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How to Create the Perfect Workout Playlist

You know that scene in High Fidelity where John Cusack is touting the importance of the perfectly crafted mix tape? A tape that has to kick off with a killer track to grab attention, then take it up a notch, then cool it off a notch?     Sure, that guy was creating a playlist to woo a girl, but he was on to something. Little did he know, he was also giving us words of wisdom on how to best create a set of tunes for a high-energy workout. Below are the seven main components of any good workout playlist, no matter the musical genre. (In fact, I find that the more eclectic the playlist, the more exciting—and surprising—it can be!)   Follow these guidelines to craft a playlist before your next workout, and you’re sure to stay engaged and pumped the entire time. After all, music—especially the right music—can make working out more fun!   1. Warm-Up Song Like John Cusack says, you have to kick off a playlist with a killer track that grabs attention. Choose a song here that inspires and motivates you but has a moderate tempo. During this song you’ll be doing some light static stretching and easy movement to warm you up, and you don’t want to be rushed, so choose a song that’s at least four minutes long. Songs like “Rock with You” by Michael Jackson or “Crazy” by Aerosmith are good candidates for an appropriate warm-up song tempo. However, the best warm-up songs are those that build in intensity and have a super inspirational message. “Proud” by Heather Smalls (best known as The Biggest Loser theme song) is an excellent choice.   2. Get-You-Going Song The second song of a playlist should be as inspiring and as motivating as the warm-up song, only faster paced so that you can naturally get your heart rate from an easy level up to a moderate-paced workout level. Choose a moderate- to fast-paced track with a strong and catchy beat that you naturally want to match your walking/running/elliptical speed to. “Let’s Get It Started” by the Black Eyed Peas is one of my favorites, as is “Running Down a Dream” by Tom Petty.    3. Pump-You-Up Songs Playlists that feature songs with varying beat speeds are a perfect way to naturally work some intervals into your workout—maybe without you even noticing—because people naturally pick up their pace when a fast song is playing and slow down their pace when a slow song is on. For this reason, be sure to throw in at least one or two super-fast and high-energy songs into your playlist. You want these songs to be music that is darn-near impossible to sit still to. Some of my go-to favorites include “Hey Ya” by Outkast and “Maniac,” the Flashdance theme, by Michael Sembello. The fast tempo will help you to burn more calories and have a blast while doing it.   4. Recovery Songs After any pump-you-up song, it’s important to have a moderate- to slow-paced song after it to recover. Because you’ll usually be out of breath from the previous song, choose a track that you really enjoy and find meaning in. During these songs you want to slow down your pace, but still stay motivated enough to keep up your workout. Songs like “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor and “You Gotta Be” by Des’ree are perfect picks.   5. In-Between Songs Unless you plan to do a full workout of intervals (in which case you’d just need a warm-up, cool down and multiple pump-you-up and recovery songs in the middle), you’re going to need some songs that hold your interest and keep you motivated. For these in-between songs, your absolute favorite moderate-paced tracks work best. For example, my guiltiest pleasure is pop music, so every time I head out for a long run, I jam-pack my iPod with Britney Spears and Gwen Stefani. My husband, on the other hand, loves Smashing Pumpkins and Oasis, so he lifts to that. A friend of mine loves Garth Brooks when he cycles. All of our workout playlists are so different, but they all work to motivate us. No matter the genre or guilty pleasure, just make sure that the beat keeps you moving. And try not to sing along too loud!   6. Finale Song This is the mother of all songs on your playlist. The finale song is basically a pump-you-up song times 10 because it has to inspire you at the time in your workout when you’re the most tired—the very end! This song should remind you that you just have a little bit left to do and then motivate you to give it your all. “The Final Countdown” by Europe or “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor are sure to inspire your last few minutes.   7. Cool Down Track The cool down track should be slow and give credit where credit is due—to you, of course! “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera is always a good one to play, as is “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson. Be sure to cool down for at least five minutes—you may need more than one song to cool down to, which isn’t a bad thing since it gives you more time to enjoy music that you love.    You may already have a go-to workout playlist, but structuring it in this way is guaranteed to push you harder and faster! And remember, it doesn’t matter what genre of songs you choose, it just matters that you enjoy them.   Looking for Song Ideas? Check out SparkPeople's Workout Music for pre-made workout mixes availble for purchase, or get more music ideas from Coach Nicole here:

