Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My favorite glutes exercise...

Possibly TMI, but it's not every day that my mom comments on how nice my bun looked... followed by asking me what exercises are best to get hers firm & perky too.

While squats & lunges are great (especially with added resistance from weights or elastic bands), I think my favorite one to target the glutes is the bun lifter/bun kick (or as my friend put it less eloquently, "dog raising its leg.")

Pardon the 90s cheese factor of the below video (the music, the outfits, omg!), but it's the best one I found to illustrate the move.

A few more tips to this move:
1. Keep your back neutral in its natural arc for stability and to maximize ths move's effectiveness
2. For added resistance, shift your weight to the towards the side of your moving leg
3. And if you got the balance, put a dumbbell on the back of your knee for the working leg (I use 10-12 pounds), of course, keep your knees bent throughout the move - instead of actually kicking - to keep the dumbbell in place.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Making the Mind-Body Connection . . .

One of my favorite fitness DVDs to exercise to lately is Suzanne Deason's Yoga Conditioning for Weight Loss. Not because it's burns a lot of calories (if anything, the ~45 minute practice is on the mild side as far as sweat-breaking & muscle-building goes,) but because it helps (re-)establish what Ms. Deason calls the mind-body connection to wellness and balance.

While going through a series of yoga postures is not particularly effective in calorie burning (compared to more vigorous cardio workouts) or strength building (even yoga sites suggest incorporating some [non-yoga] strength-training to build & maintain muscles), what it does well is help the mind focus and concentrate... on holding postures, on clearing the mind, and especially on maintaining the regularity of your breath.

Ok, you might think "Big whoop, I'm aware of my breathing. How does that help me lose weight?" But by building an awareness to something as basic & involuntary as your inhales and exhales, it also helps build consciousness for other seemingly-automatic behaviors, such what you're putting on your plate at the buffet, or rather to dip into that snack dish at the conference room, or couch potatoing the hours away instead of doing something more active.

As an added bonus, what's particularly recommendable about this one is that it's adapted to multiple levels of fitness and flexibility, from a beginning, fully-modified workout for stiffer, less flexible bodies to an advanced, unmodified routine for more limber folks who's used to doing yoga. You can even see all 4 types of modifications at once so you can determine which is best suited for you, as well as exercise together with a friend or a partner of a different flexibility level.

Plus, the whole routine is very soothing with Ms. Deason's gentle voiceover (much more appropriate than having her talk about her postures & movements while she's doing them,) peaceful background music and a serene desert setting -- unlike some yoga DVDs that try to power fast-track you through poses, self-defeating the mind-body connection by inducing, rather than relieving, stress and detracting from the focus on breath, body and posture.

The result, a workout that's both relaxing and engaging, pushing both the body and mind throughout the routine, as well as a nudge to make better lifestyle choices throughout the day. So give this DVD a check-out, and even if you find it's not for you, hopefully you can incorporate some form of exercise that helps align the mind with the body towards the common goal of better health & better life. That's certainly something I can say Namaste to.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Refreshingly Fun Reading List

Sometimes it just takes a little reading to inspire one back to writing; in my case, that was reading Slate's fantastic "Fitness Issue" of articles, which goes beyond the "6 moves to a better bun" and into the business and culture of working out, with a good dose of quirk and humor.

The quirky and fun set of stories include the quest for the perfect workout video for the active, if slightly chubby, at-home exerciser, the evolution of TV programs from the Jack LaLanne days (and the current trend of "extreme" regimens such as P90X,) the life and schedule of a fitness model, what people outside US do to stay active (gym plays a lot less of a role around the globe, no surprise to me) and even the weird world of facercises and its promises of a youthful countenance.

On a similar chord, Slate also started a "Clean Plate" blog detailing one person's candid quest to sensibly improve her diet throughout the year.

It's a refreshing change of pace from the resolution-obsessed fitness articles that have popped up so far this month -- so give it a read!

As for me, now that my life, at home and at work, have lightened up, I look forward to blogging more thoughts of my own on eating well and staying fit. And who knows, maybe I can get back into fitness modeling shape myself, which was indeed both a highpoint (WOW! being paid to show off my bod?!? really?) and a low one (all those retakes in uncomfortable poses meant plenty of soreness the day after!)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Happy Meals Banned in San Francisco . . .

