The Latest From Top Fitness

Creating a Workout Plan

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So many people head to the gym with no idea of where to go or how to reach their fitness goals. They aimlessly wander around the weight machines for a bit before parking themselves on an elliptical for 30 minutes and calling it a day. There’s nothing wrong with the elliptical, but it’s not going to drastically change your fitness level if you don’t incorporate other elements into your workout regimen. Here are some tips for creating the best workout plan for your fitness goals.

Make a Goal

Before you head blindly into the gym, you should decide what your individual fitness goals are. Do you simply want to get in better shape? Maintain your current level of fitness? Lose weight? Run a half marathon? Your end goal will shape your plan, determining how often you work out and the types of exercises you do. Don’t go overboard at first, though. If you’ve never run a day in your life, maybe try reaching for a 5K race before jumping right into marathon training. 

Create a Timeline

Once you’ve decided on a goal, set a date by which you want to have achieved it. You’ll want it to be close enough that you don’t lose your motivation, but not so close that it’s impossible. You can also set mini-goals for yourself along the way. If you want to lose ten pounds in three months, try setting a six-week goal to lose five pounds. That way you’ll be even more motivated when you see the smaller results, too. When you’re making and finalizing your workout plan, be honest about how many days a week you can reasonably commit to exercising. You don’t want to run a 5K race in three weeks if you only have two days a week to run.

Choose A Workout

After you’ve set a goal and created a timeline, you’ll need to determine the best workouts and exercises that will help you achieve your goal. If you want to complete a triathlon, you know you’ll need to incorporate running, cycling and swimming into your regular routine. If you want to build muscle, you’ll need to lift weights a few times per week. Make sure you’re not solely focused on one particular exercise. You’ll benefit even more if you cross train than if you stick to the same thing day in and day out.

Enlist Some Help

Many gyms offer a complimentary fitness assessment and personal training session when you join, so you should definitely take advantage of that. They’ll be able to show you some of the machines around the gym and come up with a reasonable plan for you to follow. You can even sign up for a few paid sessions with a personal trainer for a more in-depth and personalized plan. Try setting goals with a fitness-savvy friend who can help keep you on track.

Pencil It In

The best workout plan in the world is ineffective if you don’t follow through. Whatever you’ve decided on, stick to the plan. If you’ve committed to four days a week at the gym, find a way to make it there. Put it in your calendar, phone, planner or wherever else to make sure that you make it there.

Close Your Eyes and Dream Yourself Thin

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The mind-body connection fascinates me. The human brain is by far the most powerful super computer in the world, and is capable of many miracles if you set your mind to it.

The most overlooked part of training for most people is the brain. The power that mindset has to influence results in your body is not often discussed, but is a secret that elite athletes and performers use every day – even if they don’t think about it.

In this post we are going to focus on visualization. You might have heard of athletes or other performers using visualization as a way to improve performance and focus in their training. Have you ever considered how you can use visualization to improve your training and performance?

Visualization and the powerful effects your imagination can have on your reality were first documented by plastic surgeon Maxwell Maltz in his seminal book ‘Psycho Cybernetics.’ In the book, Maltz refers to your subconscious mind as an automatic mechanism that acts on your imagination to create in reality what you see in your mind.

He states that, depending on your mindset, you have either an automatic success mechanism, or an automatic failure mechanism built into your brain. Obviously an automatic success mechanism sounds more useful, right?

Further, by using the power of your automatic success mechanism, you are tapping into some of that untold computing power and letting that go to work on creating your success in reality.

The Self-Image

The self-image is the view that you hold of yourself, in your mind. It is how you perceive yourself, the kind of person you believe yourself to be. It is malleable and depends a lot on the language that you use when talking to or about yourself.

For example, someone who sees themselves as a fit, healthy person that enjoys working out and values eating right is not going to struggle too much to meet their fitness goals. Meanwhile, someone who thinks of themselves as lazy, unmotivated and a junk food lover is going to struggle.

The simple explanation is that the latter person’s self-image does not match that of a fit, healthy person. They cannot engage in the required behaviors to become fit and healthy, because in their mind, that is not who they are.

This is extremely powerful and is why some people are what you might call ‘naturals’, while others continue to struggle. You cannot use willpower to ‘hack’ your self-image. The subconscious mind is too strong and will always win out.

