Interval Training

Interval training: Can it boost your calorie-burning power?

Interval training is a powerful tool for novice exercisers and accomplished athletes alike. Here's how it works.

By Mayo Clinic staff

Are you ready to shake up your workout routine? Do you wish you could burn more calories without spending more time at the gym? Consider aerobic interval training. Once the domain of elite athletes, interval training has become a powerful tool for the average exerciser, too.

What is interval training?

It's not as complicated as you might think. Interval training is simply alternating bursts of intense activity with intervals of lighter activity.
Take walking. If you're in good shape, you might incorporate short bursts of jogging into your regular brisk walks. If you're less fit, you might alternate leisurely walking with periods of faster walking. For example, if you're walking outdoors, you could walk faster between certain mailboxes, trees or other landmarks.

What can interval training do for me?

Whether you're a novice exerciser or you've been exercising for years, interval training can help you jazz up your workout routine. Consider the benefits:
  • You'll burn more calories. The more vigorously you exercise, the more calories you'll burn — even if you increase intensity for just a few minutes at a time.
  • You'll improve your aerobic capacity. As your cardiovascular fitness improves, you'll be able to exercise longer or with more intensity. Imagine finishing your 60-minute walk in 45 minutes — or the additional calories you'll burn by keeping up the pace for the full 60 minutes.
  • You'll keep boredom at bay. Turning up your intensity in short intervals can add variety to your exercise routine.
  • You don't need special equipment. You can simply modify your current routine.

How will my muscles respond to interval training?

During intense exercise, muscles produce waste products that can contribute to muscle soreness. Too many accumulated waste products can make exercise painful and exhausting. But by alternating bursts of intense exercise with easier intervals, you'll help reduce the buildup of waste products in your muscles. The result is more comfortable exercise.

Are the principles of interval training the same for everyone?

Yes — but you can take interval training to many levels. If you simply want to vary your exercise routine, you can determine the length and speed of each high-intensity interval based on how you feel that day. After warming up, you might increase the intensity for 30 seconds and then resume your normal pace. The next burst of more intense activity may last two to three minutes. How much you pick up the pace, how often and for how long is up to you.
If you're working toward a specific fitness goal, you may want to take a more scientific approach. A personal trainer or other expert can help you time the intensity and duration of your intervals — which may include movement patterns similar to those you'll use during your sport or activity — based on your target heart rate, the ability of your heart and lungs to deliver oxygen to your muscles (peak oxygen intake) and other factors. This type of interval training also adds variety to your workout, but it requires more discipline and concentration.

Does interval training have risks?

Interval training isn't appropriate for everyone. If you have a chronic health condition or haven't been exercising regularly, consult your doctor before trying any type of interval training.
Also keep the risk of overuse injury in mind. If you rush into a strenuous workout before your body is ready, you may hurt your muscles, tendons or bones. Instead, start slowly. Try just one or two higher intensity intervals during each workout at first. If you think you're overdoing it, slow down. As your stamina improves, challenge yourself to vary the pace. You may be surprised by the results.
Weigh-in tonight @ 7pm... Bring friends and family with you!

Michael Downs
Fitness Manager
Kent Vision Quest Sport and Fitness

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Are Your Beliefs Helping You?

What Do You Believe About Yourself?

Have you ever wondered why similar things seem to happen over and over in your life?  Let’s take weight loss for example.  Why do so many of us do really well on our program only to fall off track at the slightest set-back and sometimes even success? 

The answer is relatively simple.  We draw on past experiences and beliefs.  If in our past we have comforted ourselves with food, naturally we will want to continue to do so unless we change our beliefs.  Our beliefs dictate our results.  When we walk around telling ourselves that we will never be fit, or never be able to get control of our lives, we will take actions that back up that belief.

Although we may not realize it, many of our patterns stem directly from the way we see ourselves and what we believe about ourselves.  If we constantly wait to fail at our endeavors, we will most definitely fail at some point.  The great thing is that with practice we can change our beliefs. 

In order to begin to change our beliefs we need to think about who we want to become and then begin to act like that person.  If we want to be successful we need to act like a success.  The old saying "Fake it until you make it” actually is quite powerful when it comes to changing our beliefs.

