Why Vacations Are Good for Your Health

With rising rent costs and endless job responsibilities, we often feel pressured to work ourselves to the bone. But there are some benefits to taking time off. Read on to find out why vacations are good for your health.

Recharge

In today’s society, it’s tough to pull ourselves away from the daily grind. Many successful professionals work 60+ hours a week or more. They live on caffeine to help them keep their energy up. But the fact of the matter is, burnout is inevitable. Vacations allow you to hit the reset button, ideally, before that happens.

Pro tip: Schedule time off on a quarterly basis. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. Stay at a local bed and breakfast or resolve to stay at home and catch up on your favorite television shows. It will give your mind a break from your daily to-do.

Integrate

Sometimes there is so much going on at work that we barely give ourselves a second to wrap our heads around each decision we make or action we take. Taking a vacation will allow time for the dust to settle. Whether that’s allowing your thoughts to come together around a major change in your work like (such as a pay cut or possession change) or simply taking in the successes you’ve made in the last year, vacations provide the distance you need to gain perspective.

Pro tip: Use a sick day as a mental health day. Drive to the beach or the woods, some place that makes you feel at ease, and write your thoughts down in a journal.

Increase Productivity

While most of us tend to think that we can’t possibly afford to take time off (“There’s so much to get done!”), vacations actually work wonders for your productivity. In fact, those who take time off are actually happier, less stressed, and are more likely to get a promotion. This is particularly true for those who really make an effort to disconnect (no email, no conference calls) and enjoy themselves.

So tell me, when are you going on YOUR next vacation?

Nadia 😉

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Why You Should Cut Down on Cardio to Lose Weight

Cardio is well-known for it’s benefits of increasing your endurance. More importantly for those trying to lose weight, it increases the amount of fat you burn during a workout. But just because the numbers look impressive doesn’t mean you’re getting the results you actually want. Here’s why you should cut down on cardio to lose weight.

You’ll Want to Eat More

If you’ve been tearing it up on that treadmill, on the track, or in that cardio kickboxing class daily, chances are you’re getting mixed results.  On the one hand, your fitbit says you burned somewhere between 400-1,000 calories in 60 minutes! On the other, it feels like you’re hungry ALL THE TIME! And you should be. Your body needs the fuel to recover from your workout. The only problem is, when you eat more, you don’t get the results you want. It’s because you’re focusing on the wrong thing. 

What to do instead: Dial down your nutrition. Remember that you can’t outrun on a bad diet. Focus on managing your portions and eating a pluthera of low sugar fruit and green veggies. In fact, if you eat the right types of food, you can actually have more without the added calories! Use cardio as a means of exercise for the health of your body instead of weight loss and add a steady regimen of strength training 2-3x a week.

For more tips on how to adopt a healthy diet, check out my blog titled Dieting for Weight Loss: Lose Weight and Eat Carbs Too as well as Simple Tips for Mindful Eating.

Related: 4 Ways to Dominate Your Fitness Goals and Resolutions in 2018.

Good luck!

 

Nadia 😉

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What I’ve Learned Being an Introvert in an Extroverted Job

The moment I realized I wanted to become a fitness instructor was in the middle of my favorite cardio kickboxing class. It encompassed everything I enjoyed about exercise – fun choreography, an energetic and encouraging instructor, and group of women who bonded over their shared commitment to health and fitness. During a time in my life when everything felt chaotic and unsettled, I always left the studio feeling cheerful and at peace with myself. That day, I fell in love with the idea of sharing these feelings with others on a daily basis. Hence, my decision to enter the world of fitness. Little did I know, taking a class and leading one was an entirely different ballgame. During the next few years of my life, I would stretch myself beyond what I thought I was capable of, mentally and physically.

Introvert Fitness Instructor: An Oxymoron?

Soon after getting my certification, I landed a position teaching bootcamps in San Jose, CA. The owner liked that I was friendly and that I shared the company’s values. And yet, I soon became aware of the fact that I was different from the others in a significant way. I always knew that I was introverted, but being an introvert in an extroverted workplace was like having a mirror in front of me. The feedback from the owner and supervisor quickly showed me that I wasn’t as energetic or expressive as I thought I was. They wanted to mold me into an instructor that would fit in with their community and deliver the type experience their clients wanted. I was already physically fit, but what I really needed were:

  • Super-charged, high energy levels.
  • An infectious, positive attitude.
  • A strong, commanding presence.

For a while, I became just that. And I learned so much in the process.

