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Heat Up Your Health and Fitness With These Changes

Spice up your fitness and wellness with these tips.

I relish the delicious energy of a summer day. There's something about the combination of endless sunshine, caressing breezes, chirping birds, and fragrant flowers that seems to electrify everything and everyone around me.

Routines typically fall by the wayside, with children home from school, vacations, parties, barbeques, and a host of other events vying for our attention. So it's no wonder that at the time we are most conscious of how we look, we also tend to fall out of our regular fitness and health routines. That's if, of course, you got started . . . there's an awful lot of people vowing to go on strict 30-day challenges to get ready for a midsummer vacation.

Why not use this opportunity to set new routines and make small changes for the summer months to help keep you on track? And if you are stuck on a plateau, these strategies can help you rev up your existing workouts and increase your metabolic burn as well.

Use mobile fitness apps to track your diet and workout. Mobile applications that help you keep a food diary and track your workouts can be invaluable for providing you the information you need in one concise location. I like My Fitness Pal, a mobile app available on several platforms, because it is user friendly, has a huge database of food items from different restaurants, and has a built-in social community as well. What better way to inspire you to push to your goals than by sharing your results with friends and family?

Do two to three high-intensity interval workouts instead of regular cardio endurance sessions. Adding several short bursts of high intensity cardio has proven to be more effective for increasing metabolic burn, reducing belly fat, enhancing cardiovascular fitness, and even lowering one's blood sugar levels. If your workouts typically are composed of mostly long duration cardio endurance sessions, try substituting a shorter but more intense workout two days per week. Combine a variety of strength training exercises involving large muscle groups, such as lunges, chest presses, and rows, with short intervals of jump squats, burpees, jump ropes, and fast tempo runs on a treadmill. And remember, high intensity is relative to each exerciser - while an advanced exerciser may do jump squats, a more moderate exerciser might stick to burpees. 

Go raw and crunchy during the day. It's safe to say that we can all use to eat more vegetables throughout the day. They are full of antioxidants that help you fight disease and stay healthy, provide necessary fiber, and are low in calories. Eating vegetables and fruit in a minimally processed state also helps to preserve necessary enzymes and nutrients. One easy way to increase your veggie intake while cutting calories is to eat a primarily raw diet during the daytime hours. Salads, nuts, and natural juices and smoothies are all great options, especially during hot summer months.

Add more strength training. Increasing muscle mass helps your body to burn more calories throughout the day and speeds up your metabolism. It also makes you look better in your body. Strong, balanced muscles can help prevent aches and pains, optimize your posture, and increase the strength in your joints. Work up to three to four sessions weekly of strength training; better yet, include high-intensity cardio intervals into the sessions for a combined cardio/strength workout. I highly advise consulting with a certified and qualified trainer for your first couple of sessions so you can learn proper form.

Focus on the eccentric contraction while strength training. During a movement, there are three types of contractions: concentric, eccentric, and isometric. When you perform a bicep curl, for example, your muscle is shortening as you bend your elbow to lift the weight - this is the concentric phase of the muscle contraction. As you lower the weight, your muscle is lengthening under stress and is eccentrically contracting.

We tend to focus more on the lifting than the lowering of the weight. The eccentric phase of a movement may be more valuable to us because it is highly applicable to withstanding the forces of stress in our daily lives. Think of lowering a heavy box onto the ground - if you don't control the weight and allow gravity to take over, you'd surely experience injury.

Try focusing on the eccentric part of the contraction with these techniques: take 5 to 7 seconds to lower the weight during a strength training set; have a workout partner assist you with lifting a heavier weight, then lower it on your own.

Drink 64 ounces of water daily.  Water helps to flush toxins out of our bodies and helps us lose weight. It's also a healthier and lower calorie alternative to drinks such as pop and juices. Keep track of your daily hydration by using a premeasured container filled with 64 ounces of water. Flavor your water with slices of lemon, cucumbers, strawberries, and fresh herbs such as mint and basil.

Jim Court June 08, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Tina, You possess so much wonderful knowledge and I cannot thank you enough for sharing it with others. You are a very impressive person ! I would like to discuss several issues with you and ask for your advice. Please contact me @ idealist2@aol.com. I look for forward to future discussions. I would also be interested in assembling a group of people such as the fellow doing the gardening, to create a social network of intelligent and motivated individuals who wish to not only improve their lives but the lives of others and the community in which we live. Sincerely, Jim Court

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