How Counting Your Macros, Not Just Calories, Can Tip The Scale

1804w-macro-diet-nutrients

One of the biggest issues with fad diets is that they tend to favor one macronutrient and restrict the others. Enter the Macro Diet. Many people have had success maintaining results long-term, since it’s balanced and not too restrictive. Counting macros not only shows you what the right balance of food looks like for health and performance, but it can also serve as a great way to shift your eating habits and create a sustainable transformation. It gives you wiggle room for eating out with friends, or going out for lunch meetings at work (#irl dieting goals).

So let’s get started with a Macro Diet 101: Macronutrients are the three nutrients your body uses to produce, and store, energy, including energy for exercise! The three macronutrients also happen to be those you’re most likely already familiar with: protein, fat, and carbohydrate.

Each macronutrient contains energy, which is commonly measured in calories.

  • Protein has 4 calories per gram.
  • Carbohydrate has 4 calories per gram.
  • Fat has 9 calories per gram.

So when you count your macros, you are technically controlling your calories, too. But the same isn’t true in reverse. When you’re counting calories, you’re not necessarily finding a balance of all the macronutrients your body needs—and that is what sets this approach apart.

macros calories per gram

As a general starting point, start out eating about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight if you exercise regularly (hello barre babes!), then using a handy macro counting guide to figure out a good ratio of fats and carbs for your body and your goals. It may take some trial and error, and that’s normal. Remember this isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. We like that the above guide factors in 1) your activity level and 2) how you generally gain weight.

With a macro diet, you’re not meant to be depriving your body; you’re meant to be feeding it ideal nutrition that makes it more efficient. Let’s cover some meal inspiration around the 3 primary macronutrients!

Macronutrient #1: Carbohydrates

Fill your plate with healthy carbs, including leafy greens, whole grains and root veggies. A few good picks: broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, squash, dark leafy greens, green beans, onions, cucumbers, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, potatoes and quinoa.

Macronutrient #2: Protein

You need plenty of protein, but remember all protein isn’t created equal. Choose fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring), cod, lean grass-fed beef, turkey, eggs and nuts.

Macronutrient #3: Fat

Getting plenty of healthy fats is important for healthy hormone levels, metabolism, mood, and even vitamin absorption. Foods high in essential fatty acids include: coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, almonds, brazil nuts and macadamia nuts.

 

 

 

macro-math-3-keys-to-dialing-in-your-macro-ratios-v2-2-700xh

 

Counting your macros is actually very simple, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. Luckily, the app and website, MyFitnessPal, does most of the work for you. Use the app as a food journal to track one week of normal eating (clearly if you know you’re going to have a busy week and will be eating out a lot, or traveling, that’s not your week to try this). Next, review your habits and identify where you struggle, and can make improvements. Do you tend to under-eat in protein? Swap out your snacks with protein-rich foods (*be mindful most protein bars sneak in lots of unnecessary carbs in the form of sugars, and saturated fats! Think lean beef jerky, hard-boiled eggs, or cottage cheese or greek yogurt). Tend to sneak in too much fat? Maybe reduce those two tablespoons of almond butter you slather on your apple to just one; or try using 1/3 instead of 1/2 of an avocado on your morning toast.

If your head is already spinning from all this tracking, we got your covered with some simple nutrition tips, by simply listening to your body’s cues:

  1. If you’re hungry, add more protein, as it is the most satiating nutrient. More fiber is also filling.
  2. If you’re tired, add more fibrous veggies to ensure sufficient energy from carbs.
  3. If you’re not losing weight, lower your carbohydrate intake, especially with dinner.
  4. If you have sugar cravings, balance your blood sugar better with more protein and fiber and remove all sugar.
  5. If you are losing weight too fast, add 5 to 6 bites of starch, such as sweet potato, oatmeal or squash, with one meal per day.
  6. If you are losing muscle mass, add more protein—ideally, an extra 5 to 6 bites of protein per day—and add strength training to your workouts.

Using macro counting to maintain a healthy weight is a good idea—this diet plan will keep you on track, choosing healthy, well-balanced meals, and keep you from feeling starved or having low energy. The great thing about this approach is you don’t need to stress yourself out with exact measurements, or feel guilt if you have a meal that doesn’t completely meet your macros. You can make up for it with your next meal, or the next day’s meals!

Barre At All Levels – How and When to Modify

IMG_9689

Are you meeting us half-way in class? We want you to feel like you can really give each exercise your all, but knowing that your all looks different, depending on the exercise, and maybe even on each side. It’s easy to set the expectation of performing at one level when exercising. But we’re here to give you the ante you need to approach each exercise, not just each class, customized to your personal level. Here’s what it really means to modify (whether upper or lower), to make your workout truly your own.