To become happy, we need to act happy.  To become more fit we need to act like a fit person.  The more we practice, that more it becomes habit.  Another powerful tool is using positive self talk.   Rather than telling ourselves how miserable we are doing and how "This is how it always goes for me.”  we need to commit to being positive.  We need to learn how to accept praise from ourselves.  We need to let ourselves appreciate small victories.

As we learn to appreciate the small victories, we will begin to see the big picture.  You will never appreciate losing 100 pounds if you can’t appreciate losing the first ten.  Although it may be overwhelming, we must always look for the positives in a situation.

The only way that we can become the success that we want to become is to change our beliefs in our selves.  Start small by telling yourself how good your are doing.  Begin to act like the person you want to become and don’t look back.  We have all experienced failures in life.  The important thing is not to dwell on our failures but our successes.

If you want to change your life, change your beliefs about your self

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Grocery Store Nutrition?
Getting Good Nutrition from the Right Grocery Store Aisles
If you have ever talked with a dietitian or nutritionist about how to get good nutrition from the foods you eat, you have probably heard that you should shop on the outside edges of the grocery store.
The reason for this is because the healthier items are generally on the outside edges of the store.  When you go to the inside aisle you tend to see more boxed type foods and processed foods that aren’t really a part of healthy meals.
The Journal of the American Dietetic Association warns that when you eat more foods on the inside aisles you tend to eat more processed foods.  When you eat those foods from within the inner aisles your 2000 calorie a day diet provides you with an average of 25 times more sugar and 20 times more fat than you should be ingesting.
So you may be thinking you are doing good and eating right because you are within your suggested calorie range.  The danger though is that your nutrient ratios are out of whack.
This leads to weight gain because your body is trying to utilize the wrong calories.  It doesn’t need that much sugar and fat.  It needs more protein to provide the building blocks for new lean muscle and to support your existing muscle.
So what happens when you stick to the outside edges of the grocery store in an attempt to learn how to eat healthy?
You first go through the produce section where you choose various fruits and vegetables.  Here you get plenty of vitamins and minerals and fiber.  Not to mention lower calories.
You then reach the deli/meat section of the store.  Here you grab various lean protein choices such as chicken breasts, salmon and lean red meats.
You finally reach the dairy section where you grab greek yogurt, cottage cheese, some eggs and maybe milk.
You now have all the essentials for healthy meals that lead to a successful weight loss diet.  Your plate at each meal is going to look something like what I describe here.  You will divide your plate into quarters.  You will then fill 2 sections with a lean protein selection.  One section will be a fruit or vegetable and the fourth and final section will be a starch.
You have just created a balanced weight loss diet by shopping primarily on the outside edges of the grocery store.  You also have controlled your portions by following the portion control plate model described above.
You see how easy it is to avoid the pitfalls of eating too much of the wrong foods.  I just walked you through a grocery store and we put 99% of what we needed into our shopping cart and never stepped foot into an inside aisle.
Now it is your turn to re-enact this healthy eating strategy in real life.  Remember it the next time you go grocery shopping and you will find that you’ll fill your cart with good nutrition, not 25 times more sugar and 20 times more fat than you need.
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Back Pain Help
Addrianna Smith

Almost everyone suffers from lower back pain at some point in your life. Some are lucky and subsides and pain disappears with time, while others are left to deal with chronic pain lower back. The best way to deal with lower back pain is to understand what causes it and then work to eliminate the cause.

You support your spine in an upright position and in fact that their main task. It also allows the body to move and function while protecting the spinal cord and nervous system. The 4 curves you see in your column are there for it to be flexible. There are also ligaments that connect the vertebrae together. There are also discs in your spine that act as shock absorbers. Break or wear that can cause chronic pain.

The lumbar region of his back lower back is where the problems arise. Attribute the strong muscles of the lumbar spinal column and help support the weight of the body. Sometimes things go wrong, and the result is low back pain.

Some of the common causes of lower back pain include poor posture, fell another position, the daily work habits, riding in a car for long periods of time without breaking a part, the lack of flexibility on the back and hip joint, poor overall physical condition, being overweight, lifting incorrectly, and weak back muscles.

Exercise which proved the most successful method of controlling lower back pain. Until the creation of lumbar muscles that are better able to support the spine and result in reduced lower back pain. But what kinds of exercises should you do?

First of all, if not physically active you should always start your exercise program slowly. You should also avoid exercises that will inflame the situation. In other words, if you are suffering from lower back pain server not further exacerbate the injury, but started to work around the area to prevent further suffering.

