Training with Kettlebells and Sandbags

Functional athletic training with little or no equipment has been making serious leaps in popularity recently. Whether you’re training with your own bodyweight, hefting around a heavy sandbag, or swinging a kettlebell, these workouts combine strength training with flexibility and cardio for killer core workouts that improve your power and performance.  They let you train healthy movement patterns across multiple planes for a functional stability and strength that will see you through your favorite athletic pursuits. Since you’re training movement patterns, there are a few things to keep in mind to avoid injury and to get the most out of your session.

Safely. Setting up a safe environment is key when you’re working with kettlebells. Keep a good amount of space between you and you any training partners (including pets!) and make sure you have a flat, stable floor to work on. Hopefully you won’t lose control of your kettlebell, but it happens…so avoid injury and risk by training in a safe, forgiving space. You should also pay extra attention to picking up your bell or bag with good form. Avoid rounding your back and focus on bending your knees to pick up from a low position. You’ll want to continue this action of lifting low and engaging your core throughout your workout.

Stability. Kettlebell and sandbag training sessions challenge your stability from your ankles up by taking you through a large range of motion with a shifting load. That’s the reason some athletes tackle these sessions barefoot. Avoid highly cushioned shoes or those with elevated heels, which will add instability to your form and reduce the power of your actions. A minimalist shoe designed for weightlifting or cross training is a better bet and will let you use your feet to power through the movement.

Posture. Putting most of the load into your shoulders and upper back is a common mistake made by newcomers. Success in these training techniques requires more action in the lower body. Start with a lighter weight and work into a deeper squat, using the power of your legs and glutes to lift the weight. Press into your heels to lift your hips and focus on stabilizing the weight with your hips and low core as you move the weight to your shoulders (or higher). The kettlebell swing is a good movement to start with as you practice this sequence of actions. As the weight comes low, you should be bending the knees and shifting your weight back into your heels. As you swing the weight back up, you should reverse the process by pressing into your heels to lift your hips, powering the swing from your lower body and core. At this point, shift your weight forward and lift the kettlebell higher.

Finally, there are two are two basic approaches to choosing your swing height. Bringing the kettlebell to shoulder height works your core stability and ensures that you have control of the kettlebell. It’s generally considered to be the safer approach. If your shoulders are healthy and your core strength is good, you can work into overhead swings.This is a bigger cardiovascular and strength challenge, and gives you the opportunity to work in additional movements (such as squats or twists) at the top of the swing. For more training ideas on how to use your kettlebells, kettelbellworks.com offers a great overview of ways to train and tips for getting the most from your training sessions.

In addition to kettlebells, sandbags are another versatile, low equipment option for strength training. A good bag should come with several, well secured handles, allowing you to work even more movement patterns than is convenient with a kettlebell. Men’s Fitness has a nice starting workout, as well as tips for setting up your sandbag. Because of their shifting weight load, sandbags seriously challenge your stability. You can optimize this challenge by including (well-sealed) bags of water in your sandbag, or using a not-quite full bag. Both kettlebells and sandbags can be combined with bodyweight exercises and your favorite Vision Home Fitness equipment to add a bigger challenge to your movement patterns and increase your strength training load, preparing you for nearly anything.

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Get More From Your Heart Rate Monitor

After running shoes and an MP3 player, a heart rate monitor is usually the first piece of equipment runners add to their workouts. If you aren’t using one now, you’ve most likely at least played with them in the past, calculating whether you’re working too hard or not hard enough, estimating your total calories burned, and even tracking your mileage or sharing your workouts. Using a heart rate monitor can give you a lot of insight into the quality of your workouts, fitness level, and effective training. So what are the best ways to really get the most out of this popular gadget? Let’s break down the benefits:

Step 1: Get your real max heart rate. While the calculation of 220 minus your age has long been the standard for estimating your max heart rate, there are newer, more accurate methods for fitter individuals. One favored formula is 205 – (.5 x your age) or you can also find your maximum heart rate by completing a workout that is directed at reaching it (such as finishing your 5k at an all-out sprint). This Runners’ World article has another option involving hill repeats with a maximum effort sprint and recording the highest number shown on your heart rate monitor. These workouts assume that you’re in reasonably good shape and that you’re well-rested, since recent training, a lack of sleep, and even dehydration can all affect your heart rate. The biggest take-home is to recognize that your maximum heart rate is very individual and isn’t going to be in complete agreement with any formula. If you see a number on your heart rate monitor that’s higher than you thought your maximum heart rate was, that number is your new maximum heart rate. Use it for planning your training.

