Last month, I reported on five ways that exercise enhances beauty by changing the behavior of your cells and hormones, and how strength-stretch techniques boost these effects. To recap, working your muscles boosts collagen production, flushes out waste from your skin, decreases stress hormones, increases sex hormones, and improves the quality of your sleep. It’s motivating to know this! After writing this blog, I worked all the harder in class knowing I was simultaneously treating my skin to a platter of these beautifying treatments.
The final five ways I’d like to mention that the Bar Method makes you more beautiful include ones you normally associate with exercise, plus a few that may surprise you:
6. Pretty muscles
Experts say we can’t “spot reduce” parts of our bodies. We can however “spot tone” them. The Bar Method focuses on our muscles’ ability to change shape with targeted exercises. It especially targets hard-to-reach muscles that, when toned, help create a graceful, dancer-like body. Take for example the gluteus maximus. It’s both our largest muscle and one of the most difficult to “turn on.” The hamstrings are our walking muscles, and they get so used to doing the work that they tend to dominate during exercises that use an alternating leg pattern, such as jogging and spinning. Your glutes activate for intense actions such as bursting into a full-out run, leaping into a “grand jete,” or taking an exercise class such as the Bar Method that methodically targets them. The Bar Method’s “arabesque” exercise, for example, engages your gluteus maximus in two ways. This large muscle extends your hip and can turn it out as well. So in arabesque, you contract your gluteus maximus to turn out your working leg, then compel it to stay contracted while it raises your leg upwards in one-inch sized lifts until muscle exhaustion. After doing arabesque, you know you’ll walk out of class with a more chiseled rear. Speaking personally, I started bar-work with a very small rear and now have a nice lifted one.
7. A leaner body
There are several things going on in a Bar Method class that make you lean. Exercise physiologists say that working your large muscles groups — as opposed to smaller muscles such as the biceps — results in optimal caloric burn. Most exercises in a Bar Method workout are strengthening several large muscle groups at a time, particularly those in your legs and in the backs of your limbs. Examples of multi-muscle Bar Method moves are “reverse pushups” (the triceps and traps), “diamond thigh” (the quads and glutes), “fold-over” (the glutes, hamstrings and quads), and “flat-back” (the chest, abs, hip-flexors and quads). At the same time, the Bar Method’s interval training format – intense strength intervals followed by a few minutes of stretching – burns more fat in relatively less time.
8. Better posture
Great posture is a must-have if you want to look your best, regardless of your inborn traits. One way to attain this key beauty feature is to take ballet classes, which compel you to perform rigorous arm and leg exercises while maintaining a straight back and a lifted chest. Barre fitness workouts that focus on posture provide this same benefit. The Bar Method for one is dedicated to helping you focus on posture throughout the class. Most students who improve their posture discover that they’ve also given themselves a “prettier” appearance overall.
9. Altered gene expression
We are born with a unique genetic code that tells our cells how to function. At any one time our cells use only part of this genetic information. This year, researchers made an amazing discovery, that exercise deactivates genes related to fat storage, type 2 diabetes and obesity. So far, researchers have found that exercise changes the expression of 7,000 genes and are still studying this phenomenon. Meanwhile we can throw out the old belief that we’re a helpless product of our DNA. Exercise can transform us into a different version of ourselves! The surest way bring out your “lean genes” is to find a workout that’s easy to stick with long term, a feature that thousands of exercisers have found in the Bar Method.
10. Prolonged youthfulness
This exercise effect is one of the most significant that science has discovered. By exercising, you greatly reduce the likelihood of living the last part of your life in ill health and infirmity. Exercise can keep you active and healthy, not to mention physically attractive, until the end. Our growing knowledge of exercise’s ability to extend our prime of life is changing world cultures, economy and life habits. With exercise, you can look more striking and sensational with the years. Hear it from 54-year-old Dallas nurse Cynthia Tarantino: “I thought since I was older that it was impossible for me to change my body because I had tried everything,” she wrote me. “I felt horrible about myself and it was affecting myself esteem. …With only three months at the Bar Method, I have never looked better in my life. I refuse to be that middle aged woman with the big belly and the cafeteria lady underarms!”