I Need to Project Energy to Create Energy

Enthusiasm and excitement are part of your mindset. Innies have it, but they project it inward. This is often why others think we are always calm even in times when we feel chaotic inside. It’s also what drives people to ask us “What’s wrong?” when we’re quiet, even though everything is usually just fine! 

In contrast, extroverts are great at embodying their feelings and projecting them outwards. And although it may feel unnatural for me and other introverts, projecting energy is a skill that can be practiced. It’s just a matter of finding a way to bring it out. For it me, that usually meant listening to my choreo music, volume at full blast on my way to the studio. I also arrived 15-20 minutes early to practice my routines and “get into character.”

Lesson Learned: I have a wellspring of energy inside me. With a little effort, I can bring it out.

Lesson 2: Recovery Matters

It’s a myth that introverts don’t like to be around people. Many of us enjoy parties, nightclubs, and spending time with friends. However, in contrast to extroverts, who get their energy from hanging out with others, in these situations, an introvert’s energy slowly fades. Alone time is how we recharge.

In the beginning, being an introvert fitness instructor was crazy making. It never occurred to me that my introversion would affect my ability to do my job. Yet, by the middle of each week, I found myself pushing past exhaustion to fake the magic. I started dreading the classes I used to love so much! And once the weekend finally hit, I’d hole up in my room for two days just to feel normal again. When Monday came, the cycle started over again.

I eventually cut the more energy intensive classes, like U-Jam Fitness, cardio-kickboxing, and bootcamps from my schedule. I took on more small groups (2-4 people) and 1:1 personal training, and I started teaching yoga. I felt more peaceful on a daily basis and instead of hiding from the world on my days off, I started reaching out to friends. 

Lesson Learned: Be selfish when it comes to mental and emotional recovery. I am a better, happier person when I take care of myself.

Lesson 3: Always Be Yourself

I’ve been in the fitness industry for six years now. I’ve taught so many different kinds of classes and taught at all sorts of studios, from big corporations to tech companies to high end studios and tiny, local community gyms. The times I felt most chaotic were when I tried to act like someone else. Sure, if I wanted to, I could continue to play the part of the kick-ass, bubbly, high energy, fitness instructor. And I’d be good at it! But it doesn’t feel good. What feels good is connecting with people one on one, sharing my knowledge through blogs and video content, and staying at peace with myself.

And strangely enough, my boss, my co-workers, and my clients like the unique personality and perspective that I bring to the studio. They often tell me that being around me makes them feel grounded and calm. I like that too.

Lesson Learned: It’s okay to be myself. The more I embrace who I am, the more opportunities I give others to embrace me too.

Love & Light ❤

Nadia

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Dieting for Weight Loss: Lose Weight and Eat Carbs Too

Most fitness fanatics are all or nothing when it comes to dieting for weight loss. Either they’re eating anything and everything they can get their hands on or they keep everything on lock-down. They severely restrict calories, cut out entire food groups (ahem…carbs), dodge anything with a hint of fat, and limit their “meals” to standard diet staples, like raw veggies and tasteless boiled chicken. To be honest, it’s this kind of dieting that will make your trainer face palm. There’s a right way to start dieting for weight loss. This is not it. You can lose weight and eat carbs too, along with other rich and delicious food that you like. Read on to find out how.

How to Lose Weight without Cutting Carbs

Unless you have an extreme food sensitivity, no healthy diet involves completely eliminating an entire food group. Nor should it involve trimming your calories to the point where you are 

  • hungry all the time or
  • unsatisfied with the bare-bone meals that you ARE having.

 In either scenario, you’re setting yourself up for failure! Try these tips instead.

Make Smart Choices

Recognize that not all food options are created equal. In fact, one reason that grains and starches have a bad rap is that they are often more calorie and carbohydrate dense than their fruit and veggie counterparts. You heard right. Fruit and veggies are also carbs! But they contain more water, fiber, and nutrients than grains do. In contrast, grains (pastries and baked goods in particular), tend to be mostly “empty carbs,” the bulk of which, if eaten in excess is stored in the body as fat.

To give you a comparison: 1 slice of bread or a 1/4 of rice are about equal to a full cup of berries, 2 cups of broccoli, or 4 cups of spinach.

Lesson Learned: You can choose to have the pastries if you want. You’ll just have less of them overall than you would of other options.

Also, be sure to add small amounts of healthy fat to your meals. It will help you absorb all those awesome nutrients you consumed. Plus, you’ll feel fuller faster and longer.