Step 2: Calculate your training zones. Once you’ve established your actual maximum heart rate, you can use it to calculate your zones for training based on the amount of effort that you’re shooting for in a given workout. At a minimum you should calculate your easy zone, at 65% of your max (not above 70% of your max), and your work zone, at about 85% of your max. Knowing these numbers allows you to design your workouts intelligently depending on your training goals on a given day. You should include easy days that are directed at increasing your endurance and providing active recovery, during which your heart rate stays below 70% of your maximum. While this may leave you working at a significantly lower effort than you’re used to, perhaps even walking, you will find that your fitness improves in time as you’re able to work more efficiently on your hard training days. You can make your recovery days even easier on your body by using your Vision Fitness equipment for the lower impact workout it provides.  For a simple overview of alternating between the two training zones, check out this blog.

Step 3: Alternate your training zones throughout your week. If you’re choosing cardiovascular workouts every day, make sure you’re building in active recovery days that keep your heart rate below 70% of your maximum at least twice a week, more frequently if you feel that your age or the demands of your training make that a necessity. Alternate recovery workouts with higher intensity days of at least 80% of your max effort. This level of effort will feel like a tempo run or similar to your 10K pace and will provide a higher calorie burn and challenge to your fitness. To really improve speed and power, work in very high intensity days that challenge your anaerobic threshold, with peaks of 90-95% of your maximum heart rate, alternated with recovery periods. These efforts also increase your metabolic demands, resulting in a higher post workout calorie burn. Since this type of training is tough, it’s important to alternate with recovery or rest days so that you can fully benefit from your hard training days, keeping the quality of your workouts high.

Heart rate monitor training is a great way to keep your efforts consistent between your treadmill sessions and time training on the road. You can also make the most of your monitor by integrating it with the workouts offered on your Vision treadmill, elliptical, or indoor cycle. For more on Heart Rate Monitor training, John Parker’s Heart Rate Monitor Training for the Compleat Idiot gets consistently good reviews and includes programs that will both challenge you and improve your recovery. Polar’s website is also full of tips directed at helping you get the most from your hear rate monitor.

The Importance of Rest and Active Recovery Days

Vision Fitness BlogWhen you’re committed to your training program, taking a rest or active recovery day can be even harder than sticking to your workouts. Figuring that more is better, many of us churn out workout after daily workout, only to be sidelined with an injury or mental fatigue that won’t let us make it off the couch. If you can’t remember the last time you took a break from your training or if you’re struggling with nagging soreness, injuries or low motivation, it’s time to build some mindful breaks into your program.

Recovering from your workouts doesn’t have to mean complete inactivity. Active recovery workouts allow you to continue physical activity at a lower level of exertion than your training workouts. The rule of thumb for these workouts is that they should leave you feeling better than when you started. Many of us find that it’s easier to stick to both a training plan and our diet if we stay active every day. Active recovery not only helps us to do that, but may also have some benefits by providing an opportunity to improve our form and increase our range of motion, without taking time away from training on more intense days.

Whether you’re using your treadmill, indoor cycle, or elliptical, your home fitness equipment can be a great way to build lower impact workouts into your training plan. Technological advances, such as virtual destination video and preprogrammed workouts can make it easy for you to take a mental break while providing just enough increased circulation to help you recover from your last tough workout. These recovery workouts might be as simple as using your home fitness equipment, while keeping an eye on your heart rate. For active recovery workouts, try using the “fat burning” setting (if your machine has one) or keeping your heart rate at 60-65% of your maximum.  While your total calorie burn will be lower than if you were working out at a higher intensity, you will give your body the chance to recover and to become more efficient, making your more intense workouts easier in the long run. You can incorporate the same approach into an outdoor run or bike ride by using a heart rate monitor and slowing your speed, or even walking every time your heart rate goes above 65%. While you may find yourself walking a lot during your first workouts, in time you will become more efficient and able to maintain your pace with lower effort.