Journaling helps to build character. Keeping a daily record of your activities, keeps you accountable for everything that you do. That is why keeping a fitness journal is so important to the success of your fitness program. With every stroke of the pen, journaling builds character, discipline, and determination. Journaling brings you face to face with your desires, your goals, your abilities and your courage to reach for the next level. Journaling shows you have the courage to succeed.
Writing down everything you eat and drink allows you to analyze what is working for you and what is not. When you keep a fitness journal, you may be surprised at how much food you actually eat. As you reach for your next bite, reach for the journal and be ready to write it down. You will be surprised at how less hungry you become when you know you have to write down everything that you eat and drink.
Keeping a journal will allow you to record your fitness goals, including your goals for a better-looking body. Record your measurements of your waist, chest and hips. Measure your thighs, calves, ankles, arms and wrists. Do this at least every month to determine if your current level of exercise is working for you.
I prefer a written journal to an online type. I spend a considerable amount of time each day on the computer writing blogs and answering emails so I welcome the escape to actually write in my journal. I love to go through past journals to read about my past goals and victories. I get new ideas from old practices and these journals are never boring. There is power in the written word and I feel so much more in touch with my journal as I touch it and write in it. However, an online version may work better for you, the important thing is that you use the fitness journal to get you closer to your goal.
For me, writing my feelings down on paper is a great stress reliever, too. Many times, writing down an event helps to put everything in perspective. Instead of my brain playing back the episode like a series of repeated television shows, this act of writing helps to free my mind of the guilt and contemplation that accompany the guilt rehashing scenario.
Writing helps me sleep better at night. By writing everything down, I have nothing left to worry about when I go to bed. Once I say my prayers, I’m ready for sleep.
There are a variety of journals that include pages for counting calories, sodium, protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Some allow space for exercise while others are strictly diet oriented. I like to include my exercise and meals in the same book and preferably on the same page. There is so much to compare from one day to the other that I like it as simple as possible.
I prefer a cover that looks good, usually one that is colorful. Colorful covers are eye-catching and make it easy for me to find my journal. An appealing cover is like an invitation that beacons my creativity. I never throw away my journals, even after they are filled up. Each past journal is kept on my personal bookshelf so I can easily go back and read some of my prior entries. These historical memoirs provide a certain amount of inspiration and motivation combined with a bit of humor.
Journaling builds character, helps you lose weight and gain a better perspective on life. I hope you are ready to record your success in a fitness journal of your very own.
Losing weight is not an easy accomplishment. If it were, we would all be walking around at the perfect weight for our size. But losing weight is not impossible, either. As a matter of fact, the answer to permanent weight loss is in the food that we eat. The simple truth is that your diet is responsible for about 80 percent of your weight loss.
Exercise helps to burn fat and calories and is excellent for body shape and function. But actually losing weight requires a change in the amount and type of food that you eat. This doesn’t mean that you have to eat an overly restricted diet. But, taking the time to plan your meals in advance will ensure you always have a healthy meal or snack and won’t be tempted to eat foods not on your diet.
Losing weight is a totally different experience for women than it is for men. Men can cut back on the foods they eat or stop drinking beer and instantly drop 20 pounds. For women, it is never that easy. The seemingly unfair differences in women and men’s weight loss accomplishments comes down to body composition and hormones. Hormones are much to blame, with cravings and appetites increasing during the menstrual cycle. With less muscle mass on our bodies, women don’t burn fat as quickly as men do either. Another good reason why women should seek a diet and fitness program that is designed for the female body.
Women, usually require fewer calories than men. We can eat smaller meals and be completely satisfied. Many times, women gain weight after starting a relationship because we find we are eating the same amount as our partners. If you find this to be a problem, there are some easy ways to avoid overeating, even when dining out.
