Thursday, August 30, 2012

When Working Out at Home

This summer I've been gym-membership-free. At first, I cringed at the thought having nothing but my body to work with when trying to get my fitness on. Looking back at the past three months, I've noticed that I've not only maintained my work out routine, I've improved my fitness.

For those of you who don't want to pay for a membership or who want to take a break from the A/C in the gym (don't ask me why you'd voluntarily do this), here's an exercise regimen I created for those days I didn't want to run or ride my bike.

You might try this workout just to change it up a bit. Sometimes, I get in a rut with my workouts. That's when I decide to try something totally different. Remember, whether you're doing these exercises, dancing, walking, running, biking, swimming, skipping, chasing your dogs, or whatever — just get out and get moving.

Note: Each phase of this workout should be repeated before moving on to the next phase. You can also go through each phase once and then start from the top to repeat. Either way, I've found I get a complete workout when I do each phase twice. If you're just beginning to work out, you might go through it one time and see where you are. 


Speed Skaters: Jump laterally side to side, landing on the outer leg and pulling in the opposite knee. When you're in the air, wave your arms above your head to get your heart rate even higher. You'll probably resemble someone on the side of the road trying to wave a car down for help (or maybe that's just me).

PliƩs: Place your feet in a wide stance (wider than your shoulders) and point your toes out. Squat straight down and pulse.

Scissor Lunges: Jump from right lunge to left lunge quickly. Keep your arms straight up, pointing to the ceiling. Only count when your right leg is lunged.

Plank-to-Bridges: (You will probably need a mat or towel or some kind of soft surface.) Begin in a plank position (on your toes and elbows). Be sure to not let your booty sink or stick up in the air. Try to keep your back straight. Push up to your hands one arm at a time. Each time you get to this position, you're in a bridge. Then drop back down to your elbows, one arm at a time. Two positions make one rep.

Burpees: From a standing position, drop your hands down and shoot your feet out to a bridge (beginning of a push-up position). Then, quickly bring your feet back in and jump up. When jumping, shoot your arms up to the sky. This makes one rep.

Mountain Climbers: Start in a bridge position. Alternate bringing in right and left knees to your chest. Only count your right knee when counting reps.

Bird Walks: Begin standing up. Bend down at your core to touch the ground in front of you, while at the same time lifting one leg. Alternate legs each time you bend down. When you come up, keep your arms glued to your ears and tighten your core. (This one is easy to do, but makes your hamstrings super sore!)

Please let me know in the comments if you need more clarification. Hope you have as much fun with this as I do! Also, please share your own work outs and feel free to pin/share this graphic. :) 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

50 Shades of Perfect

I'm not usually one to jump on the band wagon, but I've had a tugging at my heart lately to write about how we, especially women, strive to be perfect all the time. What I recently discovered (although, I think I already knew, I just remembered), is that perfection is dependent on the lens through which one looks. Perfection is dependent on perception. That's why I think the the title fits, and frankly, I couldn't think of one any catchier in light of the hottest selling book on Amazon.

When I was a child, my parents used to brag on me to my three younger brothers, urging them to behave. "Boys, why can't you be more like your sister?" my mom used to plead.

Honestly, those kinds of complimentary statements, whether they were telling me how good of a daughter I was or telling my brothers how they needed to behave like me, encouraged me to be an even better daughter and sister. Now in my adult years, I find myself taking encouraging statements like that to heart. It's like every time someone compliments me, it raises the standard of behavior at which I'm expected to maintain.

Why can't I just take a compliment and move on lightly with my life? Why do I feel like someone is constantly analyzing my behavior, and I just got lucky that they approved?

Now, I know it's impossible to be perfect, but I find myself striving to be so any way. Maybe you do too. It's strange how the different circumstances I'm in determine my definition of perfection and the means I need to be better at being perfect.

When I'm at work, perfect behavior means being efficient. It means making sales, checking off tasks on my to-do list, showing up early and leaving late. I want to be the girl who gets work done quick, who's eager for more, who has all the answers.

With my husband, perfection means never making him unhappy. It means cleaning the house with a smile and some bootylicioius boy shorts, and wearing them all the time. It means I never have fat days or gorge-on-chocolate-frozen-yogurt-days. It means I never get sick of motocross or getting dirty. It means my opinion is always the same as his. It means I want to spend just as much time with his side of the family as mine. It means that doing the house work after I get home from my full-time job and then paying the bills and then working out and then thinking about what to cook for dinner shouldn't stress me out.