Active recovery also gives us the opportunity to build in some cross training workouts. For runners and cyclists, lower intensity days when you are less fatigued are a great time to work on drills to improve your form. Think about keeping your exertion rate down (these workouts should feel easy!) while increasing your mental focus on maintaining perfect form. Runners might do some easy strides on a treadmill or the road; cyclists might work on increasing the pulling action of their pedal motion while releasing tension from the upper body. You can also incorporate yoga, core work, self-myofascial release (foam rolling), or light strength training for cross training that will help your body and mind recover, increasing your strength and flexibility for your next training session.

While active recovery is a great tool to keep motivation high and injury low, there are going to be days that call for complete rest. If your training schedule includes very high intensity events or if you’ve just completed an exhausting competition or season, you may benefit from one or more consecutive rest days. These days can also be used regularly to avoid injury and exhaustion and to improve adherence to your program. While your home fitness equipment makes sticking to your workouts easier, family schedules and work demands can still lead to time off from training. When you know that these conflicts are coming up, you can plan for them by incorporating a full rest day into your plan. It might make sense to look at your upcoming weekly schedule and if you know that one day is going to be unusually tight, schedule a tough workout for the day before. Rather than feeling guilty about missing your next workout, enjoy a well-earned day of rest knowing that your body is getting stronger for your next training session.

Transitioning from Indoor to Outdoor Running

Outdoor Running VisionFitnessTreadmills are a great tool to have in every runner’s arsenal. They make sticking to your workouts possible during the winter months, spring rain, and summer heat. They can also make it safer to stick to your running plan when your schedule and family demands leave you training during off hours. That said, if you want to run a good road race or enjoy a few long runs during your next vacation, you’d better start planning some time on the road. Here are a few common pitfalls encountered transitioning from indoor to outdoor running – and a few ways you can train smart to prevent them.

Ow!  My Legs!  I hear this complaint a lot. Runners who thought they were in good shape from regular treadmill and indoor workouts can’t believe how much their legs hurt when they start running outside in the spring. Hamstrings and hip flexors seem to be the two areas that take the worst beating. When you run on a treadmill, the movement of the belt assists you in lifting your foot off of the ground as it comes behind your body.  When you run on pavement your hip flexors and your hamstrings have to take over that action. If you’ve been exclusively running on a treadmill for some time, your quads are probably strong enough to set a pace that your hamstrings and hips have a tough time keeping up with, resulting in a lot more soreness than you’d expect when you start running outside again in the spring. The trick? Throw in some strength training for those areas of your body in the weeks and months before you head outdoors. I like to use bodyweight, functional movements for this sort of training, since it better mimics the demands you will be placing on your body during that transition. If you have access to a staircase (and we all do), adding some step-ups and jumps will strengthen your hamstrings. Swiss Ball curls and bridgework with or without leg lifts are also great ways to bring in your core while strengthening these areas. Work up to three sets of ten every other day during the four weeks before you begin outdoor running.

I can’t believe I tripped!  Whether you’re hitting the trails or simply dodging other runners on wet pavement, outdoor running and racing demand increased agility over your home treadmill. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Creating new movement patterns and muscular demands, not only makes you more fit, it can also make you smarter as your brain works to develop the neuro-muscular coordination to meet these new demands. The trick is to start doing this training safely in a controlled environment so that you’re ready to use it when the road gets bumpy. As you add in jumps for your hamstrings, you might as well focus on your ankle strength and agility by including some hops and multi-directional movements.

Why am I so slow? From unpredictable weather (especially wind!) and roads that are seldom completely flat, your indoor pace can definitely take a beating when you head outdoors. To head this off, increase the incline on your treadmill every time you use it.  Placing your treadmill at a 1% or higher incline better mimics the demands of running outside. This is the most common trick used by outdoor runners who want to keep the demand of their workouts high during indoor workouts. This technique allows you to benefit from the greater cushioning, stability, and climate control of your treadmill, while creating enough cardiovascular demand to mimic your outdoor workout. For most of us, keeping some treadmill runs in our rotation is a good idea. This lets us reduce the stress of running on a hard surface every day, accommodates fluctuations in weather and schedule and can even be used as a training tool if you’re struggling with the timing of food and drink for longer races. Doing some longer runs on your treadmill allows you to have these items nearby so that you don’t need to stash them on your running route before you head out. The best programs will include quality time outdoors, letting you take advantage of good weather, running partners, and the motivation of races and beautiful running locations, while also including treadmills for their predictability, convenience, and joint cushioning forgiveness.

