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Friday, December 31, 2010

Get Your Supplement On: Mutli-Vitamins

As Fitness enthusiast, in order for us to perform at our maximum potential, we have to make sure our bodies are supplied with the right forms of nutrients.  If we become deficient in ANY of these nutrients our metabolism's can not function efficiently and our performance suffers.  Here is where the use of a multi-vitamin can come in handy.

Multi-vitamins are used to supplement our diets with vital minerals, vitamins and other nutritional elements that we're not adequately consuming or that aren't even present in our regular diets.  A 2002 Harvard study in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that taking a multi-vitamin a day can prevent cancer, heart disease and many other ailments.

What To Look For:                                                                 
When shopping for an effective multi-vitamin, always make sure to see at least 100 percent daily value in important vitamins such as Vitamin B6 & 12, C, D, E and Folic Acid.  These are the vitamins that can protect & prevent the diseases mentioned above.  However, the 100 percent rule does not hold true when it comes to minerals.  What you need to make sure of is that your multi carries specific minerals, such as magnesium and calcium.  Magnesium contributes to the production of energy.  Calcium keeps our bones and teeth strong and also makes sure our muscles and nerves function properly.  Moat daily multivitamins will not carry 100 percent of these minerals and that's fine.

Precautions:                                                                                  
There are some nutrients that we do have to be careful with. Vitamin A and Iron are perfect examples.  Vitamin A comes in two forms, retinol (which we get from animal foods like eggs and liver) and beta-carotene (which comes from fruits and vegetables and is converted to vitamin A).  According to the same 2002 Harvard study listed above, retinol was associated with weaker bones in women.  In a multivitamin, Vitamin A can come from retinol, beta carotene or a combination of the two.  The problem is that some multivitamins may not list how much of one or the other it may contain.  No more than 4000 IU's of retinol (even less since you get it from food) and less than 15000 IU's of beta-carotene should be consumed .  Too much beta-carotene may increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers, so bottom line. . . . look for a multi with a small amount of Vitamin A.  When it comes to Iron, only pre-menopausal women should consider it in their multivitamins.  For anyone else, there could be adverse affects.

Remember though, that a multivitamin should not be used as a substitute for a properly well-balanced diet.   If your diet is varied AND healthy, your body WILL be provided with enough to keep it running smoothly.

In Fitness and In Health,
Icela

Water . . .Your Body's Best Friend

Oh water, how I love thee. . . let me count the ways.  Forgive me if I'm a bit dramatic but this stuff kicks ass! There are SO MANY benefits to water that I literally don't know where to start.  Water's two main traits are that it cleanses the body of toxins and replenishes are body's systems. . . .so if you weren't consuming water much before you started your Fitness Program, you definitely need to consume it after you've started.  Now that you're more active, staying properly hydrated keeps your energy up, improves performance and prevents muscle cramps after exercising.

If all of this still isn't enough to convince you to start drinking more water then keep reading.  Did you know water has many other benefits?  Here's a list of great reasons to down this natural resource. 

Helps With Weight Loss - Do you know that lot's of times when you think you're hungry, you're actually just thirsty?  Consuming water on a regular basis helps keep that appetite under control, which keeps us from overeating, thus helping us maintain our weight loss goals.

No More Bloating - One of the BIGGEST misconceptions is that too much water is what leads to bloating.  It's actually the other way around.  Dehydration is usually the main cause of abdominal bloating.    Not enough water can lead to constipation and constipation leads to a gassy stomach,which leads to bloating.  To prevent this uncomfortable and embarrassing condition, drink up people!

Burn Baby Burn - Being properly hydrated helps keep our metabolism working, which means we're burning calories.  However, even mild dehydration can slow our metabolism down by as much as 3%.

It's Free - Water is readily available and it's calorie free.  Therefore, you can consume as much as you want and not have to worry about gaining a pound!

Natural Ailment - Drinking water helps out several medical conditions like back and joint pain, depression, diarrhea and chronic fatigue.