There are some excellent books on the year that the target market lower back pain and there are some great sites. Then, do a search and you’ll find some excellent resources. If you are suffering from an injury or have other health problems you should always check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.

The purpose of exercises is to restore the spine back and strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine so that you reduce the risk of recurrence of back pain. The exercises should be monitored and progress gradually.

Exercise programs should include a variety of stretching and low impact aerobics, like walking or cycling. Each person will be different depending on the current level of pain. Water exercises are a good choice for aerobic exercise.

Stretching stretch, flexes, and strengthens the muscle groups. Don’t give up because you don’t see results quickly. If you have suffered from chronic back pain for some time, can take weeks or months before you will notice the difference.

You also need to stretch and strengthen the hamstring muscles that play an important role in preventing back pain. Patients with tight hamstrings suffer from back pain is still not sure if a back pain causes the hamstrings are tight or it’s so contrary. What is known for certain is that the loosening hamstrings also reduce back pain.

Wall slide help strengthen the back, leg and hip muscles. Stand with your back against the wall with feet shoulder width apart. Then, slide down the wall by bending your knees reach a 90 degree angle. Count to 10 and slide back up. Repeat 3 to 5 times.

Leg rises to strengthen hip muscles and back muscles. Start by lying on his stomach, then tighten the muscles in one leg and lift your foot off the ground. Hold the release date of 10, and then do the opposite leg. Repeat 3 to 5 times.

Strengthening the abdomen and helps to strengthen the rear of the front leg raises are good ways to do this. Lie on your back with arms at his side. Lift one leg to the floor and then hold for a count of 10. If you keep one leg straight as you lift the other is very painful, can bend the other leg. Repeat with opposite leg. Repeat 3 times.

Lower back pain can be debilitating but doesn’t have to be if you are determined to make it better. The correct exercise program combined with proper lifting techniques and weight loss if needed can eliminate the lower back pain. Dealing with the lower back pain can make it healthy once again!
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Science of Obesity

Understand the Science of Obesity And You're On Your Way To Conquer It

by: Wan Ibrahim Yusoff

Many people think obesity means that a person is overweight, but that's not exactly true. An overweight person has a surplus amount of weight that includes muscle, bone, fat and water. An obese person has a surplus of body fat. Body Mass Index (BMI) is commonly used to determine if a person is obese or not. A person with a BMI over 30 is considered to be obese, and a BMI over 40 is considered to be severely obese.

Factors such as poor diet, lack of physical activity, genetics and certain medical disorders cause obesity, but it can be conquered.

Eating Disorder

Obesity itself is not an eating disorder, but people who are obese or who fear becoming obese may develop one. There are three type of eating disorder:-

Binge eating - binge eaters eat uncontrollably and quickly eating an unusually large amount of food at one sitting. They eat mostly sugar and fat. As a result, they may lack certain vitamins and nutrients.

Bulimia nervosa - bulimics binge eat, usually in secret, then purge to get rid of the calories just eaten. They may also exercise intensely for long periods of time to burn off the extra calories, or they may go for long periods of time without eating.

Anorexia nervosa - anorexics literally starve themselves due to an intense fear of being fat. Their bodies are severely depleted of nutrients. As a result, they develop muscular atrophy, dehydration, low blood pressure and organ damage to name a few. Because anorexia is so life threatening, the first stage of treatment is getting body weight back to normal. Treatments for eating disorder include therapy and medications.

Fat & Cholesterol

For years we heard that a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet would keep us healthy and help us lose weight. And many of us jumped on the bandwagon, eliminating fat and high-cholesterol foods from our diets. Well, unfortunately, we were doing it all wrong.

Instead of eliminating fat completely, we should have been eliminating the "bad fats," the fats associated with obesity and heart disease and eating the "good fats," the fats that actually help improve blood cholesterol levels.

Dietary Treatments

Americans spends millions of dollars each year on diet books, products, and weight-loss plans. But, why aren't they working? Because people are doing the wrong things! These popular diets often offer promises of quick weight-loss with no hunger, and the majority of those dieters who do succeed end up gaining the weight back within a year.

It's important to remember that your weight should be lost gradually. When you first start dieting, you will probably lose more water weight, therefore you may be losing more pounds initially. But, if you're doing it right, your weight loss will slow down to an average of one to two pounds per week. You can only lose three pounds of fat per week, anything over that is water loss or muscle loss.

