CYCLING 101. Your Guide to Riding STRONG.

The low lighting. The techno music. The jersey fitted regulars who walk out the door covered in sweat. The world of “Spinning” can be intimidating. But don’t let the bike shorts fool you: Indoor Cycling is for EVERY gym go-er. If you are in a search of a fun group workout that provides a serious sweat, you might want to give cycle class a try. This low impact exercise option provides a great workout challenge and is designed to accommodate to all fitness levels. The bike will only work as hard as you want it to as both the  speed and resistance are in YOUR control. This is one of the reasons why I love indoor cycling: EVERY one can participate no matter what age or fitness ability. Its welcoming, fun, and a great workout for everyone.

Whether you’re a regular or never stepped in a spin room before, there are a few things to watch out for when you get your biking cardio. Here’s my guide to getting the most out of your ride and becoming a spin fanatic for life.

Indoor Cycling 101. Your Guide to Riding STRONG.

“Spinning” / Indoor Cycling Defined: A cardio class utilizing a indoor spinning bike. The pedals and wheels spin, but the bike stays stationary. There is a knob for you to adjust your resistance and make the workout more challenging or easy to handle, depending on the instructor’s directions and your preferences.

What to Expect:  Usually a 45-60 minute class in which the instructor will lead you through a warm-up, cardio workout, and cooldown. Different instructors will use different ways to gauge how hard you’re working. Some will use levels (“On a scale of 1-5 right now, you should be at a level 3”), resistance (“turn the knob twice”), cadence (how fast your wheels are spinning. Some clubs have spin bikes with consoles on them which help keep track of time, cadence and power), and all instructors will focus on your position (seated, standing or climbing). Speed will also be emphasized throughout the class through slower hill climbs (with heavy resistance), steady state or sprinting (speed intervals). Expect different drills of sprinting, hills, jumping, and tempo work set to the instructors choice playlist. The type of workout you get in Spin will depend a LOT on the instructor, their teaching style, exercise /cycling background, and music preferences. I have been to some classes where techno is blasted and the teacher doesn’t say a word; others with detailed drills and a cheering crowd. The best way to find the right instructor/class fit for you is to shop around and try them all. EVERYONE has a unique style and is looking for something different out of the spin class experience.

Getting Started

Comfortable workout clothes, a water bottle and a BRING IT attitude are all you need to get started. The following things can make a great Spinning class even better.

  • Moisture wicking tops to keep you cool and dry – expect to sweat A LOT.
  • A longer pair of shorts or padded cycling shorts to make the ride more comfortable for important parts 😉
  • A great water bottle to keep you hydrated and performing your best. Its a good idea to consume at least 40 ounces of water before, during and after  a 40-minute ride.
  • Shoes with a thick sole.  Thinner soles can be painful on your arches when the medal pedals are in the middle of your foot (nike frees would be a bad choice for cycling). If you fall in love with Spinning, you might choose to invest in cycling cleats. They provide much more power and muscle engagement in EVERY pedal stroke. Invest in one pair and they will last you years. Sports Basement is a great spot to buy high quality cycling cleats at a discount. And who knows… you might buy a pair and turn into a real outdoor cyclist 🙂
  • A small towel. Or two 😉

Ready to Ride

Spin bikes are designed and engineered to fit all shapes, sizes and abilities. Adjustable, with a real-bike feel, these bikes let you tailor seat and handlebar height to create the perfect fit thats right for you. With the proper bike setup, you can reap the full benefits of the cycling class and minimize the risk of injury. Here are a few things to keep in mind before you begin your spin workout.

  • Be sure to arrive to class at least 15 minutes early to discuss bike safety and setup procedures with your instructor. When you are new to a Spin  class, its important to let your instructor know. He or she can help you adjust your  bike and familiarize you with its features.
  • Adjust the seat height so that your knees are slightly bent at the bottom of the pedal stroke.
  • Adjust fore/aft seat position so that your arms are a comfortable distance from the handlebars and your elbows are slightly bent.
  • If you’re a beginner, start with the handlebars in a relatively high position. As your flexibility increases and you become more comfortable on the bike you can begin to move the handlebars downward until they are approximately level with the saddle. Always make sure that the handlebars, seat post and seat slider are securely attached and that all pop pins are completely engaged.
  • Remember to ride at your own pace and learn the seated movements before advancing to standing movements and jumps. Always stay in control and focus on your form.