Article Source: id=1742

Prevent Fitness Setbacks Before They Happen

Even the most dedicated exercisers suffer from fitness setbacks from time to time. Whether it's losing our workout mojo or over-scheduling ourselves, we're human (think: imperfect). But what if you could prevent those setbacks from ever  occurring? What if you could somehow stop setbacks in their tracks, before they set you and your fitness goals back? We compiled a list of the 12 most common fitness setbacks. Read on for how you can play up your defense and stop these workout pitfalls—before they happen! How to Prevent 12 Common Fitness Setbacks Setback #1: You're too busy at work. You have every minute of your day planned so that you can leave work on time, get to the gym, work out, and shower before meeting your in-laws for dinner. But the day gets crazy, a million things come up, and you're stuck at work late. Now you're barely making it to dinner on time, let alone working out. We've all been there, but believe us—there is a way to prevent this one! Prevent It: You have two options. First, exercise first thing in the morning. By getting up a little earlier—before demands on you even begin—it will ensure that you take care of your workout first, no matter what life throws at you later. Second, if you're not an early morning riser, schedule time for you on your work schedule. Even if it's as simple as taking a 15-minute break twice a day or shutting your door and doing some resistance band exercises during lunch, treat workouts as a non-negotiable time for you that can't be pushed back until tomorrow. These physical activity breaks are not only good for your body, they help refresh your mind, too, giving you more focus and energy to work better—and more efficiently! Setback #2: You forgot your gym bag (or something in it). There's nothing worse than getting to work—or the gym—only to realize you forgot your gym bag at home and you have no sports bra or workout shoes. Prevent It: Always keep a back-up set of workout clothes and gear in your car or office (wherever makes the most sense for you). It may seem silly to have a second gym bag, but believe us, whether you forgot a hair tie, shoes, socks or deodorant, you'll never regret having a spare gym bag. It doesn't need to be the best gear you have—an older pair of running shoes and a retired set of workout shorts and a top will work in a pinch. And if your gym rents lockers, an even better idea is to store your extra gym bag there. (Note: If you regularly go from gym to work this tip can also apply to leaving a separate set of work-appropriate clothes in your locker or your car, just in case you forget something and can't run home before work!) Setback #3: You lost all motivation to work out. Motivation to work out seems to wax and wane as your life changes and you settle into (or out of) a routine. Losing all of your workout mojo, though, is something you definitely want to avoid at all costs! Prevent It: The key way to prevent boredom and keep your motivation high is to set goals that matter to you and to regularly switch up your exercise sessions so that they're fun and fresh. Each quarter, month and week, be sure to set a few fitness goals for yourself. Whether it's going for a walk every night after dinner instead of watching TV or running a whole 20 minutes before stopping on the treadmill, find a goal or milestone that gets you excited. Then, once you reach those goals, give yourself fun little rewards like a new song to download for your iPod, a healthy living magazine or even a whole new workout outfit. Each month, also challenge yourself to try a new physical activity that's outside of your usual workout comfort zone such as kettlebells, Zumba, rock climbing or Pilates. Keeping workouts fresh and focused will help you to keep your motivation high. Setback #4: The weather is less than ideal. If there's one thing you can't control, it's the weather. Whether it's rain, snow, heat or humidity, Mother Nature can throw a wrench in your fitness plans from time to time. Prevent It: Have a back-up workout you can do indoors. It doesn't really matter if it's an exercise DVD to do at home, a SparkPeople workout you can do in front of your laptop, or even just a circuit of a few no-equipment-needed exercises like push-ups, jumping jacks, lunges, squats and sit-ups. Whatever it is, any indoor workout is better than skipping your outdoor workout completely. Poor weather is never a good excuse to miss a workout! Setback #5: You're late for the group exercise class you wanted to take. You've been dying to try a new group exercise class for weeks, only to unexpectedly get stuck in traffic and miss the start time of the class by 10 minutes. Prevent It: It's never a good idea to jump into any group exercise class late. Many times the warm-ups are specific to the activity you'll be doing, and the instructor will preview some moves or give you tips on what to expect in the workout. Furthermore, it's distracting to the class and the instructor when latecomers roll in. However, that doesn't mean you should just give up on your workout that day! Make the most of the time by doing your own version of the class on your own. If it's a cardio class, do cardio on a piece of equipment you don't normally use at the gym. If it's a strength class, hit the dumbbells. If it's a dance, yoga or Pilates class, head home to do some SparkPeople videos that are similar. Where there's a will, there's a way. And, remember: To really prevent this setback, try to get to the gym about 15 minutes before class begins. This gives you extra time in case traffic is bad, and if you get there super early, you can always hop on the treadmill to get a little additional cardio in! Setback #6: The gym is packed! All of the [fill-in-the-blank] machines are taken. You're ready and pumped to workout, only to be stuck waiting for in a line for a treadmill to open up. Prevent It: If possible, try to go to the gym when it isn't packed. This may mean that you go earlier in the morning or later in the day, but it's worth it to not have to stand around. If changing your schedule around isn't an option, it's time to start loving other pieces of cardio equipment. In most gyms, the rowers, stair climbers and upright stationary bikes are usually open no matter how busy the gym is. While most people prefer ellipticals and treadmills, these other pieces are still awesome for cardio, so give them a shot! Because you're not used to doing them, you're likely to work your body in new ways, too, which means a better workout and a higher calorie burn. Bonus! Setback #7: You are beyond sleepy. If you've lost a few hours of sleep the night before, or are just having a 3 p.m. crash that no amount of coffee can cure, a workout can actually be a great way to boost your energy. However, if you are chronically sleep-deprived and tired, your workouts—and your motivation and energy to do them—will suffer. Prevent It: Prevent this setback by making sleep a priority. Many of us cut back on sleep to get more done in the day, but that's a losing strategy in the long run. Getting adequate sleep can help improve your health, focus, and mood and even make losing weight easier. Not to mention that you'll have the energy to work out and enjoy it! To improve your sleep habits starting tonight, take SparkPeople's 4-Week Sleep Challenge! Setback #8: You forgot your workout tunes. If you're someone who loves working out to music on your iPod, this can seem like a major workout killer to try to exercise sans music. Prevent It: Remind yourself that exercising without music is OK. In fact, everyone did it that way long before portable music devices existed—and they still got great workouts! Even if you love working out with music (research does show that music can make workouts more fun), there's something to be said for doing a workout every now and again with nothing but your body and your thoughts. Doing this in nature is ideal, but it can work at the gym, too. Instead of focusing on the beat or the lyrics of your favorite workout songs, pay attention to your breath, feel your muscles as they're moving, and be totally present in what you're doing. Intently focusing on the mind-body connection can be a great way to de-stress and appreciate your body for how amazing it is. It can also help you work more intensely since you aren't distracted. Try a workout-music-free workout once every few weeks. Then the next time you forgot your iPod, it'll just be another time that you get to tune in to you! Setback #9: You don't feel good. No matter if you are suffering from a cold, have a stomachache or are running a fever, sometimes we miss our workouts because of our health. Prevent It: While you can't always keep yourself illness-free year-round, by eating a healthy diet, taking time to de-stress regularly, sleeping seven to nine hours a night and working out regularly, you can help prevent yourself from getting sick. Remember that exercise should be a part of your overall wellness plan to keep you healthy. And for those times that you do get sick? Always listen to your body and take time to rest when you need it. If you feel up to exercising, or doing a workout at a lighter intensity, go for it. Not every sniffle or stomachache is a sign that you shouldn't exercise. In fact, sometimes a light workout can help you alleviate certain unwanted symptoms, like gastrointestinal distress, by diverting blood away from the problem area (your gut in this case) and to your working muscles. Setback #10: You overslept and missed your workout time. You pride yourself on getting your workout in early, but when you accidentally oversleep, your workout plans go awry! Prevent It: All of us miss our alarms from time to time, but you can prevent this by doing a few things. First, set two alarms, such as a regular alarm clock and the alarm on your cell phone. In case your power goes out, the cell phone will work as your back-up. Also, don't keep your alarm clock by your bed, in arm's reach of hitting the snooze button. Set it across the room so that you actually have to get up and out of bed to turn it off. Because getting up and out of bed is always the hardest part, once you're up, turn on some lights and put on those workout clothes right away to start off your morning and workout right! Setback #11: You have to travel. Whether it's for pleasure or business, travel plans can throw a wrench into even the most dedicated exercisers fitness plans. Prevent It: It's easy to let a trip, along with its unexpected layovers, lack of hotel gyms, or jam-packed travel schedule, to throw off your workout plans. That's why it's important to plan, plan, plan. Before you travel, come up with three workout options that you can do while gone. For example, pack a resistance band in your suitcase so that you do some strength moves no matter where you are. Pack a workout DVD that you can do on your laptop. Talk to the hotel concierge for help mapping out a walking or running route. And definitely pack work apparel and shoes (wearing them to travel in is an extra good idea, so that you're comfortable and can get some extra steps and walking in when you can). Then make a goal to work out every other day at the least. Staying fit while traveling just takes a little creativity, so plan ahead to prevent this fitness setback! 12. You get injured. Oh drats! Injuries are the worst. Prevent It: By all means not every injury can be prevented, but, many of them can. The majority of exercise-related injuries can be chalked up to doing too much, too soon, too often. So make sure that you're wearing proper footwear for your physical activity; that you warm up and cool down properly, slowly build your workouts in terms of duration and intensity, and take at least one day a week off for active recovery. Always listen to and respect your body. It's the best way to stay injury free! Article Source: id=1690