This leaves us with one key understanding. To create change, we must change our self-image.

How do we change our self-image?


We can use the power of visualization to change how we perceive ourselves. It’s not easy, and it can take time, but it is the ‘missing link’ for a lot of people. Even with the best of intentions, setting meaningful goals, lots of willpower and even professional help, if the self-image does not change, you will not see the results you’re hoping for.

Sometimes the self-image changes naturally as you start to see positive results, but the more you can ensure it changes the better your results will be.

You want to build a really strong vision of where you want to be. You want to be able to see and more importantly feel what it will be like to achieve your goals.

Your body does not know the difference between reality and imagination. If you can create the feelings of success in your mind, it will go to work creating the feelings of success in reality.

Here’s how to do it:

This is a skill that will become easier with practice. It might be difficult and fuzzy to begin with, but with repeated effort it will become easier, more vivid and more powerful.

Spend a couple of minutes with your eyes closed imagining yourself with your dream body. Think about how you will look. Think about the outfit you would wear, the way you would move, the look on your face.

Think about how you will feel, knowing that you have achieved this. How you will feel in certain situations – say a social situation. How will other people react to you? The compliments they will give, questions they will ask, or even the way the opposite sex checks you out.

Think about the internal dialogue you would have. Think about how you will feel while getting dressed, while getting undressed, when going shopping for clothes.

What you are trying to do is go into a life-like visualization that is based on feelings. When you trigger the right feeling, the imagery will follow and with it, all of the other senses.

It’s the feelings that really make an impact. Human beings are feeling machines that can think – not thinking machines that can feel. Get the feelings driving the thinking and you unlock a powerful asset for creating change in your life.

Bringing It Back to Reality

The power of the visualization is how it builds the belief that you are the sort of person who achieves the results you’re hoping for. The more clearly you can imagine it, the stronger your belief becomes and the more your self-image lines up with that of someone who is in great shape.

When you perceive yourself as that fit, healthy person, implementing the required behaviors to achieve it feels natural. It no longer feels like a battle, trying to do things that you are not naturally predisposed to doing. Now it is just who you are. You default to the behaviors of that fit, healthy person.

Putting it to action and making it a reality simply becomes a matter of time. The more powerful your visualization, the more excitement and motivation you will feel to achieve it.

Why Sleep Is Important for Weight Loss

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When you are trying to lose weight, there are certain things you know you should do. You give up on sugar and junk foods in favor of eating more vegetables, lean protein and complex carbohydrates. You hit the gym regularly and try to move as much as possible throughout the day. What you may not realize, though, is that getting enough sleep is a very important part of losing weight.

The amount of sleep you get directly affects your diet. People who are sleep deprived tend to weigh more and have more trouble losing weight than those who get adequate rest, even when they follow the same diet. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body over produces the hunger causing hormones leptin and ghrelin. You could be more susceptible to overeating, while at the same time being less satisfied afterward.

People who consistently get less than six hours of sleep also show glucose and insulin levels and characteristics similar to diabetics, even if they are otherwise very healthy. Your fat cells lose their ability to properly use insulin. As your body becomes more resistant to insulin, it will produce more and more in order to function. This leads to fat buildup and could eventually lead to diseases like diabetes.

Not getting enough sleep also makes your more stressed out, which in turn makes it more difficult for you to control your appetite. A sleep-deprived body will produce more of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol triggers the reward center in your brain and makes you crave food. The combination of more cortisol and more ghrelin mean that you’ll need to eat more food than you normally would in order to feel satisfied.

Lack of sleep can also lead you to crave more sugary or salty foods and make you less likely to be able to say no to unhealthy treats. Sleeping helps refresh your mind and your decision-making processes. Exhaustion reduces your mental clarity and judgment, so you’re more likely to reach for that donut in the office when you’d normally have a piece of fruit.

Not getting enough rest can also severely impact your time at the gym. Your body and muscles need time to repair while you sleep so you can push yourself the next day. You produces the most growth hormone while you’re sleeping, which helps burn fat as well as repair and build muscles so you can increase strength and lose weight. Not to mention, if you’re exhausted, you’re much more likely to skip the gym. Even if you do make it out, you won’t have the energy to train to the best of your ability. A decent night’s sleep will help keep you energized and motivated through your workout.