When dining out, portion your food into two sections of what you know you will eat, and what food you want to bring back home. Some restaurants offer smaller or demi sized meals so you can eat a smaller portion of the same great tasting meal. The important factor to keep in mind is that you do not have to eat every morsel of food on your plate. Eat slowly and enjoy every bite of food. Food is not the problem; food is the answer to weight loss and a healthy lifestyle.
Portion control is even easier when you are eating at home. Scoop small portions at a time onto your plate so you won’t feel mentally obligated to clean your plate. Eat a wide variety of leafy vegetables and fruits and be sure to include a healthy serving of protein at every meal. Protein is the building block for every cell in your body and will keep your appetite satisfied between meals.
Keep a fitness journal to record everything you eat and drink and all of the exercise that you do. It will inspire you to find new foods to try, challenge you to meet or exceed your own expectations and remind you how much you have achieved. You will quickly see in your own handwriting that food is the answer to losing weight.
Stand naked in front of a full-length mirror and take a good look at your body. Do you see the tell-tell signs of cellulite? This unsightly, dimpled, fat that looks like cottage cheese and appears on the legs and buttocks is caused by several factors and is common in many women, especially as they age. If you are one of the many women who is bothered by this condition, you are not alone, some of the most beautiful celebrities and super-models are plagued with the same. But the good news is, you can control cellulite.
Learn to control your metabolic rate in adipose tissue (fat) in the thighs and butt to reduce and control cellulite. A healthy lifestyle, including diet and exercise helps prevent cellulite buildup and improves the way your body processes and stores fat.
Genetics play a major role as to who will get cellulite, for instance cellulite is more common in white women than in Asian women. Hormonal changes, such as elevated levels of estrogen, can also trigger cellulite growth. In addition, pregnancy, stress, weight gain and lack of exercise all contribute to cellulite buildup.
Exercise is one of the best ways to help control cellulite. For one thing, exercise and I am talking about regular strenuous exercise, helps to control hormonal changes that can disrupt your body’s normal functions. Exercise helps to balance the hormones and reduces stress reactors in the body. While we can’t always reduce stress in our lives, we can learn to control the way it affects our bodies. Exercise is one of the best ways to make that happen.
Interval training is one of the best ways to balance hormones, reduce stress and as a result control cellulite in your body. Interval training, combining high-intensity aerobic exercises with weight bearing exercises will help you burn calories at a faster rate, even when your body is at rest. This means your body will use up its fat stores reducing and preventing the growth of cellulite.
While aerobic exercise is key to burning calories, strength or weight training exercises help to strengthen the muscles. The more muscular your body is, the quicker and better effective it will be for reducing fat. Since muscle requires more energy to grow and we get energy from the calories that we eat, it just goes without saying, that muscle burns more calories than fat. Even at rest, muscles continue to burn calories, using up fat that is stored in your body. A more muscular body helps to change the way existing cellulite looks, too. Muscles push against the fat in the body allowing for a smoother appearance.
Cellulite occurs most frequently on the front, back and sides of thighs and on the buttocks. Exercises, such as squats, lunges, bench step-ups, power walking, running and elliptical training are all great for reducing cellulite. Intensity is a key factor. The goal is not only to burn calories during exercise; but also to rev up your metabolism and strengthen your muscles so that your body is constantly burning fat at a faster rate.
Affirmations begin as positive thoughts and are given power once you speak them aloud. They are positive, empowering statements that help you to overcome self-sabotaging, negative thoughts. Affirmations help you visualize, and believe in, what you’re affirming to yourself, helping you to make positive changes in your life.
There is evidence that the use of positive affirmations can successfully treat people with low self-esteem, depression, and other mental health conditions.
In a study published in the Journal of American College Health, researchers found that women treated with cognitive behavioral techniques, which included use of positive affirmations, experienced a decrease in depressive symptoms and negative thinking.
There are people who would scoff at using affirmations. That is because some people may view affirmations as just wishful thinking or simply looking at the world with an unrealistic perspective. However, using affirmations does not mean that you aren’t in touch with reality. Instead it is a way to calm the mind and refocus your attention on your goals and accomplishments.