So where to begin? You should always begin ANY exercise at Neighborhood Barre from an origin of muscle activation. There’s a reason it’s called isometric strength training, right? There’s no choreography here, it’s just straight up flexing your muscle, which causes your body to move an inch. Let’s think about this in reverse. Instead of telling your mind, I’m going to lift my arm an inch in order to work my shoulder – Try thinking, I’m going to contract or flex the top of my shoulder, which causes a slight lift of my weight, or wrist. The muscle contraction is your cause, the physical movement is the effect. Stick your arm out right now, without any equipment, and try it, using this reversing method of thinking. It makes a difference right?!

You have to master the basics and train your body to engage from the right place, before you take on equipment, balance checks, popping your heel, or anything else that your instructor may cue. Remember these are always options, and there’s a reason we don’t begin with a lot of these choices right away when starting an exercise. Whether you’re a new or veteran client, we challenge you to take your next class without any equipment, to tune into how you’re engaging your body throughout class.

IMG_9690

Next, check in with yourself to see if you’re actually listening to your body during an exercise, or are you telling your body what it needs to do? Or worse, are you secretly trying to be your neighbor’s shadow? You have to have your blinders on in class, and not get discouraged by what someone else may be doing that you’re not. Things feel different from exercise to exercise, from left side to right side, from day to day. Remember to respect the signals your body is giving you and adjust from there. If you feel the exercise somewhere differently from what the instructor is telling you, that’s your signal to adjust.

We hear this most commonly in seat exercises (feeling it in your standing leg, or in the hip flexors). Any time you feel something more in the supporting side of your body, or worse – in the front-side (and not back-side) of your body, its a matter of where you’re resting your weight. You must stay centered, so you can put as much body weight, and work, into the correct side. When standing, think about adding a slight hinge from your waist, so you are able to re-engage your core, and keep your shoulders in line with your hips, versus leaning into the barre. If this still doesn’t cut it, then turn to face the barre, take a forward-folding position (head to the barre), and box your arm out, on the same working side. Any time you’re on All 4’s, try lowering yourself onto both forearms. This basically forces your body to redistribute your weight onto the correct side.

IMG_9687

A similar effect, for advanced clients, is a balance check. Not only does adding in a balance check add a greater core and stability challenge, it re-adjusts your body weight, so you can re-center and better isolate the working side, with an added cardio element. Try adding a balance check throughout class, meaning in thigh work, seat work, and during abs. Other ways to increase the burn include adding a reverse grip in any standing thigh or seat exercise facing the barre. This forces more opposition utilizing your own body weight.

Alternately, try relying on the barre less for other standing exercises. Check yourself by letting go of the barre for a second or two during the exercise to make sure you’re not using your upper body to rest weight onto the barre. Next, try improving your balance by taking your hand(s) forward, and eventually overhead for more of a challenge.  Just make sure your posture isn’t compromised when you add these elements, or your lowest working position (try not to lift your body up with your arms!). Next, try adding a pop to your heel to again improve stability, while also increasing your calorie burn by adding in more work for another part of your body. Think also about engaging on the equipment throughout the entire exercise, versus only when an instructor may be cueing a squeeze, or a press. See if you can hold the squeeze, or press, from beginning-to-end, then challenge yourself to squeeze deeper, or press harder, every time it’s being cued.

We also hear complaints of a sore neck or tight hip flexors during abs. In ab exercises, you want to focus on finding a C-spine (without pushing your shoulders into your ears!), to engage your core, regardless of the move that you’re performing. So think about constantly pulling your belly button back, and stretching your shoulders, or fingertips, forward. The same principle actually holds true when we’re performing ab exercises on our backs. You want to lace your rib cage, by pressing your waistband into the mat, and still maintaining your ‘tucked’ lower abdominal position, so you’re not pulling from your hip flexors.

IMG_9686

Need less in abs? Remove the equipment. Utilize a soft, supporting grip with one or both hands to support your body weight, but also reconnect your mind to the “C-spine” formation, so think about your elbows pointing up anytime you take a light grip. Neck on fire? Try taking the physical movement out of it, and engaging your core through breath control. Think about exhaling to contract your core, feeling your belly button draw down and inwards. You can add an arm pump to help you connect your contraction to your breathing, which will increase your exhalations. Tight hip flexors? Keep a bend in your leg(s) whenever we’re working in an extended position (think bicycles, scissor kicks or lifts, etc.).

Want more during abs? Think about incorporating movement from other parts of your body. Any time more than one part of your body is working, it automatically increases your calorie burn. So for example adding punches to your twists, or extending the leg that you’re twisting towards. Try  flexing your feet back and crunching your heels in, to add lower abdominal work, while continuing your upper abdominal work at the same time. And again, adding in intentional breathing techniques throughout will also strengthen your core and improve your results.

Remember, your number one rule will always be muscle activation over anything else. And because your own body is your number one tool and most valuable ‘piece of equipment’ at Neighborhood Barre – we truly can add, or remove, something within every exercise to create a tailored approach to working out with your own body in class.  Whether you’re looking for less, or more!, it’s important to talk to your instructor so we can empower you with the best choices in class.