It can be difficult to get enough sleep every night. Between work, family, responsibilities, planning and cooking healthy meals and consistent exercise, sleep can get put on the backburner. But if you really want to be healthy and loose weight, make your nightly shuteye a priority. 

6 Tips and Tricks for Walking Safety

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Walking SafetyWalking can be an extremely relaxing, healthy, and enjoyable activity. Unfortunately, vehicle traffic (and even crime) can make it dangerous to do on the roads. From pretending you’re invisible to investing in some reflective gear, here are some helpful rules and tips you need to follow to make sure you avoid any serious injuries.

*Note, many of these tips also apply to running so if you also enjoy a jog then you can implement these as well.

1.  Walk Against Traffic

First off, you should walk against the stream of traffic if there are no specific walking routes, bike paths, or sidewalks. This allows cars to see you from a distance and more importantly allows you to see cars as well. Walking in the dark can be dangerous with cars on the road so this way you’ll be able to see the cars headlights coming towards you and they’ll be able to see your reflective vest or jacket (assuming you’ve got yours on, which you should).

2.  Be Seen to Be Safe

Walking Safety Ideas

This brings us on to the next tip which is to wear appropriate clothing. Bright, reflective clothing is best so that headlights reflect off of them to alert drivers and cyclists as to where you are. Carrying a flashlight when it’s dark is also a must as cyclists don’t have headlights so if they’re riding on the pavement they won’t be able to see you. You can also get headlamps as well if you want to keep your hands free. Suddenly those bright leg warmers and head gear from the 80s doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.

Get Some Reflective Gear

A good step toward night walking safety is to invest in some reflective gear.  Even some running shoes nowadays have reflective strips on the heels and a lot of tracksuits have reflective stripes. If not, you can always purchase reflective strips online to stick on to your clothing, shoes, or backpack. You can also find reflective vests and reflective belts now which are very useful and comfortable. Avoid all dark clothing that’s black, blue, or navy as you’ll blend into the darkness. A white t-shirt is better than nothing. Drivers and cyclists out in the morning or late at night won’t be on the lookout for walkers so you have to do as much as possible to make yourself visible.

3. Bring a Friend

Walking with a partner is also good way to increase your visibility as you’ll take up more space. This will not only make your training more safe but also more enjoyable. If you don’t have a partner then at least let someone know your walking route and how long you’re expecting to be gone for so that if you’re gone for an unusually long amount of time then they can take appropriate action.

Safe Walking

4.  You Can’t See Me

One weird trick is to pretend that you’re invisible. If you act as though everyone else can’t see you then you’ll do everything you can to avoid incident. You need to assume that other people can’t see you opposed to assuming cyclists and motorists know exactly where you are at all times. Keep an eye on your surroundings and stay alert. If you’re listening to music then turn it down so as not to distract you from what’s going on around you. Taking one ear phone out is also a good idea. This doesn’t mean to not listen to music at all as it can be extremely motivational and entertaining. Simply keep it at a suitable level or even consider listening to podcasts which make it easier to hear other things going on.

5.  Be Aware of Danger Zones

If you’re walking late at night then be sure to avoid problem areas such as places densely populated with bars, clubs, or restaurants. These places can accumulate a lot of high-risk drivers due to the amount of drugs and alcohol present.

Additionally, any areas that become busy when it’s rush hour are wise to avoid at these times. Instead, take a more scenic route with less cars and motorists.

Late at night and in the morning are particularly dangerous times to be out as drivers and cyclists can be tired and therefore not be concentrating properly. Watch out if you do have to go out at these times as overtired drivers and cyclists are a real hazard.

6.  Get Loud

Make sure to carry some form of noise maker. Whistles, alarms, and beepers are all great for alerting anyone in your vicinity of an attack if the circumstance so happens. You can now buy certain devices that will make a particularly loud noise for a certain amount of time once pushed. This means that the attacker has no way of stopping the noise and anyone within hearing distance should come to your aid. These devices can be easily attached to your keys or be worn as a bracelet or necklace and can be purchased from stores such as Amazon online.

Walking is a great way to keep fit and mobile at all ages.  Just remember, when you’re out and about to always keep your wits about you and make sure you’re visible with bright clothing or reflective running gear. Just because you haven’t had an incident yet doesn’t mean that it can’t or won’t happen. Stay smart and stay safe.

