December 22, 2010

Happy, Healthy Holidays from bene-fit

It's that time of year - bene-fit is officially "off" for the holiday season!

Look forward to our return to the blog on Tuesday, January 4th - and it's never to early to start thinking about your health and fitness goals for the New Year.

Thanks for your support this year and we look forward to working with you in 2011.

:) Marilyn & Amanda

December 5, 2010

The Long and Short of It: Look Forward to Your Health

After watching the "where are they now" special of the popular reality television show The Biggest Loser and seeing copious advertisements for wedding-related fitness shows, I began to wonder:

What really drives these people?

For example, several of the former Biggest Loser contestants struggled to maintain their weight, with some actually returning to obesity.  The brides on the wedding shows (like the nearly obscene Bridalplasty) too often cite their big day as the sole - and temporary - motivation to get in shape, quickly retreating to bad habits after the nuptials.

As bene-fit fitness professionals, we see this all too often.  Clients come to us wanting a fast fix toward a short-term goal.  I want to get fit for my wedding.  I want to lose weight for a vacation.  I want to run my first marathon.  All of these are absolutely fine goals - but what I always want to ask is, what about after the honeymoon?  Beyond the bikini?  Past the finish line?  What do you plan to do then?

Health is a lifelong commitment.  As one tongue-in-cheek author once said, "being healthy is merely the slowest way someone can die."  Thought of another way, being healthy is also the smartest - and longest - way to live.

When fitness becomes a lifestyle, there is no finish line with legions of cheering fans, nor photographers waiting in the wings to capture your best angles.  There is typically no fanfare, no fancy clothes, no high-fives.  The truth is. the most remarkable thing about lifelong health is that it is found in the very mundane and ordinary - your daily run in your college sweatshirt, your weight-circuit routine at your local gym, or your big green salad at lunchtime.  The little things are what make a life healthy, not the grand gestures or two-week crash diets.

At bene-fit, we believe in making the little things count and taking the big things in stride.  Got twenty pounds to lose?  Start by taking the stairs; work your way up to that marathon if that's your goal.  Want to set a healthy example for your kids?  Start by joining up with a "mommy and me" fitness class alongside your little ones; work your way up to hitting a high-intensity Spin class on  your own time.  Need to rethink your unhealthy diet?  Start by adding more vegetables to each meal; work your way up to eliminating those white carbs and added sugars.  Every little bit counts, and every step in the right direction is meaningful.

So set those lofty goals, and reach them - but don't forget to think about what lies beyond a single day, week, or moment.  bene-fit is here to help you form positive habits and maintain them in the best way possible for your life, your needs, and your body.  And finally, as humorist Josh Billing once warned, "there are lots of people in this world who spend so much time watching their health that they haven't the time to enjoy it."  Make sure to take the time to find the bene-fits of staying healthy this holiday season!

November 15, 2010

Assess Your BQ: Body Intelligence Quotient

We've all heard of IQ (intelligence quotient) and perhaps even EQ (emotional-intelligence quotient) - but how many of us have ever stopped to consider our BQ (body-intellgence quotient)?  If you're anything like us here at bene-fit, you may have never heard this term or thought about why it might be central to your overall health and fitness.  However, BQ is a critical component of total-body wellness and regular BQ assessments are key.

BQ consists of three major dimensions: body awareness, body knowledge, and body engagement.  Body awareness questions ask you to think about how you perceive and experience your own body from the inside.  Body knowledge questions assess whether you are familiar with the physical functioning of your own body and how to better those processes.  Body engagement questions inquire about the long-term or more complex aspects of how you eat, move, and live.

Courtesy of our partners at IDEA, we've reprinted the full BQ Assessment Tool for bene-fit readers below.  This week, take the time to print (or copy and paste!) and answer the following questions - and feel free to include your partner, friends, and family as well!  You may learn more about your current health and fitness regimen than you ever realized.

When does your body feel good?  Not so good?  To what do you attribute these feelings?
When was the best you ever felt physically?  How do you think this came about?
How do you know when something is wrong with your body?  What signals do you watch for?
What is a useful metaphor to describe the workings of your body (i.e. a machine, a highway, a computer)?

What do you think you have to know about your body to take good care of it?
What is your pattern of "checking in" with health professionals (i.e. doctors, trainers, therapists)?  Whom do you see and why?  Are there certain professionals you should see but are not currently seeing?  Why?
Where do you get information about health, fitness, and nutrition?
What anatomical, physiological, kinesiological, or neurological knowledge do you have about your body?  What do you think you should know about the science of exercise and nutrition?
What do you think makes a healthy diet?  What should you eat or not eat?  Where did you get this information?
What is your understanding of the purpose and importance of exercise?  Where did you get this information?

