by Sandra Koury | Jan 1, 2020 | All, Exercises, Fitness, Fun, Home, Wellness, Workouts
This year, your fitness plan needs one of these Bucket List items! It’s easier to achieve a goal when it’s specific. So, pick out an item that aligns with your overall health goals, and work towards it!
You may need to already be in a certain state of fitness for some of these. We don’t expect a beginner to sign up for their first marathon today, but we’re challenging you to work your way up to accomplishing something new!
1. Learn a New Swim Stroke
If all you’ve got is the dogpaddle, it’s time. Ask the advice of an experienced swimmer and maybe don’t go alone if you’re new to swimming. If you’re comfortable in the water, you can read a guide like this one to apply techniques to accomplish strokes like the freestyle, butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and sidestroke.
2. Try Open-Water Swimming
Face your fear of sharks and try a long-distance swim! Again, not to be attempted alone! Search for training and open-water race opportunities near you, and dive into the exhilarating experience of open-water swimming. You can also train in the pool at your local LA Fitness like Triathlete Champion, Dave Ruby. What you’re looking for is a way to condition your muscles for the type of work a long-distance swim requires!
3. Do a Wall-Free Handstand
To hold a handstand, you need strong shoulders, arms, and wrists to hold you up, and a strong core to keep you balanced. Taking this challenge means you’ll need to do some strengthening work. Are you up for it?
If you’re already handstanding your way through life, we challenge you to try a new kind of handstand! One-handed, maybe? Try learning to walk on your hands or holding it for one minute. Can you do a handstand pushup? There are limitless ways to push the boundaries of what you can do!
4. Complete at Least 5 Unassisted Pullups
You may have seen or used the assisted pullup machine at the gym. It’s a great way to slowly increase the amount of weight you can pull until you are able to lift your full body weight into the pullup. If you’re completely new, aim for 5 pullups to start. If you’re seasoned, your next step might be a one-arm pullup, or maybe a muscle up!
5. Complete at Least 5 Pushups
Easy pushups usually start with your knees on the ground to help support your weight. Just because it’s the “easy” version doesn’t mean your muscles aren’t working hard. New movement will always challenge your muscles. Try to get to 5 if you’re brand new, but don’t stop there! Shoot for 10 and then 15.
If you’re already a master at pushups, add a new one to your repertoire. Unlock some new skills like a clap pushup, diamond pushup, try one with a hand behind your back, or go for a superman pushup!
You’ll need a lot of body strength to successfully hold a planche. Those who can accomplish this move have stable wrists, strong arms and shoulders, a strong back and core, and perhaps even an understanding of physics. It is typically done on the ground or with paralletes, and you’ll need to be fairly strong to begin with. That doesn’t mean that you can’t learn some progressions to get to a fully extended straight-arm planche.
7. Master a Difficult Yoga Pose
Yoga isn’t just about achieving a calm, meditative state. You can build some serious muscle through many of the more challenging poses. If you’ve never taken a yoga class, give yourself an opportunity to learn more or find a class near you to try it out. You may find that you enjoy it more than you anticipated.
If you’re not just looking to build strength and stability, performing yoga for the enjoyment of some tranquility is another great reason to add even just a few minutes of it to your day.
With so many themed 5k’s and 10k’s, running has never been more enjoyable. Many courses have a special theme, a unique reward at the finish line, surprises at each checkpoint, and sometimes even zombies to keep you running. Not to mention these events often support a charitable cause.
If the distance looks daunting, keep in mind that there’s no pressure to run. You can go your own pace and all the festivities are a great distraction. In many cases, you’ll go home with a medal no matter when you cross the finish line. So, add this one to your list this year and let us know how it went!
9. Train for or Compete in a Marathon or Triathlon
If you’re looking for a more intense test of your abilities, it may be time to train for or compete in your first marathon or triathlon. Real feats of endurance, physical fitness, and mental strength, these competitions are terrific goals to work towards. The only way you’ll survive is if you train smart and feed your body what it needs. Not only are you accomplishing something big, you’re practicing self-discipline and restraint to reach this bucket list item.