Pushing Past Your Plateau – When Diet & Exercise Aren’t Enough

Stocksy_txp177de598lhJ100_Medium_477814The losing weight equation is a no-brainer right? Burn off more calories than you take in, by eating less and moving more. Sounds simple! But what if you are filling your plate with seemingly the right types of food, and hitting up your favorite exercise class at least three times a week, and it’s still not enough? Your mental game is likely the missing piece of the puzzle.

Before you roll your eyes, and go back to your bulletproof latte, hear us out. It turns out, the way we think about food, our body and our goals makes a big difference in how likely we are to stick to a weight-loss plan, regardless of whether your plan involves counting calories, going Keto, or taking an extra HIIT class every week.

Here’s 5 tips to get your mind right once and for all, and elevate your weight loss results, without the latest trendy diet or an overly intense workout plan.

Mindful-Eating-650px

  1. Disconnect The Distractions: What we often deem these days as successful multi-tasking, is in reality overstimulation, and losing sight of getting back to what we actually think and feel. When you eat, STOP watching TV, answering emails, or scrolling through social media. When you ditch the distractions, you can focus more on what you’re eating, how much you’re eating, and how it makes you feel. This new relationship with your food will likely leave you feeling more satiated and lead to a strong, clear picture of food as part of your diet in the long-term.
  2. More Is Actually More: Diets immediately lead to the connotation of less, by cutting out carbs or sugar, cutting down portions, or even cutting out entire food groups. This act of cutting puts us and our minds into scarcity mode. When something is off-limits, even if you’re able to avoid it for a while, you could end up bingeing on it later because you’ve gone so long without it. Instead focus on celebrating the foods that you can eat, by crowding your plate with protein and vegetables, therefore simply making less room for the other stuff. Shift your focus away from what you can’t eat, and more towards what you can. It’s the same thought process with good vs. bad foods. Take pizza for example: with the mindset of filling up your plate with what you can eat, make a salad *with protein* to fill up your plate, then grab a slice of pizza. Before you move in on your second, or third, slice, see how you feel after you finish your plate. This is a much more realistic approach to still eating a ‘bad’ food without the guilt later, or telling yourself it’s your cheat day and eating 3 slices of pizza, with a side of breadsticks (we can’t quit you carbs!).Screen Shot 2018-08-20 at 3.06.45 PM
  3. Write Down What’s Off Limits: We’re not talking food here (remember, we want a healthy relationship with what we eat!). Declare, in writing, what you’re unwilling to do. This might sound counterintuitive, but it can help provide a “why” when motivation starts to falter. Are you unwilling to be the girl who’s always complaining about the same body part, to her friends or family? Are you unwilling to be the next person in your family to be put on cholesterol meds? Are you unwilling to wear an oversized t-shirt, or black-only bathing suit your next beach trip? Are you unwilling to be the parent who’s too tired to play with their kids at the end of the day? Think both long and short-term, as again your health, and your weight, are something that you will be dealing with the rest of your life. Remember to write these down, and keep it at the ready.
  4. Tracking 2.0: We’ve told you before about tracking what you eat to make yourself more mindful of your calorie input. But let’s go a step above the calorie counting. Start tracking not only what you ate, and how much, add on when you ate it, and how it made you feel. You’d be surprised how many times you may be eating your feelings, or eat when you’re bored, or that you have developed a habit of snacking before bed time when watching TV. The key here is you’re not only tracking your food intake, you’re tracking what you’re doing while you’re eating, and how it makes you feel. Becoming more mindful of what you eat, when and why you eat it, will help you create a healthy diet for life.
  5. Sleep On It: One of the strongest risk factors for becoming overweight is lack of sleep. When you’re feeling tired, you’re more likely to choose unhealthy comfort foods and to skip your workout. Additionally, sleep deprivation may slow down your metabolism. Yikes! If you’re wanting to see an added tick on the scale, try shooting for a consistent bed time, 7 days a week. Sleeping at least 7–8 hours per night consistently, is one of the easiest ways to control your weight without having to factor in food or exercise! Plus sleep helps aid muscle recovery from class 😉

 

Getting Warmed Up, From Front To Back, This Fall

Your warm-up should do just that – gently prepare the body for exercise by gradually increasing your heart rate and circulation. This will loosen the joints and increase blood flow to the muscles, prepping your body and mind for physical activity.  Just how we keep your mind and muscles constantly guessing in class by switching up the exercises, we do the same at the start of class in our quarterly warm-ups. Let’s break down the current warm-up release, shall we?

Did you know your core has two sides? We want you to keep your entire core engaged this warm-up, so think about working both the back and front side of your abdominal wall. The key to mastering the first few moves of class is your breath control. Starting with your breathing is a great connection for mind and body, throughout class. With every inhale, imagine the belly button is pulling in towards the floor, and with each exhale, try to pull in even deeper, focusing on your transverse abdominals. Keep your shoulders wide and roll your shoulder blades down your back, maintaining the isometric contraction of your core throughout each move. The pumping of your arms also helps get the blood moving in the body, bonus!