In Fitness and In Health,
Icela


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Winter and Outdoor Workouts

Like alot of you, Cardio for me can be extremely BORING.  Walking on a treadmill, sitting on a stationary bike or gliding on an elliptical machine day-in and day-out, regardless of what tunes I got thumping in my iPOD, just doesn't do it for me all the time.  To change things up, I like taking my workouts outdoors.  But with cold weather upon us, some of you may not think that's possible.  Not true.  Taking the right precautionary measures, you too can enjoy working out in the cold.

Here are a few tips:
  • Stay Hydrated: Because you don't typically sweat as much in the winter, like you do during the summer, you may not feel as thirsty.  Therefore, make sure to remember to keep yourself properly hydrated.   
  • Layer Up: Being properly dressed for working out in the cold starts with making sure you layer the right type of clothing on top of each other.  I use 3 layers ~ Layer #1: This layer should be breathable and draw sweat away from the skin, Layer #2: is your main source of warmth so anything made of fleece of cotton would work.  Personally, I prefer a fleece pullover or hoodie.  Layer #3: is your jacket or shell.  Make sure this layer is waterproof.
  Layer #1

Layer #2
Layer #3

  • Watch Those Extremities: Make sure to wear a hat.  A lot of body heat is lost through your head.  Wear proper gloves and socks that will keep your fingers and toes nice and warm.  These are the areas most susceptible to frost bite.  Once these areas go from being cold to hurting, it's time to head back inside.
  • Safety First:  Winter months mean shorter days, so it gets dark out there pretty quickly.  If you're out during dawn or dusk make sure to wear light colored clothing or reflective gear so you're easily seen.
  • Watch Those Rays:  Protect your skin with sunscreen.  I know we all associate sunscreen with the summer, but the sun's rays are reflected off of snow.  Let's keep that skin shielded and looking good all year round.
In Fitness and In Health,
Icela

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Surviving The New Year's Eve Party


The season of indulgence is coming to an end and New Years is slowly approaching.  If you're like most people, you're planning to ring in 2011 at a PAR-TAY!!  But as a fitness enthusiast, who's trying to maintain their fitness regimen, surviving a holiday party can be a bit tricky.  Not to worry!

Below is a short list of basic tips to help you through the night. . .
Be Prepared ~ If you know in advance that you'll be hitting a party, one way to feel at ease with whatever extras you may consume is by getting your workout in earlier in the day.  You know you probably won't get home into the wee hours of the morning so getting to the gym the next day may not be an option.  Knowing that you got a good workout in before hand can help relieve any guilt, which in turn, helps you stay on course. 
Don't Show Up Hungry ~ A basic rule of thumb for any fitness enthusiast attending a party is to NEVER show up hungry.  I mean let's face it, most parties don't have a wide variety of healthy edibles out for all to consume.  So if you're forced to have to eat something, why not keep it at a minimum by coming partially, if not completely full already?  If you don't, you know what happens.  You'll end up eating all night and before you know it you've stuffed your face!  
Stay Away From The Buffet Table ~ Even if you're not hungry, sometimes the mere sight of food makes some of us eat.  I know because this is one of my problems.  I literally enjoy to eat so I'll eat something simply because I like it and it's there.  This is a no, no now so I must practice the old adage "Out of Sight, Out of Mind".  At parties I make sure to be at the opposite end of where ever the food is.   
Keep It Moving ~ An obvious solution to not overeating is to do what comes naturally at a party . . . DANCE! I mean, come on people.  It's a New Year's Eve party, right?  There's got to be music playing so get on the dance floor and burn some calories.  If you spend your night shaking your rump, you won't have time for repeated trips to the buffet table.
Drink Up ~ And this does NOT mean booze all night.  I'm talking about nature's liquid all-star . . . . water!  Strictly consuming alcohol all night leads to dehydration and often times when we think we're hungry we're actually just thirsty.  Downing a few cups of H2O throughout the night is a great way to control your appetite and keep yourself properly hydrated. . . especially if you're dancing the night away.