"McGuilty" by J Salvador

. . . and while most healthy eating advocates are rejoicing at
this news (which actually won't go into effect until December 2011 -- barring any litigation or appeal,) I personally am feeling a bit more mixed. And not out of nostalgia of Happy Meals in my younger days (though I know better than to eat a McNugget now.)

I'm all for eating more healthy and less processed foods with a half-year shelf life, but I just don't think enacting citywide bans are the best way to change eating habits, and prefer the carrot rather than the stick approach (no pun intended) as far as public health policy goes.

Instead of banning certain foods, why not further incentivize healthy eating? Engage the kids in farmers markets and kitchens, have them meet the people who are raising, growing and preparing healthy foods,
educate them about the ills of junk food.

Besides, I can see all sorts of loopholes and ways this ordinance can backfire . . . toys may be sold separately (further lining fast food companies' coffers) or parents may be buying adult-sized portions for their children since the kids meals are off the menu.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Lesson & Thoughts As I Gradually Re-embrace Meat . . .

Nigiri Trio #1
So, seven months after I embarked on an animal-free April (which transpired into meatless May, jumping off flesh June and so on...), I finally gently slid off the vegetarian wagon and went back to eating meat, starting with sushi @ SugarFISH Downtown. Was it an epic struggle? A profound epiphany? Not really (and I say the same thing about starting and maintaining my months-long vegetariaism,) I simply craved sushi and decided now was just as good a time as any... it's half a year longer than my planned monthlong experiment, anyways.

No surprise to anyone, during the veg-stint most people asked me "WHY?" And as I've replied numerous times before, the short answer is really "no reason in particular" or "to see if I can do it and for how long." The slightly longer answer involves animal-eating's impact on health, the environment and humane treatment of animals. Now, I'm not PETA vigilant about any of those aspects (but I do give them kudos for their very helpful online resource on transitioning into & maintaining an animal-free diet,) but those factors combined did make me want to rethink my relationship with meat (and the quantities I, and everyone else in the U.S., get served of it nowadays.)

According to MyPyramid, someone of my height (5' 5.5"), weight (145) & age (28) should be eating around six ounces of protein a day (in meat portions, that's about two decks of playing cards worth, before cooking.) And note that I said protein, since that category (and my recommended 6 ounces a day) includes meat (land, sea or airborne), beans, eggs, nuts and seeds.

Speaking of nutrition and health, for most part my body didn't change -- I didn't drop any weight (thanks my love of dairy and desserts) and I didn't take on a sickly pallor or lose muscle mass, though my blood-iron has been on the low side (always just a bit under the requirement to donate blood) despite my regular consumption of iron-rich plant-based foods. So, in returning to meat-eating (and its easier-to-absorb heme-iron,) I look forward to making my regular pint donations again.

Having read and watched a good deal of books, essays and documentaries about the food industry, which usually pays special attention to how animals are raised, farmed, caught and slaughtered, I definitely want to be more conscientious about the meat that I do consume, and going vegetarian for this length of time helped recalibrate my food mentality; namely, that I don't need a dead animal on my plate to consider it a real meal. Heck, moving forward I may even be a "weekday vegetarian" (though unlikely to label myself as such.)

Of course, re-embracing meat in a humane, healthful and planet-friendly way is gonna be a learning process (for example, at the SUGARFISH dinner I found out towards the end of the meal that the featured seafood came from all over the world; not exactly eco-friendly in terms of carbon footprint; and as divinely delicious as the meal was, this is surely something I'll take into consideration for future sushi outings, which is simple as asking "which seafood on the menu is locally and sustainably caught/farmed?" or keeping a Seafood Watch pocket guide or smartphone app handy. Or just enjoy in moderation.)

But I definitely look forward to sharing those lessons with you here as I gradually and conscientiously step back into an animal-including diet. But in the meantime, I'll follow Michael Pollan's simple, sagely advice to "Eat [real] Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants."

And in closing this post, my favorite vegetarian meal during this animal-free period -- the chef's tasting @ Melisse (with the omnivorous Mr. Grumpy)
Melisse Collage