Medical Treatments

In some instances health professionals will perform weight-loss surgery. As with any surgery, it comes with many risks, and it's not a solution for everyone. In order to qualify for surgery, most people must be severely obese or obese with serious medical conditions.

Drug therapy is available for people with a BMI 30 or over with no medical conditions or for people with a BMI of over 27 with two or more obesity-related conditions.

Natural Alternatives

Many prefer to utilize natural alternatives rather than resorting to appetite suppressants and surgical procedures, it's often more healthy. The alternatives include detoxification and live-food diet, low-carb high protein diet and ayurveda. All natural alternatives require some form of exercise.


Exercise is vital to shedding excess weight and keeping it off. Any regular exercise that raise the heart rate for at least a half hour straight, will do wonders for your body. Simply taking a walk, starting slow, then working your way up to power walking, is an excellent method of exercise.

Behavioral Changes

Changing your behavior is a key component to conquering obesity. Crash diets that cause people to lose weight drastically almost always backfire because there is no change in behavior and habits. Obesity is a lifestyle, and conquering obesity is a lifestyle also. Losing focus is a common problem with those who are trying to lose weight and keep it off.

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Biggest Loser Competition at VQ
How many times have you said to yourself "I need to make a change."  or the old "I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired."?  NOW is the time to stop talking and start acting.  Talk is only that and for change to occur that talk must be followed by action.  Vision Quest Sport and Fitness prides itself on having developed a successful Biggest Loser competition that gets results for EVERYONE who puts forth the effort and takes the necessary action to get their desired outcome.  Join up and see why our members have lost THOUSANDSof pounds.
Let today be the day you stop talking and start acting!
Stop into your favorite Vision Quest location to learn more and get signed up for the Biggest Loser that is starting this week.
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Something to Live By



Just for today I will be happy.  This assumes that what Abraham Lincoln said is true, "most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”  Happiness is from within; it is not a matter of externals.

Just for today I will try to adjust myself to what is, and not try to adjust everything to my own desires.  I will take my family, my business, and my luck as they come and fit myself to them.

Just for today I will take care of my body.  I will exercise it, care for it, nourish it, not abuse or neglect it, so that it will be a perfect machine for my bidding.

Just for today I will try to strengthen my mind.  I will learn something useful.  I will not be a mental loafer.  I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration.

Just for today I will exercise my soul in three ways; I will do somebody a good turn and not get found out.  I will do at least two things I don’t want to do, as William James suggests, just for exercise.

Just for today I will be agreeable.  I will look as well as I can, dress as becomingly as possible, talk low, act courteously, be liberal with praise, criticize not at all, nor find fault with anything and not try to regulate nor improve anyone.

Just for today I will try to live through this day only, not to tackle my whole life problem at once.  I can do things for twelve hours that would appall me if I had to do them up for a lifetime.

Just for today I will have a program.  I will write down what I expect to do every hour.  I may not follow it exactly, but I will have it.  It will eliminate two pests, hurrying and indecision.

Just for today I will have a quiet half-hour all by myself and relax.  In this half-hour sometimes I will think of my God, so as to get a little perspective into my life.

Just for today I wil be unafraid, especially I will not be afraid to be happy, to enjoy what is beautiful, to love, and to believe that those I love, love me.

-Sibyl F. Partridge

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More benefits of exercise!

Managing Your Condition With Exercise

Get Motivated to Exercise

By Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

Need a reason to work out? Here are 7 to start

What if someone told you that a thinner, healthier, and longer life was within your grasp? Sound too good to be true? According to a wealth of research, exercise is the silver bullet for a better quality of life.

Not only does regular exercise aid in weight loss, it reduces your risk for several chronic diseases and conditions. Finding activities that you enjoy and that become part of your daily routine is the key to a long and healthy life.

The list of health benefits is impressive, and the requirements are relatively simple -- just do it.

Ward Off Disease

Research has confirmed that any amount of exercise, at any age, is beneficial. And, in general, the more you do, the greater the benefits. The National Academy of Sciences has recommended that everyone strive for a total of an hour per day of physical activity. Sounds like a lot, but the hour can be made up of several shorter bursts of activity (it can be walking, gardening, even heavy housecleaning) done throughout the day.

