Be Social — It’s for your Health

As I sit here preparing to write the post, with my bowl of ramen noodles and general lazy attitude, I truly begin to understand how college can change a person’s activity and health level.

Taking a break is the healthiest thing you can do for your body and mind!

Taking a break is the healthiest thing you can do for your body and mind!

One of the most helpful tips is going to be pretty surprising: keep busy.

Now, this seems insane. Of course you are busy. You’re too busy. You can barely even function, always a paper looming on the horizon or a blog post due in a day…

According to Kristen Franquist, a junior health and wellness major, there are different ways to organize your business so that you can make time to work out and eat well.

Most days when I have a million things due and school is really piling up, I stay home and block out hours of time in order to get everything done. Franquist suggests that you give yourself an actual time limit for getting each specific task done. Do not make it some excessive amount with enough padded time for you to scroll through your Tumblr dash four times and watch an episode of Game of Thrones.  Make it a realistic amount of time to get the job done, and then make plans after that.

Go hang out with some friends, take a walk or, better yet, head to the gym with your workout buddy to release some stress.

Making more plans can actually motivate you to get your schoolwork done and will lead to a higher physical activity level. I know that I am much more likely to resist clicking on that next episode if I know I have an opportunity to leave my room in the horizon.

The key to this is making concrete plans based on time. Do not say that you come out when this is done, or the usual, “I’ll text you when I need a breather.” Tell your workout buddy that you will meet them on the second floor at 8:45 p.m. and be there. Take the mental break you need and go work on your self-esteem.

An additional benefit to this sort of planning is your health.  If you know you are going to spend the next six hours sitting in your room, you are going to make bad eating choices. I grab the ramen noodles, maybe some chips, definitely caffeine.  Not just the black, unsweetened kind either, which is actually not bad for you, but the syrup-filled deliciousness that will give me a sugar high till the end of time.

We all do it. We basically stock up like winter is coming and we need to get to that iron throne.

But what if you could motivate yourself to continue with plans to see daylight in just two hours? Small study breaks like a jog around campus or a salad with friends will make you feel better about yourself — you popular and healthy little champ.

This comes full circle and remotivates you to finish your work. Normally, three hours into my work, I am convinced that I am not capable of anything, decide I should change my major and feel like taking a nap. A small workout, some food and some socialization can completely change your outlook of the rest of your work, and feeling better about yourself and your capabilities will certainly affect the quality of your work.

Now head out there and make those plans!

Bike Month!

April is Bike Month in the lovely Valley of the Sun, and you know what this means!

There will be tons of biking events and bike enthusiasts everywhere. Now is the perfect time to become active in the community and at the same time become active physically!

Happy Bike Month, Phoenix!

Happy Bike Month, Phoenix!

So what do you need to know for Bike Month? Well, a lot.

You already know the health benefits behind biking, as discussed in a previous post. But, to recap, biking is one of the best ways to promote health. Not only does it tone muscles and burn fat, it makes you a happier person with a better sleep cycle. Haha. Cycle.

There are a lot of events throughout the month of April that you should become aware of. That way, you can plan ahead and hopefully attend them!

Some of the events that you should mark on your calendar are the following events happening in downtown Phoenix:

April 12 – Co+Hoots Grid Bike Share demo and Phoenix Spokes People neighborhood bike ride
This event is essentially a neighborhood bike ride off of Washington Street that goes from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. There will be a free Grid Bike Share demonstration and test rides as well.

April 18 – Official Bike to School/Work Day
Be sure to bike to school or work on April 18 in tribute to this Valley-wide bike day! Skip your cardio workout and get out in the fresh air.

April 22 – Phoenix/Maricopa County Bike to Work Day
Phoenix City Council is putting on a cool event where the police will escort a 3-mile ride to CityScape. Everyone will meet at Central Avenue and Earll Drive at 7 a.m., and T-shirts, prizes and more will be available — including free breakfast for the first 300 registered participants! Sign up soon!

More information on biking events that are going on around the Valley can be found here.