Manage Your Portions

Portion sizes, for those who struggle to lose weight, are often too big or too small. Dieters often go from bingeing on restaurant-sized portions of pasta or steak to bite-sized salads and mini-bowls of veggies and proteins. But as we learned in the previous section, not all food items are created equal. That means, where you might cut down on the spaghetti or stir fried rice, you can bulk up on cooked veggies and leafy greens. A balanced plate might look like this:

  • 3 ounces of garlic chicken
  • 1/2 cup seasoned rice
  • 2 cups mixed bell peppers sauteed
  • 1/2 small avocado

For rice lovers, this might seem like a stab in your heart at first, but trust me, once you have the plate in front of you’ll realize that you’re actually getting a lot!

Lesson Learned: Less isn’t always more it when it comes to weight loss. Balance is the key.

Eat Food You Love

The most nefarious diet killer is making the foods you enjoy the bad guys on your weight loss journey. The really is room for the tastes you love most. You just need to find a way to meet your goals and satisfy your taste buds at the same time. That might mean making a few swaps. 

For me, that means choosing between the heavy cream in my coffee and pork sausage links every morning or deciding whether to have two waffles or just one with a mountain of mixed berries on top. There’s compromise in every relationship, right?

Lesson Learned: You have a choice. The one you make depends on you preferences and needs. But either way, you can lose the weight AND eat carbs too!

Nadia

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Why I Don’t Feel Guilty About Getting More Sleep

I used to think I was indulgent when it came to sleep. In my early 20s, I averaged between 9-11 hours a night.

Sleep In a Workaholic Culture

In today’s society and particularly in Western culture, we are no-so-gently encouraged to work hard AND play hard. Those who get into the HUSTLE work 50-60+ hours a week to keep up with the curve while those who work the standard 40 hours or less are judged as lazy or lacking ambition. As someone in the latter camp, I’ve often struggled with this image of laziness. I’d been told be others that I wasn’t living up to my potential and I started to feel that way too. Yet, whenever I attempted to push the limits of my sleep and work habits, I found myself overwhelmed, disorganized, and exhausted. I would forget things (important dates like weddings or meetings), sleep through my alarm, and even have a hard time completing projects.

For a long time, I thought there was something wrong with me. I’d heard about successful entrepreneurs who had paired their sleep down to five or six hours a night and were thriving! Why couldn’t I do the same? But in time, as I got to know myself and my habits more, I began to accept that I needed at least 7 hours of sleep to function at my best. Opinions of others be damned! 

The Insightful Video that Changed the Way I View Sleep

 At the end of 2017, I watched a video that confirmed everything I had experienced as it relates to sleep. It changed the way I viewed myself and my body’s needs, all of our bodies needs to be exact!

The video was delivered by Matthew Walker, professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley and writer of the book “Why We Sleep.” In the video he explained the horrifying neurological and physiological consequences accompanying lack of sleep, which include, but are not limited to.

  • High blood pressure – increased stress levels, extreme mood changes, and “200% increased risk of having a fatal heart attack in your lifetime” with 6 or less hours of sleep.
  • Memory loss – or rather inability to hold onto new memories due to impaired brain function.
  • Lowered virility, or fertility – particularly in men, whose virility age can jump decades with chronic sleep deprivation.
  • Impaired immune function – probably most worth of not is the drastic reduction in cancer-fighting immune cells (up to 70%!) after just one night of sleeping under 5 hours.

Lack of sleep also impairs muscle recovery, so if you do have a some sort of workout routine, you may suffer from muscle weakness and lethargy, which will ultimately affect your mood, your energy levels, and your ability to work effectively. Isn’t that the exact opposite of what you were going for???

Get More Sleep

The lesson, according to Walker, is that “We need about eight hours of sleep to repair the damage of wakefulness.” Hearing that from an expert, I feel zero guilt when I get a nine hour night of sleep. In fact, since I work mainly in the afternoons, I rarely set my alarm anymore. I figure

[To watch the sleep video I reference in this blog, head over to Facebook or the Business Insider website.]

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Volleyball Strength and Conditioning Full Body HIIT Workouts

Out of all the sports I’ve played in my life, volleyball is by far my favorite! I’m not only passionate about playing the game, but I’m also a fanatic when it comes to volleyball strength and conditioning. In my opinion, everyone who plays volleyball should be! Who doesn’t love having a phenomenal vertical leap, insane speed, a terrifyingly powerful spike, increased mobility, and a significantly decreased chance of pain and injury? Bonus: Get a hot bod in the process 😉

That’s why I put together these two workouts. They combine some of my favorite moves to prep for a safe and satisfying volleyball season. 

Cardio & Core HIIT Workout

Benefits: Increased speed, agility, and cardiovascular endurance.

Full Body HIIT Strength Training

Benefits: Increased power and stability.

