How to Make the Most of Your Spring Smoothie

How to Make the Most of Your Spring Smoothie

As the chill of Winter starts to fade, we gravitate towards foods that are bright, refreshing, and seasonal. And what’s more fitting for the warmer weather than the perfect Spring smoothie!

Smoothie Tips

Smoothies can be tailored for any meal, at any time – that’s what makes them so deliciously convenient! Here are five tips for making the perfect Spring smoothie:

Use a Good Blender 1. Use a Good Blender

Whether you buy a Ninja or a Vitamix, having a dependable blender is vital to smoothie making. More powerful (and expensive) blenders tend to produce silky smooth drinks, and consistency becomes important once you start using greens like kale or spinach.

2. Add Something Frozen

It’s a great idea to keep a rash of frozen fruit and vegetables on hand, just for smoothie making! If you have produce that’s starting to go bad such as bananas, berries, or pineapple – throw them in ziploc bags and add them to your smoothie stash in the freezer.

If you don’t have any frozen produce on hand, add ice!

Go Green! 3. Go Green!

Adding spinach to your smoothie is an easy way to drink your salad for the day! Spinach tends to be a much milder green that you can’t taste when it’s blended. Kale is also a great choice, but it does have a bitter taste, so it works best when blended with something sweeter, like apples or oranges.

4. Sweeten Naturally

The fruit you use will make your smoothie nice and sweet, but sometimes it’s great to add in just a little extra. Dates are a great way to add a delicious sugary taste! Stevia is also a good and healthy alternative, as is pure honey or maple syrup.

5. Load up on Healthy Extras!

You can add in all sorts of goodies to make your smoothie even more healthy! Chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, and cacao nibs are all great options. Of course, adding in a high-quality protein powder can help add bulk and nutrition to your smoothie as well.

Spring Smoothie: Chocolate Banana Mint

Here’s a delicious green, minty smoothie recipe that is perfect for Spring! Mint is a great addition to this smoothie as it promotes digestion.

Banana Chocolate Mint Smoothie
Ingredients:

  • 3 ripe frozen bananas
  • 4 dates (pitted)
  • 2 handfuls of spinach
  • 4–5 mint leaves (chopped)
  • Almond milk, unsweetened (2–3 cups depending on the consistency you prefer)
  • Cacao nibs (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a blender, combine bananas, dates, mint, spinach, and almond milk.
  2. Blend thoroughly until smooth.
  3. If consistency is too thick, add more almond milk.
  4. Pour into cups, garnish with cacao nibs, and serve cold.
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How to Strengthen Your Upper and Lower Back

How to Strengthen Your Upper and Lower Back

Core strength is a hot topic these days. But what about upper and lower back strength?

Why Back Strength Matters

You use your back for everyday movements, like picking something up off of the ground or pushing and pulling a vacuum. Your back muscles support your spine, and a weak back can lead to muscle imbalances and injury.

Your back is made up of three different muscle groups: the superficial layer, intermediate layer, and deep layer. With many back muscles layering on top of one another, it’s important to focus your workouts on each part of your back to ensure you are strengthening your back as a whole.

Here are some great exercises for strengthening your upper and lower back:

Upper/Mid-Back Exercises

Seated Back Row
Find a low pulley row machine with either a V-bar or rope. Sit down with your knees bent, feet on the front resting platform, and back straight. Make sure you are comfortable. Pull the bar or rope towards you, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Ensure that your back is straight the entire time.

Watch this video by Women’s Strength Nation for a step-by-step on how to do this exercise:

 

Wide Grip Pull Ups

Wide grip pull ups focus primarily on your lats. Your grip will be about two times the length of your shoulders. A couple of tips on pull ups, keep your body straight and avoid swinging your body, you can cross your feet or bend your knees to steady yourself.

Watch this video from LSW Health on how to execute the wide grip pull up properly.

Pull ups are easy to modify, you can purchase a band that can assist your body weight. You can also use a pull up assisted machine (which is made to assist you in pull ups), or perform negative pull ups to start. A negative pull up means that you slowly lower yourself down, the exact opposite of a normal pull up.