10. Learn to Ride a Tandem Bicycle
Bouncing back to a more easily achievable item, this one takes you back to your childhood. Didn’t think you’d need to learn to ride a bike again, did you? A tandem bike can be a lot of fun once you’ve figured out how to get it going. You’ll need some good teamwork skills and perhaps a bit of determination to power through your first tandem bike ride!
11. Compete in a Bike Race
Cyclists, it’s time to take it to the next level! Train in the gym or take it outside but a bike race needs to be on your bucket list. Not only is it great for building your endurance and for improving your cardiovascular health, your cycling route can show you miles of breathtaking natural scenery. You can do it for fun or do it to win, but make sure this experience is not missed!
12. Try a Bike Friendly Mountain Trail
Make sure you have the right gear for this one. A mountain trail can be thrilling or leisurely depending on where you go and which trail you choose. Start out with something simple, as you would with anything new, and work your way up to more advanced trails. Take-in a stunning sunrise, bask in the stretches of land you can only see from a mountaintop, and maybe even stop to watch the wildlife.
13. Hike a 5-Mile Trail or Longer
A good long hike can take several hours to several days, but above all else, go prepared! Being well-supplied isn’t only safer, it puts your mind at ease. You’ll find you’re able to simply be in the moment instead of feeling antsy to return to civilization because you’re hungry or your socks got wet and you didn’t bring a spare. Also, the satisfaction of looking out over some beautiful vista, with nothing but the power of your body to get you there, is really, really, good.
14. Learn to Ski or Snowboard
Snow sports are a whole new world if you’re not accustomed to those frozen flakes descending from the clouds. Simply walking in your gear can be a workout.
Despite the huffing and puffing just to get to the lifts, both of these winter sports are exhilarating once you get the hang of them! A tip for beginners: take a cabin for a few days to adjust to the altitude, and spend some time taking classes! Practice your skills and stick to the bunny slope until you’re more comfortable moving to the next level.
If you’re already comfortable with one or both of these, your challenge is to learn a trick! Ski tricks and snowboard tricks add a new level of excitement and accomplishment when you go out to hit the slopes, not to mention you’ll get a lot of awed attention.
Rock climbing is a great way to build your upper body and increase your grip strength. Aside from the physical benefits, there’s a lot of adrenaline to be enjoyed from this activity. It is not for the feint hearted. Of course, you can start with the much safer option of indoor rock climbing where you’re strapped-in to a harness and spotted from below. As you get stronger and more confident in your climbing you can progress to bouldering, which is essentially climbing without a harness but to limited heights.
16. Join the 1,000-Pound Club
No, you don’t get to just sign up for this club, you earn your way in. The 1,000-pound club refers to your power lifting total. The sum of the weight you can move by Deadlift, Weighted Squat, and Bench Press must make up 1,000-pounds. Depending on your body weight, and other factors, this can be a little easier or more difficult to achieve. The idea is to challenge yourself to increase what you are capable of because the human body is incredible and can do a lot more than we think.
Either you’ve never considered it because it sounds boring or uncool, or you’ve been meaning to do it for a long time. Dancing is not just a great form of fitness it has actually been shown to benefit your mental acuity and memory. Browse through our selection of classes and find something that sparks your interest! You’ll torch calories and it’ll feel more like fun than it will like a workout.
18. Compete in a Team Competition
Basketball, Raquetball, Volleyball, Football, and more. Start your own team with your friends or join one of our club leagues. Getting involved in some healthy competition is really good for your motivation and your athleticism. That’s partly because being on a team drives you to push harder than you normally would if you were working out alone. Join a team and see how it fuels your fitness goals!
19. Improve Your Flexibility
Being flexible is great for your overall health and fitness. You don’t have to be able to bend over backwards but improving your flexibility protects you from injury and can help you perform other exercises more easily and effectively. Take skiing, for example. More flexibility helps you bend into your knees and hips a little deeper and change direction more easily. Or consider swimming. Better flexibility will improve your shoulder extension and rotation. Many athletes now take up yoga for precisely this reason.
20. Give Personal Training a Try
You may not know exactly what your body can do until you’ve tested it in the right ways. If you aren’t sure where to begin, or if you love the sound of these bucket list items but don’t feel ready to tackle them, a personal trainer can help you. You’ll learn new exercises to add to your arsenal and reap the benefits of one-on-one attention and guidance.