Walking and Running Tips for City Dwellers

Living in a big city can be exciting. If you reside in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago or San Francisco, you have access to some of the hottest and trendiest health clubs and group exercise classes right in your back yard. And even if you live in an urban part of Dallas, Seattle, Kansas City, Pittsburgh or any other large metropolitan area, you still have a lot of different workout options available. But what if running or walking outdoors is your favorite activity? Well, urban exercisers have to deal with the hustle and bustle of city life, which can put a damper on your exercise experience. Urban living may give you the freedom to function without a car and easily walk to hip shopping, dining and entertainment destinations, but when you're trying to actually fit in a workout, navigating the city safely and efficiently can be a bit of a challenge. After all, you're up against pollution, traffic, possible crime, uneven sidewalks and other treacherous conditions, not to mention all the traffic and intersections that stop you multiple times mid-run. Below are six tips for navigating the urban landscape, understanding the possible risks associated with metropolitan running and walking, and using the city to your workout's advantage! 1. Park it. This is an obvious one, but it's too important to ignore. City parks are made for running and walking! They're usually free of traffic and noise, and many parks have better-quality trails and pavement than the streets do. Thanks to fewer cars and taxis and a higher density of trees and plants, these areas are also likely to have less pollution. This is especially important because exercise increases your breathing rate, making air quality that much more important. Stay Safe Tip: Air quality in cities is usually poorer than more rural areas because of the concentration of traffic, industry and people. In fact, a 2004 review conducted by the University of Brisbane in Australia that examined pollution studies from around the world showed that air with low concentrations of pollutants affected those exercising just as much as air with high concentrations of pollutants impacted non-exercisers. Furthermore, another study, this one published in The New England Journal of Medicine with data taken from the Women's Health Initiative, found that women who lived in areas with high air pollution—even in the form of very small particles called soot—were more likely to die of heart attacks than other women who lived in less pollutant areas. Before you work out, be sure to check the air quality forecast along with the weather. Don't exercise outside on low-quality air days, and avoid high-traffic times like rush hour. In general, air quality is better in colder weather than the hot summer months. City Fitness Tip: The bigger the park, the better your workouts, as it will give you more places to explore and more foliage to release cleaner air. Check out your local parks and recreation department online. Most cities will list all of their parks, including its amenities (like bathrooms and drinking fountains), hours and features. This allows you to find the best open area for you and your workout, and it might also allow you to discover an entirely new place to walk or run. There may be a hidden gem just a few blocks away that you've never stumbled upon!   2. Run in the place where you live. While parks are great for getting away, sometimes straying from the park can be a good thing when you need variety or a change of pace (pun intended). Jog or power walk through a residential area of town that has an interesting history or one that you find particularly charming or beautiful. Residential areas usually have less traffic and more flora and fauna than commercial areas. Stay Safe Tip: Be alert to any suspicious activity or unusual situations while you're working out. While crime can and does happen anywhere, some cities are more known for their crime than others (Detroit, Memphis and Miami topped Forbes' recent "America's Most Dangerous Cities" list). But no matter where you live, it's always a good idea to run during daylight hours, carry your ID, and bring a phone and enough money for an emergency—just in case. Always trust your gut. Get more outdoor exercise safety tips. City Fitness Tip: Pretend that you don't live in your city, and ask yourself where you would go if you were a tourist looking for a workout that could double as sight-seeing. Pick the closest spot for your regular run/walk, and map out a couple other options that are farther away for a future trip. Then grab a friend and see your city in a new active way! Or, if your city doesn't have many safe tourist spots that are suitable for running or walking, turn your trip to the park on its head by running or walking to the park and then using it as a site for strength exercises such as lunges, squats, push-ups and triceps dips on a park bench. Or do some yoga or stretching at the park as a complement to the cardiovascular exercise it took to get there. The possibilities are endless! 3. Play red light, green light. Next time you're stuck at a stoplight, don't just stop or jog in place, impatiently waiting for the light to turn green. Use the break to do some squats or use that street pole for a few one-armed push-ups or that city bench for an assisted plank. If you need a break, enjoy the interruption and do a quick hamstring or shoulder stretch. Instead of fighting against the city's nature, why not embrace it? Stay Safe Tip: While exercising on pavement or asphalt isn't too dangerous (except for the occasional pothole or bad driver), running on the road or sidewalk can be hard on the joints. In fact, concrete is one of the worst shock-absorbing surfaces. Asphalt absorbs more shock, but it's still not great (grass, wood chips and dirt are best). So when you can do so safely, jog on the asphalt. City Fitness Tip: Use traffic and stoplights as interactive interval training. After a short walking or jogging warm-up, run hard to a stoplight and see how far you can go without having to take a break because of the traffic. When you hit a yellow light, perform a set of upper-body exercises such as wall pushups on a city building or triceps dips using a park bench. If you get stuck at a red light, hit that lower body with basic squats or lunges. You may get a few curious looks from people, but in a big city, most people have seen stranger things, right? 4. Get on track. Running in a circle may not strike your fancy, but running and walking tracks can be great places for city dwellers to work out in peace. On the track, you can easily track your distance, avoid the traffic and distractions of street running and, if you're lucky, you'll have an easier-on-the-body rubberized surface for your workout. Sounds like heaven, right? Tracks are also perfect for intervals. If you follow the walk-run training method, do fartleks: Run the straights (100 meters) and walk the curves (100 meters), or experiment with other distances marked on the track. Stay Safe Tip: Running or walking on a track is much easier on your joints than running on the blacktop or concrete, but don't forget about personal safety. Tracks can sometimes be in secluded areas of the city that you're not familiar with. When in doubt, bring a buddy and keep your cell phone close! City Fitness Tip: To find a running track near you, perform an online search for "running tracks in [enter your city]." If this isn't an easy search (some cities are better about posting their information online than others), call or visit your local running or walking specialty store. Ask them where the best—and safest—running tracks are in town. 5. Get active on your commute. Unless you work from home, you already have to commute to your job. So why not multitask with an active commute that doubles as a workout? Walking lends itself better to commuting since it won't leave you as sweaty and out of breath for your day on the job, but running or biking can also work. Stay Safe Tip: Never wear headphones while actively commuting to work, and always be alert and aware of traffic and any suspicious behavior. If you're biking, find a bike path/lane and always wear a helmet. If you're walking, choose routes that are well used, well lit, safe and have plenty of public areas in case you think someone may be following you. City Fitness Tip: Instead of walking in your dress shoes to the subway, throw your nice shoes in bag or backpack and lace up those sneakers! Power walk to the bus stop and get off a few stops early to squeeze in some extra steps. 6. Hit the gym. You may love outdoor running and walking, but when the weather is bad or you work late hours, it's hard to get out there and hit the pavement. A gym membership may be expensive, but it allows you to work out safely and comfortably. Plus, if you join a full-service health club, you'll also have access to group exercise classes, strength training equipment, possibly a pool and more! So don't rule it out: You never know what new activity you might fall in love with. Stay Safe Tip: The same safety tips apply for going to and coming home from the gym as they do for running and walking outdoors in a big city: Be alert, carry your cell phone but few valuable personal belongings, and stick to areas that are well traveled and safe. City Fitness Tip: Think the treadmill should be renamed the dreadmill? Try these three tips to refresh any treadmill routine! Happy and safe running and walking in the city! This article has been reviewed and approved by SparkPeople Coaches Jen Mueller and Nicole Nichols, Certified Personal Trainers.Article Source: id=1577