I urge all of you to take advantage of these great events that will be happening in the next 28 days! A lot of the events are free and there are lots of giveaways. But the most important thing you’ll gain from going to any of these events is a greater sense of community and a healthier you!

Stay healthy, my friends.

When is the best time to work out?

It’s the second to last week of March, which puts us a little bit past the Ides of March. No worries, though, nobody’s getting assassinated any time soon — unless they’re an inefficient workout routine!

Find the perfect medium between your internal clock and an external clock.

Find the perfect medium between your internal clock and an external clock.

ASU’s spring break recently ended, and some students might be feeling like they had a little bit too much fun. Well, now’s the time to get back on track with that workout routine!

Now is the perfect time to start evaluating if you’re exercising efficiently. You still have a few more months before summer and plenty of time to be in shape prior to beach season!

So, with all the workout hype out there, I’m sure you’ve come across a few sources that tell you to work out at a certain time of day.

While these articles might not present blatant errors, the way these articles go about suggesting when you should work out is definitely wrong.

These articles assume that everyone’s the same and that everyone has the same metabolism and circadian rhythm. Well, this isn’t the case.

After you commit to making exercise part of your daily routine, it’s best to create a workout schedule that fits in your life and, more importantly, with your body.

Some questions to answer before crafting a workout routine are:

  • Are you a morning person or a night person?
  • How well do you sleep at night?
  • Are you trying to lose weight or tone up muscles? (both might apply but if you had to choose one which would it be).

Addressing the first question: if you’re a morning person, you’re naturally going to be more energetic in the morning, and therefore, morning workouts will be the more efficient route for you. If you’re a night person, a workout session after work or before you go to bed might be better for you. It’s all about knowing your body and when it works the best.

When it comes to the second question, sleep pattern is essential to take into account. If you struggle to get to sleep at night, it’s probably a better idea for you to work out in the morning. Studies have shown that people who work out in the morning sleep better at night.

As for the third question, some studies have shown that working out in the morning before breakfast lends to higher burn of fat reserves, instead of burning calories that you’ve consumed throughout the day if you work out in the evening. But, honestly, all of these are theories.

Another thing to consider is where you live. Do you live in an urban hotspot such as downtown Phoenix, where people are out and about at 4-6 a.m.? Or do you live in the middle of nowhere where people start crawling out of bed at about 10 a.m.? It’s important to make sure you’ll be safe and around people when you work out, just in case there’s a medical emergency or dangerous encounter.

At the end of the day, you have to figure out what’s right for your body! Despite what any article or doctor tells you, you’ve got to consider what’s appropriate for your needs, because you know yourself best! So, the verdict is: there is no “perfect” or “optimal” time to work out that will burn the most calories. You’ve just got to figure out a time that suits your body best.

Stay healthy, my friends!

Biking in Downtown Phoenix

Have you ever considered reducing your travel time if you walk between two places, toning the muscles you have without any extra effort or increasing your stamina and, in turn, making your heart healthier?

Urban biking has a bright future in downtown Phoenix.

Urban biking has a bright future in downtown Phoenix.

If not, you should consider taking to two wheels as your source of urban transportation. Biking is an activity that enhances your health and the health of your community!

Urban biking is especially something downtown Phoenix residents should consider. Commuting by car or by foot in downtown can sometimes be a challenge. That’s where biking can make your life so much easier.

If you bike, you don’t have to worry about long commutes or traffic jams. On a healthier note, biking is good for you in many ways.

Biking helps burn fat, promotes healthy sleeping habits, encourages healthy digestion and even increases the endorphins in your brain, which makes you a happier, more confident person.

ASU exercise physiologist Christopher Berger is an avid biker and takes a personal interest in biking issues.

“Of course biking is healthy. We’ve got pretty dry air and nice sunshine, so it’s nice to be outside. Our roads are pretty well-kept, you know, there are no potholes or anything like that … and they’re flat, so biking isn’t very strenuous. Logistically, biking is a good idea — it saves you so much time. Health- and fitness-wise, it’s a good idea. It’s just nice to be outside.”