What's your formula for taking care of your body?  What components does it have?
What makes an exercise program "right" for you?  What are the desired effects of such a program?
Describe your typical diet over a week, then give it a "healthy score" of 1-10.  What improvements can be made?
What is your relationship to alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, caffeine and other substances?
How much sleep do you need?  How much do you get?  What helps you sleep?  What is your sleep "routine"?
What kinds of medications or supplements do you take, and for what conditions?  Do you have any medications/suppplements you no longer want to take, or some that you think you should be taking?  Why?

Completing the questionnaire is the first step in raising your BQ.  What if you want to take your BQ one step further?  Bring your completed BQ to bene-fit personal trainer today to learn how to transition your responses into attainable goals with a customized fitness and nutrition action plan.  Knowledge is power - so make sure to inventory your BQ today and you can begin to find your bene-fit tomorrow.

November 10, 2010

Feeding the Holiday Spirit with Good Health

If it seems like bene-fit has been on a food and nutrition bender lately, well - we have!  During the holiday season, many people are actually more active than during the rest of the year.  With multiple shopping trips, marathon gift wrapping sessions, groovin' to holiday music, and weekends filled with entertaining and holiday events, most winter weight gain isn't for lack of movement - it's for lack of attention to what fuels that movement.

The good news is that there is good news!  Many folks tend to get in an "all or nothing" mood around holiday food - either it's no sweets at all or it's the entire pecan pie after dinner.  Some people get so confused about which indulgences to make (eggnog or hot buttered rum?  brownies or candy canes?  turkey or ham?) that they forget which choices will actually provide more energy, nutritional value, and overall good health in the end.  Others are just so jam-packed with activities that by the time they sit down, they realize they've eaten four of their child's leftover schoolroom cupcakes and called it "dinner."  Sound familiar?

Not you, loyal bene-fitter!  You know, for example, that pumpkin pie is rich in fiber and can be made healthfully from scratch with a few simple substitutions, making it a better choice than other sugary, saturated-fat heavy desserts.  You also know that loading up on protein (white-meat turkey is still the best choice!) and vegetables (the less "dressed," the better - think salad over green bean casserole; baked potatoes over whipped ones) holiday meals is a great strategy to avoid overstuffing yourself when the bread basket gets passed around.

Smart eating doesn't end at home, either.  What about when you're out and about running errands without a moment to sit and think about your diet?  Choose black coffee or flavored brewed coffees over sugar-laden "ice blend" or "latte" drinks, and reach for protein snacks (yogurt, lowfat cheese, milk) over carbohydrate-packed mall fare (pretzels, cookies, pastries) that will only make you feel sluggish.

And what about those "forbidden" foods, the stuff that sounds bad just thinking about it - eggs (with yolks!), peanut butter, whole milk, or chocolate?  Here's some more good health news on all those foods: a deviled egg can give you essential omega-3 fatty acids, natural peanut butter can actually reduce the number of overall calories eaten daily, whole milk blows away its skim and lower-fat counterparts in terms of soluble Vitamin D (and is much more satiating in smaller serving sizes), and about 1.6 ounces of dark chocolate daily is as rich in flavonoids as many comparable fruits and vegetables.  Remember - be reasonable with portion sizes and servings of each of these foods to make sure to maximize their bene-fits for your health.

The holiday season should never be all about "swaps" and "skips" and deprivation, so make sure to add enjoyable treats and delicious desserts to your active agenda to keep a healthy balance of mind, body and spirit.  Stay active with
indoor exercise classes as the seasons get colder, embrace the neighborhood holiday-themed 5K run/walk events, and make the time for a yoga or meditation session with your family, friends, or partner to carve out some quality time together.  'Tis the season to find your bene-fit!

November 2, 2010

Stay-Full Foods and Fabulous 'Fakes' for a Healthy Holiday Season

Especially as the holidays sneak up on us, even the healthiest of fitness gurus can't deny it: junk food is everywhere. Delicious pumpkin treats, sugary Halloween candy, and the promise of a gluttonous Thanksgiving feast are enough to make a fitness-minded person want to throw up their hands in defeat.

But not you, loyal bene-fitters!  We want to equip you with the same tools and tricks we use throughout the year to help bust those holiday-snack cravings and transition your age-old favorites into healthier options.

For example, around this time of year I can't get enough pumpkin - however, even a small Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks sets you back 240 calories and 36 grams of sugar - not so festive.  Try indulging in a black coffee brewed with the same pumpkin-spicy ingredients - like Dunkin' Donuts Pumpkin Spice coffee - with a bit of nonfat milk - about 5% of the calories and none of the waistline-busting sugar.