Now, with these tips on hand, go out and have a great time!

In Fitness and In Health,
Icela

The Benefits of Full Body Circuits


As previously mentioned, my weight lifting routine consists of Full Body Circuits that will be done 3 times a week.  I decided on doing Full Body Circuits to start me off because, after researching, there were many benefits associated with this type of workout routine. 

Below is a list of a few:
  • It's Quick: One of the biggest benefits of Full Body Circuits is the amount of time it takes to complete.  An effective circuit can be done in as little as 30 minutes. If you're the type of person that's pressed for time, this is ideal.  Getting in and out the gym in less than 60 minutes, 2-3 times a week can be very appealing.  If it's appealing, you're more than likely to stick to it.  It's also a great alternate routine to add or replace whatever routine you already have.
  • 2 in 1:  Full-Body Circuits target the upper and lower body, all in one workout.  The key to making this benefit a major plus is by picking exercises that target the major body parts (chest, back, legs, arms and shoulders) and making sure these exercises are compound movements.  Compound exercises are exercises that engage more than one joint and muscle group. A perfect example is the squat.  Squats engage your knees, hips and waist while targeting the muscles in your upper and lower leg and your butt. 
  • Cardio:  In Full Body circuits you complete one set of exercise for each major muscle group, before going on to the next, moving quickly.  You can repeat the circuit 2-4 times, resting as little as possible.  Because this workout is fast paced it also delivers cardiovascular benefits as well, in a short amount of time.  For added cardiovascular benefits you can incorporate aerobic exercises (ex. jogging in place or jumping rope) in between sets. 
Full Body Circuit Example
Squat (muscles hit: quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves)
Deadlift (muscles hit: quads, hamstrings, calves & upper, middle & lower back)
Push Ups (muscles hit: chest, arms and shoulders)
Wide Grip-Pull Down (muscles hit: back, shoulders, chest and arms) 
Overhead Shoulder Press (muscles hit: every muscle in the shoulders)
Dips (muscles hit: arms and chest)
Barbell Bicep Curls (muscles hit: arms) 
Ball Crunches (muscles hit: Abdominal)
Rest 45 to 90 seconds.  Repeat 2-3 more times.

In fitness and In Health,
Icela

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fitness Tips For Beginners


I realize that some of you may be starting a Fitness Program for the first time. And trust me when I tell ya that this is one of the best decisions you can ever make that will literally change your life.  The benefits of exercise are countless, from jump starting weight loss to better sleep.  However, what most people don't realize is that engaging in a Fitness Program is a life long commitment, a lifestyle change.  In my opinion, this is probably THE most important concept to understand before starting a Fitness Program.  How many of you know of someone that started a fitness program or diet and just gave up because they didn't see results fast enough?  Or how about this person . . . the one that has a specific amount of weight to lose?  Yeah, every thing's great when they've reached that goal, so they figure "There's no need to exercise anymore." But a few months later their right back at the weight they started at or even worse, they're a bit heavier.  Again, these are people that haven't grasped the idea of a life long commitment.