During Class

  • Place the ball of your foot over the center of the pedal. If wearing sneakers, make sure that your shoelaces are tucked in and your feet are securely attached to the pedals.
  • Note that most spin bikes have a fixed gear, you must gradually reduce the speed of your pedal strokes to stop the pedals from moving. To decrease the speed of your pedaling, press down on the red resistance knob to stop the pedals.
  • Remember, there is no competition in Spin class. Go at the pace that feels right for you.
  • There should always be some resistance on the bike. Familiarize yourself with all movements at a moderate pace before you attempt to increase your speed.
  • Stay in control. Focus on your form and on making smooth transitions between movements.
  • If you begin to feel faint or dizzy, slowly stop pedaling, carefully dismount from the bike and inform your instructor immediately.

Spin Class DO’s And DONTS

Form and Figure: Proper form is an essential part of a Cycling program. If you don’t have the right form and technique, you not only lose out on a great workout, you may be putting your body at un- necessary risk. Here are some of the questions that determine whether a movement should be used in Spinning class:

  • Can you perform the movement on a road bike? If not, don’t do it!
  • Are you in control?
  • Does the movement seem to have a physiological function, or is it just used as “choreography”?
  • Is the movement safe and efficient?
  • Does the movement feel natural?

Watch Out for these technique DON’Ts! The following are variations on Cycling technique that can compromise your workout AND cause injury:

  • Excessive Movement. Excessive upper body movement, including crunches, push ups and excessive side-to-side leaning is not only inefficient, it can throw off your balance and possibly strain your back. If you want to build-upper body strength, dedicate time to these exercises in a separate strength building session—off the bike.
  • Riding Posture. Riding seated with the arms reaching FAR  forward and the back rounded may seem harmless, particularly since elite cyclists ride in a similar position using aero bars. Since triathletes have custom fitted bikes with shorter top tubes, they can stretch into this position comfortably. However on the Spin bike, this hyper-flexed position may strain the back and can be uncomfortable, particularly for shorter individuals. Keep your shoulders down, core engaged, and maintain strong posture when you ride.
  • “Squats” and other Isolated Movements: Isolating the lower body while pedaling might feel like a great exercise for the quadriceps, but it can place undue strain on the knees and spine or cause injury. You would never do a “Squat” on a real bike, its NOT a good idea in class.  Instead, try a hill climb  and give your legs a good workout with the right form.
  • Pedal Stroke. Watch out for POINTING your toes as you complete each pedal stroke. Work instead on dropping your heel while you cycle, moving your foot as if you are scraping mud off your shoe.
  • Jumping too Quickly. Jumps are effective and challenging, but when they’re performed too fast, they don’t do any good. Since the focus of Jumps is to create smooth transitions between seated and standing positions, the key is proper speed. If Jumps are performed too quickly, the exercise can be ineffective or cause injury.
  • CRAZY Legs.  Riding at high cadence without resistance is ineffective on a Spin bike (and could cause serious butt soreness). Instead, ride at 110 RPM or less. If you begin to bounce in the saddle, increase the resistance. Riding at a consistent pace with good resistance develops power, strength and endurance.

Class Etiquette: 

  • Sanitize! Many gyms have bottles of sanitizing spray and towels handy for a bike sweat clean-up after your workout. Fancier clubs take care of bike clean up for you after each class – the maintainance staff at Equinox is FABULOUS!
  • Talking. It can often be perceived as rude to have conversations or talk loudly while the class is going on. Some instructors dont mind, but other participants might. It’s best to save your coffee chat for after class. That way everyone can enjoy their ride without having to hear you’re latest gossip.
  • Cell Phones. It’s best to leave the phone OUT of your workout so you can get the most from the experience (multi-tasking works the OPPOSITE way you want it to trust me). If you really must have your phone on you for emergency calls, please take the call OUTSIDE the spin room. Yes it’s happened in my class…. so its out there on this blog post 😉
  • So fresh and SO clean. Clean clothes and deodorant are a MUST. The bikes are close to each other, be a nice neighbor.
  • Connect with your instructor. We are here because we LOVE cycling with you. Say hello, it makes our day 🙂