Choosing the Right Yoga Class for Your Personality

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If you’ve tried yoga and thought it wasn’t for you, it may be time to give it another try. There are literally hundreds of styles of yoga, but finding the right yoga class to fit your personality can be a challenge. In this quick guide, I’ve outlined some of the most popular forms of yoga to help you determine which style is right for you.


Hatha Yoga

Focusing on straightforward postures and moving at a relaxed pace with plenty of time for individual instruction, Hatha yoga is great for beginners. Poses can be easily modified to meet the needs of just about everyone, including the disabled. If you’re looking for a gentle introduction to yoga, Hatha is a great choice.

Hatha is a poor choice for those that are competitive, goal oriented, easily bored or those who feel the need to break a sweat at every single workout.


Iyengar Yoga

If you’re detail oriented, Iyengar yoga might be for you. Focusing on precise alignment, Iyengar yoga takes a deep dive into the anatomical details of each posture, and incorporates the use of various props to bring each student into precise alignment before moving onto the next posture. Poses are often held for extended periods, with a focus on quality rather than quantity in an individual session. Iyengar is a type of Hatha yoga, and it’s ideal for perfectionists.

If you found Hatha yoga to be a poor fit, Iyengar is also likely not for you. If you’d rather concentrate on the bigger picture than the details, or you’re at all impatient, try a different style.


Vinyasa Yoga

Constantly in motion, vinyasa yoga classes seamlessly move from one position to another in time with the breath, and practitioners often break a sweat as they work to keep pace. The more popular “vigorous vinyasa” is an excellent strength training workout that can be scaled up to challenge even world class athletes, though there are always modifications to keep classes accessible to beginners. A great choice for the competitive, easily bored and sweat loving athlete, vinyasa keeps you on your toes, and is the opposite of both Hatha and Iyengar in that it leaves little time for quiet contemplation.

If you’re easily confused or need detailed instruction to follow along, vinyasa will likely leave you behind in the dust.


Yin Yoga

Just the opposite of Vinyasa, Yin yoga is about cultivating depth in just a few positions in a session, each of which is held for 5 to 20 minutes as the instructor slowly guides you deeper into the pose. The goal is to allow ample time to slowly stretch muscles and connective tissue for increased flexibility. The slow nature of the practice gives it a meditative quality, as each practitioner waits in quiet contemplation for their tissues to release. A great practice for both the goal oriented and those specifically looking for the mental anxiety/stress reduction aspects of yoga.

If you’re convinced that all exercise is about movement, or you’re at all impatient, yin yoga may leave you unsatisfied.


Ashtanga Yoga

Broken up into the primary, intermediate and advanced series, students move at their own pace through a preset series of poses. Unlike most group yoga classes, Ashtanga is often taught “Mysore” style, where each student is independently working on their own while the instructor walks around providing guidance and helping where necessary. Ashtanga is a great choice for the individualist and the self-motivated, as well as the goal oriented, because in strict Ashtanga classes, a student cannot move onto the next pose until they have mastered the one before it, and many of the positions are quite challenging.

If you prefer to follow the flow of the class rather than going it alone, avoid Ashtanga.


Power Yoga

Usually incorporating aspects of Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga, power yoga is about cultivating strength. Focusing on the physical rather than the spiritual, this type of yoga often omits the spiritual portion of yoga all together. The practice is meant to generate heat, by moving quickly from one challenging pose to another, and can burn as many calories as an intense aerobic workout. Looking to perfect your handstand, improve your cross-fit game or seriously impress your friends? Power yoga is a great choice.

If you’re looking for a slow paced active recovery, or you’re not in particularly good shape to start with, power yoga is not for you.


Acro Yoga

Preformed in pairs or groups, Acro Yoga is great for social athletes. Rather than turning inward to focus on your own practice, this form of yoga has you work together to balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes referred to “circus yoga,’ the most common form acro has a “base” that supports a “flyer” while they move though poses in the air. This is the perfect form of yoga for those that love interacting with others, and enjoy the “performance” aspect of group exercise.

If you’d rather go it solo, dislike performing in front of others, or would just rather stay firmly rooted to the ground, stick to more traditional yoga styles.