 Note: These workouts are fairly challenging, so I only recommend the if your fitness level is intermediate or advanced. If you’re a beginner, click here for a simpler workout that will help you get started on your fitness journey. Once you are comfortable with those moves, come back and try these workouts!

Happy training 😉

 

Nadia

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Make Friends at the Gym

Do you crave friends that are as dedicated and excited about their health and fitness as you are about your own? Try making friends at the gym. It will make you feel happier and increase your chances of reaching your fitness goals.

Why You Should Make Friends at the Gym

There are some people who like to do their own thing at the gym. They complete their cardio and strength workouts like clockwork, have a consistent routine, and are content to get in, get out, and get back to life outside. But are equally as many of us who crave some sort of connection. It feels good to work out and when something makes us feel good, we naturally want to share it with others. That’s why it can be frustrating when our closest friends have little to no interest health and fitness.

In that case, your best option is to straight to the source. Make friends at the gym. To name just a few benefits, having friends at the gym:

  • Increases your accountability. It’s nice to know that you have a friendly face to look forward to when you’re completing a strenuous workout. This is especially important on those days when you’re feeling tired and unmotivated.
  • Gives you a much needed “happy boost.” Spending time with friends increases your oxytocin levels, the feel good chemicals that make you feel more positive, energized, and light.
  • Makes you work harder. Whether you consider the people around you to be friendly competition or individuals whose fitness levels you strive to attain, working out in a group has an infectious affect. It makes you push yourself a little more than you normally would.

How To Make Friends at the Gym

Here is a quick and simple process for making friends at the gym.

1. Attend class at the same time each day.

Gym-goers are creatures of habit. Many attend the same formats at the same time every day. This makes it easy to recognize those you’ve come across in the past. They will also recognize you as part of their “6:30am” crew or a fellow weekend warrior. 

2. Keep an Eye Out for Unique Individuals

I say unique, because there are a variety of people who may stand out to you at your fitness studio. They likely fall into one of two categories:

  • Those who are making visible progress toward their goals. They are getting fitter. On the one hand, there are those whom you can see have lost weight and/or body fat. They look slimmer and more muscular. On the other hand, there are those that are getting stronger. They can last longer during intervals or push heavier weights.
  • Those who are outside the “norm.” This is the woman who has overcome her body stigmas to show up every day or the 70+ man who completes burpees faster and with better form than the 20 year old next to him.

3. Reach Out

As with dating, you need to put yourself out there in order to play the game. Start by giving a compliment or asking about something obvious. For example, if you see a man walk into the studio wearing a bike helmet, ask if he participates in races. If you see a woman dominate an entire interval of atomic pushups, comment on how strong she is and (if you feel inclined) share your admiration of her skills. Ask questions to keep the conversation going. At the very least, you’ll have  learned something new about someone you work out beside every single day!

Tip: Don’t rule out instructors! They are often the easiest to talk to and the most excited about health and fitness. 

4. Find Common Ground

Talk about yourself, your life, and what you’re into fitness-wise. You may find that you both enjoy running races or that your kids are in the same soccer league. If you find a few points of similarity, you’ve got yourself a gym-buddy!

5. Exchange Contact Information

This is your opportunity to take the relationship outside of the gym. Swap numbers and/or emails. If that feels uncomfortable, ask if you can friend one another on Facebook. Send a message as soon as you can to let her know that you appreciate her story and her friendship and suggest you find a time to meet for coffee, yoga, or a play date.

Start Making Friends at the Gym Today

What are you waiting for? You’ve already committed your time and energy to becoming a healthy and fit individual. Don’t let lack of like-minded friends slow your progress toward health and happiness. You’ve likely already taken the first step or two, so be bold and take a chance. You may be closer than you think to making lasting friendships at the gym.

Love & Light <3

Nadia

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What is a Yoga Sun Salutation?

A yoga sun salutation is, simply put, a salute to the sun or a prayer to the divine. The most familiar sun salutations in the west include a series of 12 postures, meant to express gratitude and deference to all the gifts we have been given in this life. These postures are often used as a warm up during vinyasa classes.

What many do not know is that sun salutations vary depending on the tradition of yoga and the practical constraint of time. Check out the video below for 3 simple variations. They build upon one another, so whether you’re a beginner or a advanced, there’s a version for you.


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Backyard Bikini Slimdown Series: Ab Workout

Looking for a simple workout to tighten abs? Follow along with the workout below! It’s less than 20 minutes long and will have your belly burning in no time!


Complete this workout 2 times a weak and your abs will be strong in no time!
Happy Crunching! 😉

Nadia