I have taught cycling for 14 years and LOVED every second. I look forward to every class I teach and a chance to connect with others through movement and music. If you are in the Bay Area, I’d love to share a class with you. I currently teach the following Cycling classes in San Francisco:

Tuesday: 1230-115pm “CYCLING the Workout” at EQUINOX Pine Street

Thursday: 1215-1pm “CYCLING the Workout” at EQUINOX on Market Street

Friday: 12:15-115pm “CYCLING the Workout” at EQUINOX Pine Street

Saturday: 11am-12pm “CYCLING the Workout” at EQUINOX Pine Street

If you cant make it in to ride with me, here are a few songs that are on my spring spinning playlist. Maybe they will inspire you to get on the bike and sweat.

Caroline’s Fun Spring Cycle Playlist 2012

  1. Pjanoo (Club Mix) / Eric Prydz
  2. Too Much In Love ( Original Version DRM ) / Chris Willis
  3. You da One (Dave Aude Radio) / Rihanna
  4. I’m a Machine (feat. Crystal Nicole & Tyrese Gibson) / David Guetta
  5. Turn Up the Music / Chris Brown
  6. 6 Foot 7 Foot (feat. Cory Gunz) / Lil Wayne
  7. Lights (Fear of Tigers Remix) / Ellie Goulding
  8. Don’t Hold Your Breath (Kaskade Remix) / Nicole Scherzinger
  9. Sorry for Party Rocking / LMFAO
  10. Million Dollar Bill (Rauhofer Reconstruction Mix) / Whitney Houston (shout out! RIP Whitney 🙂
  11. Jesus Walks / Kanye West
  12. Levels / Avicii
  13. Took My Love (feat. Red Roo, Vein & David Rush) / Pitbull
  14. Block Rockin Beats / Chemical Brothers
  15. Pass At Me (Junior Sanchez Remix) / Timbaland
  16. We Are Young (feat. Janelle Monáe) / fun.
  17. Choose (feat. Ne-Yo & Kelly Rowland) / David Guetta
  18. titanium ( feat. sia) / David Guetta
  19. Cheers (Drink To That) / Rihanna

Indoor Cycling workouts can be a great part of a regular fitness routine. I challenge you to try out a class or two this week – your legs, lungs, and heart will THANK YOU for it!

Do you take cycling classes on a regular basis? What is YOUR favorite song to ride to?

Thanks again for being such a fabulous fitness family. I look forward to seeing you in class or on a bike for a workout soon!

Caroline

Other Things to Check Out This week:

You Got ROLFED. Week Six.

I had an incredible strength and hill running workout two days before my sixth Rolfing appointment with Marie. Needless to say when I showed up for our session, my legs felt like they could use some lovin’. Marie introduces session number six as the “back of the legs” and I am overwhelmed with joy. Our appointment will address my ankles, calves, hamstrings, and glutes – the perfect match for how my body is feeling the day of our session. Funny how the world works out exactly how you need it to sometimes.

Marie begins every Rolfing session by looking at my current structure and identifying postural shifts since our last appointment.  For  session 6, she starts by asking me to lay belly down on the table with my feet hanging off the end. My heels are in her hands and she starts to work on my feet. Her fingers rub down the sides and back of each heel; the work is INTENSE and I practically jump off the table.  How often is it that you address the tension going on in your feet? Well until you are brave enough to find out for yourself, let me tell you… theres A LOT going on back there. Fortunately for me, we move on quickly and into the calves and hamstrings. Calf work is typically excruciating for most, but I always seem to enjoy it. Years running and dancing have given me strong calves… with a lot of tension. Marie works along all lines of the calf muscle, using her elbow to apply powerful pressure. My tight, ropy calves eventually give into the work and melt onto the table.

Moving up the leg I start to get nervous… the hamstrings are my super sensitive spot. For some reason, I have never been able to find a massage therapist to work on the backs of my legs without me begging for mercy and preventing them from doing their work. Everytime I have had hamstring massage, there have been sharp sensations down the back of my legs and I have to call it quits early. I tell Marie in advance that Im scared and to watch out incase I accidentally kick her. She eases my worries by assuring me to work slowly and patiently coerce the muscle to let go. I try to keep calm and carry on – with the phrase, “bring it Hamstring Rolfing.”

