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Finding Inspiration In Your Biggest Temptations

Getting motivated--and staying motivated--can be difficult, and when temptations abound, it seems like the world is conspiring to keep you indoors, on the couch and stuck in your unhealthy life. Instead of viewing temptations as roadblocks, think of them as motivators--the devil on your shoulder, if you will. Their presence in your life should be just what you need to keep you from losing momentum, standing still or taking a break from your healthy journey. If you stop, they'll get you; if you stay one step ahead, you'll always come out on top. Temptations are like misunderstood Muses. They give you the chance to be creative while reaching your goals. Temptation No. 1: Sleeping in or hitting the snooze alarm. Inspiration: Taking care of your body. Get your eight hours a night. If you're consistently sleeping through your alarm or hitting the snooze bar more than twice, consider changing your sleep schedule. Try to head to bed earlier--even just 15 or 30 minutes can make a difference. To help you stay healthy and manage your weight, you need adequate sleep. Sleep loss affects the levels of certain hormones, which can in turn affect your metabolic processes and adversely affect your health. Sleep experts say most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night for optimum performance, health and safety. When we don’t get adequate sleep, we accumulate a sleep debt that can be difficult to "pay back" if it becomes too big. The resulting sleep deprivation has been linked to health problems such as obesity and high blood pressure, negative mood and behavior, decreased productivity, and safety issues in the home, on the job, and on the road. Sleep loss also can cause a lack of desire to achieve goals because you feel fatigued and "run down." Sleep is also important in developing lean muscle tissue. When you work out, you are actually tearing your muscles – sleep and proper nutrients help rebuild the muscle so that you get stronger. Temptation No. 2: Grabbing takeout or stopping at a drive-thru. Inspiration: Making smart choices. Ideally, you should drive by the drive-thru and cook healthful meals at home every night. However, not all takeout is created equal, and you can find some healthful options at chain restaurants and even your neighborhood deli. See this temptation as a challenge to be creative and bring home a healthful meal when you're in a hurry. Plan ahead if you can, build a meal around vegetables and choose small portions to keep your takeout from taking away your self-control. (Find hundreds of tips and strategies to help you make smart, healthy choices when you're away from home here.) Follow the same rules at a restaurant that you would at home: Choose whole grains when possible, fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit, and opt for lean cuts of meat and low-calorie preparations. Baked potatoes, side salads, fruit cups and milk are ubiquitous at fast food restaurants these days. See this as an opportunity to stare French fries in the face--and win! Temptation No. 3: Grazing on junk food all night long. Inspiration: Getting to the root of a problem. Before you start chastising yourself for blowing your calorie budget after a good day of healthy, mindful eating, think about why you are snacking. Mindless munching is usually anything but. Are you thirsty? Many hunger pangs are actually just thirst in disguise. Drink a glass of water and wait 20 minutes. If your hunger subsides, you weren't really hungry after all. What did you eat for dinner? If you tried to save calories or reduce your carb intake by having a green salad or just a plate of veggies, it's no wonder you're hungry. Your body needs a bit of variety to stay happy. Protein takes longer to digest and helps keep you fuller longer. Toss some grilled chicken chunks, a small can of tuna or a half-cup of beans on your salad tomorrow night to give it some staying power. In the meantime, reach for a small servings of whole-grain crackers with a tablespoon of nut butter. The combo of fat, protein and carbs will tide you over until morning. Are you stressed or upset about something? Instead of reaching for the chocolate bar or the chips, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Eating your feelings leaves you feeling worse than when you started. Go for a walk, get out of the kitchen, remove trigger foods from the house--whatever it takes. To get a handle on emotional eating, you first need to understand it. Learn more about this common food problem, which is the cause of 75% of overeating, according to experts. Once you know your food weaknesses, you'll be prepared to confront those evening cravings instead of surrendering to them. Temptation No. 4: Vegging out on the couch. Inspiration: Taking time for you. You get home from work and gaze longingly at the sofa. You had a long day, and a bit of rest sounds much better than socializing or spending time with others. You just want to be alone with your feet up, mind empty and the TV on. Devote a chunk of time each week or each day to yourself. Maybe it's 15 minutes, or maybe it's two hours. Put yourself first as often as you need to. Instead of punishing yourself for being lazy, use this "me" time in a productive way. Do a crossword puzzle, read a book, watch a movie, call a friend, pick up knitting, or cuddle with your child or partner. Anticipate this respite from the hustle and bustle of your life and plan for it. Watch your favorite TV show, paint your nails, ask your partner to give you a foot rub. Reward yourself for being motivated, sticking with your healthy lifestyle plan and working out regularly. A bit of time spent doing nothing can help carry you through the rest of your hectic and action-packed life. (Read our Rest & Relaxation articles for more tips.) Temptation No. 5: Skipping your workout. Inspiration: Changing up your workout. You know how great you feel when you finish a workout: refreshed, revived and rejuvenated. You feel strong, confident and happy. So why would you want to skip exercise? Quite often, the reason is boredom. Does your workout schedule run on repeat? Do you do the same thing at the same time and in the same place every day? Now that you've made fitness a part of your life, try shaking up your routine from time to time. Instead of walking laps around the park in your neighborhood, try taking a new route. Instead of doing the same-old pushups and crunches, check out SparkPeople's free library of exercise demos. If you belong to a gym, trade the Stairmaster for the elliptical or the treadmill for the stationary bike. Tired of your DVDs? Trade with a friend or head to the library. Take a new class: Zumba, cardio dance, Pilates, yoga or Spinning are fun ones to try. Ask a trainer at your gym or a fit friend for suggestions. Speaking of which, one of the best ways to shake up your workout is to enlist a friend to blast calories with you. You can catch up on each other's lives while you firm up. When temptations step in your path, don't cower. Confront them and enlist them as your allies. Soon you'll be stronger and more determined and will have traveled a little farther in your healthy living journey.Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/motivation_articles.asp?id=1356