Physical activity is an essential part of any weight-loss program, to maximize your fat loss while keeping valuable muscle mass. But exercise has many other health and longevity benefits. It can help prevent or improve these conditions:

1. Heart Disease. Regular activity strengthens your heart muscle; lowers blood pressure; increases "good" cholesterol (high-density lipoproteins or HDLs) and lowers "bad" cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins or LDLs); enhances blood flow; and helps your heart function more efficiently. All of these benefits reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

Researchers at Duke University suggest that the amount of physical activity, rather than its intensity, has the biggest impact on improving blood lipids (cholesterol). According to The New England Journal of Medicine, these researchers also found that any exercise is better than none -- although more is better.

2. Stroke. In an analysis of 23 studies, researchers found that being active reduces your risk of having and dying from a stroke. According to a study published in the journal Stroke, moderately active study participants had 20% less risk of stroke than less active participants.

3. Type II Diabetes. This disease is increasing at alarming rates -- by 62% since 1990 -- and 17 million Americans now have it. Physical activity can enhance weight loss and help prevent and/or control this condition. Losing weight can increase insulin sensitivity, improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and reduce blood pressure -- all of which are very important to the health of people with diabetes.

In a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Frank Hu, MD, of the Harvard School of Public Health found that a brisk walk for one hour daily could reduce the risk of type II diabetes by 34%.

4. Obesity. Overweight and obese conditions can be prevented or treated with exercise along with a healthy diet. Activity helps to reduce body fat and increase muscle mass, thus improving your body's ability to burn calories. The combination of reduced calories and daily exercise is the ticket to weight loss. And controlling obesity is critical, as it is a major risk factor for many diseases. Lowering your body mass index (BMI) is a sure way to reduce your risk of dying early and to live a healthier life.

5. Back Pain. Back pain can be managed or prevented with a fitness program that includes muscle strengthening and flexibility. Having good posture and a strong abdomen is the body's best defense against back pain.

6. Osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercise (such as walking, jogging, stair climbing, dancing, or lifting weights) strengthens bone formation and helps prevent the osteoporosis or bone loss often seen in women after menopause. Combine a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D with regular weight-bearing exercise for maximum results.

According to The Journal of the American Medical Association, data from the Nurses' Health Study showed that women who walked four or more hours per week had 41% fewer hip fractures than those who walked less than an hour a week.

7. Psychological Benefits. Improved self-esteem is one of the top benefits of regular physical activity. While exercising, your body releases chemicals called endorphins that can improve your mood and the way you feel about yourself. The feeling that follows a run or workout is often described as "euphoric" and is accompanied by an energizing outlook. Exercise can help you cope with stress and ward off depression and anxiety.

And these are just a few of the ways exercise improves your health. Studies have suggested it can also help with certain types of cancer, improve immune function, and more.

Putting It All Together: Exercise and a Healthy Diet

Exercise alone produces modest weight loss; when combined with a reduced-calorie diet, the effects are much more impressive.

In a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, University of Pittsburgh researchers found that people who exercised regularly and ate a healthy, modest-calorie diet lost weight and improved cardiorespiratory fitness regardless of the length or intensity of their workouts.

Another study published in JAMA showed that it is never too late to reap the benefits of physical activity. Sedentary women 65 years and older who began walking a mile a day cut their rates of death from all causes by 50%.

Resistance, Resistance

If exercise is so good for us, why aren't people doing it?

Some 64% of men and 72% of women fail to fit in activity on a daily basis, according to data from the 2000 National Health Interview Survey. Americans today are no more active than they were a decade ago. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a combination of aerobic exercise (the type that makes you breathe harder, like walking or jogging) for cardiovascular conditioning; strength training (like lifting weights or calisthenics) for muscle toning, and stretching to improve your range of motion.

Strive for doing all three types, but remember that any exercise is better than nothing. Here are some easy ways to work physical activity into your life:

·         Adopt a dog and take it for walks every day.

·         Do things the old-fashioned way -- get up and change the television channel; open the garage door manually; use a push lawnmower.

·         Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

·         Walk briskly whenever you can.

·         Minimize use of your car; walk to destinations within a mile.

·         Take up tennis or any other game or sport you enjoy.

·         Join a gym or health club.

Next time you are tempted to skip exercising, keep these wonderful health benefits in mind and remember, every little bit helps. You may not feel up to a rigorous workout, but how about a walk in the neighborhood?