Think of the next four-count ab move, “reach, roll, twist, extend” as a jazz-hands version of the original and aforementioned arm pump. It’s still all about breath control and a deeper contraction in your core, with a little more pizzaz (wink). Your number one goal is to keep your belly flat by squeezing your navel in and scooping your belly out with every exhalation. Think about working deeper and smaller over time, versus starting over with every set, exhaling on the reach and the tap. Your number one goal in class is always muscle engagement over a large scale of motion.

IMG_9332

Moving onto reverse planks, otherwise known as the hardest, but most effective(!), plank on the planet. Think about driving your heels and palms into the ground, and staying in control during the drop. When you start to feel your weight move into your lower back, that’s your signal to bridge yourself back up. That should be considered your lowest point in this plank. If you have wrist sensitivity, or generally want a little less intensity for this move, try performing a static hold instead, or lowering yourself down onto your forearms.

IMG_9331

When working out your triceps, you want to keep as much weight pulling behind your body as possible. Most of the time people lead with their hips, versus their arms. Our bridged reverse tricep push up is a great way to make the mind-body connection to actually dip from the elbow and not your hips. Elbows should shoot straight back, with your hands and feet planted, and hips raised the entire time. You want to think about engaging the muscles in your back to bridge your hips up, pressing yourself away from the floor. Make sure when you lower your seat to finish, that you focus more on stretching your seat back allll the way back, so your weight rocks into the heels of your hands. You’re not tapping your seat up and down during these small isometric dips. If you don’t feel this in the backs of your arms in this position, try seated dips instead to master isolating your triceps first!

IMG_9333

Push ups are usually generally performed on our knees, or in a modified position in class. But we’re really challenging you to add leg raises, and even pop onto your toes, for this current warm-up. Keep in mind when you are raising each leg, to keep your body weight centered, meaning you’re not favoring one side of your body over the other. A good check-point for yourself is to see if your shoulders and hips remain level throughout the exercise. When you pop onto your toes to finish your push up series, use the mirrors around the room to check and see when your form is compromised. If you can’t remove the small sway from your lower back, it’s time to lower your knees so you can really scoop out your abs and re-center. Remember you’re using your own body weight on the way down, powering through the floor on the way up, and always leading with your chest (not hips)!

IMG_9338

We’ve made it to our last floor exercise before you start your weighted arm work, woo hoo! The plank is credited with working the entire body, and that’s what we want you to think about when performing the rolling plank in class. Let’s not complicate this move, as you seriously don’t need to be coordinated to pull it off, promise! Think of your bent leg as never losing it’s shape. It’s starting in a kick-stand behind your body for the side plank. That leg crosses behind as you lift your body back over to your forearm plank (think figure-4 leg cross), then take it back to your starting side-plank. Think about keeping your hips at the same height the entire time to ensure the work stays in your core and out of your back. If this still feels a little too much like rubbing your belly and patting your head at the same time (no judgement), just hold the kick-stand side plank and lower and lift your hips instead. We finish off planks by threading our floating leg through (think reach forward for the edge of your mat) to find a true isometric lift to finish. By straightening that bottom leg out, and forward, you’re removing the gap of space for your hips to drop down to keep the work centered in your core, from front to back. It’s actually just better form, not crazy hard, we promise!

Now that your feeling warm and limber, and a little out of breath, it’s time to pick up the intensity with your dumbbells. Stay tuned for a later blog post about our weighted arm work. We hope that you use these tips for your next warm-up in class, and remember to always ask your instructor if you’re pre-or-post-natal, dealing with an injury, or if something just simply doesn’t feel right, for alternate moves and positions to better suit you!

 

Finding Your Rhythm With A Routine

The sun is setting on summer, and there’s something looming over your head – you need to get back on track with your health commitments (womp womp). While some of us are SO ready to get back to feeling and looking better, others are a little….underwhelmed. The longer your ‘break’ may have been, the more difficult it may be to get back to the groove you were in pre-summer break. The struggle is real, ya’ll.

Katy Outdoors Barre Park Pic

But have no fear, we’re here to help give you that swift kick in the seat (that you’ve been missing right!?) to get your fall rolling, beginning N-O-W.