5 Mind Games You Need to Stop Playing

Motivation is like cold hard cash: You can never have too much! And when you’re trying to lose weight (for the umpteenth time for many of us) you know that you need a wealth of motivational strategies you can count on. But, with so many motivational tips and tricks to sift through, why are we so often losing our motivation rather than reaping the rewards?   One reason is that some of the most popular motivation strategies people use are mind games—games that don't really work for the long term. At first glance, they all seem helpful, but most are actually bound to fail. Instead of playing Russian roulette when you’re choosing a weight-loss strategy, read on to find out how you can beat the odds and pick a winner.   Mind Game #1:  Going for the Gold You have your perfect weight and pants size in mind. With a big, bold goal to aspire to, you start biking to work, cooking lighter, packing your lunch, skipping that morning latte, and taking the stairs. Then, three busy, butt-busting weeks later…the scale hasn’t really budged and you’re trying on the same size in the dressing room. Deflated, you start snacking a bit here and slacking a bit there, and your dream of a whittled waistline slowly fades from view.   Motivation Makeover: Going for the gold is a great way to start your weight-loss plan; setting a long-term goal can help you to keep an eye on where you’re headed. But it’s also important to remember that your goal weight is far from the only benefit of incorporating healthy eating and exercise—and it could be a long ways off. Taking note of smaller, more subtle changes (more energy, better sleep, lower cholesterol, better mood, etc.) can help you stay motivated, even if the pounds aren’t coming off as quickly as you’d hoped. Setting some shorter-term goals (1 pound, 5 pounds)—especially ones that aren't based on the scale (like getting to the gym 5 days a week) can also help you stay on track.   Mind Game #2:  Starting Out Super Strong It’s Sunday evening and you realize that you spent the weekend indulging on brews, barbeques, and binges. A twinge of guilt has you psyched to start speeding down the road to wellness first thing Monday. So you restock your pantry with healthy eats, download a hardcore training app to your phone, and plan out the next month's food and workouts. You figure that going full throttle is the way to reach your weight-loss goals as quickly as possible. And why not? You're excited for it! But two weeks into your overhaul, your muscles are so sore you have trouble rolling out of bed, you’re sick of salads and you’re already thinking about throwing in the towel.   Motivation Makeover: Maintaining motivation is like running a marathon. Instead of starting at full speed and running out of steam, it is better to focus on simply putting one foot in front of the other. Set small, achievable goals so that you can build momentum and feel successful in the beginning, and pat yourself on the back when you conquer each one. No matter how long it takes to reach the finish line, you’ll be reaping the rewards for years to come.   Mind Game #3:  Taking the Road Less Traveled There will always be a new diet or exercise program that promise fast progress and fantastic results. Reading about the latest food fad or watching a perky personal trainer push sweat-drenched clients through an infomercial workout can definitely spark your motivation. Who wouldn’t want to try an effective 4-minute workout or slim down fast with a celebrity-backed diet supplement? Deep down, we all know the truth: People are getting paid for those advertisements and whatever motivation you’ve mustered up during the commercial break will fade fast if you don’t get those "as seen on TV" results that were so motivating to you. Trying every new fad that comes on the market may leave you broke and brokenhearted.   Motivation Makeover: If you want a plan that works long term, stick with the tried and true. Keep your eating close to the earth with whole fruits, veggies, grains and lean meats. Get up and moving with whatever activity suits your style and schedule. Remind yourself that following through with real nutrition and fitness habits is a process: It takes the proper planning and commitment that can’t be found in a book, a box or a bottle.   Mind Game #4:  Flying Under the Radar You’re already feeling self-conscious about losing weight, so you certainly don’t want your friends and family making more of a fuss. Besides, you’re confident that you can do this all on your own! So what if your plan to be stealth has you skipping out on lunch with friends and sneaking veggies to parties in your purse? Going it alone may seem like a good idea, but it is actually counterproductive. Soon enough, you’ll be feeling lonely and left out, and that’s no way to maintain success in the long run.   Motivation Makeover: Call in the recruits! Whether it’s a neighbor down the street, a fellow play group parent or a Facebook friend, get someone to join you on your weight-loss journey. Studies in behavior science show that changes that you make in the public eye have a much better chance of sticking in the real world. Plus, sharing your weight-loss goals with friends opens you up for great personal payouts like counsel, camaraderie, and accountability from the people who know you best. SparkPeople Community, anyone?   Mind Game #5:  Staring Down the Scale There’s a scale in your bathroom and one next to your treadmill. You check in twice a day and diligently track your weight on a chart on the fridge. Still, even though you’re eating well and exercising, some days the numbers just don’t show it! Seeing real, objective results can be super motivating but being tethered to the scale often becomes a burden. Even though you know that body weight fluctuates throughout each day and hydration (or lack thereof) is usually responsible, unpredictable digits can be deceiving and downright disheartening. If you find yourself frowning at your feet during morning weigh-ins, then your scale is likely sapping your mojo.   Motivation Makeover: Stick that scale in the closet and find inspiration in other numbers (besides your weight). Track specific behaviors to gauge your progress; how many push-ups you can do in a minute, how many miles you walk or bike each week, how many flights of stairs you take each day at work. Keep tabs on a variety of positive results and you won’t be left wanting for fitness focus.     Making use of motivational mind games can really boost your fitness morale. But sometimes, techniques that seem perfectly logical can end up leading you astray. Mastering your own motivation doesn’t have to be a crap shoot. Bet on the time-tested strategies above to get your mind right and you’ll be sure to cash in on long-term wellness!Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/motivation_articles.asp?id=1676

Plan Today, Succeed Tomorrow

Athletes do it. Chess players do it. Novelists, successful scientists and even salespeople do it. These days, everyone who wants to make big things happen is planning ahead in order to succeed. What about you? When it comes to planning ahead to reach your goals, are you falling in line or falling behind? Thinking ahead can help you achieve your goals and, even more importantly, bounce back faster when you’re met with unexpected failures or setbacks.   What can you do today to make sure your health and fitness goals are met tomorrow? Maybe you need to pack a lunch to avoid that daily fast food fix, stock your pantry with healthy snacks so you have something to munch on, make a new bedtime routine so you get all the shut-eye you need, or sleep in your workout clothes so you’ll have no excuse to miss a morning workout.   Thinking "two steps ahead" means utilizing the present to make it easier to achieve your goals in the future. What are you waiting for? Here’s how to do it now, before you waste a few more minutes or lose your motivation altogether.   Think about Your Actions Take some time to envision yourself reaching your long-term goal, whether it's losing 40 pounds, running a 5K, or reducing your cholesterol. All of these big goals can (and should!) be broken down into specific behaviors that will increase your health and wellness. Losing 40 pounds may involve reducing and tracking your calories while also starting a consistent fitness program. Running a 5K starts with your first step, then requires a plan to slowly build endurance over several weeks. And reducing your cholesterol can happen when you make heart-smart food choices and increase your daily activity.   Taking it a step further, each of these action steps requires a plan or "mini goal" if you're going to achieve it.  Maybe you'll aim for a specific number of exercise minutes per week, servings of fruits and vegetables per day, or miles per month. Achieving these goals is easier when you start thinking ahead and formulating a process that fits into your schedule. When you spell out exactly what you’re working on, it will be so much easier to track progress toward your mini-goals and stay on course toward your bigger goals.   Head Off Potential Hurdles: Prepare Your Plan B You’ve planned to exercise three times a week and you're sticking with your program really well. Your workout wardrobe is freshly laundered. You’ve commandeered a babysitter during your evening runs. Best of all, you've scheduled your exercise sessions like appointments in your calendar. You're doing great.   But all of a sudden, a giant work project is dropped in your lap and you realize you’ll need to work from home every night this week to meet the deadline. Sound familiar?   Whether it's a nasty flu virus, a change in your partner’s work schedule, or a car in the shop, there will always be obnoxious and unexpected hurdles that can spring up and ruin your best laid plans. You can either wait for them to derail you or you can think ahead about all the possible scenarios that might get in the way of your goals—and plan how to tackle them in advance.   As soon as you’ve set mini goals for the week and put your commitments on the calendar, the next thing you should focus on is finding room for flexibility. Maybe you can pencil in a morning workout on the weekend as a backup plan, or make a list of healthy take-out options in case you find yourself in a dinnertime crunch. And if you have trouble resisting those donuts in the office break room, you’d better be sure to pack nutritious and delicious mid-morning snacks in your bag. Having a plan B in place before you need it means you're thinking strategically and will be more likely to stay on track.   Commit...and Don’t Quit Committing to any lifestyle change takes time and continued effort. If you’re having trouble implementing your strategic plan (and plan B's), here are some strategies that will help you sidestep obstacles that may arise.