Affirmations will not make problems go away, but may do wonders to help you deal with nearly any situation. Affirmations are like exercises for your mind and soul. The more often you say them, the stronger your mind becomes.
Use positive statements in your affirmations to keep your mind focused on your goals. Steer away from too many negative statements as they can make your mind stray and before you know it your affirmation session turns into a worry session.
Affirmations give you time to love your body and your mind. It is a time to focus on you and not on anyone else. Much like prayer or meditation, affirmations bring peace of mind. They are not a replacement for prayer or meditation but a way to empower your confidence and self-esteem. They are your proclamations that you were created for something great—because God doesn’t make any mistakes.
Exercise and diet alone will not give you the body that you desire. Your mind must be equally engaged to reach the goals that you set forth. The same is true for your soul. It is important to your overall health that your mind, body and soul work together in sync to give you the focus, strength and empowerment that you need.
Fuel your body with positive thoughts and you will see improvement in all aspects of your life. Sure, obstacles will still get in your way. Challenges are met everyday, but my strengthening your mind and feeding your soul, you are readying your whole self to deal with life at its fullest. Stand tall and strong and know that you are all that you are supposed to be.
Seven Affirmations To Fuel Your Body:
1. I am strong.
2. I am enough.
3. I can do all things that God has planned for me.
4. I am beautiful.
5. I am a winner.
6. My body is stronger today.
7. I love my life.
When I was a little girl in Georgia in the 50s, women wanted to have a small waist, lots of curves, or both. it wasn’t desirable to be toned or athletic, rather to appear soft, fragile and a bit mysterious.
Our standard of beauty has changed dramatically since then. We now admire women who are lean, strong, athletic, confident and more diverse in their features. Why this shift happened is not the subject of this blog (the women’s liberation movement, etc.), but I’d like to talk about one driving force behind this change that has directly influenced our idea of what is beautiful: science’s growing knowledge of how we can look our best. Since my childhood, scientific discoveries about health have proved beyond a reasonable doubt that strong, athletic bodies enjoy longer lasting youthfulness, not to mention a winning edge in the game of life.
Don’t get me wrong! Our obsession for being as beautiful as possible by any means natural or artificial is not going away any time soon. What’s different about our current pursuit is that, unlike the old days we got our beauty tips handed down to us from an archive of old wives tales, and now we get advice that has a solid foundation in science.
What is the top beauty tip that we keep hearing from this source? Exercise! As one researcher, Tim Church M.D., put it, “Every cell in the human body benefits from physical activity.” Spa treatments, facials and makeup tricks can’t hold a candle to exercise when it comes to beautifying you in multiple ways. Here are ten of my favorite beauty benefits of exercise and how you can boost these results with efficient full-body workouts like the Bar Method.
1. More collagen
Fibroblasts are skin cells that produce collagen, a factor in youthful-looking elastic skin. “As we age, fibroblasts .. get lazier and fewer in number,” says dermatologist Audrey Kunin in in an article by Catherine Guthrie for Experience L!fe. “But the nutrients delivered to the skin during exercise help fibroblasts work more efficiently, so your skin looks younger.” Bar Method exercises work large muscle group repeatedly until they are thoroughly exhausted, facilitating this cellular process.
2. Better functioning lymph nodes
Why is this important to your looks? The hundreds of lymph nodes in your body “take out metabolic trash,” says Guthrie. “But the nodes can’t haul garbage to the curb without the help of nearby muscles. When muscles contract during exercise, they squeeze the lymph nodes, helping them pump waste out of your system.” So when you’re working your way through all the intense muscle contracting and stretching during a Bar Method class, you’re not only shaping your muscles but also fueling your body’s natural waste removal system. The results, in Guthrie’s words: “You look less puffy and polluted.”
3. Less stress
Cortisol is a hormone that is released in response to stress. It increases your blood sugar, suppresses your immune system, and decreases bone formation, all for the purpose of devoting your full energy to handling the source of that stress. When you suffer from chronic stress, excess cortisol production can cause collagen loss and inhibit protein synthesis, impacting your skin and health! Exercise enables your body to turn on cortisol when you need it, then turn it off when you don’t. The Bar Method’s strength-stretch sequence gets cortisol out of your system without beating you up in the process, so that afterwards your body can turn its attention to repairing and regenerating your muscles and skin.