Now I know, to some of you, committing to a fitness program seems like a daunting task.  I know when I first started it seemed like a bit of a drag.  But believe me when I tell you . . . .it doesn't HAVE TO BE!  Below is my list of a few basic tips that I feel can lead you to a life long commitment of improved health and happiness.
  • Gradually Ease into a Fitness Program:  The old adage Slow and Steady Wins The Race could never be truer when it comes to a Fitness Program.  I would suggest keeping your workouts simple and short.  As you do it and it becomes more of a habit you can start building on it and making them longer and/or more frequent.
  • Set Realistic Goals:   Trying to squeeze into your size 28's when you're a size 40 by next week or losing 20 pounds to get into that dress for next Tuesday's party is NOT a good idea.  Instead, try keeping it real people. Like how about making sure to weight lift 3 times a week or going for a walk during your lunch break twice a week?  Or how about taking the stairs as opposed to elevators or walking the dog longer each day?  These may seem like small steps, but over time they add up to big changes!
  • Reward Yourself:  You know what?  You've successfully reached a goal for the week, so why not pat yourself on the back?  You deserve it.  There's nothing more motivating than knowing there's a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  After you reward yourself though, keep your head in the game.  Start thinking about next weeks goal and next week's reward.
  • Schedule Your Exercise:  You have to make exercise a priority in your life, so pencil it in like you do with everything else that's important.  Drive the kids to school, check.  Fed the dog, check. Paid the bills, check.  The point is to make it happen.  For example, if you know your day's going to be hectic, then get your workout in at the beginning of the day.  Or, if you know you got a 2 hour gap before picking up the kids, spend 40 minutes of that working out. 
  • Tell Everybody:   The more people you tell, the more people you'll have to answer to.  From what I've noticed telling people always yields good results and here's why:
    • 1) You got your Nay-Sayers:  These are the folks that give you that "There's no way in HELL you're going to stick to a fitness program" look.  These are my favorite folks.  These are the people I LOVE to prove wrong as the pounds drop  :-)  Next, you got  . . .
    • 2) The Cheerleaders:  In a perfect world these are the guys that have your back and make sure to cheer you on when you decide to have baked chicken with brown rice and steamed broccoli instead of a cheeseburger.  These are the guys that pat you on the back when you've returned from the gym after driving in 30 degree weather.  And finally, there's . . .
    •  3) The Crew:  These are the best guys of all.  These are the folks you've motivated so much that they've decided to follow YOUR lead and make fitness a life long commitment as well.  They ask you for advice, become workout buddies and share tips & tricks they've discovered.  These guys become your support group.
  • Visualize: I'm a big believer in visualization.  Everything starts in the mind, so if you think it, you can make it happen.  This is ALL about positive thinking.  If you desire that six pack, picture yourself with it.  See yourself on a hot, sunny day walking down the beach.  You're turning the head of every person there as they admire your physique while you walk along the sand.  Picture this over and over and over again.  Let it be one of your first thoughts when you wake up and one of your last thoughts before you go to bed.  In due time, you'll have that six pack.
  • Document:  Keeping a Workout and Food journal is a great way to stay on track.  Personally, there's something about seeing everything on paper.  For me, it makes it real and legitimate . . . kind of like a contract.  Also, documenting your program helps you keep track of your progress, your various routines and what does or doesn't work for you.
  • Have a Fun: Who says working out has to be lame?  One way to guarantee sticking with a program is to find something you enjoy doing.  Whether it be hiking or Tae-Bo or  soccer or handball . . . it doesn't matter.  Just do it.  If you like it, you'll commit to it.
I hope these few basic tips were helpful.

In Fitness and In Health,
Icela

Monday, December 27, 2010

Plan of Attack!

Ok, since this isn’t my first attempt at trying to get into shape for a show, I’ve decided to devise a “Plan of Attack” this time around that will ensure I do a better job at adhering to my goal of competing.


Here’s a list of what I did this morning:
1. Pick a Show


Before anything, I needed to pick a show that was far enough away to allow me time to be prepared, but not too far away where I felt I could afford to slack every once in a while.  I’m currently an amateur Figure athlete with the INBF (International Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness).  However, since I’m doing things differently this time, I’ve opted to look into the NPC (National Physique Committee).  The first local show is Steve Stone's NPC Metropolitan Bodybuilding, Figure & Fitness Championships on Saturday, April 9th, 2011 in Manhattan.  This one's perfect!  It gives me 15 weeks, (as of  yesterday, Sunday, December 26th, 2010), which is ample time to get ready.


2. Clean Out The Cupboard


When I got up this morning I cleaned house. I went through the fridge and cabinets and got rid of everything I knew I shouldn’t eat for the next fifteen weeks (ex. soda, frozen food, ice cream, etc.). I also got rid of stuff that was just sitting there, rotting.