  1. Grade Your Current Lifestyle. Are you taking a dynamic approach? There is nothing like feeling well in your mind and body to improve your focus, sleep and energy levels. This includes your habits, exercise and diet. Yes physical activity matters, but are you also paying attention to what you’re eating, and how you’re spending your time otherwise to really feel your best? You likely don’t need to do a complete re-haul here, so don’t stress before you even get started, but remember exercise is only one piece of the puzzle. And no amount of calories burned or classes taken will ultimately mend a calorie deficit, or poor life habits that cause you to skip your workout or eat junk food the next day.
  2. Make A Plan. For your diet, clear out all the crap in your pantry that starts whispering your name when you turn on Netflix. Set a cut-off time where the kitchen is closed and communicate this with ALL of your family members. Consider eating earlier, by making your biggest meals early in the day. This will prevent you from pigging out at night and helps your metabolism burn those calories before hitting the hay. Aim for exercise daily. Of course there will be days where you miss it, but if you aim for it every day and put it on your calendar, you will at least end up with a solid 4 or 5 days of movement.Screen Shot 2018-08-20 at 3.06.45 PM
  3. Get Organized. Prepare everything the night before. Lay out your workout gear and pack your gym bag. Plan your meals the night before and if possible, have them prepped and waiting for you. We think this grocery staple list from Theeverygirl.com for your weekly shopping is a great way to start with meal prepping next week.
  4. Hold Yourself Accountable. Start making yourself aware of all your fitness and dietary habits by tracking them. A few great internet options are MyFitnessPal.com or Lose It! App for smart phones. They are both thorough and quick, and eye-opening as well as addictive! Also research has proven again and again that people who track their eating are the biggest losers, literally.Girls chatting cubbies
  5. Stay Psyched. Find a workout buddy. Whether it’s your child, your dog, or ideally a fellow #barrebabe*, commit to finding someone who is waiting for you at a preplanned time. (*We bet you’d be pleasantly surprised if you leaned over next class and asked your neighbor if she wanted an accountability partner. Simply swap numbers and text each other to stay accountable and excited about class. BONUS, you just made another new friend, Miss Congeniality.) If you find yourself losing interest in staying on track, reward yourself with a massage or a new pair of leggings (not food or alcohol!).
  6. Have A Plan B. Nothing will ever 100 percent work according to plan, because life. There will be good days, and bad days. Give yourself a break, and start over again the next day (not next Monday, the very next day). Plan some quick fixes to get your spirits back up, and your body already working towards recovery. Ate a big (late) meal? Take a quick 10 – 15 minute walk afterwards to help your food digest and feel better. Skipped your workout? It’s ok because you’ve planned them daily (riiight?), so you’re 100% attending the next one tomorrow. Skipped the grocery store this weekend? Look into a healthy meal delivery service that you know you can fall back on for those weeks you’re too busy to prep.

Lastly, remember to focus on the outcome, not the action. How does eating, sleeping and exercising better make you feel? Keep your goals dynamic (a number on a scale should not be your measure for success), keep it simple and approachable, be gentle on yourself when you stumble, make adjustments along the way, and always, always keep going. You’ve got this!!!

What Really Happens When You Skip Out On Stretching

We know we know, you’ve got lots of places to go, and lots and lots of things to do. But is skipping out on that final five minutes of stretching after class costing you precious workout results, and potential pain later?

BandT_20150227_0754 stretch color

This may seem like a no-brainer, but without stretching, your muscles begin to contract and tighten after a long workout. Sometimes, achy knees or painful hips are caused by muscular contractions surrounding the joint. Stretching loosens the muscle, which aids in a quick recovery and the prevention of pain.

Similar to the initial effect, the contracted muscles will remain in their shortened state if not sufficiently stretched. Certain movements within workouts keep specific muscles in a contracted state while others are kept in a lengthened position which, over time, can result in muscle imbalances. This tightness increases the wear and tear on your joints and decreases your range of motion due to the reduced extensibility, making future injuries more likely.

When you skip a stretch after your workout the tissue remains in the position in which you left it, which can also add density, or bulk, which is why we always find time for a quick stretch in-between exercises during class to lengthen your muscle back out.

Taking time for your cool down can also increase your flexibility and mobility over time, which is thought to help avoid muscle tears, back pain, and joint issues. The 30 minutes directly after your workout are prime time to get the most out of your stretch, and ultimately see the most progress. So although skipping a stretch here and there won’t offset your entire workout, investing a little more time to loosen hard-working muscles, will set you up to be a better, pain-free barre babe over time.

If you absolutely must duck out of class early (hey at least you came right!!), here’s our top five, dynamic stretches you should perform at home. Think about holding each stretch for 30 seconds, or perform the reps listed, then repeat the entire sequence on the other side.

Low Lunge:

  1. Lunge forward with left leg until thigh is parallel to floor, and place hands on floor on either side of left foot, or on the left knee.
  2. Raise right arm straight up toward ceiling as you rotate left shoulder back. Lower hand to starting position.

Down-Dog Extension:

  1. Start in a tabletop position with shoulders under wrists and knees under hips. Press into both hands and lift your knees off the floor.
  2. Push hips up as you extend left leg behind you and press right heel down.
  3. Pull left knee in toward chest and lower into a lunge again to complete 1 rep. Do 8 reps of the entire sequence.

IMG_5555

Active Pigeon:

  1. Start in a straight arm plank. Pull left knee in toward outside of your left wrist, then lower left leg to floor so foot is near your right hip.
  2. Lower hips as you push through hands, lifting head and chest.
  3. Option to lower chest and forward fold for a deeper stretch. Alternately you may use a prop such as an exercise ball or pillow under your left glue for more support.