  • Make your commitments public so that everyone around you knows the goals you’re working toward. If your boss, partner and friends have all heard you profess your plan, they’ll be more likely to support you (or at least they’ll know what you’re up to)--and you'll be more likely to stick with it to save face.  
  • Engage your friends and family in some friendly fitness activities. Get your colleagues involved in an exercise challenge, start a walking club after work, or put together a neighborhood gardening group. If you can encourage others to join your wellness quest, you’ll be more likely to remember your commitments. Plus, you may even plant the seeds for others’ health and fitness success.  
  • Keep track of your achievements. Sometimes, when you’re working hard to fit healthy habits into your schedule, it can feel like the rest of the world is against you. Seeing the progress you make toward your own goals will help you notice change and stay true to your healthy self—even in the event that you mess up. Log your workouts online, track your calories and H2O intake, and draw smiley faces on your calendar when you finish each yoga class. Keeping track will remind you how far you've come, which can help you keep the faith when life gets in the way of your best intentions.
Make Friends with Failure Even after you’ve set benchmarks for success, put a halt on potential hurdles, and prepared a plan B, you can still be sure that the road to health and fitness won’t always be smooth and straight. A storm will sweep in overnight and ruin your morning run. That family road trip will be wrought with tempting treats at truck stops. Though these problems may seem counterproductive, getting familiar with failure can be helpful in its own way. When you experience a succession of small setbacks or changes in course, it helps you hone your skills at dealing with issues that are outside of your control. Even the greatest athletes and strategic planners in the world fail—sometimes badly and sometimes publicly. But those who are great don't let failure define them or stop them. They set goals, plan ahead to avoid or minimize mishaps, and get back up and keep going when things don't go according to plan. They roll with the punches—and you can, too!Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/motivation_articles.asp?id=1735

Finding Inspiration In Your Biggest Temptations

Getting motivated--and staying motivated--can be difficult, and when temptations abound, it seems like the world is conspiring to keep you indoors, on the couch and stuck in your unhealthy life. Instead of viewing temptations as roadblocks, think of them as motivators--the devil on your shoulder, if you will. Their presence in your life should be just what you need to keep you from losing momentum, standing still or taking a break from your healthy journey. If you stop, they'll get you; if you stay one step ahead, you'll always come out on top. Temptations are like misunderstood Muses. They give you the chance to be creative while reaching your goals. Temptation No. 1: Sleeping in or hitting the snooze alarm. Inspiration: Taking care of your body. Get your eight hours a night. If you're consistently sleeping through your alarm or hitting the snooze bar more than twice, consider changing your sleep schedule. Try to head to bed earlier--even just 15 or 30 minutes can make a difference. To help you stay healthy and manage your weight, you need adequate sleep. Sleep loss affects the levels of certain hormones, which can in turn affect your metabolic processes and adversely affect your health. Sleep experts say most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night for optimum performance, health and safety. When we don’t get adequate sleep, we accumulate a sleep debt that can be difficult to "pay back" if it becomes too big. The resulting sleep deprivation has been linked to health problems such as obesity and high blood pressure, negative mood and behavior, decreased productivity, and safety issues in the home, on the job, and on the road. Sleep loss also can cause a lack of desire to achieve goals because you feel fatigued and "run down." Sleep is also important in developing lean muscle tissue. When you work out, you are actually tearing your muscles – sleep and proper nutrients help rebuild the muscle so that you get stronger. Temptation No. 2: Grabbing takeout or stopping at a drive-thru. Inspiration: Making smart choices. Ideally, you should drive by the drive-thru and cook healthful meals at home every night. However, not all takeout is created equal, and you can find some healthful options at chain restaurants and even your neighborhood deli. See this temptation as a challenge to be creative and bring home a healthful meal when you're in a hurry. Plan ahead if you can, build a meal around vegetables and choose small portions to keep your takeout from taking away your self-control. (Find hundreds of tips and strategies to help you make smart, healthy choices when you're away from home here.) Follow the same rules at a restaurant that you would at home: Choose whole grains when possible, fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit, and opt for lean cuts of meat and low-calorie preparations. Baked potatoes, side salads, fruit cups and milk are ubiquitous at fast food restaurants these days. See this as an opportunity to stare French fries in the face--and win! Temptation No. 3: Grazing on junk food all night long. Inspiration: Getting to the root of a problem. Before you start chastising yourself for blowing your calorie budget after a good day of healthy, mindful eating, think about why you are snacking. Mindless munching is usually anything but. Are you thirsty? Many hunger pangs are actually just thirst in disguise. Drink a glass of water and wait 20 minutes. If your hunger subsides, you weren't really hungry after all. What did you eat for dinner? If you tried to save calories or reduce your carb intake by having a green salad or just a plate of veggies, it's no wonder you're hungry. Your body needs a bit of variety to stay happy. Protein takes longer to digest and helps keep you fuller longer. Toss some grilled chicken chunks, a small can of tuna or a half-cup of beans on your salad tomorrow night to give it some staying power. In the meantime, reach for a small servings of whole-grain crackers with a tablespoon of nut butter. The combo of fat, protein and carbs will tide you over until morning. Are you stressed or upset about something? Instead of reaching for the chocolate bar or the chips, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Eating your feelings leaves you feeling worse than when you started. Go for a walk, get out of the kitchen, remove trigger foods from the house--whatever it takes. To get a handle on emotional eating, you first need to understand it. Learn more about this common food problem, which is the cause of 75% of overeating, according to experts. Once you know your food weaknesses, you'll be prepared to confront those evening cravings instead of surrendering to them. Temptation No. 4: Vegging out on the couch. Inspiration: Taking time for you. You get home from work and gaze longingly at the sofa. You had a long day, and a bit of rest sounds much better than socializing or spending time with others. You just want to be alone with your feet up, mind empty and the TV on. Devote a chunk of time each week or each day to yourself. Maybe it's 15 minutes, or maybe it's two hours. Put yourself first as often as you need to. Instead of punishing yourself for being lazy, use this "me" time in a productive way. Do a crossword puzzle, read a book, watch a movie, call a friend, pick up knitting, or cuddle with your child or partner. Anticipate this respite from the hustle and bustle of your life and plan for it. Watch your favorite TV show, paint your nails, ask your partner to give you a foot rub. Reward yourself for being motivated, sticking with your healthy lifestyle plan and working out regularly. A bit of time spent doing nothing can help carry you through the rest of your hectic and action-packed life. (Read our Rest & Relaxation articles for more tips.) Temptation No. 5: Skipping your workout. Inspiration: Changing up your workout. You know how great you feel when you finish a workout: refreshed, revived and rejuvenated. You feel strong, confident and happy. So why would you want to skip exercise? Quite often, the reason is boredom. Does your workout schedule run on repeat? Do you do the same thing at the same time and in the same place every day? Now that you've made fitness a part of your life, try shaking up your routine from time to time. Instead of walking laps around the park in your neighborhood, try taking a new route. Instead of doing the same-old pushups and crunches, check out SparkPeople's free library of exercise demos. If you belong to a gym, trade the Stairmaster for the elliptical or the treadmill for the stationary bike. Tired of your DVDs? Trade with a friend or head to the library. Take a new class: Zumba, cardio dance, Pilates, yoga or Spinning are fun ones to try. Ask a trainer at your gym or a fit friend for suggestions. Speaking of which, one of the best ways to shake up your workout is to enlist a friend to blast calories with you. You can catch up on each other's lives while you firm up. When temptations step in your path, don't cower. Confront them and enlist them as your allies. Soon you'll be stronger and more determined and will have traveled a little farther in your healthy living journey.Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/motivation_articles.asp?id=1356