3. Food Shopping -
This next step was pretty obvious. I headed over to Trader Joe and Stop N Shop and stocked up on good eats. I bought a ton of eggs, veggies, fruits, nuts and other edibles I know I can consume.

4. Devise a W orkout Plan

Since I'm getting back into a groove, I'm going to correct a mistake that I kept repeating in the past by starting off slow, as opposed to going all out and crazy.  "What does this mean?", you may be asking.....I'm keeping my workout routine very basic and very simple to start me off.  It's a nice way to ease my body into the idea of being active again.  One major mistake people make when they start a fitness program is that they go overboard and feel the need to workout HARD everyday in order to see results.  Muscle has a memory, so if you've been consistently active in the past it won't take long for your body to get back into the swing of things.  Working slow and steady towards a goal yields better results.  For the next 3 weeks I plan to do 3 days of Full Body Circuits and 3-4 days of cardio.  I'll get into why I chose this method in a later blog.  By Week 12, I'll change up my program.

5. Keep a Food Journal -   

A definite rule of thumb in body transformation is food journaling, which means writing down everything you consume.   It can be very shocking to see how much you actually consume (or don’t consume for some of you) when it’s staring right back at you in black in white.  By writing everything down, you can go back and see how certain foods affect your weight, mood and appetite.

6. Progress Photos

How are you supposed to know how far you’ve come without knowing where you started?. . by photographing your progress. Another important rule in body transformation is to take pictures and keep track of  your measurements. This step is also helpful when it comes to staying motivated. There’s no greater feeling than seeing the numbers getting smaller and smaller week by week. I’ll be taking my photos and measurements and posting them for all the world to see by the end of the week!  I’ll reassess this plan every two weeks and check for progress.

Well that’s it for today folks.


In Fitness & In Health,
Icela

Sunday, December 26, 2010

My Fitness History

Hello Fitness Enthusiast!!  I thought it would be interesting to discuss what sparked my interest in fitness to begin with. . . . That journey began about 12 years go . . . .YEESH!! It freaks me out just to say it!

 I had just graduated from college and was getting over a nasty break-up when I took a long hard look at myself and didn’t like what I saw. I was at least 30 pounds overweight and on a 5 foot 3 ½ inch frame, it made me look like a hobbit. After getting over my appearance, I noticed a fitness magazine at the grocery store. The model on the cover had an amazing, toned and athletic body . . . the type of body I admired. I bought the magazine and started reading up on healthy eating. I took another long hard look at myself, but this time the focus was my eating habits. To sum it up, I have 2 words for you . . . . GOOD LORD! I was amazed at the amount of food I had been consuming. I was having 5-6 large meals a day that comprised of things like bagels, pizza, cheeseburgers, French fries, pasta and lots and lots of SODA!!


I immediately decided to change my eating habits but instead of going cold turkey, I did it in stages over a span of 3 months.


Stage 1 – was going from eating 5-6 large meals a day to 5-6 small deals a day. I cut the amount of food I was eating at each meal in half. That change alone helped me drop 10 pounds immediately.  The reason being, small frequent meals aid in easier digestion and keep your metabolism working, thus making your body burn calories constantly.


Stage 2 – involved me reducing the amount of junk food I was having. I stopped having french fries with burgers and switched to potato chips.  I went from regular soda to diet, started drinking more water and completely got rid of candy bars and ice cream. This change helped me drop another 5 pounds.


Stage 3 – was cutting out fast food all together and eating more whole and natural foods. This meant having to do a lot more cooking and bringing my food with me to work more often. I incorporated omelette’s, whole wheat pasta and bread, chicken salads, yogurt and tuna into my diet. This change helped me drop another 5 pounds.