Don’t stumble through your fitness plans with trial and error, zero in on your goals with the help of a professional who knows how to get you where you need to go. Book a complimentary fitness assessment and get matched with one of our ProResults® Personal Trainers!
Which of these challenges are you planning to take on this year? Share your goals in the comments below! Then, stay in-the-loop and subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog!
by Sandra Koury | Dec 13, 2019 | All, Fun, Home, Nutrition
Nice Cream has gained popularity in the health food world over the last few years, and for good reason! As a dairy free, added-sugar free, vegan, and all-natural alternative to ice cream, it’s easy to see why.
Yes, we know it’s December, but is there ever a wrong time to enjoy nice cream? Besides, there are plenty of holiday foods this time of year that are anything but nice to your healthy eating efforts. It’s not a bad idea to have some healthy sweets in your freezer for the days when baked goods and buttery bread rolls are challenging you to a face-off.
So, what’s in this magical frozen delight? The answer is fruit! Plain, frozen fruit; typically, with banana as the base ingredient for that craveable creaminess.
How to Make Your Own Nice Cream
The one thing better than the taste of fresh fruit in nice cream, is how easy it is to craft your own. There are almost no limitations to what you can create when all you have to do is freeze some fruit and blend it together! Any flavor combination in the world is open to you.
- Cut up some fresh fruit of your choice into pieces that will easily fit into a standard blender or food processor. We recommend freezing over-ripe bananas whenever possible because adding them is what gets you closer to the creamy texture of real ice cream, but you can leave them out if you prefer.
- Pop your fruit pieces into the freezer and wait impatiently for them to freeze. Alternatively, freeze them in advance so they’re ready to go whenever the craving hits.
- Toss your frozen fruits into a blender or food processor and hit the magic button. If you like, you can add some sugar-free non-dairy milk for an even smoother texture and an easier blending process.
- Scoop your masterpiece into a bowl and top it off with nuts, granola, coconut, dark chocolate crumbles, fresh fruit pieces, or even a drizzle of honey. Don’t forget to freeze the rest (if there’s any left to freeze).
The process itself is really that simple. Now, depending on how creative you want to get, your flavor profiles can add some extra time and effort.
Here are some fun (and in-season) flavor combinations for you to try with your Nice Cream:
Bananas, pumpkin puree, and some pumpkin spice give you this guilt-free treat. Feel free to add ingredients like Medjool dates for sweetness, and vanilla extract, cinnamon, or nutmeg to add some winter-time flare. Toppings like sunflower seeds or crushed almonds will also go nicely with these warm and spicy flavors.
Clementines, Mandarins, and Tangerines are in season during the winter months. You may have heard them called by all these names but Clementines and Tangerines are really just classifications of Mandarin oranges. Match the tart orange flavors with some sweet pineapple or even strawberries, blueberries, and bananas to create a party of fruity flavors.
This is a frosty take on the festive classic: apple pie. You may need some non-dairy milk to help the ingredients blend smoothly for this one. Feel free to experiment with the flavors of Flax milk, soymilk, walnut milk, almond milk, and others. All you need to add is banana, apple, cinnamon, and perhaps some vanilla extract to close in on that apple pie flavor. You can also substitute the apples for blueberries or cherries to achieve a different fruit pie profile.
If we’re going for an apple pie flavor, we can’t leave out pecan pie! You’ll follow the same procedure of blending pecans into your frozen bananas, and you can add some dates to mimic the sweetness of caramelization. If you don’t want crunchy bits of pecan, blend them into a “butter” first, the same way you’d blend peanuts to make peanut butter. This will help them blend more smoothly with the rest of your nice cream.
Cranberries are also very much in season and they can add a lip-smacking tart to your nice cream. Because of their tartness, it would be a good idea to add some sugar substitute to help sweeten this mix. Other fruits that pair well with cranberry include oranges, apples, peaches, and even pears. Again, blend your walnuts into a paste before adding them into your mixture. You can also add cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves to give it the zing of seasonal spices.
by Sandra Koury | Nov 29, 2019 | All, Fun, Home, Top Tips
Mason Jars became popular in 1858 when John Landis Mason invented an alternative for food preservation that was easier and more effective than the current methods.1
Before these versatile glass containers became used for everything from food storage to decorative flower vases, they were the hottest new design that simplified your kitchen creations.