Plan Today, Succeed Tomorrow

Athletes do it. Chess players do it. Novelists, successful scientists and even salespeople do it. These days, everyone who wants to make big things happen is planning ahead in order to succeed. What about you? When it comes to planning ahead to reach your goals, are you falling in line or falling behind? Thinking ahead can help you achieve your goals and, even more importantly, bounce back faster when you’re met with unexpected failures or setbacks.   What can you do today to make sure your health and fitness goals are met tomorrow? Maybe you need to pack a lunch to avoid that daily fast food fix, stock your pantry with healthy snacks so you have something to munch on, make a new bedtime routine so you get all the shut-eye you need, or sleep in your workout clothes so you’ll have no excuse to miss a morning workout.   Thinking "two steps ahead" means utilizing the present to make it easier to achieve your goals in the future. What are you waiting for? Here’s how to do it now, before you waste a few more minutes or lose your motivation altogether.   Think about Your Actions Take some time to envision yourself reaching your long-term goal, whether it's losing 40 pounds, running a 5K, or reducing your cholesterol. All of these big goals can (and should!) be broken down into specific behaviors that will increase your health and wellness. Losing 40 pounds may involve reducing and tracking your calories while also starting a consistent fitness program. Running a 5K starts with your first step, then requires a plan to slowly build endurance over several weeks. And reducing your cholesterol can happen when you make heart-smart food choices and increase your daily activity.   Taking it a step further, each of these action steps requires a plan or "mini goal" if you're going to achieve it.  Maybe you'll aim for a specific number of exercise minutes per week, servings of fruits and vegetables per day, or miles per month. Achieving these goals is easier when you start thinking ahead and formulating a process that fits into your schedule. When you spell out exactly what you’re working on, it will be so much easier to track progress toward your mini-goals and stay on course toward your bigger goals.   Head Off Potential Hurdles: Prepare Your Plan B You’ve planned to exercise three times a week and you're sticking with your program really well. Your workout wardrobe is freshly laundered. You’ve commandeered a babysitter during your evening runs. Best of all, you've scheduled your exercise sessions like appointments in your calendar. You're doing great.   But all of a sudden, a giant work project is dropped in your lap and you realize you’ll need to work from home every night this week to meet the deadline. Sound familiar?   Whether it's a nasty flu virus, a change in your partner’s work schedule, or a car in the shop, there will always be obnoxious and unexpected hurdles that can spring up and ruin your best laid plans. You can either wait for them to derail you or you can think ahead about all the possible scenarios that might get in the way of your goals—and plan how to tackle them in advance.   As soon as you’ve set mini goals for the week and put your commitments on the calendar, the next thing you should focus on is finding room for flexibility. Maybe you can pencil in a morning workout on the weekend as a backup plan, or make a list of healthy take-out options in case you find yourself in a dinnertime crunch. And if you have trouble resisting those donuts in the office break room, you’d better be sure to pack nutritious and delicious mid-morning snacks in your bag. Having a plan B in place before you need it means you're thinking strategically and will be more likely to stay on track.   Commit...and Don’t Quit Committing to any lifestyle change takes time and continued effort. If you’re having trouble implementing your strategic plan (and plan B's), here are some strategies that will help you sidestep obstacles that may arise.

  • Make your commitments public so that everyone around you knows the goals you’re working toward. If your boss, partner and friends have all heard you profess your plan, they’ll be more likely to support you (or at least they’ll know what you’re up to)--and you'll be more likely to stick with it to save face.  
  • Engage your friends and family in some friendly fitness activities. Get your colleagues involved in an exercise challenge, start a walking club after work, or put together a neighborhood gardening group. If you can encourage others to join your wellness quest, you’ll be more likely to remember your commitments. Plus, you may even plant the seeds for others’ health and fitness success.  
  • Keep track of your achievements. Sometimes, when you’re working hard to fit healthy habits into your schedule, it can feel like the rest of the world is against you. Seeing the progress you make toward your own goals will help you notice change and stay true to your healthy self—even in the event that you mess up. Log your workouts online, track your calories and H2O intake, and draw smiley faces on your calendar when you finish each yoga class. Keeping track will remind you how far you've come, which can help you keep the faith when life gets in the way of your best intentions.
Make Friends with Failure Even after you’ve set benchmarks for success, put a halt on potential hurdles, and prepared a plan B, you can still be sure that the road to health and fitness won’t always be smooth and straight. A storm will sweep in overnight and ruin your morning run. That family road trip will be wrought with tempting treats at truck stops. Though these problems may seem counterproductive, getting familiar with failure can be helpful in its own way. When you experience a succession of small setbacks or changes in course, it helps you hone your skills at dealing with issues that are outside of your control. Even the greatest athletes and strategic planners in the world fail—sometimes badly and sometimes publicly. But those who are great don't let failure define them or stop them. They set goals, plan ahead to avoid or minimize mishaps, and get back up and keep going when things don't go according to plan. They roll with the punches—and you can, too!Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/motivation_articles.asp?id=1735

Is Weight-Loss Hurting Your Relationship?