Berger said he thinks biking has more of a future in downtown Phoenix compared to Tempe simply because enforcement is a little bit different.

“People would be more proactive about putting bike lanes in around downtown Phoenix. There are already colored biking lanes on some downtown streets, so I’m pretty optimistic.”

So what exactly makes biking so healthy, and how do you ensure to make the most of your biking experience?

Berger said it’s a combination of things.

“Depending on how you set your gears up, biking can be a very aerobic exercise. If you set your gears really high, it become anaerobic for a little while, because you have to increase the amount of force you generate to move the bike. If you have a lightweight bike, you can bike for a long period of time. I think there’s a lot to be said for a really strong-frame mountain bike because in urban biking you have to have something that’s pretty durable.”

Another source that really promotes urban biking is the organization BikeForce.

BikeForce Phoenix is a collaboration of courier cyclists in downtown Phoenix who serve the business community.

BikeForce aims to help businesses reduce the operating costs of sending packages, documents and parcels all while promoting green energy, environmental awareness and physical fitness.

Could this get any better?

Thomas Johnston, office manager of BikeForce Phoenix, explained why biking is so beneficial to the downtown community.

“We deliver packages from business to business via bike. We are all for urban cycling here at BikeForce. I’m a big believer in biking — the more bikes on the road, the better. It’s healthier and better for the economy. Studies have shown that when there’s more biking, the economy’s better, because people don’t have to worry about parking. I bike almost 100 miles a week. I’ve been a courier for 16 years, and it’s just how I move around.”

Now that you’ve heard testimonials from two passionate sources about the benefits of urban biking, it’s up to you to broaden those horizons and perhaps try breaking biking into your schedule.

Not only will it help the environment, it will help keep you healthier! So get out there and cycle away toward a healthier you.

Stay healthy, my friends!

Zumba: Dance Your Way to a Healthy Lifestyle

“Zumba fitness!!”

I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase exclaimed in a high-pitched, almost-maniacal voice at least once in your lifetime.

Get that beach body by this summer! Enroll in a Zumba class ASAP!

Get that beach body by this summer! Enroll in a Zumba class ASAP!

Well, the fact is, Zumba is something everyone should get excited about — it’s one of the liveliest ways you can stay fit! With a lively beat, your body can do wonders, and your overall health will increase tenfold.

First of all, Zumba burns a lot of calories. We’re not talking a measly 200 calories per session. We’re talking from 800-1,000 calories per 30- to 60-minute period. By dancing, you can lose that unwanted weight, just as though you were working out on an elliptical or treadmill.

Zumba tones your whole body. Not only do you burn a ton of calories — and I mean a ton — you also allow muscles all over your body to be contoured. The amount of movement you do and the regulation of moves that occurs allows for an even muscle tone that you will absolutely love.

Zumba is addicting. In a good way. Unlike many other addictive things that could be detrimental to your health, Zumba is a fun activity that helps you maintain a healthy weight and increase your muscle mass. You will never want to miss a Zumba session once you start. You’ll build lasting friendships, and your Zumba class will become a family away from home. At least, that’s what I experienced.

Zumba works for all age groups and body types! You don’t have to be 21 and stick-thin to participate in an upbeat, lively Zumba class. The truth is, you can be any age and really any weight and still do Zumba. There are classes of varying levels, and they help you feel comfortable with where you’re at and increase your ability to advance to harder, more complex choreography.

Zumba is a great way to release stress! Dancing in itself is known to be a great way to alleviate stress. Zumba not only utilizes dancing, it also comprises fitness techniques that help release chemicals in your brain that keep you happy and stress-free. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, join a Zumba class! It will make a huge difference in your life.

Lastly, Zumba makes you a better dancer. Let’s face it. Good dancing is almost always a desired skill set. Well, enrolling is a great way to make your dreams of becoming a better dancer a reality! So get out there and enroll in that Zumba class. You will not regret it!

Stay healthy, my friends!

10 Ways to Stay Healthy this Halloween

It’s almost Halloween! Have you thought about how you’re going to keep those candy corn calories off?

Make moderation key this Halloween.