Lower Back Exercises

Back Extensions

Back extensions are a great exercise for strengthening your lower back. You don’t need to add on weight (by holding a weighted plate), but if you want the added challenge, you can. Find a hyperextension machine at your gym, lock your legs in firmly and cross your hands over your chest. Slowly, lower your upper body down towards the ground and up again.

Find a hyperextension machine at your gym, lock your legs in firmly and cross your hands over your chest. Slowly lower your upper body down towards the ground and up again.

Watch this video from LIVESTRONG on how to execute back extensions:

These are great, easy to execute exercises that will help you to strengthen your upper and lower back!

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Warm up Your Winter with Overnight Oats

Overnight Oats

During the winter months, you may start to crave for sunnier days. Incorporating an assortment of fruit into your diet is a great way to bring a little sunshine into your day, and this overnight oats dish is the perfect vehicle for any fruit!

Health Benefits of Oats

  • Oats contain a specific fiber called beta-glucan that can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels already within the normal range* [1]
  • They are good sources of manganese, vitamin B, zinc, and protein
  • Certain oats can last for years in your pantry

Overnight Oats Recipe Overnight Oats with Fruit

This overnight oats recipe is a quick and healthy dish guaranteed to become one of your go-to, healthy snacks! This recipe takes only minutes to prepare, is free of leading allergens such as gluten, dairy, soy and peanuts, and pairs well with any fruit!

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana
  • ¾ cup gluten-free oats
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 cup almond or coconut milk
  • A dash of vanilla
  • A sprinkle of cinnamon
  • An assortment of sliced fruit (strawberries and blueberries are a great option!)

Directions:

  1. In a dish with a sealable lid, mash one banana.
  2. Add chia seeds, oats, almond milk, vanilla, and cinnamon to the dish.
  3. Mix together and let the dish sit covered in the refrigerator overnight.
  4. Stir mixture and spoon into bowl with your choice of sliced fruit!

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

References:

[1] “Oats.” Oats. The World’s Healthiest Foods, n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

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3 Easily Overlooked Gym Machines That Are Amazing

3 Easily Overlooked Gym Machines That Are Amazing

Even for the most ardent gym goer, there are some pieces of equipment that remain a mystery. But it’s good to shake things up and try exercising outside your comfort zone every once in a while, so here are three amazing, but often overlooked gym machines:

1. Rowing Machine

If you haven’t used a rowing machine, you’re in for a fun, new workout. A total body cardio machine, the average 185-pound adult can burn close to 400 calories in just 30 minutes on the rowing machine [1].

It’s important to focus on proper form when using the rowing machine. This YouTube video from WaterRower offers an excellent tutorial on how to properly and safely use the rowing machine.

The Benefits of Rowing

  • Rapidly burn calories
  • Easy on your joints and back
  • Total body workout

Typically placed by the treadmills, elliptical machines and bikes, the rowing machine is worth seeking out on your next visit to the gym.

Rope Pulling Machine 2. Rope Pulling Machine

Rope pulling gives you all the functional benefits of climbing a rope without any of the risk!

Get ready for a fun, sweat inducing cardio and strength workout! This machine is so exhausting it’s likely you’ll only be able to last for 30 minutes on your first try. Start off with light resistance for the first 2 minutes on the machine, then slowly increase the resistance each minute until you can no longer pull the rope for the duration of 60 seconds.

The Benefits of Rope Pulling

  • Functional movement
  • Both cardiovascular and strength training
  • Increases grip strength

Most mainstream gyms have this awesome machine, with many smaller gyms starting to incorporate them as well.

Cable Crossover Machine 3. Cable Crossover Machine

If you like variety, the cable crossover machine is for you!

With the right technique, this machine can work every muscle in your body, from the pectorals through to the obliques, and help build strength and definition.

The Benefits of the Cable Crossover Machine

  • You can do all your exercises on this machine – it’s a real time-saver!
  • A hybrid of free weights and machines
  • Works your core as it stabilizes you during the movements

You’ll find these machines either sitting on their own in a corner or by the upper/lower body machines.

If you’re unsure of how to properly use any of the above machines, make sure to ask the professionals at your gym for some training.

References:

[1] Publications, Harvard Health. Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights. Harvard Health. Harvard Medical School, 27 Jan. 2016. Web. 16 Feb. 2017.

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