The biggest innovations were the airtight lid that kept air, bacteria, and bugs out of your food, and the clear glass that allowed you to view the contents without having to break the seal.1
Today, these jars have more uses than we can count. In observation of National Mason Jar Day, we’re giving you a list of 10 ideas to put your mason jars to good use.
A simple string of lights can be bundled and placed inside a mason jar for a DIY nightlight. The result of this easy project is a warm household addition that is reminiscent of catching fireflies in a jar.
Don’t be fooled by the utility of a nightlight either! They can be great tools for better sleep because they disrupt your circadian rhythm less than a light of regular brightness.
Use these jars without the lid to craft some rustic candle holders. All you need are a few tealight candles to take these jars from ordinary to beautifully functional.
Use them for a romantic evening in, as evening party decorations, or as accents on your holiday table setting.
When building a salad in a jar, the results can be colorful and appetizing, but does it work? Our guess is that it can be helpful to have a glass jar, especially if you like to use acidic salad dressings. The glass won’t absorb and pass along the flavors to your next meal and the airtight seal can help keep your veggies fresh.
When putting together your ingredients, you’ll want to pour the dressing first and add your heaviest ingredients next. Beans, corn, and other non-absorbent ingredients help separate your dressing from lighter ingredients that can wilt. When it’s time to enjoy your creation, shaking the contents out into a bowl helps distribute the dressing across the contents.
Water is necessary for our bodies and for some reason we can be very good at depriving ourselves of it. Fortunately, someone decided it would be a good idea to infuse water with the fresh, crisp flavors of different fruits and herbs.
Now that we’ve been enlightened, we can enjoy the refreshing relief of a cool drink of water in dozens of flavorful ways. Mason jars are, again, a great way to infuse your water because they are compact and can also serve as your drinking glass.
Iced tea is made even simpler by using a mason jar because it can be prepared overnight. You can steep a tea bag in cold water, refrigerate it the night before, and it’ll be ready for your grab-and-go morning.
Cold brew coffee concentrate can be diluted with water and then mixed with cream, sugar, and any spices you like to customize your drink. This one may not taste the same if prepared the night before but using a glass mason jar is a fun way to show off your expert coffee making skills.
While we’re on the subject of overnight prep, overnight oats are another great option. Not only do they have a lot of great health benefits, you can take their flavor in so many different directions. You can also layer some fruit, yogurt, and granola for another tasty morning meal.
Preserves and Pickled Foods
We can’t talk about mason jars and ignore what they were initially invented for. Take “homemade” to the next level and try making your own pickled fruits and vegetables, and toast-worthy jams.
If you “quick pickle,” you’re essentially soaking your chosen fruits or veggies in a mixture of vinegar, water, and salt. This method requires you to refrigerate the jars. To properly pickle, the process is more labor intensive and requires a lot of boiling, transferring, and testing. This step-by-step instruction by Epicurious can help you pickle pickles that can be stored up to 1 year without refrigeration.
Dry or Fresh Herbs and Spices
Dry herbs are great to buy in bulk because they will keep for a long, long time. Store them in small to medium sized mason jars to easily see what you have on hand and for simplified stacking in your pantry or cupboard.
You can also use the jars as mini planters where you can keep fresh herbs to grow in your kitchen. Be careful not to over water them because, as you know, mason jars don’t have holes for water drainage. You don’t want to risk root rot and you probably don’t want to try creating your own holes in the jar.
Nuts, Seeds, Rice, and Beans
Preserve the crunch of nuts and seeds and the freshness of rice and beans by storing them in a mason jar. These can also be purchased in bulk, and if you’re trying to minimize your impact on the environment, you may already have reusable grocery bags. Make sure your grocery bags are available for your next shopping trip by storing your previous purchases in mason jars!
Do you have a recipe everyone loves, and you’d like to gift the tasty treat without giving away your secret recipe? Assemble a festive mason jar complete with all the ingredients for your famous hot cocoa, brownies, cookies, or other baked good.