Make moderation key this Halloween.

If not, you need to follow these 10 steps so you can successfully stay healthy this Halloween!

Every Halloween, thousands upon thousands of people fall prey to synthetic fillers and high-fructose corn syrup as they enjoy their Halloween candy. They fail to realize how much damage certain Halloween candies can do!

Don’t let Halloween hijack your fitness progress or make future fitness goals even harder to achieve. Follow these 10 steps, and you’ll be golden.

10 Ways to Stay Healthy this Halloween:

  1. Eat three distinct meals. Eating distinct meals, especially dinner before trick-or-treating or attending a party, will help you refrain from binge-eating items that have less nutritional value than a balanced meal.
  2. Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated will not only help you stay alert this Halloween, but it will also fill you up to an extent.
  3. Provide healthier treats if distributing snacks to the trick-or-treaters. They say it takes a village to raise a child — they’re not lying! It starts with you.
  4. If you’re throwing a party, have a few veggie trays as snacking options. You’ll be surprised how far munching on veggies instead of chips or other salt-filled munchies  will take you.
  5. Serve low-calorie drinks at Halloween parties. Everyone knows there will be drinks at a Halloween party. Do yourself a favor and indulge in lower-calorie options — and drink with moderation.
  6. If you’re going to eat a chocolate Halloween treat, eat dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate.  Dark chocolate is actually full of antioxidants, unlike its lighter counterpart.
  7. Buy Halloween candy at the last minute. That way, you aren’t tempted to eat it before distributing it that night. It’s also cheaper when bought closer to Halloween.
  8. If you’re trick-or-treating, take the long route around the neighborhood to get in a few extra strides and ultimately more exercise for a healthy heart and fit body.
  9. Set boundaries as to how many candies you or your loved ones can eat a day. Fun-size candy is always a good option!
  10. Never, ever fill up a whole pillowcase with candy. That’s just asking for trouble.

With these 10 steps in mind, you’re sure to have an amazing Halloween your body won’t regret partaking in!

Get out there, be active, make good choices and have a great Halloween!

Hot yoga: Is it just a fad?

You’ve probably heard the illusive term “hot yoga.” What comes to mind?

Do you envision a crowded room filled with artificial light and sweaty people simultaneously engaged in poses that stretch convention?

Or do you envision something more private — perhaps a small group that practices in a low-light sauna, each bead of sweat produced a testament to their commitment to health?

Om.

Om.

The truth is, there are many different ways to engage in hot yoga. You can do it in classes with more than 200 people; you can do it with 10 people. The lights can be recessed lighting or candles — the options are endless.

But one fact remains constant: hot yoga is one of the best things you can do for your body.

Doing hot yoga in a room that’s anywhere from 95 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit increases your pulse and metabolism. This, in turn, allows for better circulation throughout the body.

So when you sweat a lot, that means you lose more weight, right? Not necessarily! Studies have shown that the fact that you sweat more in hot yoga does not mean you will lose more weight than you would at standard room temperature. However, more harmful toxins are released during hot yoga through the greater amount of sweat than with yoga done at standard room temperature.

By far the greatest advantage to doing hot yoga is the fact that your body will surpass the expected level of flexibility that currently defines how you pose. The heat loosens up tight muscles and knots, also lubricating joints that would normally inhibit your body from reaching its full potential.

However, while there are many advantages to doing hot yoga, you still need to take certain precautions. Staying hydrated is essential! It’s recommended that you drink at least 2-3 liters on top of the required eight glasses of water daily if you plan to commit to hot yoga as a fitness routine.

Also, food intake needs to be monitored. It’s recommended that you eat a small snack before doing hot yoga — too empty or too full of a stomach is detrimental to the hot yoga experience.

But, the most important thing is to listen to your body while doing hot yoga, and be careful not to overexert yourself. Oftentimes, you want to ignore the minor things you feel in a workout routine, but with hot yoga, the risk of passing out is higher than normal. It’s vital to take breaks when needed.