Surprisingly, Marie is not only able to work on my hamstrings, but to get them to release as well. Her unique rolfing techniques applied in a slow, steady pace ease my back leg muscles into surrender. She is able to work the entire back side of my legs with very little wincing (or crying) involved. To date, Marie is the only therapist who has actually been able to access and work on my hamstring muscles. I am in awe; my jaw has dropped on the massage table.

From the hamstrings we move on to the back of the hips and sacrum. . Now let’s be honest, butt massage is always something EVERYBODY wants – but is too shy to ask for. However, the sixth rolfing session isnt just your average “bootay rubbin”. It works all the attachments of the hip in addition to the glute max. The work feels similar to trigger point massage, but is differently deep and re-structuring for the body. All the spots around the base of the spine and sacrum are intense in a good way, leaving my tailbone with the feeling of length.

We finish with a little lower back spinal work and then Marie asks me to flip over onto my back. Face up, she has me to bridge my hips and uses her hands to help my pelvis settle into alignment. This pelvic tilt helps allow all the positive changes from our work settle in. My body feels long from the top of my tailbone to my toes.

We conclude by practicing proper pelvic alignment and posture together. Training in something I so desperately need, yet would NEVER do on my own (posture lessons – Im positive we could all use that in our daily life). The back side of my body has experienced significant release, causing my posture to shift to a more beneficial place. Session six ends like all the sessions before – with me walking out of our appointment 10 feet taller.

The day after Session six with Marie, I enjoy one of the STRONGEST running workouts I’ve had in weeks. I could write it off as just a lucky workout…. but Im thinking it might have more to do with all this Rolfing 😉

Have you been “Rolfed”? What was your experience? Leave your comments below with your rolfing stories – Id love to hear from you!
Read More:
Check out Marie’s website for more : http://www.mariethiebaud.massagetherapy.com/

Marie is certified in the Rolf Method of Structural Integration, also known as Rolfing® from The Guild for Structural Integration in Boulder, Colorado.  Her massage training was completed at National Holistic Institute where she was trained in Swedish, Deep tissue. Shiatsu, Myofascial Release, and Reflexology. CLICK HERE to continue reading about Marie Thiebaud, structural integration specialist. 

“Fiberlicious”

Did she say, “Fiberlicious”?!?!
You have heard its good for you, but do you know why or how? If you are confused, you’re not alone. Dietary fiber can  often be a misunderstood nutrient. It’s not a new talk topic for fitness fanatics; many  have acknowledged and promoted fiber’s benefits. But with so much information floating around it’s hard to know whats right for YOU. Developing a better understanding on the powerful role that fiber plays in keeping your body healthy and incorporating strong fiber habits into your routine will increase your performance and vitality.  Educate yourself with this “Fiber 101” post. Fill your days with delicious fiber and glow from the INSIDE out. Fill up and feel “Fiberlicious”!

Fiber Facts

Fiber in its dietary form is a plant food that the body isn’t meant to digest. This is why it enhances regularity. It’s got nowhere to go but out. It doesn’t stop there though, with many other health benefits – particularly with regard to weight management, digestive health, heart health, and diabetes – the biggest assault on the human population (and the U.S. healthcare system) since the Bubonic plague, but I digress.

Dietary fiber comes in two forms – both play a role in good health:

  1. Soluble fiber is “soluble” in water.  It has many benefits, such as moderating blood glucose levels and lowering cholesterol – reducing the risk of heart disease.  Good sources of soluble fiber include oats, legumes (peas, beans, lentils), barley, and certain fruits and vegetables. For a general list: Sources of Soluble Fiber
  2. Insoluble fiber does not absorb or dissolve in water.  It passes through our digestive system in close to its original form, supporting superior regularity.  It offers many benefits to intestinal health, including a reduction in the risk and occurrence of colorectal cancer, hemorrhoids, and constipation.  Good sources of insoluble fiber include whole grain products, seeds and nuts, and certain fruits and vegetables. For a general list: Sources of Insoluble Fiber

Benefits of Fiber

The health benefits of fiber are plentiful, check out all the amazing things fiber can do for you:

Digestive Health
Without getting too graphic, in a nutshell, fiber adds bulk to help food move efficiently through the digestive tract, keeping the digestive system running smoothly and promoting regularity. In addition to getting your recommended fiber intake, regular exercise and lots of water also promote healthy digestion.