When I'm out on my own, being perfect means being the prettiest in the room. It means having the funniest, wittiest little remarks and making everyone else laugh. It means showing up everyone else in the gym or getting ahead of that runner on the track. It means having the most friends. It means all the guys wish they could be with me.

These thoughts really do go through my head. Sometimes, I have moments like this, and I'm like, "What the heck? Amber, why are you thinking that? That's not what God wants."

I share these deep, sometimes dark, intimacies because I think this idea of perfection and more so, the idea that if we try hard enough, we might be able to achieve it, happens to more people than just me. Striving to be perfect is a root of envy, unhealthy competition, and jealousy. It causes us to compare ourselves to others.  It causes me to pin pictures of sexy girls with six-packs on Pinterest and creep on friends' Facebooks. These are some of my perceptions of perfection, but let me tell you, I know they aren't true. Some of these descriptions represent what the world says is perfect.

The only shade of perfection that matters is the blood of Jesus Christ. He's the only one that has or ever will reach perfection. These other shades are merely reflections of my unperfect human nature, for I am broken. I am broken because I am not made for this unperfect world. When I start to compare myself to others or feel like I have to be perfect, I must remind myself that I am wounded and broken and sinful because God needs me to be. He needs me to need him. If I ever was perfect, then I wouldn't need him. And, oh, how I don't ever want to be on my own in this life!

What are your worldly perceptions of perfection? What do you think God would have us do?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Beat the Boredom-Snacking Habit

Have you ever gone all day making one healthy choice after another, only to blow it on an entire bag of chips you started eating out of boredom? If you haven't, you're stronger than me. You can go ahead and skip over reading this. If you're normal like the rest of us, I thought I'd share some tips and tricks I use to help curb boredom-induced munching.

A clean mouth is a happy mouth.

Your pearly whites and fresh breath form a pretty good team force in defending you against snacking. If you're at home when fighting the urge to munch, brush your teeth or rinse with some minty-clean mouth wash. If you're out and about, you can pop a piece of sugar-free mint gum. This keeps your mouth busy too.

Keep your hands busy.

If you're someone who has to be doing something all the time or you'll go crazy (like me), then it's probably a good idea to keep your hands busy. Try an activity like painting your nails or toe nails, cleaning the house, taking a walk, reading a book or paying your bills. Sometimes, these small tasks take up just the right amount of time for you to resist opening the refrigerator.

Stay hydrated.

One of the best tips for shrinking your stomach, thus curbing your appetite, is to drink a big glass of water before and after eating. For me, this helps me stay full nearly a whole hour longer than without it. Some of my friends make fun of me because I drink like a fish. I always keep a big gulp cup from Quik Trip or a Route 44 Sonic cup at my desk or in my car. I like to keep it full of flavored water, sugar-free iced tea, or iced coffee. These styrofoam cups keep my drink cold too, which is perfect for someone who's always on-the-go. 

Prepare your pantry.

If you just can't resist the urge to eat, grab something that will last you longer than the 10 seconds it takes to eat half the bag of chips and salsa. (Oh, maybe that's just me . . . .) Sugar-free hard candies and lollipops are great for keeping your mouth busy for a while without racking up too many calories. Fresh veggies or fruit are all good choices, as well as some air-popped popcorn. The best way to defend yourself against blowing your diet is to be proactive. Choose not to buy snacks or keep foods that will tempt you. For instance, I've been known to eat the whole carton of my fat-free frozen yogurt at one time. Therefore, I try to buy individual servings of fro-yo or low-fat ice cream bars instead. 

Dear Diary, Today I ate . . . 

Keeping yourself accountable by either writing what you eat down or telling someone may be your saving grace throughout the day. Even better, tell God. One thing I've learned about maintaining a healthy lifestyle is that you cannot do it — better yet, you can do it much more easily — if you ask God for help. 
Give all your worries to God, for he cares for you. — I Peter 5:7

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How to Stick to Your New Healthy Lifestyle

In a world so obsessed with body image and appearance, the issue of spiritual, physical and emotional health is very dear to my heart. Through years of cheerleading, softball, group exercise and thankfully, some truly gifted and wise counsel, I've acquired some knowledge on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Many people have asked me for tips on dieting or exercise, but I think it's extremely important that we set the record straight first.