Don't pass up a chance of a lifetime -- that is, a longer and healthier one.

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Women's Workout Special


Plyometrics: Jump on It!

This explosive plyometrics workout will get you a fierce physique--fast!

Jen Ator


Here's some news to make you kick up your heels: A smokin' hot bod may be just a hop, skip, and a jump away. Some of the best workouts for women incorporate superfast explosive movements to fire up your fitness level by improving your coordination and agility. And one University of Nebraska study found that participants who improved their vertical jump also logged significantly faster 10-K running times. Even better: All that bounding and leaping builds lean muscle mass, your express ticket to a sleeker shape.

In trainer-speak, these moves are called plyometrics, and they're one of the most effective ways to torch calories and burn serious fat. "Plyometric exercises—whether they're jumps or quick upper-body movements—increase the elastic properties of your muscles, which over time allows them to handle intense workloads more efficiently," says Diane Vives, owner of Fit4Austin and president of Vives Training Systems in Austin, Texas. The result: Your muscles adapt to more challenging fitness workouts faster, so you see body-shaping results sooner.

And the benefits of plyometrics are more than muscle deep: New research shows that these moves may also be the key to stronger bones. "Your bones constantly go through a rebuilding process to maintain healthy density," says Vives. And the best way to trigger that rebuilding is by stressing your bones with explosive movements, according to a 2009 review in Sports Medicine. Since bone density peaks between ages 25 and 30, and then decreases by 1 to 2 percent a year, now is the time to start showing your skeleton some love. The higher your bone density is before it begins thinning, the lower your risk for osteoporosis later on.

Ask your trainer at Vision Quest Sport and Fitness for some great plyo workouts!



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Benefits of Yoga

Benefits of Yoga: How Different Types Affect Health

Whether Bikram or Iyengar, yoga does the body—and mind—good

By Angela Haupt

Posted: September 24, 2010


Perhaps it's a testament to the power of yoga that so many spin-offs have emerged—dozens since it originated some 6,000 years ago. There's laughter yoga, which turns humor into a healing power, AcroYoga, which revolves around flying, and hot yoga, taught in a 105-degree studio. Even naked yoga is catching on, described by followers as a therapeutic way to burst out of the confines of clothing.

Research bolsters the claims made for the trend: Yoga protects the brain from depression, an August study found; three sessions per week boosted participants' levels of the brain chemical GABA, which typically translates into improved mood and decreased anxiety. "People who have disorders like depression and anxiety can definitely benefit from yoga, because it returns [GABA] levels to the normal range," says study author Chris Streeter, an assistant professor of psychiatry and neurology at Boston University School of Medicine. Streeter says yoga can be used to complement—not substitute—drug treatment for depression.

Past research has explored yoga's effect on epilepsy, heart disease, cancer, and multiple sclerosis, among other conditions. A 2004 Yale University School of Medicine study, for instance, found that people who practice yoga reduced their blood pressure, pulse, and risk of heart disease. The health benefits likely come about—at least in large part—because yoga helps people better manage stress, says Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, a professor with the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State University College of Medicine. "Yoga has a meditation component that is not true of other exercise. That aspect makes a difference," she says.

Other reasons to give the "warrior" or "downward-facing dog" poses a try: Yoga can increase strength, endurance, balance, and flexibility. Some types, like Ashtanga, are even vigorous enough to count as cardio workouts. Which type is most beneficial? "That depends on each individual person," says Streeter. What eases one person's back pain may do nothing for another. Here's a look at some of the more popular yoga varieties, what they involve, and their purported health benefits.

Ashtanga yoga. The fitter you are, the more likely you'll enjoy Ashtanga yoga, which revolves around repetition of athletic poses and leaves almost no time for catching your breath. The vigorous sessions involve standing and seated poses, back bends, and inversions—holding the head below the heart. You won't build bulky muscles, but you will increase muscle density. "Advanced practitioners look like Olympic athletes," says Lori Brungard, who teaches Ashtanga in New York City. "It's a very intense form of yoga, and because it's so demanding, it does require consistent, steady, regular practice to see the benefits." She recommends five to seven hour-long sessions per week.