Heart Health 
The soluble fiber found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol levels. It does this by interfering with its absorption in the digestive tract. Studies have shown that increased fiber in the diet can reduce blood pressure and inflammation, which also promotes heart health.

Diabetes and Blood Sugar Control
Fiber, particularly soluble fiber, can slow the absorption of sugar, which for people with diabetes can help improve blood sugar levels. A diet that includes insoluble fiber has been associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Weight Management 
High-fiber foods give the feeling of satiation or feeling “full” or satisfied, for longer periods, curbing appetite and reducing cravings. Also, foods high in fiber generally require more chewing time, giving your brain time to register when you’re no longer hungry, and reducing the likelihood of overeating. High-fiber foods also tend to be less “energy dense,” meaning they have fewer calories for the same volume of food.

Cancer Prevention
Evidence that dietary fiber reduces cancer is mixed, so take this with a grain of salt.  The passage of food through the body is increased when fiber is eaten. Some experts believe this may prevent the harmful substances found in some foods from affecting the colon and may protect against colon cancer. Other types of cancer that are linked with poor nutrition and may be prevented by a fiber-rich diet include breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and uterine cancer.

Are You Getting Your Fiber Fill?

The National Fiber Council recommends an average of 32 grams of fiber per day for a healthy adult. Some requiring more, and some less. Unfortunately, this is a major struggle for many, with most of the American population only getting about 50% of their recommended daily fiber intake (approximately 12 – 17 grams), if that. My personal preference is that if your body can tolerate it, the higher your intake, the better.

To calculate how much fiber you need based on your age and gender, and receive a customized meal plan, click out the National Fiber Council’s fiber calculator. For a relatively comprehensive list of fiber-rich foods, check out the Continuum Health Partners’ fiber content chart.

Getting the recommended intake of fiber in your diet isn’t as hard as it may seem,  all it takes is a little know-how and some motivation. Here are some great ways to bring more fiber into your days:

  • Eat your fruits and veggies .  Kick it up a notch by eating the peels and skins, and enhance the fiber content and benefit from a host of other nutrients that are in there.
  • Choose whole fruits and vegetables instead of juices.
  • READ nutrition labels.  Look for things like “whole grain”, “whole wheat”, and “bran”. Don’t be fooled by “wheat” flour. This is a guise for refined “white” flour – public enemy #1.
  • Choose whole grain bread, cereals, and pasta in place of their overly processed, refined “white” counterparts. Replace white flour (or at least a portion of it) with whole wheat flour in baked goods.
  • Replace white rice with brown rice.
  • Substitute meat with beans or other legumes (dried peas, lentils, or black-eyed peas) in meals.
  • Nuts and SEEDS. Add nuts and seeds to salads, vegetables, and snacks. In addition to fiber, these add dimension, nutrition, and satiety to foods. When possible, choose raw or toasted (in your oven) over dry roasted and salted or “candied” nuts.
  • Berry UP. Add raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and boysenberries to cereal, yogurt, or eat them alone as a delicious snack. Coupled with their potent antioxidant content, these berries are higher in fiber than some other fruit selections.
  • Snack with a Crunch. If you crave crunchy (or salty) snacks, choose air popped popcorn sprinkled with a little sea salt, whole grain pretzels, or grab some veggies and bust out the hummus!
  • Drink UP. Hydrate with water, and lots of it. The more fiber you take in, the more water your body needs to process (and remove) it. There are many schools of thought on this, including the traditional eight 8 oz. glasses of water per day, but this doesn’t take individual needs into consideration. A more recent approach is to drink half your body weight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 200 lbs., drink 100 ounces (about 3 liters) of water daily. More is better here, and the more active you are and drier your climate, the more you’ll need for optimal functioning. A good rule of thumb is to aim for colorless or slightly yellow urine.

Fill UP.

Get your grocery list out. Fill your shopping cart (and tummy!) with incredible sources of fiber:

High in Fiber

Fruits and vegetables that contain 5 grams or more fiber per reference amount (20% or more of the Daily Value per reference amount) qualify to carry the label “high in fiber.”