But, holistically speaking, hot yoga is a great fitness routine to get into. Not only will you burn calories and increase your flexibility, you will also put your mind at ease and keep your mental health in check! So, the verdict has been passed. Hot yoga is not just a fad. It’s arguably the best way to practice yoga because of all the added benefits. So get out there! Grab a buddy and sign up for a hot yoga class. The experience will be unforgettable, and your body will love you for it!

The Sun Devil Fitness Complex: A Diamond in the Rough

The Sun Devil Fitness Complex that just opened on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus has done nothing but ‘wow’ Downtown students who were relying on the YMCA previously.

Night swim, anyone?

Night swim, anyone?

While the downtown YMCA was a pretty good place to work out, it definitely doesn’t compare to the new SDFC in terms of enhancing the relationship students have with the greater ASU community.

Not only does the new center have four floors full of equipment and fitness class rooms, it also has a rooftop pool that overlooks the greater downtown area. If the rooftop pool doesn’t cut it, I don’t know what does!

The first floor of the facility is home to an array of workout machinery, including but not limited to elliptical trainers, treadmills and other core-enhancing machines. The second through fourth floors house various fitness classrooms, multipurpose rooms and even a track.

While the amount of workout equipment is nice and all, I’m more of a fitness class junkie. Whether it’s Zumba or yoga, fitness classes appeal to me a lot more than treadmills or ellipticals do. So, if you’re like me, the Sun Devil Fitness Complex has just what you need! You can start off by doing a little cardio on the machines on the first floor and then make your way upstairs to one of the many fitness courses offered.

Generally speaking, there are three different types of fitness courses available: strength classes, cardio classes and yoga classes.

The best way to get in shape and do so with the most variability in workout style is to go for the strength/cardio combination classes. This category includes “Power Hour,” “Insane Intervals,” “Total Body Blast” and “Mix.” Each of these classes are high-intensity total-body workouts.

If you’re looking for just strength training, the classes offered are “Totally Toned,” “Raise the Bar” and “Awesome Abs.” Strength training is good if you’re already in shape and you just want definition.

Cardio classes are best for people who want to lose those extra pounds and get back into shape. The classes offered in this category are “Zumba,” “Cycle, Rise and Ride” and “Total Knock Out.”

My personal favorite fitness class — after kickboxing, that is — is yoga! The yoga classes offered are “Flow Yoga, Sunrise Yoga,” “Gentle Yoga” and “Power Yoga.” These yoga classes will help calibrate your body in physical and spiritual terms.

But, of course, we can’t forget the highlight of the fitness center — the rooftop pool! I don’t know what it is about rooftop pools that gets me. Whether it’s the elusive party scene that normally takes place around rooftop pools or it’s just the ability to see huge skyscrapers on either side of you as you backstroke down the length of the pool, having a pool on a roof in downtown is a very cool thing, and the complex deserves a standing ovation for such a brilliant setup.

With such a wide variety of fitness options and placement in the heart of downtown Phoenix, the Sun Devil Fitness Complex truly is a diamond in the rough that all ASU students should visit. With the multitude of fitness courses, the high volume of workout equipment, the track and the pool, this fitness center offers one of the most well-rounded workout routines a downtown Phoenician could ask for.

The happy yoga lifestyle

I know there are some people out there who may think yoga is another health trend, but from my experience, that couldn’t be more wrong. Yoga has been practiced for over 5,000 years and has spread with many different varieties and sub-types all throughout the United States.

Ever since I discovered yoga and the benefits of how it made me feel, there was no turning back. Being a beginner at yoga can be a little difficult, but yoga comes with a multitude of health benefits. There are a variety of yoga classes, studios in the downtown area and a huge amount of options online.

Image via chakrasreflexologyspa.com

Image via chakrasreflexologyspa.com

After starting with yoga myself, it took about two weeks of practicing for me to really start feelings its effects. I started feeling a little soreness in new muscles I had never really stretched out before, my flexibility increased with each session, my breathing deepened and I was filled with a general feeling of goodness and tranquility.

