Monday, August 25, 2008

Attitude Adjustment

By Courtney Westlake

Staying motivated in order to live a healthy lifestyle is often easier said than done. Much of self-motivation depends on attitude, which is a new decision every day.

"It's important to have a positive attitude," said Amanda Jillson, assistant director of fitness and instructional programs at the TRAC. "It's important for accomplishing your goals, important for your mental health and for overall health and well-being."

Attitude drives behavior - what attitude you adopt will "determine how your day is going to go," Jillson said.

If you come to work or school with a negative attitude, that will affect your behaviors that day, whether it's being rude to someone, not doing your best on a project or deciding to not work out or eat healthily.

"You are the owner of your attitude; you're the one who chooses your attitude," Jillson said. "You're the one who chooses whether to be positive or negative with your behaviors, thoughts and interactions with people. Make sure to stay positive; try to put a smile on your face even if you're fighting a negative attitude."

Attitude has a major impact on mental health and overall well-being. Every day is a new day with new decisions. Each day, you need to decide to live a healthy lifestyle, decide to be active and to make healthy food decisions.

"If all of a sudden, something happens and you can't work out one day, you can't let that get you down the next day," Jillson said. "You have to take on a new attitude each day and make a new decision to live a healthy lifestyle each day."


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Snack Attack

By Courtney Westlake

We all get those mid-morning and mid-afternoon urges to hit the vending machines to calm our growling stomachs. Ignoring them might not be the answer.

"Snacking isn't necessarily bad when it's healthy," said Amanda Jillson, assistant director of fitness and instructional programs at the TRAC. "Your body craves all different kinds of snacks, from salty to sweet to crunchy. Everyone's different, and everyone's going to choose something different. We definitely want to listen to our body when we are hungry."

Jillson recommended counting to ten first before having a snack to determine if you are actually hungry or simply bored. If you are indeed hungry, having a healthy snack is a good thing.

The best snacks fill you up without packing too many calories.

"Fresh fruit or dried fruit, rice cakes, and really most snacks under 100-200 calories are good to have," Jillson said. "You want a handful of calories that will fill you up, but you also want to make a good choice."

An oatmeal cream pie, for example, is 300 calories, "which would take me personally about 47 minutes of walking," Jillson said.

"I could have rice cakes and an apple and even a banana that would equal same amount of calories, and my body would get a lot more energy from it," she added.

It's important to eat small meals throughout the day - breakfast, lunch and dinner with two snacks in between, Jillson said.

"It does increase your metabolism when you eat throughout the day," she said. "A handful of nuts, an apple, animal crackers - things like that you can keep in your office desk drawer or your dorm room."

Instead of having a candy jar in your office, maybe you and your coworkers could pitch in and have a snack basket of healthy snacks, Jillson suggested. It would also be beneficial to buy a bag of healthy snack food and divide the food into proper serving sizes for your convenience.

"Make sure you read the labels," Jillson added. "You don't want to have snacks that are high in fat or high in sugar."

Monday, August 4, 2008

Safety: Free Weights

By Courtney Westlake

Note: This is part two of a series focusing on safety and proper form when exercising.

Exercise machines are designed to keep you on track and using proper form, but when it comes to free weights, the risk of injury or unsafe practices is much greater. It is vital to learn how to properly lift free weights.

"It's very important to practice safe measures when lifting dumbbells," said Amanda Jillson, assistant director of fitness and instructional programs at the TRAC. "You want to make sure that if you are standing and lifting, your feet are parallel and shoulder-width apart. Don't lock your knees up; keep a natural bend in your knees and your arms."

When weight lifting, you want to breathe in and out at a consistent pace, Jillson said. Breathe in on the contraction of your muscle and release your breath on the extraction.

For example, when performing bicep curls, you should breathe in when lifting the weights up and breathe out when you release down.

"For bicep curls, you should also make sure your arms are close to your body and your elbows are in," Jillson said. "Curl up and get the full contraction of the bicep."

To do a shoulder press with free weights, keep your elbows out and even with your shoulders, then extend up in upward motion, Jillson said. Stop at a 90 degree angle.

"You don't want to go too low because it puts your shoulder out of alignment and puts pressure on your shoulder joint," Jillson said.

The tricep extension or tricep kickback "sounds like a complicated move because of all the steps for proper form but it's really not difficult," Jillson said.

First you should stagger your feet, bend at your knees slightly and tilt your hips and your chest out and down. Bring your shoulders back and move your elbows straight back and up.

Then extend your dumbbells backward in an upward motion, making sure to keep your elbows high. Straighten your arms all the way back and keep your elbows high and stationary. This exercise works your tricep muscles on the back side of your arms.

To perform shoulder extensions with free weights, you can do a front extension or a side extension. For a side extension exercise, hold weights at your side and then lift in a lateral motion. The weights should be level to your shoulder when you lift. This exercise is working your deltoid muscles.

For a front raise, lift the weights out in front of you with the dumbbells together, and again, don't go past your shoulder plain, Jillson said.

When it comes to lifting free weights, don't be afraid to ask for assistance, Jillson said.

"If the weights are too heavy, you always want to have a spotter," she said. "If you're not sure of the proper form, you can always ask questions of the TRAC staff. Personal trainers are also available to assist you in lifting as well as create a workout for you."