Butterfly Pose:

  1. Sit up tall with the soles of your feet pressed together and your knees dropped to the sides as far as they will comfortably go.

  2. Pull your abdominals gently inward and lean forward from your hips, being careful  not to round down from your shoulders.

IMG_8885

Seated Head Roll:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position and clasp your hands behind your back. Lower your chin toward your chest slowly.
  2. Rotate your head to the right so that your ear is directly over your right shoulder. Hold the position for five seconds.
  3. Roll your head back down toward your chest and then to the left. Bend your neck so your head is over your left shoulder. Hold the position for five seconds. Repeat for up to 8 reps.

Coping With Stress, Starting Today

1.) Reduce Your Intake Of Stimulants. 

Eliminating our most common vices simply isn’t realistic, and especially not all at once. So try starting small. Can you replace your second, or afternoon, cup of coffee with herbal tea? If you need wine or a cocktail to unwind after work each day, pick 1 or 2 weekdays to make a mocktail instead, drink flavored sparkling water (add fruit or herbs!), or even kombucha for a similar placebo effect. Bonus: Keeping yourself better hydrated will enable your body to cope better with stress.

You should also aim to avoid or reduce your consumption of refined sugars – they aren’t only in desserts, they’re in most manufactured foods (even salad dressings and bread), and can cause energy crashes which may lead you to feel tired and irritable. Make sure to check the labels of all processed foods, and try to find an alternate brand, or better yet pick something up from your neighborhood farmer’s market to avoid all the additives!

Katelyn sitting

2.) Get Moving To Burn Off Your Stress.

Stressful situations increase the level of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol in your body. These are the “fight or flight” hormones that are designed to protect us from immediate bodily harm when we are under threat. Physical exercise can be used as a surrogate to metabolize the excessive stress hormones and restore your body and mind to a calmer, more relaxed state.

When you feel stressed and tense, go for a brisk walk in fresh air (check out our previous post about the benefits of walking!).  Try to incorporate some physical activity into your daily routine on a regular basis, either before or after work, or at lunchtime. (Pro tip: make your workouts *non-negotiable* with yourself and your schedule, and pick a consistent class time to attend regularly).  Regular physical activity will also improve the quality of your sleep!

3.) Go To Sleep.

A lack of sleep is a significant cause of stress. Unfortunately though, stress also interrupts our sleep as thoughts keep whirling through our heads, stopping us from relaxing enough to fall asleep (stop thinking about your to-do list at 2 am!!).

Rather than relying on medication, try maximizing your relaxation before going to sleep.  Avoid caffeine during the evening, as well as alcohol if you know that leads to disturbed sleep. Stop doing any mentally demanding work several hours before going to bed so that you give your brain time to calm down. Stop multi-tasking! Quit scrolling stories on your phone with the TV on. Pick one or the other, to help your brain slow down. Try reading a calming book for a few minutes to relax your body, tire your eyes and help you forget about the things that worry you. Aim to go to bed at roughly the same time each day so that your mind and body get used to a predictable bedtime routine.

4. Try A Relaxation Technique.

Meditation isn’t for everyone. But literally anyone can do this, anywhere, even at your desk or in the car. One very simple relaxation technique is to focus on a word or phrase that has a positive meaning to you. Words such as “calm” “love” and “peace” work well, or you could think of one self-affirming mantra such as “I deserve calm in my life” or “Grant me serenity”.  Focus on your chosen word or phrase and return to the chosen word or phrase even when your mind wanders. If you find yourself becoming tense again later, simply silently repeat your word or phrase.

Don’t worry if you find it difficult to relax at first. Relaxation is a skill that needs to be learned and will improve with practice, like anything in life! So make sure to try this technique more than once to get the hang of it.

Journaling Pic

5. Keep A Stress Diary.

Keeping a stress diary for a few weeks is an effective stress management tool, to help you become more aware of the situations which cause you to become stressed.

Note the date, time and place of each stressful episode, and what you were doing, who you were with, and how you felt both physically and emotionally.  Give each stressful episode a stress rating (on, say, a 1-10 scale) and use the diary to understand what triggers your stress and how effective you are in stressful situations.  This will enable you to avoid stressful situations and develop better coping mechanisms.

Not a dear diary type? Just talking to someone about how you feel can be helpful.

Talking can work by either distracting you from your stressful thoughts or releasing some of the built-up tension by discussing it. Stress can cloud your judgement and prevent you from seeing things clearly. Talking things through with a friend, work colleague, or even a trained professional, can help you find solutions to your stress and put your problems into perspective.

6. Take Control: Just Say No.

At times, we all feel overburdened by our ‘To Do’ list, and this is a common cause of stress. Accept that you can not do everything at once. (repeat this out loud three times right now because we are serious, sister!) Start to prioritize, and ultimately organize, your tasks.