Declare Your Independence from the Gym

It's an excuse many of us have heard or even said ourselves: I want to get fit, but I can't afford a gym membership. While a health club can be a fantastic place to work out, it's not the only way to get fit. In fact, you can enjoy a variety of different workouts at home or outdoors that are extremely low cost and sometimes even free! If you think that toning up or losing weight takes a gym or fancy fitness equipment, think again. Here are 10 workouts you can do sans gym that will challenge your body and give you great results. 10 Gym-Free Workouts How to do it: Grab 10 small note cards and write one exercise on each: 5 cardio moves (jump rope, high knees, mountain climbers) and 5 strength moves (push-ups, lunges, crunches, etc.). Shuffle the cards. Warm up for 5 minutes by marching in place, then draw a card and do that exercise as many times as you can for 1 minute. Then move on to the next card for 1 minute. Try to go through the full set of cards, working up to running through the circuit of cards two, three even four or five times!

  1. Try a DIY Bootcamp. An outdoor bootcamp can be a lot of fun—who doesn't like fresh air and a good challenge? You can always create your own bootcamp, but it's more fun with a group, so gather a few pals and hit a local park with open space, trees, benches and other landmarks. With your group, agree on a duration of time you'll spend working out, then brainstorm different strength and cardio exercises you can perform using what's found around you. Get creative! Examples might include triceps dips on a park bench, seated squats up against a tree, pushups with your feet on a curb, sprints to a pond and back, and even hill repeats. No matter which exercises you choose, be sure to warm up with a 5-minute walk and cool down with some gentle stretching.
  2. Pop in a workout DVD. There really isn't an excuse not to work out at home with the vast array of workout DVDs available including Pilates, dance, strength, kickboxing—the list goes on and on. While many DVDs require little to no equipment, others allow you to use things you have around the house such as soup cans as dumbbells or a chair for support. No matter what level of exerciser you are, there's something out there for you! If you're not sure where to start, why not try Coach Nicole's convenient and effective DVDs, which are broken into 10-minute segments?
  3. Go for a walk. Walking is one of the best activities to do because it requires only a pair of supportive shoes, and it's something that comes very naturally to most of us! If you're a beginner, hit the pavement at a pace that gets you slightly out of breath but not so much that you can't carry on a conversation. If you're a seasoned exerciser, walk in an area with hills or try intervals of speed walking followed by a slower-paced walk. For more tips and workout ideas, take a look at SparkPeople's Walking Guide.
  4. Circuit train. Circuit training is a great way to fit in your cardio and strength training simultaneously.  
  5. Try yoga. One of the best things about yoga is that you only need your body and a mat to do it. From online workouts that explain the poses to a variety of free yoga videos on YouTube, you can try any style of yoga without leaving your living room. You can even download workouts to your iPod and take your yoga practice outdoors! While yoga isn't known for its calorie burn, it is fantastic for flexibility and can be a muscle builder when doing more strenuous poses like plank. It's also a wonderful stress reducer.
  6. Take a hike. If you live in an area with access to hiking trails, you're in for a real workout! Hiking is a great calorie-burner and aerobic workout—not to mention a fun and beautiful way to spend an afternoon! So grab a friend or loved one, lace up those hiking boots, pack some water and food (depending on how long of a hike you're going on) and hike yourself fit. I guarantee the scenery and your feeling of accomplishment after hiking will be loads better than doing hills on a treadmill at the gym!
  7. Go old school with calisthenics. Get fit with a retro calisthenics workout. From jumping jacks to sit-ups to push-ups and lunges, this dynamic form of working out requires nothing but your body weight and is just like what you did in P.E. class as a kid. Revisit those early roots for some serious calorie burning and body toning!
  8. Turn housework into a workout. Yes, you can put the lean back in clean by turning your usual household chores into a heart-pumping workout. The key is to focus on cleaning activities that have a higher calorie burn such as scrubbing, vacuuming and washing windows. Turn on some upbeat tunes and really put your back into it. Even try throwing in some lunges, squats or push-ups between chores to really feel the burn.
  9. Play! So few of us make time in our lives to just have fun and play. Whether it's engaging in a sport, playing an active video game or even just dancing around your living room, lighten up and do something active that you love. As long as you get your heart rate up you'll burn calories—and have a good time doing it. Consider an adult sports league to add a little friendly competition into the mix.
  10. Run it out. Just like walking, running is the perfect gym-free workout because all it requires is a good pair of running shoes and some space. Whether it's around your neighborhood, at a park or on a track, running burns more calories than almost any other cardiovascular activity, and those who do it regularly claim that "runner's high" is a real-deal. Visit SparkPeople's Running Center for workouts, training plans and more get-started tips.
See? No more excuses about not making it to the gym. A world of fitness is right at your fingertips!Article Source: id=1650

Mariah Carey's Diet of Only Two Superfoods Is Not a Great Idea

Celebrities are known for trying all sorts of crazy diets, but Mariah Carey’s takes the cake. (Don’t get too excited, cake is definitely not on the menu.) Carey told E! News she eats salmon and capers—that's it. “It’s really hard," she said. "I try to stick with the proteins. It’s the worst. But it works!” Um, OK, a few problems here. First off, most people aren't going to stick to a diet they describe as "the worst." Plus, a healthy diet should make you feel great, which is pretty hard when you hate what you're eating every day. Carey’s food choices are healthy—salmon is full of omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and capers are naturally low in calories. But eating two foods all day, every day is a bad idea, no matter how healthy they are. You won't get all the nutrients you need from eating fish and capers. Carey could at least add some fruits and veggies to the mix for a more balanced diet.