Research on yoga and its health benefits are still in its early stages but it has had a promising start. It has been shown to lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and heart rate, heighten metabolism rates and for those who reported to have insomnia, help with sleep. Yoga has demonstrated to alleviate specific kinds of pains as well such as migraines (something I suffer from frequently), lower back issues and even arthritis.

Yoga was designed to bring together the different disciplines of the mind and the body through slow, controlled movements and breathing.  Those are the two main focuses of any type yoga and will be in any yoga class. I found breathing the hardest. It’s not something people usually focus on, and while doing new yoga poses is more easily overlooked. Remember to always breathe.

Image via notsalmon.com

Image via notsalmon.com

This is not the type of exercise that is mastered in a short amount of time, and it’s not one with lighting-fast results.

But that’s the purpose of yoga. It’s to teach us how to take things more slowly, to take a pause in our everyday life and find peace within ourselves.

Don’t let this discourage you! Yoga isn’t some trend exercise; it’s a lifestyle change. You may do as many sessions as you want per week or as few as you want. Take your time, find the time to make a small pause in your busy schedule and I’m sure you’ll see the results.

Practicing yoga, despite it being a safe non-aerobic exercise, does come with a few risks. If you do decide to try it out, you should remember to:

  • Warm up before every session. Cold muscles increase the chance of injury.
  • Know your limits. Before beginning any new type of exercise be sure to know what it demands of your body to avoid harm.
  • Take it slow. Yoga is an exercise for the mind and the body, helping to ease stress and condition your physique. Remember, it is not competition. Learn the basics of how to maintain proper balance and breathing before going headfirst into any session.

Stay healthy, Devils!

Make SMART goals this New Year

It’s a new semester! We can’t believe we’re back at school already. This New Year seemed to have appeared out of the blue and if you’re like me, you probably wanted another two weeks to sleep in and enjoy the comforts of home.

It’s a week past the initial New Year, but we still have those pesky New Year’s resolutions tacked up on our Facebook timelines. And if you’re like most people, the resolutions center around getting healthier, trying to lose weight and becoming a happier person overall.

Photo via Blogspot.com

It’d be great if life worked like this, but posting a status about getting fit or eating better isn’t the only step you need to take to a healthier lifestyle. Get rid of those “resolutions” and start making goals.

SMART Goals

Since acronyms make everything easier to remember, start your goal planning with SMART.

Photo via youandmeworld.com

Specific: If you want something done right, you’ve got to be specific. The same goes for making your goals. Be specific about what you want to accomplish, where you’re going to accomplish it, who is involved, when you’ll be done and why you’re doing it.

For example:

What do you want to do? Lose 10 pounds and be able to do five pull-ups. Where will this happen? At the YMCA. Who is involved? My best friend is coming to the gym with me to hold me accountable. When will you be done? Graduation! Why are you doing this? I want to feel better about myself and feel stronger.

Measurable: Measuring your progress is important. If you make a vague goal, there isn’t really any way to measure it for success. When you set a numerical value for your weight loss, like 10 pounds, you can calculate your progress. You need to be able to know when you’ve accomplished your goal.

Attainable: Remember sitting in your elementary school classrooms with those motivational posters on the walls? “You can do it” and “Dare to be different?” Take some advice from Eleanor Roosevelt and “believe in the beauty of your dreams.” When you make goals, only you can realize them. They are your own. When your attitude toward your goals changes and you become motivated, nothing can stop you from attaining them.

Realistic: Getting everything you want isn’t always what you need. Do I need a Lamborghini? No. Do I want one? Yes! Set your goals with reality in mind. What can you achieve in your time-frame realistically? I’m signed up for the Chicago Marathon in October. I realistically have enough time from now until then to reach 26.2 miles as long as I stay on track with my training.

Timely: As with everything, timing is essential. If you’re working 40 hours per week and taking 19 credits, chances are you don’t have enough time during the day for a three-hour workout. Make a schedule for your goal and stay on track. It’s not about spending the most time to reach your goal, but making the most of your time to get there. Sneak in quick workouts, plan for meals the night before and stay on schedule.

Try these SMART goals for a change, Devils, and see how much you can achieve!