Good Source of Fiber
Fruits and vegetables that contain 2.5 grams but less than 5 grams fiber per reference amount (10-19% of the Daily Value per reference amount) qualify to carry the label “good source of fiber.”

What would you add to the list for an extra dose of fiber? Here are some more good fiber resources to check out:

 

This week I challenge you to evaluate how your fiber intake is now and where you want it to be in the future. Take a moment to reflect on how you can effectively incorporate the above healthy habits and foods into your current lifestyle. Leave a comment below with one way you are going to FILL UP on fiber. I cant wait to see you glow and watch you live FULLY POWERED.

Thanks again for being such a supportive and amazing fitness family. Hope to see you soon…. till then – keep shining 🙂

Caroline

Other Things To Check Out This Week:

10 Ways to make February HAPPY.

February is American Heart month. What better reason to focus on making your heart a HAPPY one!?! Whether you have a romantic partner or not, let this month remind you to express LOVE and live a more satisfying life. Buy yourself flowers, cook up a fresh meal for someone special, get on the yoga mat enjoy a class. Choose to do things that make you feel healthy, loved, and inspired. Need ideas on how to get started? Here are my top 10 ways to make this month a healthy and happy one. These are a few suggestions I believe might help you LOVE your life this February. Of course if anything else “lights your life fire” I say GO for it.  This is the month to treat yourself to health and make your heart a happy one. Choose to live a life you love. Happy Heart month to you ALL!

Caroline’s top 10 Ways to make Valentines Day HAPPY. 

1. Master a heart-opening yoga pose.  “Yoga poses that open the chest, the home of the heart, help keep your posture and your mood HAPPY.”  says B.K.S. Iyengar, one of the world’s greatest living yoga gurus who is largely responsible for introducing yoga to the West. Doing even simple heart-opening poses allows the collar bones to spread, chest to expand, and the entire heart area to be flooded with space, lightness, and oxygen. Here are a many ideas on all sorts of fun heart-opening poses, thanks YOGA JOURNAL! Which one is your favorite? I am a big fan of backbends. The one below is often called, “Wild Thing” 🙂


2. Take care of your ticker. How healthy is your heart? “Over 800,000 Americans died from heart attacks and other cardiac illnesses last year,” reports preventive cardiologist Lori Mosca, MD, founder of Columbia University Medical Center’s Preventive Cardiology Program. “Sadly but most of these deaths, at least four out of five, were preventable.” Even if you are genetically predispositioned for heart disease, you can cut your risks dramatically by pursuing a heart healthy lifestyle. Bring awareness to your current health status and develop a heart healthy wellness plan that keeps your heart in top shape. Focus on eating a healthy diet, exercising, quitting smoking, and stressing less. And be sure to visit your doctor for regular check-ups.  Check out some of my top tips on living heart  healthy. A healthy heart is a happy one. Be proactive and prevent heart disease from happening.

3. Say “I love you” with a healthy dinner. For a delicious and affordable way to say “I love you” cook up a heart healthy meal at home. Whether you bust out the apron for that special someone or make your roommate a meal that doesn’t come from a box – cook up a meal to show appreciation for someone in your life. Check out these healthy recipes and menus from Eating Well, and Cooking light. A great way to get to the heart is to give to the stomach….delight someone with a delicious meal this month for a lovely treat.

4. Profess your gratitude to someone unexpected. Say thank-you to someone and show them how grateful you are to have them in your life. It’s such a small thing, but it can have a huge impact on your life, and the life of that person. When you find little ways to incorporate gratitude into your life, you’ll be much happier and the  people around you will be happier as well. That happiness has the ripple effect that can make the world a better place … and all it takes is that small gesture of THANKS.

5. Buy Dark Chocolate. Eat it. If you’re anything like me, you have a love affair with chocolate. The average American consumes about 12 pounds of chocolate a year. With Valentine’s Day, February tends to be a particularly popular time to eat more of it than usual. Believe it or not, indulging in the right kinds of chocolate in moderation can actually be healthy. A recent study, published just in time for Valentine’s Day, states that dark chocolate is the “heart-healthy” way to go, not only on Valentine’s day, but all year long. Dr. Gary Kaplan, director of the Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine, says: “The research is clear: dark chocolate is chock-full of antioxidants that fight dangerous ‘free radicals’ in your body, and it also provides significant protection against cardiovascular disease.”

