alternating upper and lower body workouts, and routines that split training by specific muscle groups.
When doing a full body workout, you will work the major muscle groups of both the upper and lower body in one session. This design works for beginner to advanced exercisers and is effective at improving your health and fitness. It serves as a convenient way to workout because you can do cardiovascular exercise one day and strength training the next.
Splitting upper and lower body workouts can serve two purposes: 1) The exerciser can develop the upper or lower body to benefit sports-specific needs, or 2) It can make workouts shorter. While you will need to train most days of the week to meet recommendations, you can make these sessions shorter by doing exercises for the lower body one day and for the upper body the next.
Separating workouts by muscle group is a practice most often used in bodybuilding. It allows you to give each muscle group more attention to develop strength and muscle mass.
The right exercise order is important to ensure that you don’t wear out the smaller muscle groups that assist larger muscle groups in movement. Begin your workout with exercises that target larger muscles and that involve multiple joints. For example, chest press, lat pull-down, and squats should be performed at the beginning of the workout. Then proceed with exercises that target the shoulders, hamstrings, quadriceps, biceps, triceps, and calves. According to general guidelines from the NSCA, when performing a full body workout, exercises that target the core can be worked in between sets during the rest period of other exercises.
Days, Sets and Repetitions
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that adults perform resistance training for all major muscle groups 2 to 3 days per week. Positive strength gains are seen with 2 to 4 sets of each exercise, but research shows that new exercisers can improve strength with as little as 1 set. For general fitness, aim to perform 8 to 12 repetitions for each set. If muscular endurance is a major goal, you can perform 15 to 25 repetitions, but the ACSM recommends limiting the number of sets to 2.
Progression and Strength Gains
As your muscles grow and you gain strength, you will find that lifting the same amount of weight you started with becomes easy. If you continue to lift this amount, your muscles will no longer be challenged. In order to continue gaining strength, you must progressively increase the resistance or weight. You will know you are at the correct weight for your fitness level when you feel muscle fatigue after lifting 8 to 12 repetitions of an exercise. This does not need to result in complete exhaustion. If you do feel complete muscle exhaustion, you may be lifting too much weight. If the exercise is so easy that you feel no fatigue, it’s time to increase the resistance.
While it may seem that every food you encounter this time of year is loaded with calories, fat, sodium, and sugar, there are plenty of holiday foods that are healthy. Eat these seasonal favorites to give your holiday eating plan a nutritional boost.
Since citrus can be found in the supermarket year round, it’s sometimes forgotten that it is truly a winter fruit. Oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits are most delicious during the holiday season. They contain flavonoids that may have the ability to stop the growth of cancer cells. Citrus is also rich in vitamin C, which improves the absorption of iron and acts as an antioxidant to prevent free radical damage to cells. Whether eaten whole or juiced, citrus is a healthy addition to holiday meals.
Cranberries are often served as a sweet sauce or dried with added sugar. But the natural, tart flavor of fresh cranberries can be enjoyed with little sweetener. Cranberries provide vitamin C and fiber, and they are full of disease-fighting antioxidants. Cranberries have been found to block bacteria that leads to urinary tract infections, and preliminary research shows they may also block bacteria that leads to stomach ulcers. Chop fresh cranberries and add them to salads or cook them with steel cut oatmeal. Whole cranberries can also be roasted in the oven and added to savory side dishes or blended into sauces.
While it’s still loaded with sugar, molasses has some qualities that make it stand out among other sweeteners. Blackstrap molasses contains iron as well calcium and potassium. When you need to add a touch of sweetness during cooking, try adding some blackstrap molasses and experiment with it as a sweetener for holiday baking.
Nuts provide a lean source of protein and heart-healthy fats. Research shows that eating nuts can reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol. Nuts offer a unique variety of nutrients, including vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber. Choose lightly salted or unsalted nuts to reduce sodium intake, and enjoy a few as a snack or added to a holiday side dish.
Pomegranates are available October to January, making the holidays the perfect time to find the whole fruit in the supermarket. Pomegranates contain vitamin K and potassium. They are also loaded with polyphenol antioxidants, including punicalagin which is unique to the fruit. These antioxidants have been found to protect cells from the free radical damage that may lead to some chronic diseases. The crunchy, edible seeds in the arils also supply fiber. Sprinkle them into salads or onto your morning oatmeal.
Potatoes have long been labeled as unhealthy because they are most often eaten as French fries. The truth is, potatoes are rich in potassium and provide vitamin C, fiber, vitamin B6, and iron. There are also many varieties available, which allows you to get creative when preparing healthy meals. Try roasting potatoes with herbs and olive oil, or make mashed purple potatoes for a flavorful side dish that is perfect for a holiday meal.
Sweet potatoes are a healthy holiday staple as long as you go easy on the sugar and butter when preparing them. They supply calcium, potassium and vitamins A and C. For a healthier side dish, try cubing and roasting sweet potatoes, or you can also bake them and then stuff the sweet potatoes with your favorite healthy ingredients.
Egg rolls always go over well as a party snack or an appetizer, but meat fillings and deep frying increases the calories and unhealthy fat. These egg rolls are filled with healthy root and cruciferous vegetables, and then baked until golden brown. Serve them with your favorite sauce for dipping, like plum sauce or sriracha.
Yield: 10 egg rolls
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 15 minutes
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp finely chopped onion
½ tsp minced fresh ginger
½ cup shredded carrot
½ cup shredded daikon radish
2 cups shredded green cabbage
½ tsp dark sesame oil
½ tsp low sodium soy sauce
10 egg roll wrappers
Heat a ½ tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the ginger and cook 1 more minute.
Add the carrot and daikon and cook for 1 minute. Next, mix in the cabbage and cook for 1 more minute. Remove from the heat, and stir in the sesame oil and soy sauce. Let the filling cool for 5 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray or cover the pan with a silicone baking mat. Fill a small dish with about ¼ cup of warm water.
To assemble the egg rolls, place a wrapper on a flat surface with one corner pointing towards you. Transfer a ¼ cup of the vegetable filling to the center of the wrapper. Use a pastry brush to brush warm water along the edge of the wrapper.
Fold the bottom corner up over the filling. Fold in the right and left sides, and roll up the egg roll like a burrito.
Assemble the remaining egg rolls. Place the egg rolls on the baking sheet. Brush the tops of the egg rolls with the remaining olive oil. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm.
Nutrition information for 1 egg roll: Calories 81; Total Fat 1.9 g; Saturated Fat 0.2 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 3 mg; Sodium 152 mg; Carbohydrate 13.9 g; Fiber 1 g; Sugar 1.3 g; Protein 2.8 g