27 Healthy Popcorn Recipes to Cure Any Snack Attack

Crunchy, buttery, full of carbs… popcorn is the ultimate happy food. No, really—studies have shown that the serotonin found in the gluten-free grain can have relaxing, mood-lifting effects. No wonder it’s such a popular party appetizer, late-night snack, and most importantly, the ultimate companion for movie nights. But as healthy as popcorn can be on its own, concession stands and prepackaged varieties often serve it drenched in salt and butter—or even worse, artificially flavored goop masquerading as butter. We’ve found 27 recipes that pump up popcorn’s nutritional profile. Made with a dash of butter, topped with cinnamon, or mixed into a sweet and salty combo, there’s a tasty option for every craving. Bonus: We’re pairing each variation with our recommendation for a film to watch along while you munch. Sweet 1. Apple Pie Popcorn Photo: Sweet as a Cookie Out of apples? Inept at using an oven? No worries; you can still have all the flavors of the traditional baked treat—just pack it into a batch of popcorn instead of piling it into a crust. With cinnamon, apple pie spice, and vanilla, the recipe maintains all the flavors of the original, while a touch of stevia keeps it sugar free. Better yet, once your popcorn is popped, the whole thing takes less than 30 seconds to put together, making it easy as… well, pie! Movie: Waitress 2. Chocolate and Coconut Popcorn Photo: Salty Canary Coconut flakes get toasty in the oven before joining a generous heap of vegan chocolate chips and stevia-sweetened, freshly popped corn. If a macaroon and a chocolate chip cookie had a health-conscious baby, we bet it would taste something like the flavors here. Movie: Stranger Than Fiction 3. Pumpkin Popcorn Photo: Real Food Real Deals Unlike many pumpkin spice snacks, which often rely on artificial flavorings, these morsels call for just two tablespoons of unrefined sweetener and a spoonful of real, canned pumpkin. A seasonal treat that fills you up, this popcorn scores some serious points. Movie: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown 4. Healthy Salted Caramel Popcorn Photo: Fit Mitten Kitchen With just three whole-food ingredients, caramel popcorn just doesn’t get any easier (or healthier) than this. Instead of a mound of sugar dissolved into saccharine syrup, this blogger cuts the sweetness by using maple syrup instead. Movie: Caramel 5. Salted Chocolate Caramel Popcorn Photo: Diethood The perfect chocolate sauce is a bit of an endeavor, but it's totally worth it for this treat. Drizzle melted chocolate over popcorn, eat, and repeat. Choose bittersweet chips, made up of at least 60 percent cacao for a low sugar content. Movie: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory 6. Mint Chocolate Chip Glazed Popcorn Photo: Cupcakes and Kale Chips The mint chocolate combination tastes great with pretty much anything, so why not try it with popcorn? Make a glaze with either honey or maple syrup and just a touch of mint extract to avoid going into toothpaste territory. The result is a magic shell-like coating that gives the popcorn an even more satisfying crunch than usual. Movie: Lilo and Stitch 7. Caramel Apple Popcorn Photo: Cookies and Cups Ever wanted to have all the flavors at once—and be healthy? Well this recipe has got your back. Salty popcorn joins apples and cinnamon, adding a bit of richness and an even bigger punch of the flavors of fall to the mix. This recipe throws in actual dried apples, so you have plenty of crunchy snacks to munch on at once. Movie: Chocolat 8. Vanilla Almond Popcorn Photo: Real Food Real Deals Dates, almonds, and coconut oil are puréed into a rich blend that gets poured over the popped kernels to create a sauce you'll want to have on hand for all future desserts. If you've never tried date sauce, prepare to have your mind blown at how much the dried fruit tastes like caramel. Movie: The Royal Tenenbaums 9. Mexican Churro Popcorn Photo: A Simple Pantry Concession-stand staple meets carnival confection for an incredibly simple-to-make hybrid of flavors. Better yet, there’s no deep-frying. Just melt cinnamon chips over the popped corn and sprinkle on a good dusting of sugar, plus extra cinnamon. Curl up with a bowl of this and a cup of hot cocoa for the perfect sweet treat. Movie: Despicable Me 2 Savory 10. Lemony Kale Popcorn Photo: Simply Fresh Dinners Kale has long surpassed spinach as the preferred leafy green, but we get it—with tough leaves and a somewhat bitter flavor, it can be tough to swallow. Make it tempting by grinding it up with a blend of lemon, sea salt, and grape-seed oil. Then toss it all with a bunch of popcorn. Movie: Food Fight 11. Dorito Popcorn Photo: Whole New Mom Get your nacho cheese fix with this popcorn instead of going for the bag. It’s entirely vegan, and you can identify every item in the relatively concise ingredient list. And don’t worry, the best part about the original remains intact: yummy, cheesy orange residue to slurp off your fingers at the end. Movie: Wayne’s World 12. Spicy Cilantro Lime Popcorn Photo: A Simple Pantry Take Chipotle’s signature rice dish and turn it into this 15-minute snack. Using a squeeze of lime, a handful of cilantro, and just two tablespoons of butter, it’s a healthier variation of the same flavors, without the lengthy process of cooking rice or the need for a whole lot of oil. Movie: No Country for Old Men 13. Sweet and Spicy Wasabi Popcorn Photo: Kitchen Confidante Wasabi isn't just for sushi; it also gives this popcorn that umami flavor. Cut the zing of the wasabi with a touch of butter, which also makes for a delectable pairing with the