To read more of Joli’s fitness, nutrition and goal setting tips, check out her article archives.

Adding Strength Training Into Your Cardio Routine: Part 2

If you’re seeking to gain greater muscle definition, visible strength, or want to better address muscle imbalances, there’s no need to add expensive equipment to your strength training workouts. Incorporating a few dumbbells and resistance bands isn’t a big investment in time or space and you can even tuck some into an ottoman or under a bookshelf if you don’t have a lot of space to store equipment. As a continuation of our circuit-style strength training article, here are a two inexpensive ways to increase your strength training options.

Add a few free-weights. Dumbbells will give you options for targeting your biceps and back muscles, which tend to be areas we want more growth and definition than can be easily reached through bodyweight training. You can also start adding resistance to your lower body and core work by combining upper body dumbbell work with a lower body or core movement such as a lunging bicep curl or a chest press using a fitness ball.

Adding dumbbells is generally something you want to do if you’re seeking muscle growth and more power, which means you want to stick to low or moderate reps (not more than ten) over the three sets you perform. For most women, start with about 10 pounds for working the arms and 15 pounds for the back. Men can generally add five pounds to those numbers as a starting point and build from there. To get started with basic dumbbell exercises, this website provides a way of targeting almost any body part using these simple weights.

Snap to it with resistance bands. If you want to see improvement in performance and function, as well as long, lean muscle, resistance tubing is a great alternative to free weights. Tubing also travels well, making it a great way to stick to your workouts on the road. You can begin by adding in lower body challenges or use tubing to target your entire body and core. If you’re looking for inspiration, these resistance band exercises will give you plenty of ways to step up the intensity of your intervals, and increase your power and performance both on and off the sports field this spring.

Overall, adding in strength and bodyweight circuits into your cardio routine is a great way to keep your heart rate up so you don’t have to choose between strength training and cardio when time is short.

Do you have a favorite bodyweight or strength circuit? Share in the comments below.

Adding Strength Training Into Your Cardio Routine

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Are tight schedules and a lack of equipment keeping you from getting the benefits of strength training? If you find yourself making excuses rather than making your workouts, it’s time to develop a program that works with you and your schedule. Low equipment and no equipment forms of strength training are excellent ways to build muscle and improve your functional movements. Plus, adding in circuit-style strength training to your cardio workouts at home can keep your heart rate up so you don’t have to choose between strength training and cardio when time is short.

From burpees to tuck jumps, there are plenty of equipment-free ways to keep your heart pumping while you build muscle. If adding impact to your workouts seems a bit extreme, you can choose no-impact options such as planks and squats. Bodyweight strength training will increase your functional capacity, making you stronger for the movements you do (or should be doing) every day.

A great program might start with a warm-up on your Vision treadmill, indoor bike or elliptical, followed by five stations of exercises targeting the chest and/or back, lower body, core, arms, or entire body at once. Spend one minute at each station and repeat the entire circuit 2-3 times depending on your schedule. During the second and third rounds, you can increase the intensity on your fitness equipment to be sure that you keep your heart rate within your cardiovascular training zone. If you’re already in good shape, try to aim for intense intervals during your time on your fitness equipment, as well as during your lower and full body exercises.

For options that will suit everyone from beginners to athletes, this list of 50 Bodyweight Exercises you can do anywhere will give you plenty of choices to design your first circuit and keep it fresh for months to come. If you need help designing your first workout, here’s an example of a beginner workout using bodyweight exercises.

Whether you’re just getting started or want to seriously power up your workouts, low equipment and no equipment forms of strength training are excellent ways to build muscle and improve your functional movements.

Check out part two of this article on how to add in more free weight and resistance band workouts to boost your home cardio routine.