Weight loss is tricky business, especially when you're in a relationship. After all, many people fall in love because they share common interests, such as watching the same sitcoms every Thursday night, going out for rich Italian food or playing video games together. However, what happens when one person in the relationship swaps his or her Thursday night TV-watching for group cycling? Or decides that ordering roasted chicken and steamed veggies is a better option than creamy fettuccine alfredo? Or that the Wii Fit is actually more fun than Super Mario Brothers? I smell relationship trouble a-brewin'. Losing weight and adapting to a healthy lifestyle requires a lot of change—change that your partner may not be ready for. In fact, according to some recent SparkPeople polls, 34 percent of respondents said that their spouse, partner or significant other sabotages their weight-loss efforts more than anyone else in their lives, and 43 percent said they their significant other negatively influences their eating habits. On the flip side, 24 percent say that they would be bothered if their partner gained weight, and 55 percent said they might be bothered, depending on how much weight he or she gained. Overall, it's easy to see that weight can play a heavy role in your relationship If you feel like your relationship may be under strain because of your weight-loss efforts, there are some general warning signs to look for. Typically, these types of actions are rooted in something larger than the direct issues, so it's important to understand them fully to know where your partner's or your feelings are coming from. In general, the "why" of a behavior comes from deep-seated emotion of which you or your partner may not even be aware. For just that reason, we've added an "emotional why" section to each warning sign exploring the emotion that might be behind these behaviors. Because we know how important support is to reaching your goals, we've included some action tips on how to improve whatever situation you may be facing. This way, you can find a way to maintain your healthy lifestyle without sacrificing the health of your relationship. 5 Signs Weight Loss is Hurting Your Relationship (and What to Do about It) 1. Your partner makes negative statements about you changing. SparkPeople member SULYLE admits that weight loss has affected her marriage. At 5 feet 6 inches, she's 13 pounds from her goal weight of 140 pounds (that's a BMI of 22.6, considered a "healthy" range for her height). Still, she says that she gets comments from her husband and his family that she's "skinny" and needs to stop losing weight. She's from the Dominican Republic, where curvier women are considered beautiful, but she doesn't feel attractive at her current size. SULYLE's story isn't that unusual. Your significant other may make other negative comments about your own weight loss or changing body because it signals change. And change is scary for your other half. The emotional why: Fear is behind this type of behavior. SULYLE's partner is afraid of losing her and life as he knows it. While she may be ready to change, he may be afraid and reluctant to take the first step, and he may be insecure that she will leave him, so he comments negatively about her changing body in hopes that things will go back to the way they once were. What to do: Create new rituals together so that your loved one is involved with your new lifestyle. You don't have to give up Friday date night. Try dinner at a restaurant with healthier options, or when you go to the movies, order a smaller size of popcorn (no butter) and a diet soda. See if he or she will walk around the block with you (take the kids if you have them) to catch up after dinner. Be sure to include your partner in as many ways as you can, and reassure them that you love them for who they are. If the behavior becomes overwhelmingly negative, do not be afraid to talk to your partner about how those comments make you feel. After all, a relationship is a two-way street and open communication helps prevent a head-on collision. 2. Your partner makes you feel guilty. Does your partner make you feel guilty about the success you've had with weight loss? Does he or she complain that you're not around as much or give you the guilt trip when you skip cuddle time or dessert to hit the gym? Whether your partner makes you feel guilty on purpose, or you just feel guilty for taking time for yourself, it's not a good feeling to have, and it can be detrimental to a relationship if it goes on too long. SparkPeople member THREADIE-LISA had a similar issue with her fiancé when it came to her gym membership. She says that he would grumble to his friends about how much time she spent at the gym or "jokingly" say that she spent more time with the elliptical than with him. The emotional why: Nostalgia. Your partner loves you and wants to spend time with you. He or she may miss what used to be rituals in your household and relationship. These comments may also reflect some of the fear of change mentioned above. What to do: Compromise. THREADIE-LISA ended up quitting the gym for financial reasons but has kept up with her exercise by using workout videos at home. "We are both happier, and I am more fit and less stressed for time. So, in the end his complaining helped!" she says. Don't be afraid to compromise when you can! However, remember that you deserve to be healthy and happy. If your loved one is putting a guilt trip on you, encourage him or her to join you. Couples workouts allow you to spend time together and exercise at the same time. And if it's just you feeling bad, then remind yourself that being fit is what you worked for and you deserve to feel good about your accomplishments. 3. Your partner tries to sabotage you. Sabotaging behavior can run the gamut, from your partner picking up your "favorite" fast-food burger on the way home (even though she knows you're trying to cut back) to begging you to sleep in when you have a date with that Spinning bike at 6 a.m. One very common example is having a partner who brings junk food into the house and then eats it in front of you, especially if the junk food is your favorite and one you have trouble avoiding. The emotional why: Jealousy and fear. Although it may not seem like it, your partner may actually be very jealous of your progress and is sabotaging your efforts to keep you exactly as you are. He or she may be afraid that if you lose weight, you'll get more attention from the opposite sex and possibly leave the relationship for someone else. What to do: Reaffirm your partner that you're still the same loving person you were before. Then read this entire SparkPeople article on how you can defend yourself from saboteurs, and follow the fantastic tips! 4. Your partner starts gaining weight as you're losing weight. If you've noticed that your partner has gained a few pounds during the time you've lost weight, this could be cause for concern. Your partner may be upset with your weight-loss success and may be rebelling against you—consciously or not-- by eating more, higher-calorie food. If this is the case, tread lightly. This will probably be a very touchy subject for your partner. He or she may also be eating emotionally for comfort as a way to deal with the deep-rooted emotions (fear, anger, jealousy) about your positive changes. The emotional why: Resistance and guilt. Your partner is probably feeling resistant to change and guilty about his or her own body and unhealthful habits. They may even be worried that as you get healthier, you won't love him or her as much anymore. SparkPeople member Amy says that her husband has been "self destructing" and views all of her positive changes as threatening to him. In fact, she says that she's been sleeping in an extra bedroom for the last few weeks because of his constant resistance to the positive changes she's trying to make in her life. What to do: If you're in a situation as Amy is, talk to your partner openly and regularly. Your partner may be very, very sensitive about this issue, so you may not want to bring the weight gain up directly, but rather ask how he or she is feeling during this time of change. Reassure your partner that you're still the same person and still love them. And invite them to join in some of your small changes or start something as simple as a SparkStreak! And if it's more serious than that or your attempts are ignored, consider getting a relationship counselor involved. 5. You look down at your partner. If you're a few pounds into your weight-loss journey and overhauled your lifelong habits, yet can't understand why your partner hasn't done the same, then honestly ask yourself: Do you look down on your partner? Do you feel like the changes you've made are going to create lasting friction between the two of you? Whether you indicate these feelings to your partner (directly or indirectly) or keep them to yourself, he or she can probably sense how you're feeling. Everyone wants their partner to be proud to be with them. When you stop being proud of your other half, it can really hurt your relationship. The emotional why: Pride and fear. Right now, you may be very proud of yourself for your changes—and you should be! But it's important to respect everyone's journey and realize that you can't force someone else to change. You may also find yourself being harsher on your loved one because he or she may remind you of where you started (a place where you don't want to return). What to do: You may not agree with all of the choices your partner makes, but try to be as understanding as possible. Remember how hard it was for you to change in the beginning? Remember how you had to decide to do it for yourself, not for someone else? Revisit that time in your past and treat your partner how you would have liked to be treated then. Recognize the reasons for your emotions. You don't have to encourage unhealthy habits, but try to be as understanding and encouraging as possible. If you're faced with many of the issues above, don't despair. A relationship may get rocky from your new dedication to a healthy lifestyle, especially in the beginning of your weight-loss journey, but many say that getting in shape and eating right actually helps their relationship in the end. Take SparkPeople member XCSARAH, who said that her weight loss has both hurt her relationship and improved it. Even though she says that she sometimes gets annoyed when her husband wants to do something that cuts into her workout time or gets frustrated when he eats an entire bag of chips in front of her, getting healthier has improved their relationship. "Any annoyances that have come from this journey have certainly been outdone by the benefits," she says. Now that's an inspiring and encouraging statement to anyone who is struggling with weight-related relationship issues. At the end of the day, your significant other should be one of the biggest and most supportive allies you have in getting healthy. However, you can't expect others to change over night. Getting healthy and losing weight is an incredibly personal journey, and it can't be started by telling someone what to do; it has to start with the person wanting to change. So be as nice and supportive to your partner as you'd like them to be to you. Follow the tips above and recognize what's really behind you and your partner's actions to continue on your weight-loss journey and keep your relationship strong. After all, leading by example is one of the most powerful ways to influence others in a positive way!Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/motivation_articles.asp?id=1187