However, its important to remember that not all chocolate is created equal and it isnt a free pass to gorge on sugar. King Size Twix, Heath Bars, Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, and other processed forms of chocolate will not provide optimum health benefits. You want to consume moderate servings of qualitychocolate, without the added junk. Here are some key points to remember before diving into the candy:

  • The higher percentage of cocoa in the chocolate, the better for your health it is. Stick to 70% cocoa or higher.
  • Other kinds of chocolate, such as white chocolate and milk chocolate do not produce the same kind of health benefits, only dark chocolate does.
  • Although health benefits have been proven from eating dark chocolate, it is still better not to exceed 1.5-3.5 ounces a day, and to also make sure you are eating a well-balanced diet, for example, plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Don’t eat chocolate before bed – it contains caffeine, which will hurt your sleeping habits, and therefore impair your health.
  • Remember, chocolate is high calories, remember to exercise and balance your diet when consuming chocolate in order to keep your current weight.

The healthiest way to indulge your chocolate cravings is by eating raw organic unprocessed cacao beans (also known as nibs.) You can purchase cocoa nibs at health food stores. They can be eaten by the handful, added to trail mix, or sprinkled on your cereal in the morning. The next best option is organic unroasted cocoa powder (non-alkalized.) Mix it with almond milk for a delicious chocolaty drink or use it in baking. Another great way to get your healthy chocolate fix is by eating organic dark chocolate with the highest percentage of cocoa and lowest amount of refined sugar (bitter or semi-sweet dark chocolate.) Since the good news about dark chocolate is out, it is widely available, even at your supermarket. Shop for chocolate that has at least 70% cacao (it will tell you this on the package. Some of my personal favorite brands are “Endangered Species” and “One Lucky Duck”. You want to make sure to limit your intake to about 1 oz once in a while (not every 10 minutes). This valentines day, INDULGE your taste buds in a new dark chocolate treat and incorporate it into a balanced diet for life fulfilling results 😉

Indulge! dark chocolate mousse! What a treat!

6. Take someone special out on a date. Spice it up and get creative. Skip the worn out “dinner and a movie routine” and try something more adventurous with your loved ones. Think outside the box and create a memory that will last. Maybe a sunset hike, cooking class, or road trip to a unique spot.
7. Try out a new cardio workout. Your regular routine feeling boring? Mix it up with a new cardio workout! Walk, run, hike, bike, swim, skate, jump, play…. there are lots of fantastic ways to get your heart pumping. For optimum heart happiness, choose cardio that you find fun, rather than see as “obligation”. Make your workouts social by catching up with a friend on a run or be adventurous by trying out an “indoor trampolining” class at House of Air.  This month, spice it up! Choose a new cardio activity and GET moving to improve your heart’s health and happiness.

8. Be a Nature Lover. Buy yourself flowers. Go for a walk on the beach. Sit and watch the sunset. Take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the world around you. Soak in the goodness – our world is beautiful!

9. Rub a dub dub – Soothe yourself in the TUB.  Epsom salt may sound BOGUS, but its a technique used by many to promote recovery and aid in stress relief. Magnesium – the key component of Epsom Salt — performs more functions in more systems of the human body than virtually any other mineral, including regulating the activity of more than 325 enzymes. Medical research indicates that magnesium may reduce inflammation and relieves pain, making it a beneficial in the treatment of sore muscles, bronchial asthma, migraine headaches and fibromyalgia. Soaking in Epsom salt is an inexpensive way to rest, relax, and rejuvenate yourself.  Click HERE to learn more about the benefits of magnesium sulfate and get my much more enjoyable recipe for an Epsom Salt Bath. Whole Foods Market has a variety of scented salts and bubbly products on special for February. Splurge on your favorite scents, grab that book you always want to make time for, and spend an hour soaking in bubbly water. You deserve to be nice to yourself 🙂

10. Strength train your BODY LOVING. We could all use a little work on our body confidence and Valentines day is the perfect reason to give love – to YOURSELF. Not sure how to turn off your inner critic? Click here for my top tips to help you feel fabulous about yourself. Take a moment this holiday to really WORK on your confidence, self-awareness, and self-acceptance.  Enjoy, celebrate, explore, play, love, and appreciate your unique body and savor how good it feels to move your body every day. This Valentines day, express LOVE to your body!

