sleep
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sleepIt is common knowledge that in order to maintain positive health and prevent the spread of disease, it is imperative to practice good hygiene.  Obviously, brushing your teeth, keeping your home clean, doing your laundry, washing your hands and showering regularly are habits that likely come to your mind when you hear the term “hygiene.”

However, an area commonly neglected in terms of hygiene is our sleep. 1 in 3 Americans get less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep every night, according to a study by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention.  Lack of sleep puts Americans at a higher risk for obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and chronic stress.  In order to maintain an environment that is conducive to getting a high quality, full night of sleep, it is important to practice good “Sleep Hygiene.”

 

 

Six Keys to Good Sleep Hygiene

  • Sleep on the right mattress: This is different for everyone.  If you have allergies, you should sleep on a hypoallergenic mattress.  Whether you prefer a firm mattress or a mattress on the softer side, it should support your body without too much pressure while you sleep in your preferred position.  Finally, it should be large enough that you can move around comfortably, especially if you are sharing the bed with your partner.

 

  • Keep your room as dark as possible: Light signals your body to be awake by inhibiting the release of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness. Light can even be detected through your eyelids, which means that keeping a dark room is extremely important in maintaining your circadian rhythm.  Invest in blackout curtains if you have street-lights near your windows, and keep the lights dim as you get ready for bed, so that you ease your body into a restful state.

 

  • Cool Down Your Room:  According to research, the ideal temperature for sleeping is between 64 and 68 degrees. In the summer, be sure you at least have an air conditioner in your bedroom, and in the winter, turn down the thermostat before you go to bed.  Not only will this help you get a good night of sleep, but you will also save on your heating bill!

 

  • Keep it Quiet:  TV’s, your neighbor’s dog, cars driving by blaring loud music, or your partner’s snoring, can all disrupt your sleep.  Do as much as you can to soundproof your room.  If you live in a noisy neighborhood, look into soundproofing windows.  Ask your neighbor to keep their stereo down after 10 pm.  And when all else fails, try using some foam ear plugs.

 

  • Keep Electronics Away: Cell phones, tablets, and televisions are all distractions. They also emit blue light, which is known to suppress melatonin and disrupt your sleep cycle.  To ensure you get a good night’s sleep, avoid screen time 1-2 hours before bed.  If you must use your computer, install an app such as  F.lux, which automatically adjusts your screens colors and brightness based on your timezone, and removes blue light from your screen.  If you have an iphone you can also enable “Night Shift Mode” in your settings in order to reduce your blue light exposure. Finally, keep your phone in a drawer or face down so that it doesn’t light up and wake you throughout the night.

 

  • Practice a Bedtime Routine:  Have a routine that helps your body and mind slow down before you head to bed. This will help prepare your body and mind for sleep.  Turn down the thermostat, quiet the house, quit working, meditate, bathe, and dim the lights.

 

If you set an alarm to remind you of your routine, these sleep hygiene practices will become habits.  By practicing good sleep hygiene, you will reduce stress, reduce your risk of disease, and wake up better rested and than ever before.

proper-bench-press-form
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The bench press is a very simple movement and often undervalued lift.  When it is performed correctly, it provides huge accessory benefits such as strengthening your overhead position and other pressing movements, while also helping to stabilize muscles like your lats, deltoids, teres, and rhomboids.

Despite the simplicity of the movement, athletes often lack the technique and tension to perform it correctly, with a quality range of motion. By making a just few adjustments to your technique, you can measurably increase your gains.

 

How to Improve Your Bench Press Technique

By creating tension throughout your entire body, you are able to stabilize the bar and isolate the muscles in your chest.

Focus on pressing through your palms with the bar aligned over your forearms while you perform the lift.  Let the bar sit in your hands with a relaxed grip.  Your wrists should be rotated slightly inward to keep the direction of the bar straight and solid.

To get into the ideal position, it is important that you arch your back to create space between your lower back and the bench, while keeping your shoulders pressed back and down.  You will know your range of motion is good if you can touch the barbell to your sternum while maintaining this position.

proper-bench-press-form

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you lose tension in your lower back, if will be difficult for you to keep your shoulders back and down, resulting in your shoulders rolling forward into a bad position.

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Keep your lats engaged by slowly lowering the bar and pressing it up vertically. When the bar moves in front of your face and your shoulders come towards your ears, you lose the tension in your lats.  To maintain that position, let your shoulders rotate down towards your lats.

By following these tips, you will improve your technique and increase your strength and gains in your bench press, as well as other movements including the decline bench press, incline, and dumbbell bench.  Next time you perform a bench press, remember these five setup steps and see for yourself how your strength improves!

 

Checklist for Proper Bench Press Setup

1) Ensure that your entire foot is pressing into the floor

2) Keep your glutes squeezed and pressed against the bench

3) Create tension by arching your lower back so that there is space between the bench and the lower back

4) Squeeze your shoulders down and press them into the bench so there is tension in your lats

5) Keep your hands on the bar slightly rotated inward

 

 

A black bumpy foam massage roller. Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release technique that is used by athletes and physical therapists to inhibit overactive muscles.
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A black bumpy foam massage roller. Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release technique that is used by athletes and physical therapists to inhibit overactive muscles.

Foam Rolling has proven to speed recovery and improve mobility as well as flexibility after intense physical activity; and with so many different kinds to choose from, it has proven to be a very convenient option.

