Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Make Shape-Up Simple: 3 Invigorating Exercises

It's late April, months since you dedicated yourself to those New Year's resolutions, one of which was to get off the couch and get into the best shape of your life. So, how are you doing four months into 2013? Chances are you're like too many other resolvers who gave it their "best" shot for a few weeks in January, then hit a stumbling block and decided 2014 sounded like a better starting point.
Don't waste a whole year when a new body, a new attitude – a new you – is closer than you think. Get ready for summer fun and beyond with these three invigorating exercises you can do today (at least three times a week is even better!):
1. Burpees: Technically this exercise is called the squat thrust, but you'll remember it by it's common name – and by the fact that it's not just for the lower body; you'll get great full-body results from performing this four-part exercise. From a standing position, drop quickly into a squat position, hands on the ground. Then extend your feet back in one motion (essentially a push-up or plank position). You can do a push-up here first; otherwise, return to the squat position in one quick motion, then it's back to the standing position. To challenge yourself, you can also jump as high as possible, arms outstretched, at the end of each burpee (when returning to the standing position). Try to do as many as you can, building to sets of 15-20 with minimal rest in between sets.
exercise 2. Sprinting in Place: This is a basic exercise that yields big benefits, and you can do it just about anywhere. With arms and knees slightly bent, back neutral (don't round your low back or shoulders), run in place as fast as you can for 20 seconds. Stop for 10 seconds max., then repeat. Make sure you're keeping your knees bent and are using your arms during the movement. You're working not only your calves, hamstrings and glutes, but also your triceps and biceps. Feeling brave? Then alternate 20-second sprints with 20 seconds of jump rope or push-ups (see below) to get a true full-body workout.
3. Push-Up Variations: Everyone knows how to do a push-up, right? Well, try one of these fun, challenging variations: 1) Every time you lower your chest toward the floor, bend one knee up toward that side of your body. Alternate knees / sides every push-up (do each repetition slowly at first until you get the hang of it.) Maintain form throughout, making sure not to bend your back or put too much weight on your shoulders. You'll get a chest / upper-body workout and a core-tightening, ab-crunching, glute-toning workout at the same time. 2) Set the timer on your smartphone or watch for 3 minutes. Your goal is to do as many push-ups as possible before the clock runs out. You choose the strategy, including how many to do for your first set, how long a break to take between sets, etc. But watch out: You'll find yourself fatiguing quickly after that first set!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

5 Ways to Survive the Worst Allergy Season Ever

Spring is in the air – literally, in the form of massive pollen levels that are causing an historic spike in cases of seasonal allergy, also known as allergic rhinitis. In fact, health experts are calling this the worst allergy season on record, which means the tactics you overlooked last year to survive the sneezing, coughing, runny nose, itchy eyes and various other symptoms may require real attention this time around. Bad news for spring-lovers who can't wait to emerge from their winter cocoons and enjoy the outdoors. After all, who wants to smell the flowers when doing so causes you to feel miserable?
If you're an allergy sufferer who's used to "getting away" with minimal attention to allergy avoidance, this is definitely not the year to push the envelope. With an early spring and record pollen levels, you could be asking for trouble – big trouble. Here are five ways to minimize your risk of succumbing to seasonal allergies this year:
1. Pick your spots: One of the best ways to minimize your exposure to allergens such as pollen is to make smart choices. For example, pollen levels tend to be highest in the morning or when it hasn't rained in awhile. And let's not get started on wind, which can not only circulate pollen, but also tends to cause allergy-like symptoms – a bad combination that can ruin your day.
allergy season 2. Keep it out: Unless you've got a garden in your living room, the good news about pollen is that it's outside, which means you can take a few simple steps to keep it there. For starters, keep windows closed whenever possible (especially if it's windy). If you've been out, change your clothes once you get in the house, and try not to repeat-wear clothing. If it's been a particularly bad day in terms of pollen and/or you've spent most or all of the day outdoors, you may want to throw your clothes directly into the washer. And speaking of that garden in your living room, avoid bringing flowers into the house – unless putting a romantic gesture on display is worth the allergy symptoms that may accompany it.
3. Seek shade: The eyes are often the hardest hit by allergy symptoms. No one wants to spend their day rubbing watery, itchy, dry, red eyes, and trust us, it doesn't look good when you're making that big presentation in the boardroom. Two tips: 1) Wear sunglasses whenever you're outside during allergy season. (This is also a good idea because with spring comes sunnier skies, putting your eyes at risk for sun damage if they aren't protected.) 2) Carry saline drops to keep your eyes moist throughout the day, which will help when pollen, dust, etc., inevitably attack your field of vision.
4. Clean up: It's amazing how many health issues can be minimized with the simple act of washing your hands, and when it comes to seasonal allergies, it's a great recommendation. During allergy season, it becomes even more important because pollen and other irritants transfer easily from your hands to your face / mouth if you're not careful (much like germs that cause the common cold).
5. Eat smart: Research suggests vitamin C, which is found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, in addition to being available in supplement form, provides an antihistamine benefit that may help minimize allergy symptoms. (Histamine is released from cells as part of an allergic reaction.) Probiotics or "healthy bacteria," found in yogurt and increasingly added to a number of food products, also may reduce allergic symptoms caused by exposure to pollen. And don't forget that in general, a balanced diet high in antioxidants and other immune-boosting compounds helps your body defend whenever it's attacked – even by allergens.