soy. You end up with a snack that tastes kind of like wasabi peas: just as irresistible, but much healthier. Movie: Jiro Dreams of Sushi 14. Buffalo Wing Popcorn Photo: Whole Bite Blog Finally, a vehicle for buffalo sauce that isn’t deep-fried. Popcorn gets the hot sauce treatment here, although with just 3 tablespoons of butter in the 12-cup yield, this recipe is perfecting the moderation thing. Movie: The Great Chicken Wing Hunt 15. Rosemary Parmesan Popcorn Photo: Five Heart Home Using fresh (not dried) rosemary, fresh (not bagged) popcorn, and fresh (not processed) Parmesan, this recipe is as all-natural as it gets. It serves enough for a crowd, so make sure you’ve got plenty of hungry snackers around when you make it—it’s too delicious not to share. Movie: Rosemary’s Baby 16. Coconut Curry Popcorn Photo: Naturally Ella Got a hankering for Thai food? This popcorn takes a minimalist approach for results that satisfy your craving in a pinch. The inclusion of both coconut oil and toasted coconut flakes provides a silky coating plus a satisfying crunch. Bonus: no greasy takeout-induced hangover. Movie: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives 17. Masala Popcorn Photo: Pure Vegetarian Bites Dress up your popcorn in Bollywood glam with the addition of chili powder, turmeric, and a pinch of curry leaves. To go really traditional, the blogger suggests tempering the powders in the oil before adding to the popcorn for the most even distribution of flavors. It may be quicker than curry, but the end results are no less impressive. Movie: The Lunchbox 18. Vegan Cheese Popcorn Photo: Vegan Family Recipes Vegans and dairy-free eaters, get your cheesy popcorn fix here. Nutritional yeast is the star of this recipe; it serves as a plant-based source of cheddar-like flavor without the need for dairy. The recipe only calls for half a serving, but we say sprinkle away! Movie: Chef 19. Tangy Tequila Popcorn Photo: Simply Reem Skip cocktail hour and go straight for this recipe, where tequila finds its way into the seasoning blend. It’s a slightly sweet, slightly spicy, and completely unique way to make any movie night much more fun. Serving it with margaritas is highly encouraged. Movie: ¡Three Amigos! 20. Skinny Buttered Popcorn Photo: Amy's Healthy Baking Amid all the fancy iterations here, let’s take a minute to go back to popcorn’s humble beginnings, where a hefty squirt of butter would suffice. While it turns out that bit of butter isn’t so bad for you after all (hooray!), the amount you get from a concession-stand dispenser is excessive (plus, questionable in terms of if it’s even really butter). This blogger calls for just a teaspoon of the real stuff to mist over the popcorn, so that every morsel gets in on the buttery goodness. Movie: Real Genius Sweet and Salty 21. Skinny Peanut Butter Kettle Corn Photo: Amy's Healthy Baking This popcorn is purely about the peanut butter, offering different quantities depending on just how nutty you want to get. Whatever the amount, go for the all-natural kind without the added salt; you can add as much or as little sea salt later. The snack is a crispy, creamy confirmation that the simplest recipes are often the best. Movie: Meet Joe Black 22. The Perfect Buttery Vegan Kettle Corn Photo: Brewing Happiness It’s the ultimate in sweet and salty popcorn, so it’s only natural we’d go looking for a version of kettle corn that doesn’t depend on gobs of oil or heaps of sugar. Luckily we report back with success: This vegan recipe calls for 2 1/2 tablespoons of a coconut/palm oil combination and a few teaspoons of coconut sugar. This is a much smarter choice for your next snack attack. Movie: Stand by Me 23. Spicy Curry Popcorn Photo: Kitchen Treatery If curry is too much for your spice threshold, try this recipe instead, which pours a tablespoon of honey into the mixture. Not only will the sticky sweetener soften the curry’s jolt, but it also contains anti-inflammatory properties and vitamin C. Movie: Mississippi Masala 24. Sweet and Spicy Wasabi Popcorn Photo: Kitchen Confidante Ah, yes. More wasabi! Tone it down with just a teaspoon of sugar spread out over four servings to provide welcome relief to the send-shivers-up-your-nose effects of the horseradish. It’s the ideal way to introduce wasabi to novices. Movie: Lost in Translation 25. Spicy Sriracha Popcorn Photo: Kitchen Confidante This recipe gives everyone’s favorite hot sauce some sugar—literally. Here, the sugar and Sriracha are thrown into the pan alongside the unpopped kernels, infusing them with sweetness and spice as they crackle their way into popcorn. They even look the part, turning a blazing shade of orangey-red. Movie: Sriracha 26. Dark Chocolate Popcorn With Sea Salt Photo: Cup of Jo Using a bar made of 80 percent cocoa, this recipe boasts bitter sweetness that complements the buttery popcorn and savory, flaky sea salt. Chop up the bar and liberally sprinkle the pieces over the kernels so that they melt evenly. The end product is the culinary equivalent of "opposites attract," both in its black-and-white appearance and in its sweet-and-salty taste. Movie: Bridesmaids 27. Salted Peanut Butter Caramel Corn With Bacon Photo: The Pioneer Woman Subbing out some of the sugar for peanut butter is a nutritious way to cut the cloying sweetness of caramel corn, but this recipe doesn’t just use the savory element as an understudy; it makes it the star by also throwing a handful of lightly salted peanuts into the mix. So go nuts with a bowl of this during your next movie night. And with bacon?! Count us in. Movie: The Peanut Butter Solution Originally posted January 2015. Updated December 2016.