Five Simple Ways to Boost Your Heart’s Health

As we round the corner into spring, it is a great time to check-in and renew your commitment to a healthy year. A heart-healthy year. If you want to be healthy into your old age, it’s important to begin treating your heart well early on. The American Heart Association emphasizes maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, a healthy diet, and smoking cessation as primary steps towards preventing heart disease. Assuming you’re up to date on your most recent physical, blood work, and doctor recommendations, what are the biggest ways to impact your heart with your daily choices? Here are five simple ways to boost your heart’s health.Heart Healthy Tips

Avoid Processed Foods. Steering clear of processed foods not only limits hidden sugars, sodium, and fake ingredients that sneak into your diet, it also forces you to emphasize the foods that reduce inflammation, improve your immunity and are packed with fiber, protein and micronutrients that do everything from boost your heart health to increase your ability to recover from your last workout. Try switching your breakfast cereal to oatmeal, which can assist in lowering your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, or building your meals around five foods that benefit your heart to include more produce, lean protein and healthy fats in your diet.

Get Your Workouts Started. For overall heart health, get moving at least 150 minutes per week. That can be 30 minutes every day, 10 minutes a few times each day, or an hour a few times each week. If you are new to working out regularly, or have current heart issues, this is a good zone to stay in for a few months to build up your endurance and confidence. Once these workouts become easier to accomplish and part of your everyday routine, it’s time to start making them tougher. You can start by adding in a tough workout (see below) once or twice a week.

Toughen Up your Workouts. Including tough workouts in your program is one of the best ways to help you manage your weight, as well as challenge your heart to make it stronger. Working out hard means your workouts can be shorter, accomplishing more in less time on busy days. A hard workout also means you’re challenging your heart at a higher level, increasing your cardiovascular fitness, your post workout recovery demands (calorie burn) and building muscle. If your current workouts are bringing you into your aerobic threshold (about 60-70% of your maximum heart rate) and you’re in good physical health, you can start to bring in some interval training that increases your heart rate to between 85% and 100% of your maximum heart rate for brief periods (30 seconds to 2 minutes) during your training. You can do this by increasing either the speed or the resistance on your Vision home fitness equipment, or by using the interval setting provided on most machines.

Lift Weights. To keep improving your overall health and daily functioning, considering adding in some strength training. At a minimum, shoot for two strength training sessions each week, hitting the major muscle groups of your body. If you’re looking to start building muscle and improve your performance, slowly add in a third session to help you see results. (Just be sure to give yourself a day to recover between workouts.) To get even more out of your workout and increase the cardiovascular impact, combine movements to target multiple muscle groups at once, such as stepping into a lunge with a bicep curl or doing full body planks and push-ups to strengthen nearly everything in your body. Another idea is to including strength training as a part of a circuit approach, alternating 60-90 seconds of one exercise with the same period of time on your cardio equipment. Your body will be cashing in on the body changing benefits of a weight routine in no time.

Manage Stress. By choosing regular exercise and a healthy diet, you’ve taken some important steps towards controlling the stress in your life. You can add to those steps by including mindfulness, gratitude, meditation or yoga in your fitness routine. For more suggestions, check out the American Heart Association’s resources on understanding and managing stress. These steps can all pay you back with a happier life now – and better health in the long run.

Do you have a question about general fitness, goal setting, getting the most out of your Vision Fitness equipment, etc.? Our fitness experts would love to answer your question in an upcoming blog post on VisionFitness.com. Just leave your question in the comments below.

 

New Year’s Resolutions That Stick

While New Year’s resolutions frequently get a bad rap, forming one (or more) is a great way to start making healthy changes or to keep things moving in the right direction. Statistics citing that nearly half of all resolutions fail within six months are frequently thrown around to demonstrate the hopelessness of such a venture, but about half of the New Year’s resolvers also manage to make a lasting change. What separates the successful from the sidelines? Setting up the right resolutions and giving yourself the right tools is what it really takes to see a lasting impact from your good intentions.

Make your Resolution Specific. With your Vision Home Fitness equipment, you’ve already got a good start on keeping your fitness resolutions this year. To make sure you’re in the half that succeeds, take the time to make a resolution that sets you up for success. General resolutions such as “exercise more” or “lose weight”, without a specific plan for getting to that goal, sets you up to fail. Make your resolution specific and include a timeframe, whether that means eating two vegetables every day or losing a pound each week. You can also set a health related goal for a future point in time, such as running your first 5K this spring, then work backwards with a plan, such as a couch to 5K schedule or an appointment with a professional to get you on track.