Thats 10  lovely things to do this month! What would you add to the list to make your heart HAPPY in February? 
Wishing you and yours a month full of happiness and health. Looking forward to seeing you soon.
And from the bottom of my heart, thank you. For being YOU and for bringing more happiness to my life.
Caroline
Other things to check out this week: 

Get In The GAME Workout Challenge.

HAPPY SUPERBOWL SUNDAY! Are you ready for the BIG GAME? This year, don’t let football festivities sideline your fitness routine. Prepare a game day plan that gets you off the couch and MOVING before the commercials begin. I’ve created a special football themed workout to help you work up a “sporty sweat” before the action starts. This challenging all-levels circuit works the entire body, doesn’t require any equipment, and includes the perfect mix of strength and cardio exercises. It’s a winning combination – you’ll feel like such a rockstar when you’re done you might need your OWN halftime show. Now get focused, put on your game face, and get ready to “BRING IT”. Im positive you’ll WIN in this workout challenge. TOUCHDOWN!

“Get in the Game WORKOUT CHALLENGE” 

Fuel your SuperBowl Sunday with POWER. The below drills are designed to work on your strength, speed, stamina, and agility while burning calories and boosting energy. It’s a challenging series – as always, please check with a doctor before beginning any new exercise routine. And note: *You DO NOT need a football or access to a football field for these workouts. Just a positive attitude, a bottle of water, and some space! ; )

Running/Jogging Warm Up Drills. 10 minutes.

  • Easy jog 5 minutes
  • Walking Lunge. 20-30.
  • Butt kicks (kick your heel towards your butt)
  • Squat with side shuffle 1 minute
  • High Knees 1 minute
  • Plank with mountain climber knees 1 minute

“Make a Tight End”

Do 20-30 reps of each move. Work on keeping good form and strengthening your legs, core, and balance.

  • Basic Hip bridge. Laying on back bridge hips up into the air.
  • Squat with straight arms out in front of you. Focus on keeping shoulders down and core engaged.
  • Forward single leg lunge with knee raise (add hop if feeling feisty!). Do reps on one leg and switch.
  • Single leg side lateral lunge. Lunging one leg to the side keeping the other straight. Option to add a knee raise towards chest.
  • Plie squat with inner thigh slide. Squat with legs wide and toes pointed outward, bring heels together when you stand and separate legs wide to squat again.

Penalty ABS.

Perform each move for 1 minute with 15 seconds rest in-between.

  • V Ups.
  • Bicycle Crunch
  • Plank
  • Superman
  • Pushup

Cardio BURST: TOUCHDOWN 

Do each move for 1 minute with 30 seconds rest in-between.

  • Burpees. Feel free to add a pushup or squat jump!
  • “Football” run. Also known as “fast feet” : shake your booty and move feet out and in.
  • Squat hops with “touch down” arms. Squat and jump off ground reaching your arms up in the air in a “touchdown” signal.
  • Suicides. Sprint out 10-20 yards, squat and touch ground, sprint back ( you can also use distance measure like light poles, street meters)

Once through the circuit is GREAT – you can also repeat the above 2-3 times and go home with a WINNING workout.

When you have completed the above challenge, leave me a comment below and let me know how it went. Cant wait to congratulate you on your efforts!

On another note, I wanted to take a moment to THANK YOU all of you for your donations in this past weekend’s CYCLE for SURVIVAL fundraiser. This years ride was emotional and inspiring. Equinox Pine Street was packed with over 400 enthusiastic Cyclers working together towards an end to all rare cancers. The event was a tremendous success. So far, Cycle 2012 has raised over $6.1 million! This accomplishment would be impossible without your generosity. These efforts will have a lasting impact on every person touched by rare cancers. I want to THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for supporting me in my ride and helping make a difference in the lives of so many. Keep your eyes out for an upcoming blog post filled with stories from this years ride and LOTS of fun pictures!

Hope you have a fun, safe, and healthy Super Bowl Sunday. Looking forward to seeing you soon for a workout in the gym or ONLINE! 

Caroline

Other Things To Check Out This Week: