6 WAYS TO GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE

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Very often in life, we get used to living a monotonous routine. Whether we are working as professionals in the corporate sector or running our individual business or even taking care of our families and home, we all tend to get into the vicious cycle of monotony. We may not realise, but several important aspects of our life get compromised as a result of this. Fitness being one of the most important aspect among them.

People often claim “time constraint” as a big reason for avoiding daily exercise. Well, I consider that more of an excuse than a reason. Every single day of life is precious and we all have the equal time of 24 hours everyday. And you cannot afford to say that you need an extra hour from out-of-nowhere just for exercise. Another reason why I consider “time constraint” to be an excuse (most of the times) is because I feel the actual reason is that people are often not ready to get out of their comfort zone. Not only those who do not work-out at all; in several instances, people who hit the gym daily or go for running/jogging everyday get into a comfortable rut of monotony.

If you want to see results, then you have to walk out of this comfort zone. No excuses. Here I suggest you a few ways to accomplish that and get the results you aspire for:

  1. Check your habit patterns: Keep a close look on your habit loops. If you have been trying to be a morning person to get some time for your workout, go to bed early. Keep your exercising shoes by your bed side so that the moment you get down from your bed, you remind yourself that the most important task to be done is to start working out 🙂
  2. Do not feed your self-destructive behaviours: You know that you are gaining weight and it’s high time that you start losing it. Each time to try to squeeze yourself into those pair of stretchy pants you realise it even more. That’s ok. It is a reminder for you to start exercising. Do not go shopping for XL sized clothes instead. That’s really sad. This is not going to help you in anyway. Stop feeding into such negative behaviours.
  3. There’s always a first time: It’s OK if you have never exercised before. Start doing it today. Remember there are no excuses. Exercising does not necessarily mean getting enrolled into a gym or buying expensive exercise gear and other equipments. You can shed all that weight just using your own body; start your own body-weight training.

For all those who do hit the gym or go running comfortably, here  are the ways to get out of your comfort zone i.e. your fitness rut:

1.Intensify your workout: Increase your speed on that exercise cycle or on that treadmill. Increase the intensity. If you do weight training, increase the weight slowly. If you have been working out with 5 lbs for the last 2 months, change it. Nothing is going to change unless you start getting uncomfortable.

2.Try something new: There are hundreds of new workouts that you can try. Join a spinning class, learn mixed martial arts class, try cross-fit, run a marathon or go zumba / aqua zumba. Not only will it be fun and a new learning experience but will also challenge your body in a new way and bring visible results.

3.Raise the bar: Remember, if you are determined enough to work-out everyday , you also have the capability to work-out even harder. Raise your bar, workout harder, faster. If today you did 25 sit-ups, make sure tomorrow you do 30. Keep challenging yourself. You can do it. Get the mental make-up and push yourself really hard.

So, get out of your comfort zone today 🙂

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Water Weight ???

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Ever since I started writing this blog, a very good friend of mine (who is also a fitness freak) has been requesting me to write an article on “Water Weight”. Well, everyone knows that ‘drinking lots of water’ is good for health. You read it in your favorite health columns, your mom asks you if you are drinking enough water, your doctor advises you to drink at least 4-5 litres of water everyday and so on & so forth. But do you know about the role of water in weight-loss issues especially if you are working really hard in getting those washboard abs?

 It’s a simple but very important concept in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and your overall fitness goals. Water weight is nothing but part of your body weight created due to retention of water by your body. Ok! So your body stores up water, what is wrong with that or why get concerned about it anyways? Do you need to shed off this water weight? If yes, how?

All the answers lie in understanding this concept properly. By water weight, I mean excess body weight due to “bloating”. It does not mean that something is wrong with your kidneys and so your body is retaining water. Your body retains water when:

  1. There is excess intake of sodium: If you all remember school level science, you might remember the concept of osmosis. Here’s what it means if you don’t remember it. In simple words, it is nothing but the tendency of a system to maintain a balance of solute concentration on both the sides of a semi-permeable membrane. And here’s why I just bored you up explaining this concept – “When you consume food that has a lot of sodium but you do not consume enough water, your body holds back as much water as possible to maintain a that sodium-water osmotic balance in your body.” As a result, you get bloated meaning you gain water weight.
  2. You do not exercise: Working out is a great way of sweating which in turn is a great way of releasing excess salts from your body.When you do not workout at all and you happily live a sedentary lifestyle, your body has no other option, but to retain water to maintain the solute-solvent ratio of your body.
  3. You do not drink enough water: This is the most important amongst all the reasons. You know it really well that water is the best fluid for your body. But still you never drink enough of it. Whenever you feel thirsty, you will grab a bottle of your favorite aerated drink or have a cup of tea/coffee but you will never give a second thought to water. If this is the way you behave, then obviously you poor body has to hold back as much water as possible.

**A little fact to be known (especially for all women out there): “Touch your belly. Can you feel that spongy lower abdominal pooch? Besides unhealthy fat, your body is also storing considerable water in that region. See, this where you are going to get all excited about knowing ways to get rid of that retained water and jump into the next para :)”

So, here’s what is needed to be done to shed off the water weight and stay away from gaining it

  1. Drink up: The best and the simplest solution is to drink enough water. Drink at least 3-4 and at most 4-5 litres of water everyday. Your body would not feel dehydrated and so, it will stop retaining water 🙂
  2. Keep a check on your sodium intake: Sodium is naturally present in all the food that you eat. And obviously, you sprinkle enough of it while cooking as per your individual taste buds. Then why consume extra of it? Cut down on those unhealthy snacks, potato chips, fatty dips-ketchups and all forms of deep fried junk.
  3. Exercise: See, here I give you another reason to love exercise. Working out will help you sweat and stay away from those water pounds in a very healthy manner. It’s always a win-win situation 🙂
  4. Consume high fibre food:  High fibrous food contain a good amount of water. They are great for your digestive system and are a natural way of staying away from gaining water weight.
  5. Love Potassium: Potassium is a very essential element in maintaining many important bodily functions. So consume potassium rich foods like Bananas, White Beans, Dark Leafy Vegetables, Papayas, Pumpkins, Avocados etc. It will help you in maintaing your body’s natural solute-solvent balance very easily.

Now here’s another reason to love drinking water – Research has shown that during several occasions, your body mimics dehydration as hunger. So the next time, you get food cravings even after having a wholesome meal, realise it’s time to drink enough water 🙂

Another important point: If you have trouble drinking plain water, you can always create your own flavoured water by adding a twist of lemon, orange, green tea or mint into your bottle of chilled water.

Remember there are no excuses. Drink your way to good health 🙂

The King of Fruits- MANGO

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Since the Indian food markets are flooded with mango these days, I wanted to write an article on the nutritional benefits of this delicious fruit 🙂 Mangoes are bright,yellow-orange coloured tropical fruits. They have an amazing sweet taste. But there is more to their qualities than their colour and taste. Let me share with you the nutritional and health benefits of consuming this wonder fruit.

1.Mangoes lower your triglyceride levels: Levels of triglycerides in your bloodstream is directly related to your heart health. Triglycerides are a type of fat present in the bloodstream that the body uses for energy. Higher levels of triglycerides are a direct indication of heart diseases. Research has shown that consuming freshly cut mangoes lead to significant decrease in triglyceride levels. Hence adding a mango to your daily healthy diet can help you manage healthy triglyceride levels.

2.Mangoes are high in dietary fibre: We all know that benefits of consuming fibres. They not only promote digestive function but also help us in controlling our appetite and elevate levels of good cholesterol. Hence, when hungry, instead of binging on unhealthy carbs like chips, pretzels and muffins; choose to have a bowl of sweet ripened mango 🙂

3.Mangoes boost up your immune system: Since they are very high in content of Vitamin C and beta-carotene (an antioxidant), mangoes are extremely helpful for your immune system. The scorching heat of the summer has considerable potential to challenge your immunity. Consuming mangoes will help you fight against various forms of infections and heal itself.  They also promote eye,skin, intestinal and urinary tract health.

4.Mangoes help you maintain a healthy weight: Taa daaa…..this one is the best,isn’t it! 🙂 Mangoes are source of natural healthy sweetener or fructose. Unlike artificial sweeteners and unhealthy sugars present in packaged juices, desserts, processed foods etc.,the sugar in mangoes do not threaten our blood sugar levels. Blood sugar levels have an intricate relationship with maintaining a healthy weight. Hence, replace your unhealthy snacks and desserts with a sweet, ripe mango to stay healthy and in shape.

So, enjoy this summer fruit happily. Whether you make a healthy mango shake with some skimmed milk or serve yourself a bowl of chilled mangoes or add pieces of mangoes to your favorite salad, consume this summer health fruit and stay healthy.

Learning Portion Control

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It is extremely important to understand the concept of Food Portion Control for maintaining a healthy weight and leading a healthy lifestyle. But what does it mean and how does one get into this practice?

Portion Control is nothing but limiting what you eat by being aware of the amount,nutrition and calorific value of the food being consumed. It is applicable to all kinds of food you consume irrespective of whether you are eating healthy or junk (please avoid the later as much as possible). Breakfast, lunch, snacks or dinner you need to stay aware of your limits and have controlled portions of food in every meal. Especially for all those struggling with weight loss issues, it is extremely crucial on your part to realise and get into the habit of controlling your food portion.

Let me directly take to you the steps that you can incorporate into your eating habits to get into the practice of food portion control:

  1. Eat slowly: It is scientifically proven that it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to signal to your brain that you have consumed enough food. Remember that age-old wisdom of chewing your food 32 times, well, this is the logic behind. The slower you eat, the more easily you will sense your hunger satiated. Whereas the fast you hog, the more you are going to end up eating.
  2. Serve yourself smaller portions: When serving the food on your plate from the cookware, serve smaller portions. You always have the option of taking some more if you are still hungry. What happens in most families (especially in India) is that people serve so much food on the plate that one tends to feel guilty of wasting any food. So you end up eating up the entire plate without realising your portion limits.
  3. If possible, use portion control dishware: Serve yourself in a smaller plate, bowl or cup. If you are someone who eats excessively, it will actually help you control your portions.
  4. Stop eating the moment you are full: Yes, I mean it and I want you do that. Do not go on eating, simply out of greed or courtesy. Health comes first, always. Your stomach has it’s specific capacity. Over-eating is definitely going to make you feel bloated.
  5. Eat consciously: It is very important to practice conscious eating. Talking over the phone, watching television, thinking about your office work and other distractive habits while eating are going to cost a toll on your eating habits. While eating, look at your food, chew properly, savour the taste of every bite and eat with a feeling of gratitude.
  6. Do not get attracted to “ Buy one get another meal for free” ads of your favorite food joints or get really excited when the restaurant serves you a big platter at a lower cost. Or just because a friend or your office is treating you at a super swanky restaurant, do not over-eat. Remember, ultimately all the calories are entering your system and if not burnt accordingly, will definitely cause havoc to your system.
  7. Measure oil carefully: When cooking your food, do not simply pour oil into your pan. Be conscious of the amount of the oil you are using. I am not suggesting you to pour really less and make your food taste less. Neither am I suggesting you to deep fry everything. Just stay conscious of the amount and you will know how much is required to be poured.
  8. Control portions when eating out: When eating outside order for one dish at a time and share it your friends. Ordering too much food at a time not only leads to over-eating but wastage of food and money. If possible order for a salad in the starters. As vegetables contain a large amount of water, it will satiate your hunger more easily.

Remember, every one of us have our individual food portion requirements. The amount that makes me full might be too less / too much for you or vice-versa. The most efficient way to realise our individual portion is by practising conscious eating.Also remember, food is not just fuel. It needs to enjoyed and savoured. It should not be denied or abused. Consume it with a feeling of gratitude.

    

SLEEP – THE WONDER DRUG

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Let me start by asking you all a question (answer it to yourself or leave your answer in the comment box); “When was the last time that you slept really well?” and by “really well”, I mean :

  1. You went to bed at a reasonable hour in the night,
  2. You did not have to toss and turn around the bed feeling restless,
  3. You woke up feeling really fresh,
  4. You woke up feeling really charged up  and positive looking forward to tackle your day ahead.

If you are not a religious “sleeper”, I bet the answer to this question would be “I do not remember exactly when 😦

Who would not love a good night’s sleep! But then what has went wrong in our lives that relaxed sleeping has become such a difficult task? 

Sleep has a very a intricate relationship with our personal wellbeing. It is the “PAUSE” time of our daily lives, a time to stop thinking, working and just relaxing our bodies and mind. But today’s world and workaholic lifestyles have started to completely overlook the benefits of sleep and at some levels have, in fact, developed abusive sleep behaviours. A major population today considers sleeping less as a way of increasing their productivity, a way to get more work done in the 24 hours of a day.

The science of sleep is very deep and meaningful. Although during sleep your body is in a state of total physical rest, your brain performs several complex processes in this state. A healthy adult should get an average of 8-9 hours of sleep daily.

Let me guide you through the things one must know about sleep and the do’s and don’t that will lead you to a really refreshing sleep.

  1. Sleep is one of the most important health habits. It gives your body adequate time to rest. Help your skeletal and muscular system to relax.
  2. It is extremely essential for the nervous system. Sleep soothes your nerves and boosts their performance.
  3. Sleep has a very deep impact on your cognitive abilities. The brain performs several complex processes during sleep. Research has shown that it is during sleep that your brain processes the day’s events and restores energy in it’s cells for the day ahead.
  4. A 2013 research has shown that during sleep the brain clears out harmful waste proteins that build up between it’s cells. This may reduce one’s risk of having Alzheimer’s.
  5. Sleep has a direct relationship with one’s stress levels. People with poor sleep habits are at greater risk of heart disease and diabetes.
  6. Healthy sleep boosts your decision making abilities. It helps combat feelings of helplessness, depression and loneliness.
  7. Naps are a very essential part of a healthy lifestyle. They are scientifically proven to boost one’s mental alertness, memory and creativity.
  8. Naps helps our system in preventing burnout. It aids us in returning back to our daily work feeling refreshed.
  9. As mentioned in my previous article on “Understanding Ab Flabs”, getting 8-9 hours of sleep helps us in fighting the stress hormone CORTISOL that has direct relation to our body’s fat accumulation and metabolism.
  10. Most importantly, good sleep improves our mood and helps us to remain positive and fresh. It boosts the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates our mood, appetite and feelings of contentment. So you won’t get cranky, anxious, overwhelmed or easily distracted if you sleep well 🙂

Coming to the DO’s that will help you in getting good sleep:

  1.   Keep your bed clean with a neat and tidy light coloured bed-sheet.
  2.   Get a new pillow cover.
  3.   Fix on a pair of comfortable pyjamas or other night wear that makes you sleepy 🙂
  4.   Take a nice warm shower before going to bed.
  5.   Keep your bedroom clean, cool and dark.
  6.   Use aromatic candles and room fresheners with natural fragrances you are fond of.
  7.   Keep a check on your caffeine intake. Limit the consumption of caffeinated drinks to the first half of the day.
  8.   Lead an active lifestyle; walk and exercise daily.
  9.   Practice deep breathing before going to bed (Stop worrying about things and just relax).
  10. Listen to soft meditation music if you need to nap in between work or while travelling in-flight.

Another important point, keep all your electronic gadgets away from your bed. Your mind and body getting adequate rest is much more important than checking your email or FB / Twitter updates or chit-chatting with your friends over a group messenger. All of this can be done the next day. Time is the most precious of all resources and do not waste your bed time in other activities.

I hope, by now, I have helped you all understand the importance of sleep in our daily lives. However busy you might be or whatever are the troubles of your life, REMEMBER, sleep is the wonder drug that will help you live your life to it’s best 🙂

The magic called HIIT

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With my newly found and super endearing devotion for the “Science of Exercise”, I have been spicing up my workout routines with a variety of training methods. And amongst several, the one I have truly fell in love with is High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT. It is 100% amazing and I have become a die-hard fan of this training technique. My personal reasons for loving this method is that firstly, it is simple, super time-saving and extremely effective. And secondly,it leaves me with this breathless “I am about to die” sorta feeling after each intense session, which being an exercise maniac I simply love 🙂

So, what does HIIT exactly mean, how does it differ from other workout techniques and why is it so wildly effective in burning fat.

High Intensity Interval Training is a form of cardio-vascular exercise. I guess it is more easily understood when termed as Sprint Interval Training. This means that it is the combination of short intense periods of anaerobic exercise with lesser intense resting periods. For example, you can do Burpees for 20 seconds and then jog for 10 seconds OR you sprint for 30 seconds and then walk for 60 seconds.Unlike other workout techniques, HIIT doesn’t make you go on and on with the same exercise moves for a long period of time. It is one of the most loved training techniques amongst fitness buffs worldwide.

Let me take you directly to the facts that will make you a HIIT fan as well:

  1. You burn for a long time even after you are done with the routine. Since you are constantly working out during a HIIT routine (even though there are resting periods in between), your body is unable to bring in enough oxygen into your body , especially to compensate for those high intensity reps. As a result, there is Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption or EPOC, which revs up your metabolism and fat-burning for hours after you leave the gym. Research has shown that HIIT is 50% more efficient in burning adipose tissue than prolonged duration of low intensity exercises.
  2. It is time saving and effective. A normal HIIT routine can be as short as 4 minutes and extend up to a maximum of 30 minutes. When done in proper form, it is much more effective then an hour of slogging at the gym.
  3. You can do it both anaerobically (using body weight or free weights) and aerobically with cardio. This means it has the ability to increase your anaerobic as well as aerobic endurance.
  4. HIIT hits the flabby zones much more effectively. Unlike other workout regimes, HIIT not only burns your excess blood glucose but also burns glycogen (i.e. the stored fat).
  5. It is a metabolic conditioning technique.The higher intensities in a HIIT regime boosts up muscle building growth hormones. And we all know that the more lean muscle mass we build, the more fat we shed.
  6. It improves your insulin sensitivity. We all know how important it is for our body cells to remain insulin sensitive ( I have written an entire article on this).HIIT makes your body more insulin sensitive i.e. your body cells utilise more of the blood glucose so that very less or no glucose is left to be converted into stored fat.
  7. No science but this is my personal reason to love this technique, you can never get bored doing HIIT routines 🙂

Thus, HIIT is all about intensifying your inner fat burn. However, here a few points that I would suggest you to keep in mind to see the absolute best results:

  1. Incorporate exercises that involve several muscle groups and target your entire body in designing your HIIT routine.
  2. Make sure the higher intensity exercises are challenging enough. As you stay diligent with your HIIT regime, keep raising the bar of challenges.
  3. Just like any other form of training, proper form is a must.
  4. Your diet will always play a key role. Consume your calories efficiently and effectively.

So, no more excuses. Whether you are an exercise pro or just a beginner or even someone who needs motivation; you should definitely try HIIT and feel amazed by it’s wonderful results 🙂

10.3

Rebooting Life

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One of the several things that we desperately crave for in life is ‘how to de-stress ourselves’ or rather keep save ourselves from getting stressed. STRESS…Oh, the word itself sounds so stressful! 😦 The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”. Sadly, this word has occupied a major portion of our lives today. We all feel stressed out to different proportions throughout the day. And the even sadder news is that we all have adapted to this tendency (or should I say habit) of ‘being stressed out’.

If we scan our lives carefully, we can easily find that most of these stressors of our life are self-made. We are seriously responsible for a major portion of the stresses that we suffer. Whether it is our inability to manage our time well or it is our perspective towards a particular situation, we are very much responsible for that bad and stressful mood we get into. We often allow situations in life to control us rather than us controlling them.

Life is a very precious gift and the very fact that we are living and breathing in this moment is the greatest of all joys. But why do we forget this so often until the loss of a loved one or a really tragic news hits us? Every single moment is precious. Why let stress get into our lives and divert our focus from living and make us feel miserable!

Let me share with you some thoughts that I want us all to remind ourselves, each time we get stressed and feel burnt-out; thoughts and actions that will help us every time we wish to reboot our lives and refresh our souls 🙂

  1. Focus on your breathing: There is nothing more relaxing than a few moments spent focusing just on our breath. Whenever you feel stressed out or tensed, pause your mind for a few seconds and simply focus on your breathing. This will help you in realising your own precious existence and the very fact that you are alive.
  2. Sleep well: Sleep has a very big impact on the way we behave towards different life situations. Our cognitive abilities are controlled by our sleep cycles to a large extent. Less or too less sleep impair our decision making abilities, feelings of self-content, self-worth and allows too many mood swings.
  3. Think systematically: Whenever you feel stressed out, sad or depressed, try to find out the root cause behind. Whether it is an unhealthy relationship, a dead end job, troubles in the family or a sudden health crisis; think about it systematically, figure out the best possible solution or the only solution it might have and start working upon it. Trust me, there’s no time in life to be wasted on emotional distress.
  4. Time management is life management: Learn to set your priorities and act accordingly. Effective time management requires constant self-examination. Both ‘a hurrying up all the time’ and ‘a lazing around’ attitude are unhealthy. What we need is a balanced attitude towards time and an ability to practice mindfulness, so that we are always focused on our present.
  5. Stay calm: A noisy mind can never help you figure out a solution. Practice how to stay calm. Always keep your head calm and mind focused.
  6. Change your perspective: When we learn to shift our perspective, we are able to see the silver lining in the darkest situations of life. Even when the worst tragedies hit life, it is only a change of perspective that will help us in overcoming the grief and moving ahead.
  7. Do the ‘positive self-talk’: Learning how to tame that voice in our head that always criticises us and gives us constant negative feedback about our actions and behaviours is a must. Each time negativity pops up it’s ugly head in our minds, we should wipe it out with positive self-talk. Whatever troubles you, do not forget to remind yourself of how amazing and unique you are and that you will definitely be able to make your way through the tough times.
  8. Take time to disconnect from technology and connect with your own self: Our hyper-connectivity with technology is a big stressor in our lives today. Constantly checking your Smart-phone, Email inbox, Facebook notifications, Twitter updates or Whatsapp conversations drains out (slowly but severely) a major portion of your mental energy and productivity. Keep fixed time slots for all these activities and make sure that everyday you get enough time to connect with your own self.
  9. Practice gratitude: Although I have written a complete article on this, I still can not help but mention the power of this practice again and again. Being grateful and practicing gratitude helps us develop a sunny positive attitude towards life.
  10. Listen to your inner voice: Intuition is always more powerful than intellect (if we learn how to listen to it carefully). Whenever your inner voice speaks, shut-up and listen. Never act against your conscience. It is your best mentor.

So, the next time you feel stressed out, try incorporating these thoughts and actions into your life. After all someone has rightly said; “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought after another.” 🙂

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