4. Better sleep
Almost 20 percent of Americans suffer from stress leading to poor sleep, according to the National Institute of Health. Studies have found that moderate-to-intense exercise helps you fall asleep more quickly and sleep more deeply. The Bar Method workout provides the intense exercise that facilitates sleep, while its focus on stretching and breathing makes for a relaxed body and a good night’s sleep so that you look fresh the next day.
5. Enhanced sexiness
We know by now that the Bar Method makes you look sexier. It also happens to literally make you sexier. Huffington Post blogger David Katz, M.D., reports that exercise can “Increase blood flow in a way that has a direct affect on sexual function.” Not only that! Researchers have learned that exercise increases levels of testosterone, the hormone most responsible for making us feel sexy, and HGH (human growth hormone), also found to boost libido. A British study found that a group of middle aged men who exercised had 25% more testosterone and 4 times more HGH than sedentary men. When it comes to workouts that optimize your sexiness, the Bar Method, with its targeted strengthening and stretching exercises for the muscles around the hips, tops the list! “We all know the obvious effects of the Bar Method…” says teacher and studio owner Andrea Davis, “an enhanced sex life.”
Rhonda Vassello, a 32 year old Bar Method student in Carlsbad, California, agrees. “I have done almost EVERY type of workout out there, Boot camps, Circuit Training, Cycling and even the dreaded task of running,” she wrote me in a recent email. “Each time my body reached a plateau that I just could not overcome… THIS WORKOUT has done it… and let’s be honest ladies when you feel good your confidence peeks and that is the sexiest feature any woman can have!
Next week: TEN WAYS THE BAR METHOD MAKES YOU BEAUTIFUL, PART 2
Imagine foods without the garnishment of herbs and spices. It would lend a rather boring palette to say the least. Always held in high esteem and worth their weight in gold so to speak, herbs and spices have been flavoring the foods of kings and peasants for centuries.
Adding flavor is only one of the many benefits that herbs and spices give to us. Most are full of nutrients and special properties that boost the effectiveness of the nutrients in the foods that we garnish with them.
Below is an alphabetical walk through a few of the wonderful herbs and spices that can easily be found in local grocery or health food stores. To retain the taste and benefits, keep your herbs and spices in a cool location in sealed containers.
This beautiful, star-shaped herb has many reported health benefits. It has been known to help in the treatment of gastrointestinal difficulties, respiratory illnesses and hormonal imbalances. Drinking anise tea is good for symptoms such as indigestion, heartburn and bloating. Sprinkle a few in your salad to aid in digestion.
Reduce suffering from respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis, the common cold or asthma with anise oil. As a mater of fact, many cough syrups contain anise oil in their ingredients. A natural expectorant, anise has been widely used for centuries to help loosen the mucus in the lungs.
Chock full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, basil has a scent that stirs the appetite of humans while repelling pesky, life-threatening insects like mosquitoes. It is one of the healthiest herbs with just a couple of leaves containing nearly 25% of your daily requirement of vitamin K. Basil is a great source of magnesium, too.
This delightful spice is a wonderful sweetener and helps to reduce blood sugar. It also reduces LDL, the bad cholesterol. Cinnamon has also been shown to reduce pain associated with arthritis. There is even a possibility that it may reduce the growth of cancer cells. A natural preservative, cinnamon contains fiber, calcium, iron and manganese.
Widely used in dishes like fish, chicken, vegetables, dips and sauces, dill has some medicinal benefits that have been relied on for thousands of years. Effective as a pain reliever, it also helps to relieve indigestin and intestinal tract spasms.
Elderflower is a flavoring for beverages and foods and is used in the manufacturing of perfumes and lotions. Used in many medicines and is used to treat swollen sinuses, cold, influenza, swine flu, bronchitis, diabetes and constipation. It is also used as a diuretic and to stop bleeding. Elderflower is also used as a mouthwash for coughs, colds and laryngitis. People have used it for skin and joint pain and inflammation.