This works best when you have dry ingredients because you won’t need to refrigerate your gift. Making these yourself, as opposed to buying the store-bought versions, is also great because you can substitute high calorie ingredients and sugar for other components. You can still gift the flavors of the season but without compromising your own or the health-conscious lifestyle of your recipient.
For more snack time ideas for your mason jar, check out our dietitian’s suggestions to this reader’s question about energy-boosting snacks. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today!
- Goldfarb, Anna. “A Short History of the Mason Jar.” Kitchn, Apartment Therapy, LLC., 1 May 2019, www.thekitchn.com/a-short-history-of-the-mason-jar-234146.
by Sandra Koury | Nov 27, 2019 | All, Fun, Home, Wellness
Thanksgiving is an ideal time to reflect on what we are grateful for in our lives. It is also a time to recognize that, for many people, this time of year evokes difficult memories and is a time when being with family is not as joyful as it might be for others.
Knowing that with every life there is a unique history, we would like to offer 10 ways to observe Thanksgiving that can be enjoyed by anyone.
Before we dive in, however, we’d like to take a moment to thank you, our gym members, blog readers, and social media followers, for your continued support. We appreciate your trust in our team, your commitment to health and fitness, and the feedback you share to help us give our best!
Thanksgiving ideas to Revive Your Celebrations
Invite a Friend or Family Member Who Might Be Alone for Thanksgiving
Even if your invitation is declined, everyone likes to feel included. Try broadening your invitation list this year and spread some feelings of warmth and welcome!
Try Something Other Than Turkey
Every Thanksgiving, approximately 46 million turkeys are eaten! Save some turkeys from the dinnerplate and try alternative meat or plant-based choices.
You can easily make a main course out of fish, chicken, pot roast, and other meats, or take the vegetarian or vegan route and use hearty ingredients like mushrooms, squash, potatoes, cheese, and cauliflower to craft some delicious courses.
Try Hosting a Friendsgiving
This seems to become more and more of a common practice with every passing year. Friendsgiving is essentially a Thanksgiving dinner that brings together your friends, their friends, and new people who become friends, over good food and great conversation.
With larger events, try asking your guests to contribute to the table by hosting a potluck-style event. This also encourage a diverse dinner spread because everyone’s cooking styles, food choices, and palates are unique!
Spontaneous Exercise Challenge
- Agree on the selection of a word like “Turkey,” “Cranberries,” “Thanksgiving,” or “Gravy”
- Have each person pick a number between 1 and 5
- Have each person pick a basic exercise like push-ups, jumping jacks, or squats
Any time someone says the word you chose in step 1, everyone in the room has to do their selected number of their selected exercise. The number and exercise will stay the same throughout the evening, and you’ll have fun trying to find your way around these common Thanksgiving words!
Plan a Pre-Event Gathering to Help Disperse the Workload
Plan a simple Pre-Thanksgiving gathering with your intended guests before your actual holiday feast. If you are able, walking to the store can help you steer clear of holiday traffic and impossible parking situations. Everyone can carry an item and even help you with some early preparations like decorating or cooking before the main event.
Whether you’re getting together with others or planning to enjoy some time solo, serving others is a great way to participate in the Thanksgiving celebrations.
All you need to do is a quick internet search to find places in your area where you can volunteer. Don’t stop at serving food, however. If you can, sit and talk with the individuals and families who arrive to be served. Hear their stories, treat them like human beings, make eye contact and remember their faces. These small gestures can make a world of difference.
Even your hosts want to enjoy the gathering of their friends and family. You can help make sure that no one is left in the kitchen while everyone else enjoys the festivities by offering your help at least once or twice.
If you are the host, try setting the table the night before. Lay out the plates, cups, napkins, and silverware, and any other items that don’t need to be refrigerated. This can help make your event day run more smoothly and with less last-minute scrambling.
Agree to Leave Debatable Topics at the Door
Some gatherings are particularly difficult because of discussions that become debates and debates that become arguments.
Agree with your guests, prior to your event, that debatable topics should be set aside for the duration of your gathering.