Knowing how to properly use your foam roller with help you to get the best possible benefits out of it. Using a foam roller can target and work the ‘’knots’’ out of your muscles by massaging over the area using your own body weight.  

Here are some things to keep in mind while you are using your foam roller:

1- Slow it down! Rolling too fast can cause your muscles to tense up instead of relaxing and loosening. (Think going to a massage therapist but keeping your muscles contracted the whole time.) To smooth a tightened muscle, slow it down. Stay slow and methodical.

 

2- Be thorough! Instead of finding a knot and focusing all your energy on that one point, work around the area first. Spending too much time on any one spot can actually damage the muscle. Spend some time smoothing the area around the knot before attacking it! Keep in mind not to spend too long on each knot!

 

3- Morning Ritual. You don’t need to save foam rolling for after a workout or as part of your nighttime routine. Make it part of your morning ritual as well! Foam rolling in the morning can improve blood flow for the day and boost your energy. Check out these moves you can do to kick start your day!

 

4- Find the one that works for you!  There are so many kinds to choose from, for different specialized uses. Do you want one that will massage tired muscles? Or would you prefer one that can train your balance and work your core? Choose the size and density that will suit your specific needs. For balance training, choose a larger, lower density roller. For a deep tissue massage after a tough workout choose a roller with high density and ridges.

 

5- Keep Breathing! Just like during any physical activity, keeping your breathing controlled is an important way to keep your blood oxygenated and keep your circulatory system healthy. Smoothing muscles can cause some discomfort, holding your breath might seem like a natural reaction. Instead of holding your breath, practice taking slow deep breaths through your nose, and exhaling slowly out of your mouth, especially when rolling over more sensitive areas!

 

Most importantly, remember that foam rolling is meant to help your body recover. Be gentle, start slowly and take your time adding this to your health and fitness routine!

inbody results
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inbody results

“Over the years, my weight has fluctuated many times as a result of each yo-yo diet. I would focus on the number on the scale, and get easily discouraged if I didn’t see that number go down as fast as I wanted it to, despite my hardest efforts.  When I went to a typical gym, I usually stuck to the cardio machines, which I have now learned was probably wreaking havoc on my metabolism and body composition.  After getting accustomed to CrossFit workouts, and lifting heavier weights, I did an InBody scan to get my baseline. I also discussed my current diet, and had my Macros calculated based on my InBody results.  As a vegetarian, I was worried about not getting enough protein, so had set MyFitnessPal to a percentage based off of an article I had read. To screw it up even more, I was walking around with a FitBit that was over-adjusting my calories. My Macros and calories were completely out of whack until Marcela provided me with new numbers.

It took a couple weeks to get accustomed to the new Macro numbers. By logging literally everything, I was able to come up with some easy go-to meals and snacks that I could rely on to help me reach my daily goals, even when I had no time to cook.  About month and a half in, I had gained a few pounds according to my scale, and after three months the bathroom scale said I had only lost 1 pound. However, I was starting to get compliments from friends and family, so I knew there had to be something going on that my home scale wasn’t telling me.

At my second InBody scan, I found out that over the past three months I had in fact lost 5 pounds of pure fat, I was better hydrated, had gained 2.6 pounds of muscle, and had increased my resting metabolic rate by about 50 calories!  The bathroom scale said I had only lost 1 pound in three months which would normally have completely frustrated me.  Right when I was starting to lose motivation, I received all the motivation I needed to keep on going and stick to my plan.

I can’t wait for my next scan, because I know that if I stick to my plan and goals, the results will come.  Knowing that I have an InBody scan on the horizon helps me stay accountable even when I don’t feel like logging what I ate.  The machine doesn’t lie, so I know the choices I make today will show in the results.  If you are trying to change your body, you need to get a scan periodically to track your progress and keep yourself motivated.  Getting the right Macro numbers, and doing these scans has given me a completely different perspective about my body and how I manage my nutrition.”

~Meghan M.

deadlift crossfit 100
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deadlift crossfit 100

 

 

  • Increases Grip Strength. Performing a heavy deadlift is one of the best ways to improve your grip strength.  When you perform deadlifts, you rely on your finger muscles to hold the weight in place.  As you continue to do this more often, like the other muscles in your body, they will strengthen.  Soon you will be noticing it is easier to lift heavier dumbbells for other lifts, perform pull-ups, carry multiple bags of groceries in one hand, or any other task where you have to use your hands to carry heavy objects.

 

  • Improves Posture. Do you have a tendency to slouch or hunch over after sitting at a desk all day? Deadlifts improve your core stability, which in turn helps improve your posture.

 

  • Full Body Workout. Short on time? Do deadlifts. Deadlifts engage all the major muscle groups of the body.  A few sets of deadlifts will work your upper body, lower body, and back muscles. They even strengthen and will tighten your core!

 

  • Deadlifts Burn Fat. Did you know, some experts claim that deadlifts can burn more pounds of fat than just dieting.  This is great news for anyone looking to improve their body composition, because deadlifts promote the rapid burning of body fat while also strengthening all the major muscle groups.

 

  • Increases Growth Hormone. Human Growth Hormone is produced in the pituitary gland and is responsible for fat loss, tissue repair, muscle growth and strong bones. Growth hormone levels increase in the blood when you perform intense exercises, such as the deadlift.

 

  • Avoid Injuries. If you perform deadlifts regularly you will build strong muscles that will support your joints, which will reduce the chance of injuries to your tendons and ligaments.