A refreshing taste, fennel is crunchy and slightly sweet. Like many spices, fennel contains a unique combination of phytonutrients, including rutin, quercitin and kaempferol glycosides—strong antioxidants that help fight disease. Fennel contains Vitamin C, fiber, folate and potassium. Add some to salads, vegetables, meats and Italian dishes for a boost of flavor with a ton of healthy benefits.
This is a tasty pudding that can be enjoyed morning, noon or night. It’s quick and easy to make, so you can have a healthy snack in just minutes. Increase the ingredients and serve it to your guests, they’ll find it hard to resist as this lovely dish will leave them with a lasting impression.
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup raspberries
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp honey
Add walnuts on top
1. Raspberries can be cooked with a squeeze of lemon juice in microwave if preferred.
2. Blend rest of ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
3. Add raspberries and blend until mixed in.
4. Spoon into individual bowls and top with walnuts.
Yogurt provides healthy live cultures that aid the digestive system and it is a good source of calcium. Low in calories, low in saturated fat, low in cholesterol and low in sodium. Raspberries are packed with phytonutrient antioxidants and are rich in Vitamin C. Cinnamon helps to regulate blood sugar and is high in calcium, iron and fiber.
We write a lot about exercise motivation on this blog, because at Smooth Fitness, we know that for many people it can be difficult to stay motivated to do what need to be done when we’re tired, busy, or stressed. One effective method to keep your workouts going and your goal within reach is to have your progress continually reaffirmed for you as you go. A great way to do this is to have before and after comparisons.
If your reason for exercising is weight loss, then you’ll want to snap a few photos and record your baseline information—how much you weigh, how long it takes you to run a mile, how much you can lift—whatever it is that you’re using to measure your weight loss and fitness success. Having photos to reference is a particularly powerful way to see progress happening right before your eyes. Tracking your measurements is also a great way to keep tabs on weight loss progress.
If your goal is to improve your health, then your first step will be a doctor’s visit, when you can discuss with your doctor what health issues need addressing, how to address them, and how to safely monitor that progress.
Those trying to improve their athletic performance or train for a major event (like a marathon) will find themselves tracking all kinds of stats. Weight lifted, personal records, the time it took to run x number of miles, heart rate—all kinds of metrics can be used to measure athletic success. Fitness accessories like a heart monitor watch or ankle and wrist weights can help you get there.
If you’re a number cruncher, track your stats in a spreadsheet for in-depth analysis. If you’re more of a visual person, take frequent photos and measurements to refer to—and gradually create an ever-more-powerful motivational tool as you go!
We all know that Halloween is traditionally the day when we all throw health and fitness out the window in favor of snacking on candy and junk food. But Halloween (and the many social activities that come with it) is a great way to work in some extra exercise here and there, which can help you offset the sweet treats of All Hallows’ Eve, should you choose to partake. Read on for a few tips.
- Plan out a trick or treating route that will give you a generous walking distance, though you’ll definitely want to check the weather forecast and factor that into your plans. (And remember that the more you walk the more houses you can hit, and the heavier your candy bag grows, the more of a workout you get—it’s a win-win!)
- Don’t skip the jack o’lanterns this year! Running around the pumpkin patch and then putting in the elbow grease needed to carve out your creation are great ways to get the heart pumping and burn some calories.
- Grab a few good friends and head out to a haunted house. The walking (and possibly sprinting in terror) definitely counts as physical activity.
- If you plan to stick to a workout routine through the Halloween season, good for you! Put on a horror flick or a thriller to keep you occupied while you pedal away on your exercise bike or run through your fears on your treadmill.
So there you have it. If you’ve got any additional tips, let us know! Of course, the one surefire way you can avoid sabotaging your diet over Halloween is to stay away from eating too much candy, but at Smooth Fitness we know that everyone wants to indulge once in a while. Have fun, and stay safe!