People Are Saying Amy Schumer Is Too Fat to Play Barbie. Really, Guys?

News leaked this weekend that Amy Schumer is in talks to play Barbie in a live-action movie. But before we could get too excited about the rumors (will Barbie's satire be as on point as Amy's?), Twitter trolls came out in force, accusing Schumer of being too fat to play Barbie. Come again? Schumer isn't a body double of the original Barbie doll. But no one is—those body dimensions are anatomically impossible. Plus, the storyline reportedly centers on the comedian being kicked out of “Barbieland” for not looking “perfect enough.” She spends the rest of the movie learning to love her body, which seems like a pretty perfect role for Schumer, especially considering the epic clapback she had for body-shaming trolls earlier this year: "This is how I look. I feel happy. I think I look strong and healthy and also like Miss Trunchbull from Matilda. Kisses!"

8 Times When Being Mediocre Is More Than Just OK

In a world where we're constantly told to “Give 110 percent!” and “Take it to the limit!” it's no wonder people have such a hard time accepting mediocrity. But by the time you’ve reached adulthood, you've probably learned to accept mediocrity in at least some aspects of your life. Because, hey, you're never going to be perfect at everything. (Unless you’re Bradley Cooper—man, that guy is handsome.) Here are some moments where it’s totally OK to be just OK. 1. Staying in Bed Until the Last Second Some mornings, you’re up at the crack of dawn working on that side hustle, hitting the gym, or journaling like a freakin’ pro. Other mornings? You hit the snooze button until it breaks, staying in that warm, womb-like bed until you’re forced to race around your room and dash out the door without brushing your hair. It’s called balance, people. 2. Eating the Same Sad Desk Lunch Every Day Lunch is perhaps one of the finest mediocre meals. Sure, you could prepare an elaborate, healthy dish to bring to work, but there's nothing wrong with picking up a semi-edible salad that won't make you feel sleepy or bloated. Even better is devouring it at your desk while you surf the web and respond to your conservative aunt’s FB posts with the dankest memes. 3. Being Totally OK With Never Having Six-Pack Abs You went to the gym but did not crush it, get swole, or leave it all on the floor, bruh. But you showed up, and sometimes, that’s good enough. Stop sweating it and celebrate the body you have—man boobs, belly jelly, cellulite, stretch marks, and all. 4. Having a Non-Instagram-Worthy Day Today’s agenda: Wake up. Put on pants. Go to work. Return home. Repeat. 5. Being in a Totally Predictable Relationship Did you meet in college? Hit it off after a couple of dates and move in together after two or three years? Don't worry if your relationship is more Jane the Virgin than Scandal. Not everyone needs to spontaneously fall in love while tripping at Burning Man, get married by an Elvis impersonator during an anti-Wall Street protest, and honeymoon in a remote region of Myanmar. It's all about the small, boring things—eating pizza together in bed, having a quickie so you don't miss Westworld, downloading Venmo so you can split rent. That's the good stuff. 6. Drinking Cheap Coffee Instead of Fancy Pour-Over No one will ever say that drive-thru coffee is tastier than Hawaiian beans lovingly brewed with a French press, but who has time for that? Mediocre coffee is like mediocre pizza: better than nothing. Plus, a lukewarm cup of Dunkin' Donuts is way more nostalgic than single-origin, froth-topped joe served out of a soup bowl. 7. Enjoying Totally Forgettable Nights With Friends And not because you mixed boxed wine with Fireball. Remember that time you and your bestie watched that movie (wait, which movie?) while chilling on your couch (wait, whose couch?) and ordered from that amazing take-out place (wait, what was that dish you always got?). Exactly. 8. Not Being the Life of the Party Some people are happier hanging in a cozy corner and chatting with the same crew they’ve had since fourth grade. No need to force yourself to be an extrovert. Plus, you don't want that dip on the snack table to get cold. Oh, it's supposed to be served cold? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