Make a list of all the things that you need to do and list them in order of genuine priority, and over a longer timeframe. Remember to create buffer times to deal with unexpected tasks, and most importantly schedule time for YOURSELF, whether that’s exercise, a pedicure, or even a walk or phone call with a friend.

Take some things off your plate! Note what tasks you need to do personally and what can be delegated to others to do. See what you may even be able to completely eliminate, or move a task or two to a ‘when time allows’ bucket with no deadline.

Lastly, just say N-O. A common cause of stress is having too much to do and too little time in which to do it.  And yet most of us will still agree to take on additional responsibility.  Learning to say “No” to additional or unimportant requests will help to reduce your level of stress, and may also help you develop more self-confidence. Think about practicing some pre-prepared phrases to let other people down more gently, so you feel more comfortable saying no more often.

Which tip do you find will be easiest for you to work on today? Any other tips you’ve found personally helpful that aren’t on this list? Let us know!

Warming Up To Burn It Out At The Barre

No matter the workout of choice, it’s important to set your body up for success with a proper pre-exercise warm-up. Experts agree a warm-up should heat and loosen the body, and prepare the mind for action. But there’s also some moves to actually avoid.

BandT_20160611_0135 Green Ball Ab WarmupAlthough most of your barre class is developed to be performed by focusing on a singular muscle group, your warm-up is different. Think of your warm-up as a dynamic approach of getting your joints moving one at a time, then all together, to take the body through progressive movements that loosen and stretch your muscles.

If you are habitually running late to class, perform a quick set of knee lifts with arm presses by your car or in the lobby, or give yourself a goal of 25 jumping jacks. It’s important to wake up and warm-up the joints before you really get moving.

Next up is immediately warming the midsection. Your core actually contracts first in every exercise you do in class. We like to say you’re working your core for 55 minutes in class, not just the final 10! All the energy you exert starts in your midsection, and is then transferred to your limbs, which is why the first exercises performed in our warm-ups are centered around your core.

Follow this up with dynamic stretching exercises that focus on stability and mobility, like push ups and planks. You want to focus on getting your body ‘practicing’ positions you may perform later at a more intense state. (For barre, translate this into proper posture and alignment in each warm-up exercise, so that you’ll be able to perform the same posture and alignment in other sections of class later.) The added focus on strengthening the core with these specific exercises performed in the warm-up first, allows you to perform the other moves in your workout later with more intensity and better attention to form, to get more out of them.

Full Arm Plank float legDynamic stretching is also focused on continual movement to begin to  loosen the muscles, so you can improve your range of motion during your workout (See, you really can sink another inch lower in thighs!)

Lastly, focus on building up your heart rate throughout your warm-up. Getting your heart pumping warms up your muscles, and switches on your nervous system for peak output during class. Just make sure the warm-up doesn’t fatigue you, so listen to your own body’s cues and remember every day is different.

So what not to do? Reserve your static stretching for the cool down (holding a pose for 10 seconds or longer, without movement). This can actually hinder your performance and increase your risk for injury. Research shows static stretching will likely leave you less able to move quickly and on command come workout time, impairing your strength performance.

What’s your favorite dynamic warm-up move? Let us know here, or comment on our social media posts about this warm-up blog post, through your local Neighborhood Barre’s social media handles. You never know when your requested move may make the cut next warm-up!

 

Cross-Train Terrain. How Walking Will Change Your Life

walking imageOnce of the most common questions we get asked is how often to attend class, as well as what else clients should potentially be doing in addition to their barre routine. Our studios offer a variety of moderate to vigorous activity level exercise classes to help you feel your best (we suggest 3 to 5 classes weekly). But what does the rest of your day look like outside of the studio?

12 hours is the amount of time the average person is sitting a day. The more hours you sit each day, the higher your risk of metabolic problems, even if you achieve the recommended amount of daily physical activity.

Low intensity, ‘non-exercise’ activities like standing and walking are much more important than you realize. In fact, low level activities play a crucial metabolic role and account for more of our daily energy expenditure than moderate-to-high intensity activities. From helping you lose weight and de-stress to lowering your blood pressure and reducing your risk of many chronic diseases—going for regular walks is one of the best and easiest things you can do for your health. Here’s the top benefits of why you should be walking to the studio from now on!

1. Improve Your Mood – We know how sometimes it takes a glass of wine or a square (or three) of dark chocolate to decompress from the day. Well, going for a walk is a zero-calorie strategy with the same benefits. Research shows that regularly walking actually modifies your nervous system so much that you’ll experience a decrease in anger and hostility. Walk with a friend (like your barre buddy!) for added interaction to help you feel connected, which boosts your mood. And summertime is the perfect time to start! Walking outdoors exposes you to natural sunlight, which can help stave off Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)—making it a potential antidote for your seasonal blues.