5 Mind Games You Need to Stop Playing

Motivation is like cold hard cash: You can never have too much! And when you’re trying to lose weight (for the umpteenth time for many of us) you know that you need a wealth of motivational strategies you can count on. But, with so many motivational tips and tricks to sift through, why are we so often losing our motivation rather than reaping the rewards?   One reason is that some of the most popular motivation strategies people use are mind games—games that don't really work for the long term. At first glance, they all seem helpful, but most are actually bound to fail. Instead of playing Russian roulette when you’re choosing a weight-loss strategy, read on to find out how you can beat the odds and pick a winner.   Mind Game #1:  Going for the Gold You have your perfect weight and pants size in mind. With a big, bold goal to aspire to, you start biking to work, cooking lighter, packing your lunch, skipping that morning latte, and taking the stairs. Then, three busy, butt-busting weeks later…the scale hasn’t really budged and you’re trying on the same size in the dressing room. Deflated, you start snacking a bit here and slacking a bit there, and your dream of a whittled waistline slowly fades from view.   Motivation Makeover: Going for the gold is a great way to start your weight-loss plan; setting a long-term goal can help you to keep an eye on where you’re headed. But it’s also important to remember that your goal weight is far from the only benefit of incorporating healthy eating and exercise—and it could be a long ways off. Taking note of smaller, more subtle changes (more energy, better sleep, lower cholesterol, better mood, etc.) can help you stay motivated, even if the pounds aren’t coming off as quickly as you’d hoped. Setting some shorter-term goals (1 pound, 5 pounds)—especially ones that aren't based on the scale (like getting to the gym 5 days a week) can also help you stay on track.   Mind Game #2:  Starting Out Super Strong It’s Sunday evening and you realize that you spent the weekend indulging on brews, barbeques, and binges. A twinge of guilt has you psyched to start speeding down the road to wellness first thing Monday. So you restock your pantry with healthy eats, download a hardcore training app to your phone, and plan out the next month's food and workouts. You figure that going full throttle is the way to reach your weight-loss goals as quickly as possible. And why not? You're excited for it! But two weeks into your overhaul, your muscles are so sore you have trouble rolling out of bed, you’re sick of salads and you’re already thinking about throwing in the towel.   Motivation Makeover: Maintaining motivation is like running a marathon. Instead of starting at full speed and running out of steam, it is better to focus on simply putting one foot in front of the other. Set small, achievable goals so that you can build momentum and feel successful in the beginning, and pat yourself on the back when you conquer each one. No matter how long it takes to reach the finish line, you’ll be reaping the rewards for years to come.   Mind Game #3:  Taking the Road Less Traveled There will always be a new diet or exercise program that promise fast progress and fantastic results. Reading about the latest food fad or watching a perky personal trainer push sweat-drenched clients through an infomercial workout can definitely spark your motivation. Who wouldn’t want to try an effective 4-minute workout or slim down fast with a celebrity-backed diet supplement? Deep down, we all know the truth: People are getting paid for those advertisements and whatever motivation you’ve mustered up during the commercial break will fade fast if you don’t get those "as seen on TV" results that were so motivating to you. Trying every new fad that comes on the market may leave you broke and brokenhearted.   Motivation Makeover: If you want a plan that works long term, stick with the tried and true. Keep your eating close to the earth with whole fruits, veggies, grains and lean meats. Get up and moving with whatever activity suits your style and schedule. Remind yourself that following through with real nutrition and fitness habits is a process: It takes the proper planning and commitment that can’t be found in a book, a box or a bottle.   Mind Game #4:  Flying Under the Radar You’re already feeling self-conscious about losing weight, so you certainly don’t want your friends and family making more of a fuss. Besides, you’re confident that you can do this all on your own! So what if your plan to be stealth has you skipping out on lunch with friends and sneaking veggies to parties in your purse? Going it alone may seem like a good idea, but it is actually counterproductive. Soon enough, you’ll be feeling lonely and left out, and that’s no way to maintain success in the long run.   Motivation Makeover: Call in the recruits! Whether it’s a neighbor down the street, a fellow play group parent or a Facebook friend, get someone to join you on your weight-loss journey. Studies in behavior science show that changes that you make in the public eye have a much better chance of sticking in the real world. Plus, sharing your weight-loss goals with friends opens you up for great personal payouts like counsel, camaraderie, and accountability from the people who know you best. SparkPeople Community, anyone?   Mind Game #5:  Staring Down the Scale There’s a scale in your bathroom and one next to your treadmill. You check in twice a day and diligently track your weight on a chart on the fridge. Still, even though you’re eating well and exercising, some days the numbers just don’t show it! Seeing real, objective results can be super motivating but being tethered to the scale often becomes a burden. Even though you know that body weight fluctuates throughout each day and hydration (or lack thereof) is usually responsible, unpredictable digits can be deceiving and downright disheartening. If you find yourself frowning at your feet during morning weigh-ins, then your scale is likely sapping your mojo.   Motivation Makeover: Stick that scale in the closet and find inspiration in other numbers (besides your weight). Track specific behaviors to gauge your progress; how many push-ups you can do in a minute, how many miles you walk or bike each week, how many flights of stairs you take each day at work. Keep tabs on a variety of positive results and you won’t be left wanting for fitness focus.     Making use of motivational mind games can really boost your fitness morale. But sometimes, techniques that seem perfectly logical can end up leading you astray. Mastering your own motivation doesn’t have to be a crap shoot. Bet on the time-tested strategies above to get your mind right and you’ll be sure to cash in on long-term wellness!Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/motivation_articles.asp?id=1676