It's great to be motivated to get healthy because you want to fit into that new outfit, or you want to lower your cholesterol, or even if you want to be more confident in your swimsuit on your upcoming beach vacation. However, we have to remind ourselves daily that my motivation should ultimately stem from the desire to please the Lord in all that we do.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17
When you accept God's gift of grace and new life, you truly are a new creation. Why not accept all that God wants to give you and let his grace permeate your physical health? With Jesus on your side, you can do all things. Set goals. Lose weight. Get strong. Get fast.

For those of you who are new to making a healthy lifestyle, these tips may help you commit to your decision and become a better you.
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you.  Let them be a living and holy sacrifice - the kind he will find acceptable. Romans 12:1 (NLT) 

Be intentional and get physical.

Only 20 years ago, it was easy to be more active — not by choice — but because you had to be. You had to walk across the office to talk to your boss. You had to walk into the video rental store to watch a movie. Kids rode bikes instead of electric scooters. 

Technology has totally changed things. 

Because of so many conveniences today, you have to be intentional about getting your exercise in. For instance, I sit at a cubicle 8-10 hours a day. That's a lot of sitting on my butt! I often get up, go to the bathroom's handicapped stall, and do a set of squats or lunges. Sometimes, I'll stand up and stretch. The most important thing I do to be intentional with exercise is that I either wake up and exercise before work, or I pack a bag in the morning and go straight to the gym after work. 

What helps me stay committed to fitting in physical activity is that I have a routine. Making a weekly routine for your workouts gives you structure and brings you ease of mind. You'll be less likely to give up after a couple of weeks.

Whether it's a high intensity cardio set in your spare 20 minutes or an hour on the elliptical, setting time aside every day to focus on working out your body is important. The act of focusing that time on you and your body actually helps your mind. Studies show that exercise releases hormones that decrease the amount of cortisol your body makes. Less cortisol means less stress, so a quick workout can benefit you  all day.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

Read food labels and eat clean.

Sometimes, I have to remind myself that food is just food. It's not the succulent, mouth-pleasin' Holy Grail of the stomach that I tend to pretend it is. I often catch myself lusting after food like it's my ticket to paradise, and I can't eat it fast enough.

It's food, Amber! I think to myself later. Food is just another thing we have to do to survive. Changing your perception of food from one of pleasure and/or comfort helps you make the healthier decisions during meal time. God is your pleasure and your comforter. 

Don't get me wrong. I love food, and I'm very thankful for the abundant food choices God placed on earth. He wants us to eat and live well, so we shouldn't feel like we can't enjoy one of his blessings. 

One of the easiest ways to eat well is to eat clean. Eating clean, to me, implies eating food that grows naturally on the earth. This would include vegetables, fruit, meats, nuts, grain and other oats. I try to eat food in its most natural form — as in food that's unprocessed or at least less altered than other foods. Now, I'll be honest and say that I don't eat 100 percent clean. I'm a busy person like the rest of the world! Not to mention, I'm on a pretty tight budget. The occasional Lean Cuisine or equivalent ain't going to kill me.

Another big helper to stay on board with a healthy diet is to learn how to read the nutrition labels on foods. Know that most fruits and vegetables are kind've like free foods. They're all good for you. When you buy sauces, pastas, cereals, canned items and other things outside of the produce section, be cognizant of how many calories and fat it has. So many people will walk down the aisle at a grocery store and pick up the first bag of cheese they see. If you compare nutrition labels, you'll find there are big differences among all the cheeses and usually a low-fat or fat-free one. You can easily cut out big chunks of unnecessary calories and fat from your diet without totally eliminating certain foods. 
Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT) 

Don't let fitness or nutrition consume your life. 

While making a lifestyle change is not for the faint of heart, maintaining that lifestyle shouldn't get between you and God. After all, being healthy should be a way to glorify God with your body.

My freshman year in college, I obsessed over exercise and nutrition. I counted calories. I exercised twice a day. And if I missed a day, my world crumbled to an end. My friends and family thought it was funny until they realized my "healthy lifestyle" was running my life. After a close medical call (and losing some of my hair), I realized it too.

A healthy lifestyle should be a way of life that brings joy to your life. If it's stealing your joy, you need to check your priorities.

More fitness and nutrition tips to come later on the blog. 

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