 At this point I had my eating habits under control and I had started incorporating cardio sessions here and there, but I still didn’t look like that model on the cover of the fitness magazine. I, like many women, wasn’t really interested in weightlifting because I was afraid I would bulk up and end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger or something. But after researching and reading several articles, there was no denying that in order to look like that model, I’d have to start lifting weights, so I did. . . . and that was the best decision I could have ever made. My body transformed itself from soft and skinny to hard and full. I was very happy with the results and was approached several times about competing in figure shows, this was in 2006.


Competing had never crossed my mind but I decided to give it shot and made it another goal to achieve since I had accomplished so much with my body. I was completely clueless on the subject of Figure competitions so I hooked up with Cathy Savage, the guru of fitness/figure training based out of Massachusetts. Cathy, along with her staff, trained me via her online service and I was on my way. I looked into several different federations and decided on the INBF. I liked the fact that they were a drug testing, natural organization. Plus they held several local shows a year. I set my sights on INBF’s Long Island Experience show in September of 2006.


At the time of my decision I had 12 weeks to get ready. Preparing for the show was, by far, the most difficult but funniest experience I’ve ever had. The time and dedication required to train and stick to a strict diet was grueling, but watching my body transform to another level was incredible!


There’s no other feeling like it. By the time I hit the stage, I felt comfortable and proud. Although, I did not place I went home overjoyed (the pic above is from my first show)! I wanted to strike while the iron was hot and decided to compete at another show a month later, INBF’s NYS Natural in Poughkeepsie, NY (October 2006). I trained even harder and came in 7th (the pic below is from my 2nd show).


There were more girls at this show and I was very happy with my placing. The following year, 2007, I competed at another INBF show in October. I came in 2nd place this time! I can’t even put into words how I felt that day . . . . it was magic!


Unfortunately, with the good comes the bad. Life happens and I got caught up with other things, one of which was a brand new job. Fitness was no longer a priority and as a result, I ended up gaining 20 pounds. I could go on and on about how this ended up happening, but who cares. I’m sure all of you can relate to a time in your life where you were bombarded with all sorts of unexpected responsibilities . . . . so let’s just fast forward three years. It’s now the end of 2010 and I’m ready to get back on stage.  I hope my story was insightful, if not, entertaining.  See ya!


In Fitness & In Health,
Icela

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Why You Ask, I'll Tell You. . .


Hi everyone,  I’m not ashamed to admit it but I have tried to start a blog on two separate occasions. . .both times failing.  This past year has been very emotional and eye-opening for me.  I quit my job in the spring and spent the rest of the year working on a film project as co-writer, director, producer and shooter.  The film project is ongoing but like any other major event in your life, once you get heavily involved with it, what used to be a priority gets pushed to the backseat.   This, unfortunately, is what happened to most of the goals I had set for myself for the year.    How do I know?  Because I make a list at the end of every year and I recently found the one I wrote December 23rd, 2009.

The list was broken up into immediate goals and long-term goals, making a total of 39 goals.  Sadly, only 7 goals were crossed out.  Most people would be disappointed at seeing this, but I was not.  As a matter of fact, the list inspired and excited me.  I have so many things to look forward to, two of them being getting back into shape so that I can return to the stage as a Figure Competitor.

This is where I believe the blog can be a helpful tool.  There’s a lot that goes into being a Figure competitor.  Dedication and consistency is vital.  Documenting my journey daily is a great way to keep me focussed and remind me of what it is I’m trying to achieve . . . . to COMPETE.  I also hope to inspire folks who are looking for motivation to get back into shape.  Starting a fitness regimen can feel like a very lonely task.  It helps knowing there's someone else out there going through the same ups and downs.  Plus, this is the perfect time to get started.  A new year always feels like a fresh start! 

I’m also hoping that my blog sheds more light on a female population that is often misrepresented and misunderstood, the Figure Athlete.  I can't even tell you how many times I get strange looks when I explain what Figure competitions are and why I do them.  Following along as I prepare for one  should clear things up.

Well, that’s it for now everyone.

In Fitness & In Health,
Icela