''How I Became a Runner at Age 48''

Robin (KASHMIR) has been a member of SparkPeople since 2006. She has lost 95 pounds and is training for her first marathon. Robin Before Robin After What made you decide to start running? I noticed my evening walks were getting longer. As my weight went down, the walks had to last longer in order for me to burn a good amount of calories. One evening, I was feeling particularly peppy and figured I’d give running a try—and it was hard! I managed to run half a block the first time I tried. It felt good! After my first run, I knew I could do it again. How do you keep your runs fun and interesting? I love running outside! One of my favorite places to run is a nature trail located about a mile away from my home. I also enjoy running through the neighborhood and taking in my surroundings. For the first year, I always ran alone, but this year I decided to run in the Portland Marathon. I joined our local marathon training group, and now run once a week with other people. I’m always looking for new places to run, so I started running in some local races too. Next up—trail running! Were you intimidated to start running? How did you overcome that? I was very intimidated. I convinced myself that I would never be able to run—or at least that I couldn’t run further than a 100-yard dash! After my first attempt at running, I decided to give it a try every once in a while along the nature trail. The trail has quarter mile markers set in the asphalt, so when I would feel like running, my starting point was one of those markers. I slowed down when my heart rate got too high and would then walk some more. As I continued doing this, I realized I was going a little farther each time. I finally set a goal for myself to do what I’d been convinced my entire life was the impossible: run from one quarter mile marker to the next. Once I accomplished that, I was totally blown away! At almost 48 years old I did what I couldn’t do at age 14. Any tips for someone just beginning to run? The most important advice I can give is to go slow—slower than you think you should. Don’t worry about running fast. For the first year, focus on building your distance. By not running faster than your body is able to maintain, you will build your endurance and stamina, you will strengthen your heart, you will teach your body to use oxygen efficiently, and you won’t put as much stress on your bones and muscles. When you run fast, you can’t run as far. Also eat a little something before you start to run and refuel after your run. And, don’t forget to hydrate! Besides weight loss, what other improvements have you noticed? Since I started running, my body fat has dropped from 30% to 17-20%. My lung capacity is amazing now, and when I had a recent VO2 test done, my running coach's response to the results was, "Wow. Wow. Wow." My balance is better, and I feel younger today at almost 50 than I did in my 20s. I’ve also been informed by several people lately that I’ve become a female Benjamin Button. I’m aging backward. What are some of your running goals and accomplishments? My main goal is to complete the Portland Marathon. My current mileage accomplishment is 15 miles. It totally blows me away that I was able to do that! After the marathon, I would like to find some trail runs because I think that would be super fun! Anything else you'd like to add? Every time I tie on my running shoes, I amaze myself with how far I’ve come and what I find my body is capable of doing!Article Source: id=1573

What You Forgot to Ask Your Personal Trainer

You already know how personal trainers help you reach your goals and push you to the next level, whether you're a beginner or a seasoned exerciser. You probably also know a little about how to choose the right trainer with the proper qualifications. However, how do you find the absolute best trainer for you and your goals? I'm about to share a secret with you: Not every personal trainer—no matter how fabulous or talented he or she is—is going to be right for you. You may be dazzled by proven results, certifications and background, but by asking just seven questions, you can tap into exactly whom the personal trainer is and whether he or she will gel with you. Approach it as if you're in human resources and hiring for a big position in a big company. After all, you're pretty darn important, and you're handing over a big piece of your life here. When meeting with a personal trainer for the first time, most people ask solid basic questions, but these less traditional and less conventional questions really give you a sense as to why the personal trainer has chosen his or her career and what he or she can do for you. Read on to learn what questions to ask to find YOUR best trainer! 1. How do you stay in shape? Most personal trainers will train themselves similarly to how they'll train you. If they love to run, then they'll probably suggest that you run, too, as long as you're able. If they swear by daily yoga to stay fit, then they'll most likely suggest that you try yoga. Although this question doesn't guarantee what type of exercises they might have you do in a personal-training session, it does provide a window into their workout soul. 2. What's your fitness philosophy? A personal trainer should—without hesitation—be able to tell you exactly what he believes when it comes to fitness. Does he train his clients for better health? To improve body confidence? To show off a six-pack? This question really gets into what makes a personal trainer tick and will let you know better what goals the trainer will have in mind for you to set and achieve. 3. Do you recommend supplements? Although healthy eating is key to losing weight and getting in shape, personal trainers are not registered dietitians, and therefore should never give out specific nutritional advice such as meal plans or supplement recommendations beyond a multivitamin. When you ask this question, if a personal trainer starts going on and on about what supplements (or worse, diet pills) he or she uses and recommends to her clients, beware. It is outside of a personal trainer's scope of practice to give specific dietary recommendations. 4. Are you CPR and AED certified? You probably already asked whether the personal trainer is properly certified by a personal-training association, but double check that he is currently CPR and AED certified. AED stands for automated external defibrillator and if you or someone else at the gym has a heart attack, it can save a life. Make sure your personal trainer knows how to use it and is properly trained to respond during potential emergencies. 5. Are most of your clients long term or short term? If a personal trainer has mostly long-term clients, then you know that he or she is probably good at relationship building and at keeping workouts fresh and challenging over time. On the flip side, if they're all short-term, this might signify that the personal trainer is either brand new to the industry (you should definitely ask about previous training experience) or fitness facility. At worst, this could signal an underlying training or personality issue. If you're just looking to invest in a few personal training sessions and you really like a personal trainer who has mostly short-term clients, that's OK. It's when you're looking to invest in a large package of sessions that you need to be careful whom you choose to work with for the next six months. When all else fails, go with your gut. 6. How many times per week do you train clients? A lot of personal trainers train as a part-time job, so if this number is below 10, don't be afraid. Just follow up by asking whether they have a full-time job. If they don't have another job, then ask why they train so infrequently. If they do 30-plus sessions a week, ask them how they keep things fresh and how they avoid burnout. Most trainers who do more than 30 sessions a week are working very long hours from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., almost every day of the week. With that much training, burnout is inevitable, and you don't want it to happen during your session! 7. Why are you a personal trainer? Similar to, but different from, question No. 2, this one addresses why the trainer got into the fitness field. If it's to see people transform their bodies, then you know the trainer focuses on the physical. If the trainer says it's to help people transform their lives, then you know they'll probably have your well-being in mind. If the trainer takes a few minutes to answer or isn't sure, run far, far away! If you've been working with a trainer for awhile now and ask these questions without receiving the answers you were hoping for, here are some more tips on how to break up with your personal trainer. Asking these questions and breaking up may be hard to do, but your fitness journey is all about you, so ask away! Find a certified personal trainer or fitness professional in your area using this simple search tool, brought to you by SparkPeople and powered by the IDEA Health & Fitness Association. Article Source: id=1369