There are tons of simple but memorable things you can do to start a new tradition. It can be something like watching a certain movie, playing a game everyone loves, or creating a handmade addition for your cornucopia and adding a new one each year. This one is especially fun for new families or couples who want to commemorate each year of holidays in a special way.
If you want to go a little further, try signing up for a Post-Thanksgiving Turkey Trot! You can find events in your area, here.
Get Creative with Your Leftovers
In the United States, Thanksgiving will be celebrated on Thursday, November 28th. Canada celebrates early in comparison, and observed this holiday on Monday, October 14th. In either case, leftovers are a certainty with any feast.
Whether you’ve frozen your leftovers from the 14th or are expecting more than you can manage tomorrow evening, you can get creative with your leftovers and enjoy them in inventive ways. Check out these turkey ideas to put a fun and flavorful twist on your post-event meals.
by Sandra Koury | Oct 28, 2019 | All, Fun, Home, Wellness
What Happens in the Brain When You’re Afraid?
On a biological level, we know that, when you’re afraid, certain hormones are released in the body to prepare you for a fight–or–flight response. The primary hormones involved in this process include adrenaline (also known as epinephrine), norepinephrine, and cortisol.
These three hormones give your body a boost of energy, channel your focus, and divert blood flow to your major muscle groups. Once this happens, your body is primed to respond to the perceived danger.
If you don’t enjoy the heart-pounding startles, you might wonder why anyone in their right mind would put themselves through this experience on purpose. Yes, the body gets a surge of anxious energy, but you also experience the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine.
Dopamine is what is commonly associated with the brain’s “pleasure center.” It’s a source of the excitement and relief that comes after a scare and when your brain realizes you were never in any real danger. For spook-seekers, this is the experience that makes the scare worthwhile.
What Exactly are the Benefits?
Dr. Margee Kerr, the staff sociologist at ScareHouse, tells The Atlantic all about the reasons why some brains enjoy fear. In the interview, she reminds us that the enjoyment of scaring and being scared goes back to the telling of ghost stories around a campfire, gothic writings of the 19th century, and tales of creatures like the Chupacabra or the Loch Ness Monster. As human beings, we have had this interest for a long time.
Social connections, she explains, are part of the reason we love to be frightened. Happiness and fear both initiate the release of oxytocin (the love hormone), and help us bond with the people we are experiencing these emotions with. Kerr shares an article by Shelley Taylor, Tend and Befriend: Biobehavioral Bases of Affiliation Under Stress, that demonstrates how a special closeness is developed with those who are with us when we are in an excited state. More importantly, it stresses how this can be a very good thing!
When you tend to or receive care from someone in a moment of fear or anxiety, the chance that you will befriend them increases. According to Dr. Kerr, this is because human beings need each other during periods of stress, so the body responds chemically in ways that help form a bond with others who are in the experience with us. Of course, this is limited to the experience being a positive one that does not actually harm you in any way.
This is why you see people huddled together as they tread through a darkened maze or haunted exhibit, and why popcorn-flinging horror movie nights are also enjoyed worldwide.
The Best Place to Enjoy a Good Scare
The best place to get your chills and thrills is someplace that poses no real threat to your safety. You brain needs to know that your body is not in any real danger after your automatic fight-or-flight response kicks in. Dr. Kerr reflects on how many times she’s seen a person scream and jump at the ScareHouse and immediately after start smiling and laughing. It really is interesting to consider how quickly the brain can process our situation and let the rest of our body know if the fear was just a false alarm.
As nearly every suspense movie has proven, anything can have a dark side. Maybe don’t drag your friends to a fright-filled attraction if they really don’t want to go. Sometimes the aversion has roots in trauma, PTSD, or phobia. Being conscious of what is age–appropriate is also important. This is because children are often unable to differentiate between feigned danger and what’s real. What you intended to be a fun experience may end up being traumatic for a child. Sometimes, you just have to make a judgment call, but doing so can help ensure that everyone has a good time and is able to enjoy the spooky excitement.
For some tips from our dietitian on how to treat yourself this Halloween without all the guilt, read her post on Tricks and Treats for Halloween Cheats. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today!
Ringo, Allegra. “Why Do Some Brains Enjoy Fear?” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 31 Oct. 2013, www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/10/why-do-some-brains-enjoy-fear/280938/.