Girls-Night-Out-1 Trio2. Boost Your Creativity – Feeling stuck at work? Troubleshooting a tricky relationship? Get the creative juices flowing by hitting the pavement! According to a 2014 study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, Learning, Memory, and Cognition, going for a walk can spark creativity. Researchers administered creative-thinking tests to subjects while seated and while walking and found that the walkers thought more creatively than the sitters.

3. Looser Jeans – Not that you’re wearing them these days anyways (yoga pants are always acceptable for any occasion in our book). But regular walking can help improve your body’s response to insulin, which can help reduce belly fat. Daily walking increases metabolism by burning extra calories and by preventing muscle loss, which is particularly important as we get older.

4. You’ll Keep Your Legs Looking Great – We’re not talking about those curvy gams you’ve been carving out at barre, we’re talking about veins – varicose veins to be exact (eww, we know.) Walking strengthens the secondary circulatory system (a collection of muscles, veins, and valves in our calf and foot) by strengthening and preserving leg muscle, which boosts healthy blood flow.

5. You’ll Slash The Risk Of Chronic Disease –  The statistics are impressive. The American Diabetes Association says walking lowers your blood sugar levels and your overall risk for diabetes. Researchers at the University of Boulder Colorado and the University of Tennessee found that regular walking lowered blood pressureby as much as 11 points and may reduce the risk of stroke by 20% to 40%. One of the most cited studies on walking and health, published in theNew England Journal of Medicine in 2002, found that those who walked enough to meet physical activity guidelines (30 or more minutes of moderate activity on 5 or more days per week) had a 30% lower risk of cardiovascular disease, compared with those who did not walk regularly.

As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of walking every day.  Short on long chunks of time? Even brief bouts of activity offer benefits. For instance, if you can’t fit in one 30-minute walk, try three 10-minute walks instead. Even making simple changes like parking at the back of the parking lot add up throughout the day!

For the apple watch and fitbit fanatics, a common steps goal is a minimum of 10,000 steps daily. Once you hit that goal consistently, try adding on an additional 1,000 steps at a time. Want to turn your walk into even more of a workout? Go for a hike and add uphill elevations, try interval walking (walk for one minute as fast as you can, then at a moderate pace for 2 minutes, and repeat), or add equipment such as a resistance band or ankle or hand weights for more of a challenge.

Simple Summer Swaps To See Results All Year Long

Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer, with pools officially open, and most of us panicking by slathering on self tanner and buying the latest on-trend black bathing suit from Target. It’s disappointing that you can’t lose weight as quickly as it may feel like you may have gained it (I swear that one-week vacation really did me in those last 5 pounds!)

But the rules of weight loss are simple, burn off more than you consume. In addition to regular exercise, here are some simple swaps for you to start incorporating now, to see your efforts add up year-round. Good news, it doesn’t involve salads!

Sparkling Drink

1) Replace one beverage daily with water. Duh right? But seriously, one soft drink can have 140 calories, plus a scary amount of sugar. Even if you’ve given up sodas for years now, think about what other recreational beverages you may be partaking in over the summer? Try to swap out one alcoholic drink for some sparkling water with a little fruit, or even better, a glass of kombucha! Pour it in your favorite wine or cocktail glass, and you may be surprised how much you don’t miss that second (or third) drink.

2) Skip the bun. The warm weather has us firing up the grill weekly. Consider swapping out your bun for a healthier option. A sturdy crisp lettuce like romaine works well for either a hot dog or a hamburger, or try a portbello bun for more nutritional value.

3) Drink more H20. Yes it’s summer time, and you sweat more and should rehydrate. But increasing your intake before you eat has been linked to curbing your appetite and preventing overeating. Aim for about 16 oz of water before you sit down to eat. On average, people eat 88 calories less when they’re hydrated before eating.

Cauli Rice Dish

4) Try cauliflower. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know this trend. Try it riced to sub out your favorite asian dish or chipotle-themed bowl, or as a pizza crust. If you can’t turn down tortilla chips like us, try using roasted cauliflower florets to make nachos – it still feels as satisfying as a bar food snack, but saves you empty calories.

5) Choose mustard over mayo. Not all condiments are created equal. Mayonnaise is loaded with fat and calories, and sometimes unnecessary sugars (spoiler – aoli is just a fancy word for mayo). Get creative with your mustard – there’s dijon, which works for everything from chicken and salmon to your homemade salad dressings – and even horseradish to add some heat for hamburgers and hot dogs.

6) Chew slower. When you’re hungry, or distracted, it’s easy to shovel your food in and finish in record time. But chewing more slowly – and generally being more mindful of your eating – allows the body to better realize when it’s full. So put the phone down, or step outside to eat your lunch tomorrow, and take your time with your food (plan on 20 – 30 minutes for each meal).

Remember, you don’t need to make every change in one day, or all at once. Choosing to do any one of the above options saves you about 100 calories on average, per day. Aiming for 100 calories/less daily, adds up to an average of 10 pounds of weight loss over the course of a year. Let us know what swap was the easiest for you to incorporate next time you’re at the studio, or tag us if you share any of your swaps on social media!