Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Few Little Resolution Solutions

It's that time of year again. Time to vow that you'll never miss another workout, always eat healthy, save a mountain of money, and lose every single pound you've gained since you were 15. In other words, it's time to make gigantic, far-reaching resolutions that you suspect (and rightly so) are destined to fail, just as they did last year, and the year before that.  Here's a better way: Ease into 2011 with a reality check. "The smaller and more exact the actions involved in achieving your resolutions, the greater the chance that you will actually see them through and reach the goal," says Keri Gans, RD, author of the forthcoming book The Small Change Diet. Your path to better health starts with these seven easy changes that you can truly achieve. Let's ring in a happy new you!

I resolve to...dress for fitness success.
Maybe Stacy and Clinton are on to something on their show What Not to Wear when they tell bedraggled, sweats-clad ragamuffins that they'll feel better about themselves once they step up their style. "Wearing clothes that you feel good in can boost your body image, simply because you like your new look," says psychologist and fitness instructor Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness. Despite what you may think, covering up the parts you're trying to whittle down isn't doing your self-esteem any favors. "Baggy clothes can actually perpetuate low body image," Lombardo adds. So kick-start your motivation with retail therapy; you'll be in style -- and in the mood to work out -- in figure-flattering black yoga pants, a bright fitted tank or tee, and a cute patterned headband.

I resolve to...take a 30-second time-out.
To lower your blood pressure, stress levels, and risk for heart disease, you could take up kickboxing, make over your diet, and start training for your first half-marathon. Or you could simply learn to breathe better by meditating. When you're stressed, your body produces the hormone cortisol, which raises heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, and muscle tension as part of a temporary reaction preparing you to tackle whatever it is that's stressing you out. Trouble is, the perpetual pressure that most of us feel means that the stuff is coursing through our bodies continuously. But meditation induces physiological changes in your body, telling it to calm down and stop churning out cortisol, in turn improving circulation, relaxing muscles, and allowing tension to dissipate. In fact, a study of college students found that those who regularly meditated reduced their long-term risk of high blood pressure by 52 percent. 

You don't have to get all Eat Pray Love to reap the benefits of meditation. While many experts recommend 20 to 30 minutes a day, even a mini session will help when you're feeling overwhelmed, says psychologist Alice D. Domar, PhD, director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health in Boston. Simply take a deep breath in through your nose (so deep that both your chest and your abdomen expand), slowly counting to four as you inhale. Pause for a few seconds, then exhale through your mouth, slowly counting backward from four to one. Repeat this a few times, then return to what you were doing. "This breathing exercise can make you feel better in 30 seconds," Domar says. Plus, it teaches your body a better way to respond to high-pressure situations so stress can take less of a toll in the future.

I resolve to...spend a minute a day doing the plank.
Your core muscles -- those in the neighborhood of your back, belly, hips, and pelvis -- provide stability and balance for your entire body. Having a strong core makes it easier and safer to do just about everything, from lifting a toddler to skiing moguls. Ignore your core and you're setting yourself up for back pain, neck pain, and poor posture as well as accidental trips and slips. Fortunately, one simple move once a day is all you need. "During a plank, the core muscles all work in harmony to protect your spine," says FITNESS advisory board member Michele Olson, PhD, professor of exercise science at the Human Performance Laboratory at Auburn University Montgomery in Alabama.
The best time to rock the plank is at the end of your workout. "It forces your abdominal muscles to kick in when you're getting tired, which is the time you need core stability the most," Olson says. Even if you think you're a pro, follow these steps to fine-tune your form: (1) Start by lying facedown with your elbows directly under your shoulders and your forearms and palms flat on the floor. (2) Tighten your abs, press your forearms into the floor and squeeze your glutes as you pop up onto your toes, forming a straight line from your head to your feet. (3) Don't let your glutes stick up or sag -- and don't forget to breathe -- as you hold this position for up to a minute.

I resolve to...learn to take a compliment.
Too many women swat away compliments by rejecting or disagreeing with them ("This old thing? I got it on sale!" or "You like my hair today? I didn't even wash it!"). But dismissing kind words can gradually chip away at your self-esteem, making it harder for you to face challenges, says psychologist Ellen Langer, PhD, professor of psychology at Harvard. Accepting accolades, on the other hand, may boost your confidence, giving you the guts to tackle just about anything, whether it's a job interview or even a marathon.  When someone compliments you, assume that it's sincere unless you have ample evidence to the contrary, and take a second to think about it. "If you reflect on why it may be true, you bring to mind positive aspects of who you are, which will help build your confidence," Langer says. Then simply say thank you and enjoy the moment. P.S.: Get ready for many more compliments in 2011, now that you're fitter, happier, and healthier than ever.
Thank You Fitness Magazine for these amazing insights!!!! 


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