Do your Homework. The website Usa.gov is a great resource for tips on succeeding in your resolutions. From eating healthy and getting active, to finding another job, this page offers a list of common New Year’s resolutions and provides a direct link to a webpage that will provide you with resources to help meet your goal. Even if you’ve already got the “eat right and exercise” thing down, you can still find support for activities that can improve your life and health, as well as that of others, such as volunteering (don’t forget about the Martin Luther King Day of Service on January 20) or enhancing your education. You can also read up on reinforcing your resolutions and creating habits if you really want to make a change in your daily routine.

Create Your Support Network. Simply creating a broad statement of your intention and posting it on Facebook or sharing it with your spouse can actually have a negative effect. Rather than helping you keep your resolution, this may help you feel that you’ve already taken some responsibility for the change and leave you feeling a little freer to make bad choices. Instead, create a network of support through people that are as invested in your goals as you are. This might mean setting up an appointment with a nutritionist, personal trainer, or physical therapist if you need support to reach your eating or exercise goals. You can also find group support through a weight loss focused group or like-minded athletes, such as a running group or intramural sport. If you have a friend or spouse with similar goals, setting up times to train together and ways to celebrate and support each other’s victories can also be a big help.

Measure and Reward. By creating a resolution that is based on time sensitive milestones, you’ve created a calendar for measuring your success. Try to find regular ways to reward your good behavior, especially during the first month. By staying with your resolution through the month of January, you’re ahead of the crowd. While over a third of resolvers tend to break within the first month, failures happen much more slowly after that. When you set up your rewards, find ways to reward yourself that are likely to keep you moving in the direction of the good behavior you’re trying to create. If exercise is your plan, make sure you earn a new pair of running shoes or athletic clothing (or just some new workout music). If you’re looking to eat right, maybe you could pay for a share in a Community Supported Agriculture program or a night out at a restaurant with health conscious offerings. Initially start with frequent rewards, every week or two, and start to space out the frequency after the first month as your new behaviors become habits.

Cheers to a happy and healthy 2014!

Healthy Holiday Tips That Won’t Leave You Feeling Deprived

Finding balance between your commitment to staying fit and well, reality, is tough and it only gets tougher in the holiday season. Close quarters and cold weather challenge our immune systems and unrestricted family time presents its own challenges to our mental health, not to mention the dinner table and the threat it poses to undoing our efforts to eat right and exercise. Here are six tips to stay on track this holiday season and beyond.

Have a good breakfast. While it’s tempting to skip breakfast to offset the damage of the feast to come, doing so sets up a cycle of plummeting blood sugar that leaves you likely to skip your workout, head into the festivities feeling cranky and unlikely to enjoy the party, and ready to put anything into your mouth to hold you over until dinner. Start your morning right with a protein-heavy meal that will hold you for hours to come. Including eggs in your breakfast is a great bet to support weight loss (or maintenance) and a healthy immune system. For just 70 calories per egg, you invest in a high nutrient food that is likely to leave you eating less throughout the day (as much as 400 calories less according to one study)!  You can offset the calories by including a quick workout that will rev up your metabolism and your mood for the rest of the morning.

Squeeze in a morning workout. You’ve already taken a big step towards making your daily workouts convenient and accessible through investing in your home fitness equipment. On days that you’re pressed for time, use your treadmill, elliptical or recumbent bike for a quality workout that packs a big impact in a short period of time. A High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) session is approachable for all fitness levels and will rev up your metabolism and improve your blood sugar in as little as ten minutes (though if you can go for 20 that’s even better). Start out with a short warm-up of 2-5 minutes, then alternate between period of maximum effort (45-90 seconds) and recovery (1-2 minutes). The shorter the recovery period and the longer the intervals, the tougher your training session, so base your approach on your fitness level.  Finish your workout with 2-5 minutes of recovery and enjoy the bragging rights that workout gives you at the day’s festivities.

Practice gratitude. From lowering your blood pressure to improving your mental health, the benefits of gratitude go far beyond lip service. As you head into potentially stressful days, take the time to really recognize the abundance that exists in your daily life. If you have the time, you can even complete this gratitude exercise and see the difference that bringing appreciation into your morning creates throughout the day.