AcroYoga. If yoga married gymnastics and circus art, you'd get this gravity-defying breed. First practiced in San Francisco six years ago, AcroYoga has seven elements, including Thai massage, therapeutic flying, and partner acrobatics. One person, the base, lies on the ground and uses his arms and legs to support a flyer. While suspended, the flyer twists into a series of positions—including the "folded leaf," hanging upside down on the feet of your partner. AcroYoga tones and loosens: "It's really great for people with back problems—you're opening your body without strain and without forcing it, and with the support of another person," says Vanessa King, a Washington, D.C.-based AcroYoga instructor. "You go from a Thai massage to the greatest activity of being lit up and energized in an acrobatic pose."

Iyengar yoga. Nicknamed "furniture yoga," Iyengar incorporates props like blankets, blocks, straps, harnesses, and incline boards—all in the name of helping you bend into a more perfect position. An August study published in the journal Cancer Nursing found that women in treatment for or recovering from breast cancer benefited from Iyengar classes. More than 90 percent said Iyengar improved their quality of life, 88 percent felt better physically, and 80 percent were less tired. "They also reported improved body image, lower stress levels, and less depression," says study author Amy Speed-Andrews, a research fellow at the University of Alberta in Canada. "People who are stiff, immobile, injured, or ill can use the props and the support, and it improves their stamina, strength, flexibility, and confidence."


Bikram yoga. Followers call it "hot yoga," because studio heat is cranked up to 105 degrees with 60 percent humidity—even in the summer. The 90-minute sessions revolve around a series of 26 postures, each performed twice. There are "spine twisting" and "toe stand" poses, for instance, and a "cobra pose"—legs and pelvis on the mat, back arched, and torso erect. Expect to burn between 350 and 600 calories in one class, while building stamina and endurance. Heat warms the muscles, allowing greater flexibility, says Kelly Schrader, who owns a Bikram studio in Grass Valley, Calif. "It's tremendously beneficial—especially for people who have joint injuries, inflammation, or conditions like arthritis," she says. "It boosts your overall health and immunity." Some advocates say hot yoga also helps flush toxins from the body, but doctors generally believe the body is more than capable of ridding itself of most harmful and waste products on its own. Prolonged time in a hot environment raises the risk of fainting and can be dangerous to those susceptible to heatstroke, like pregnant women, young children, and the elderly. If you're concerned, talk with your doctor before trying a class. And make sure to drink water frequently, while watching for nausea, dizziness, and the absence of sweat, which suggests dehydration.

Naked yoga. While doing yoga au naturel may not offer unique physical health benefits, practitioners say it's good for the soul. Aside from the liberated thrill of baring it all, it's considered a way to work toward accepting your own body. Naked yoga is not a sexual experience. At the studio Naked Yoga NYC, for example, removing clothing is a ceremonial process that happens at the start of each class, and nudity—contained to one room—is not permitted in any other part of the building. Proper hygiene is required; participants must come freshly showered.

Laughter yoga. Those who believe that laughter is the best medicine may want to give this a try: Laughter yoga blends attempts to provoke laughter via eye contact and childlike playfulness with breathing exercises. "The idea is that if you're laughing on the outside—even if, initially, you're faking it—it will create an effect on the inside that brings joy and releases endorphins," says Mary-Laurence Bevington, director of Movement Climbing & Fitness in Boulder, Colo. Indeed, research suggests that laughing generates feel-good hormones while lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and that it boosts the immune system, improves blood flow, and increases oxygen intake, which replenishes and invigorates the body's cells. Laughter yoga has been introduced into senior centers, cancer wards, corporations, and prisons.

Koga. This kickboxing-yoga hybrid works every muscle in the body. Koga involves kicking, throwing punches, assuming fighting stances, and bending into yoga positions. At the end of each set, participants do a yoga pose that coincides with the muscle group they just worked, enhancing the effect. Expect to burn between 800 and 1,200 calories per each one-hour class, according to Koga's creator, Jon Koga. Koga is making its way into school PE programs, and some classes cater to the 65 and older set, who perform movements while seated in chairs.


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Stop the Funk

I don’t know about you, but sometimes when things hit a rough patch, the first things that I start to put off are the very things I need to make a priority.  This blog for example, I use this blog to share my knowledge and sometimes analyze how I am feeling.

When I take a couple days off(or week) I think about it daily.  I then find myself saying I will do it tomorrow.  The longer I let it go the easier it is to let it go.  I will say "OK, seriously tomorrow get back at it.”  Tomorrow comes and I again say tomorrow.  If I had the answer to why we put the things off that we know we need to do, I’d have my own television show.