9 Strength Moves You Can Do at Home If You're Too Intimidated to Try a Pole Dancing Class

If you're sick of workouts feeling like work, it's time to try something new and fun. Something you've never considered before. Something to get you outside your comfort zone. Something like pole dancing. Stick with us. Pole is no longer an activity reserved for seedy clubs full of ogling men; it's actually grown into a legit dance fitness program. Don't worry; you won't be hanging upside down from the pole with your legs spread (at least at first). Full of acrobatic and dance-inspired moves, the classes focus on strength (especially upper body) and flexibility. And thanks to aficionados like pole dancing instructor and certified personal trainer Roz "the Diva" Mays, pole is out of the shadows and popping up in fitness studios all over the country. Pole got me to do all the pain-in-the-ass gym stuff that I now love. Even Mays was unsure her first time. "I was intimidated by pole, but it was so damn fun," she says. "It's kind of like medicine mixed with applesauce, so it doesn't taste like medicine but you still get all the goodness out of the medicine. Pole got me to do all the pain-in-the-ass gym stuff that I now love." We asked Mays to show us the best pole-inspired moves that'll help you build strength and confidence—no pole required! Not only did she deliver (see: twerk), but she welcomed us into her living room (complete with a pole) to demo the moves. Photo: Julia Hembree How to use this list: Perform each move below for 60 seconds. To create your own workout, choose 5 to 7 of your favorites, perform each for 60 seconds, rest for 20 seconds, and complete 3 to 5 sets. Or try Mays's short but highly effective core workout at the end of this article. Quick Grab Grab a towel. Resist urge to playfully twirl and snap S.O./friend/pet with towel. Tie knot. Slightly bend knees, keep hips forward, and hold towel in front of you with one hand at chest height. Release grip then catch with opposite hand. This will warm up your hand muscles and build grip strength to grab and hang onto the pole. "Do this until you hate yourself," Mays says. (Or for 60 seconds.) Make it harder: Remove knot from the towel. The smaller the object you have to grip, the harder it is. Slow Raise Stand with feet hip width, slight bend in knees, arms at side. Lift arms straight in front of you to shoulder height. Open to a T. Return arms to front then raise them straight overhead. Keep shoulders down away from ears. Circle arms back down to a T at shoulder height then repeat the sequence in reverse direction. Go twice as slow as you think you should to make sure your form is correct. Make it harder: Add 2- to 5-pound weights. Twerk Stand with feet hip-width apart. With a slight bend in knees, use lower back and lower abs to roll hips back and forth repeatedly. "Get the spatula under the pancake and flip the pancake," Mays says. "Throw that booty meat away from you." Pro tip: Don't think too hard about this move because, as Mays points out, "This is some dumb sh*t." But if you do it correctly, your quads will be shot and "you'll only be able to twerk for a chorus because the lactic acid will seep into your heart." Superwoman Roll Lie facedown on mat. Engage back to lift "nipples and knees" (or chest and legs) off mat. Hold for 1 count. Keeping arms and legs lifted, roll to the right onto back and engage abs to pause. Reverse roll and repeat. (Mays admits she stole this move from a 10-year-old gymnast on YouTube.) Spelling Bee Lie faceup on mat, legs together, core engaged so lower back is flat against mat. Rest arms overhead on mat. Lift feet straight up to the ceiling. Keeping upper body still, use both feet to trace letters in the air to spell a word. Mays's favorite word to spell? Penis. "Because people don't even realize what we spell. They're just like, 'We spelled a word? I thought we died.'" Make it harder: Make letters bigger and bring them closer to the floor. If you make the movement bigger, stabilizing your core and upper body will be more challenging. Rock and Hold Sit with knees bent, feet flat on mat. Using abs, lift feet to balance on tailbone, arms out straight. Keep spine long without arching back or slumping the shoulders. Lean back and roll down until lower back lifts off floor. Engage abs to reverse momentum and rock back up to starting position. Hold for 1 count then repeat. Make it harder: Keep legs straight to further engage lower abs. Sit-Up Lie faceup on mat, knees bent, feet flat on floor, arms extended overhead. Exhale. Engage abs to slowly curl head and shoulders off the mat. Pull rib cage together and continue curling up until back is lifted off mat and spine is straight. Hold this position briefly then slowly lower back down. Make it easier: If hip flexors are tight, keep legs stretched out straight on floor and lower back by pressing it into mat. Pendulum Lie faceup on mat with arms extended out to form a T. Lift legs straight up toward ceiling. Keep shoulders glued to mat and twist from waist to swing legs to right side. Use obliques to pull legs back up and swing to opposite side. Repeat. Elevated Push-Up Find a sturdy surface like a windowsill or desk. Place hands on surface shoulder-width apart with shoulders directly over wrists. Walk feet back about 3 feet from surface. Bend elbows to lower chest halfway down then push back up. Make it harder: Lower chest all the way down to surface then push back up. Once you build your strength here, you can take it to the floor for a classic push-up. Ready to strut? Find a pole class near you (Crunch locations offer XPOLE classes nationwide) then use this list to work on strength between sessions. "People think they have to master all the exercises before they can even try it, but pole is what gave me the strength to do all these exercises," Mays says. You don't need to go full-stripper mode for a class but wear some skin-bearing clothes—you need your skin to come in contact with the pole for grip. Special thanks to Roz Mays who modeled these moves and provided the workout. Mays wears a Target C9 Champion top and her own Adidas shorts. You can follow her on Instagram and Facebook, or read more about her in 34 Under 34: Rising Stars in Health. SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

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