Make plans. Even though family events and a full house can bring their share of stress, they might also be good for you in the long run. Research shows that strong social connections lead to happier, longer lives. Steer clear of those you know set you off and take the opportunity to really connect with someone you care about, whether that’s in person or taking the time to call or send a card. Including the right people in your life can also be a great opportunity to boost your commitment to a healthy lifestyle through supporting your diet and exercise plans.

Get outside. While you’re enjoying your social connections, why not grab your favorite cousin or sibling and head outside? Not only does this give you the chance to create some memories, you can also ditch family members who might be less than supportive of your healthy lifestyle. It’s no secret that spending time outdoors is good for you.  You’ll also receive benefits ranging from strengthened immunity, a healthy dose of Vitamin D (harder to come by at this dark time of year) and improved concentration (just the thing for cleaning up at the post-feast card game).

Enjoy your meal. Sure, the holiday table spread is loaded with caloric nightmares that start with butter and end with whipped cream, however, there are some seriously nutrient-dense choices that grace every traditional table as well. Enjoy your turkey, even the dark meat. Loaded with protein and iron, it’s filled with the stuff you need to build muscle and recover from your tough workouts. Whether you take them baked, in a casserole, or in pie form, enjoy your sweet potatoes and squash. They’re packed with beta carotene that can strengthen your resistance to the cold someone inevitably brought to the party, and maybe even help you to fight off cancer in the long run.

Wishing you a healthy holiday season!

Keep Moving through the Holidays

From full schedules to abundant tables, the holidays make it more important than ever to make the time to take care of yourself and your body. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to fit in your workout when the days grow short and the weather turns cold. With your investment in home fitness equipment, you already know that staying fit doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of time away from your family or finding extra hours in an already busy day. If you’re looking to ring in the New Year feeling healthy, try these tips to keep yourself going strong.

Pick an Outdoor Workout. If you enjoy staying active outdoors, don’t let the holiday’s drive you into hibernation. By dressing appropriately (here’s a good guide to get you started), you can continue outdoor running through the winter. You can even use your treadmill, elliptical or indoor cycle to warm up inside before heading out for a run that is shorter than usual but still gives you the benefits of an outdoor workout (and the bragging rights of a hard core winter runner). If winter running just isn’t your thing, consider cross training in another winter sport, such as snow-shoeing or cross country skiing or head out to celebrate the season with a day (or evening) of sledding, skating or time on the slopes. Wondering just how many calories your evening of sledding will burn? Check out this link of calories burned in popular winter activities. Whatever your sport, don’t forget to hydrate before you head out. Winter air tends to be on the dry side and with lower temperatures, dehydration can sneak up on the winter sports enthusiast.

Get Tech Savvy. From scheduling your workouts in your online planner to using the latest GPS app on your smart phone to track your running route, today’s fitness tools can help you with everything from calorie counting to interval planning. You can check out this link for a review of fitness apps that can help keep the life in your winter workouts.

Break Down your Goals. Looking to improve your 5K time or simply stay healthy in 2014? Use your big goals to think about achievements for the month of December that will be manageable well into the new year. Perhaps you see yourself establishing (or continuing) your healthy habit of daily exercise. Or maybe you’d like to take the first steps towards a couch to 5K training program. Whatever your goal, starting now in a manageable way will put you ahead of the January crowd, leaving you with established habits and results by the time New Year’s Eve rolls around.

Treat Yourself to the Right Gear. Whether you’re taking your workouts indoors or you plan on braving the weather, treating yourself to the right clothing and equipment will make all the difference in sticking to your schedule. For cross-training indoor workouts, you already know that your Vision Fitness Equipment will see you through. You can also round out your workouts by investing in a yoga DVD or online class or some simple strength training equipment that can be used to add circuits to your treadmill, elliptical, and indoor cycle workouts. If you’re trying a new outdoor sport, such as downhill or cross-country skiing, check out some of the early season swap sales and second hand sporting good venues. When enthusiasts trade up, you can score a sweet deal on nearly new equipment. If you’re sticking to outdoor winter running, be sure to add reflective clothing and some high traction shoes to your go-to items. You may find that trail running shoes will suit you better at this time of year. These offer increased insulation and tread compared to some of the lighter weight running shoes.