What I do know is this.  Sometimes a rough day can lead into a serious funk, the type of funk that keeps you worrying about things rather than acting upon them.  Whether we feel like it or not the only way to get over setbacks is to get moving again.

This past week I managed to injure myself while training and get sick as well.  I took a few days off and started to feel better.  Rather than jump back into my routine I let fear take hold.  The thought’s that have stifled me in the past came racing back to the front of my mind.  "Every time you get in a groove this happens.” "Be careful, you might hurt yourself more.” "You fell off track again.”  These thoughts paralyzed me for a while.  Although they may have a grain of truth, they do not have to dictate how I react to them. 

I found myself not sleeping, not eating, and then overeating.  It is almost as if I was trying to reinforce my negative thoughts with negative behaviors.   The more we reinforce negative thoughts with negative behaviors, the more negative we become. 

Here is the million dollar question: How do you pull yourself out of it?  I’ll give you my fifty cent answer.  Just get over it.  The blessing that we have in life is that each day presents itself for a new start.  If you have been in a funk you can put a stop to it when you want to.  On the other hand you can prolong it for as long as you want as well.

For me, it is a matter of knowing what to do and then acting.  These past couple of weeks have been rough but I choose not to continue.  I am going to do the things I know I need to do in order to feel well and live well. 

How about you?

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Starting Points

Yesterday I was out on a bicycle ride with a good friend of mine.  As we were riding we started talking about the progress I’ve made over the past year in the sport of triathlon and how I am feeling as I prep for next Ironman in November.

I told him I felt unbelievably different.  I am down several pounds, my cycling has improved, and so has my running.  Most importantly, my mindset has improved.  Last year when I took on the Kona Ironman I had no idea what I was doing.  I didn’t know that carrying around extra weight could affect me as much as it did.

Last weekend I was flipping through the channels and caught the replay of the Kona Ironman on NBC.  I watched the race and saw my brief segment once again.  When I saw myself, I wasn’t disappointed, I was a little sad.  The reason I was sad was because I knew that I had a false sense of how I looked and felt physically.

I was big, not as in pre-Biggest Loser big, but I was carying more weight than I should have been to be competing in a race of that magnitude.  The thing is, is that at that time I didn’t realize it.  I felt like "I can move 140.6 miles in one day.  I am in pretty good shape.”  That statement was partially true.

True in the sense that you have to have a pretty good level of fitness to do that race and make the cut-offs.  Not true, in that I was definitely carrying too much body fat and failed to realize it.  I saw myself as being better off than I was.  It wasn’t until I saw myself on television that I realized just how big I was.

I am convinced that had I weighed then what I weigh now, I would have finished that race in under the cut-off time and would have been an official Ironman.  That is neither here nor there now.  I didn’t finish in time.  Heavy or not, I have yet to become an Ironman in the true sense.

What does this have to do with the title of this post?  As I was talking yesterday, I came to the conclusion that many of us have a false sense of where we are when it comes to weight.  Some of us can think we are smaller and better off than we are, others think we are bigger and worse off than we really are.

In order to know where we really are, we must give ourselves a true starting point.  By true starting point I am talking about where are TODAY.  I don’t mean 5, 10, or even 20 years ago.  The only way to gauge our progress is by having an official starting point and then using that point as a gauge.

For example.  If I weigh 240 pounds today, that is what I weigh.  In a year from now, if I weigh 200, I will say I lost 40 pounds.  If on the other hand I weigh 245, I will say I gained 5 pounds this year.  Here is why this is important.  I could use my pre-Biggest Loser weight of 353 as a gauge and in turn be able to say that I have lost 108 pounds.  Although this is true, it isn’t necessarily the whole truth.

I lost 157 pounds on the show then gained weight back.  I then lost weight again.  The reality is that If I use the 353 pound number than I am really just losing and gaining the same weight over and over again.  This is why I am now using 240 as my starting point.  By doing this I can have a clear number and place to begin.

What this allows me to do is wipe the slate clean.  I can no longer play games like the "I use to weigh… and even though I have gained…. I ‘ve still kept off….”  I know what I weigh and will use this as my starting point and lifelong marker.  By doing this, I will have a realistic perception and gauge of how I am doing on this lifelong journey.

In essence, our true starting point is TODAY.  Now, lets get started!

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