Getting on the Treadmill

A treadmill can seem scary to the beginner. They're big and bulky, make a lot of noise and have tons of buttons and moving parts. But I'm about to let you in on a secret: They're really not that scary. In fact, with just a few hints, the treadmill will become your new best (and healthiest) friend! Walking is one of the easiest, fastest and safest ways to get your recommended daily amount of exercise. And although walking around the block is a no-frills way to get your steps in, what do you do when it's dark, rainy, or too hot or too cold to spend more than just a few minutes outside? That's where the treadmill comes in. The treadmill, either one that you've purchased for your home or one that you hop on at the gym, is the perfect piece of workout equipment. It's ready whenever you are, no matter what the weather (as long as you have electricity, that is). Take the Right Step Forward Although each treadmill is a little different, all treadmills have two basic buttons: the "start" button and the "stop" button. The start button is usually large and green, and the stop button is usually large and red. Just like a traffic light, green means go and red means stop. To get started on the treadmill, stand directly on the belt. For safety, almost all treadmills are equipped with an automatic stop-button function. Find this safety mechanism—it's usually a clip or pin—and attach it to the band of your workout shorts or pants. Make sure the other end is attached to the treadmill (it's usually a magnet). This way, if you happen to trip or fall, you'll automatically pull the safety cord, stopping the treadmill in its tracks. It's probably rare that this safety mechanism needs to be used, but it's good protection nonetheless! Next, look for the green start button and be ready to move those legs. As soon as you hit the start button, some treadmills will start moving (usually slowly). Others (typically the most expensive, commercial ones) will ask you for some information first. Using a number pad (if available) or up and down arrows, enter the information that the treadmill is asking for. Most treadmills want your age, weight, height and gender, which is a good thing; the more information it asks for, the more accurate the calories-burned estimate will be. Some treadmills may also ask you if you have a time goal (this means how many minutes you'd like to work out) or if you'd like to follow one of its programs or use the manual option. For beginners, the manual option is a good choice so that you can play around with the speed and incline as needed. Once you've entered your information, you'll probably need to hit enter or the start button again if your treadmill isn't moving yet. Once you do that, expect the belt to start moving and walk naturally with it—just like you would if you were walking outside. Start slowly, but play around with increasing the speed (do this slowly so as to not push yourself too hard too quickly) and the incline. One of the best benefits of a treadmill is that you can monitor and adjust your pace precisely during walks and/or runs as you want. You can also replicate hills by bumping up the incline button, which is a fabulous way to build muscle, target your glutes, and burn more calories. If at any point you need to pause your workout or take a break, hit the stop button. The treadmill will slowly decrease its speed and come to a stop. Most treadmills will give you the option of restarting your current workout by hitting the green button again to start. If you've completed your workout, simply hit the red stop button again. Then you're done! And if you chose a timed workout, then at the end of your allotted time, expect the treadmill to slow down to a slower speed. Most new treadmills, especially the ones at health clubs, will have a built in two- to five-minute cool down. Talk about easy! A note about handles: while the handles can aid in balance, leaning too much of your weight into the handles of the machine will decrease your workout intensity and burn far fewer calories. Try to use the handles only temporarily, such as when you first hop on the treadmill and find your footing, or if you have to pause the treadmill. Some handlebars and consoles have heart-rate-monitoring sensors embedded in them to measure your workout intensity. These are generally less accurate than conventional heart rate monitors with chest straps, but can help you quickly check your heart rate from time to time. It is not necessary to hold onto these monitors during your entire workout; instead, grab them occasionally for a heart rate check to ensure you're working at the proper intensity, then resume walking or running while pumping your arms at your sides. Now that you have the basics, here are a few tips on getting the most from the treadmill. 5 Treadmill Tips

  1. 1. Start slow. Begin walking at a pace of 2 to 2.5 miles per hour for a few minutes. Then increase your speed to 3 to 3.5 miles per hour for a more challenging workout, if that's appropriate for your fitness level. Play around with the speed and incline to find a level that gets your heart pumping but still allows you to carry on a choppy conversation.  
  2. 2. Don't look down. As you walk or run, keep your shoulders back and your chin up. Don't look down at your feet. And unless you have balance problems, do not hang on to the handrails, especially when running. If you cannot walk or run without holding on, then you need to decrease your speed or the incline. Also try to be light on your feet, not stomp on the treadmill. It's easier on the joints and better for your form if you walk as normally as possible, with a heel-to-toe motion, and to run in proper form by striking the belt with your forefoot first—not your heel.  
  3. 3. Pay attention. Try to walk in a straight line at the center of the treadmill belt and pay attention to what you're doing. You may be tempted to look up at a television or read a magazine, but don't get distracted until you're very, very comfortable on the machine. Also don't be afraid to turn down the speed or incline if you feel like you're having problems keeping up or feel too rushed. And if you find that you need to stop the treadmill at any time, don't try to hop off it with the belt still moving. Hit the stop button, and the treadmill will come to a slow and safe stop. You are in control, after all!  
  4. 4. Don't be afraid to ask questions. If you belong to a health club or fitness center, don't be afraid to ask someone on staff how to get started on the treadmill. They can tell you how the different programs on the treadmill work and how to operate other features of the treadmill such as the heart rate monitor or the individual viewing screen if your treadmill has one.  
  5. 5. Consider buying one. Once you know how treadmills work, you may be tempted to add one to your home gym. A treadmill is an incredible piece of equipment to have at your convenience. Once you're ready to buy, make a list of features that are important to you. Do you feel more comfortable on a wide belt? Do you love the heart rate monitor? Does it have to be quiet or compact? Write down the must-have traits and take it to your local sporting goods or fitness-equipment specialty store. Hop on all of the treadmills there that are within your price range and test them against your must-have list. Because buying a treadmill is an expensive and important purchase, don't be swayed by discounts or high-pressure salespeople. Make the right decision for you! And definitely do some research before taking one home. Websites such as Treadmilldoctor.com and subscription-based sites like Consumer Reports have reviews of almost every treadmill available.
See how good of a friend the treadmill can be? Now hop on! After following this guide, it shouldn't be long before other people are asking you for help getting started with the treadmill! This article has been reviewed and approved by SparkPeople Coaches Jen Mueller and Nicole Nichols, Certified Personal Trainers.Article Source: id=441

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