Speaking of pumpkin, let me tell you this: pumpkin pie is by far my biggest weakness in the fall treat department.  However, I can satisfy my craving by blending the very nutritious plain canned pumpkin and zero-cal pumpkin pie spice with one of my two favorite mix-ins: 0% Greek yogurt (layer with pumpkin and granola for a parfait!) or my morning old-fashioned oatmeal (add unsweetened applesauce, ground flaxseed and cinnamon for an extra-warm, fiber-packed treat).

Sometimes the best defense around not-so-healthy sweets (for example, that bowl of candy in the office or the leftover cookies at your child's school play) is a full stomach - which is why I always keep hummus and a bag of pre-cut, pre-washed veggies on hand.  You can eat an entire bag of broccoli florets (which, mind you, is nearly impossible) for only 100 calories - and 50 extra for every 2 tablespoons of hummus!  Not so bad for those of us who need a snack that feels as filling as its calorie count would have us believe.  On a budget to boot?  Cut your own veggies and make your own hummus for a filling snack at pennies per serving!

Need to feel fuller as you work to reduce portion sizes in your daily meals?  Try sparkling water - either plain (like club soda) or flavored and sugar-free (like Arrowhead).  Carbonated water expands in your stomach and makes you feel fuller, especially as a complement to a healthy meal.  Not a fan of the bubbly?  Make sure to stay hydrated throughout your day to cut through hunger pangs and fight "phantom famish."

Finally, take some small measures to prepare yourself for the holiday "rush" - research and plan tasty meals in your slow cooker so you aren't tempted to hit the drive-thru after a long day of work and holiday shopping.  Leave the treats at the party and resist the urge to stock your shelves with unhealthy holiday-themed sweets and products.  Eat a small snack before heading out for a marathon session at the mall or going on a three-hour decorating session in your home - make sure you allow time to plan, eat, and digest your food.

The holidays should be a restful time of fun, festivity, and the love of friends and family.  Don't distract yourself with unhealthy habits and you'll be ready to embrace the bene-fits of an exciting and healthful new year!

October 25, 2010

Race Into the Holidays

Feeling inspired after watching three of my good friends cross the finish line at this weekend's Rock & Roll Los Angeles 1/2 Marathon, and as a running coach and competitor, I felt compelled to write about the pure magic of race day.

For those of you who have never embraced the race - whether a 5K, a charity walk, a triathlon, or a marathon - it is a definite must to help navigate holiday stress, stay motivated during the winter months, and achieve a unique sense of self-confidence and accomplishment before the year is over.

The holidays are a great time to pick up a race for many reasons. First - who couldn't use a little extra training and a lot of extra sweat?  From Halloween candy through Thanksgiving turkey and into Christmas and Hanukkah sweet treats, it's a great time to pick up a calorie-burning challenge.  Second, events are plentiful (especially in the mild weather of Southern California!) - from Halloween "pumpkin fun runs" to Turkey Trots to Santa-clad road races, there is no shortage of holiday-themed races to get you excited and having fun with exercise.  Third, picking a race that is doable for every fitness level - such as a walk or short run course with a kids' division - means that the whole family can participate, building a new and healthy holiday tradition.

So where can you go to find a race worth your competitive effort?  If you're a Southern California local, try Raceplace Online - a great collection of upcoming events with local flavor, including the South El Monte Pumpkin 5K & 1K Kids Spooky Fun Run, the Dana Point Turkey Trot 5K and 10K, or the Santa Monica-Venice Christmas 5K/10K.

Not a SoCal local? Not to fret! Running in the USA lists a nationally comprehensive bank of upcoming races, state-by-state, to help you find a great event in your greater metropolitan area.

The final step, of course, is to get training!  Make sure to allow between 4 and 12 weeks to train (depending on the length of the race and your current fitness level) and get in touch with a professional bene-fit coach to make sure you're on the right track.  bene-fit offers training plans for everything from your first 5K to a Boston-qualifying marathon, so check us out for more information on endurance event training and group coaching programs.

Take the time now and find your bene-fit in the waning months of 2010!

October 19, 2010

Down for the Count: Dealing with Injury

In late August, I started feeling a strong discomfort in my right knee. I figured it was a product of overtraining (think teaching three Spin classes and three Boot Camps weekly along with 4-day-per-week 1/2 marathon training) and vowed to "take it easy."

A month of decidedly not taking it easy later, I had to bow out of the 1/2 marathon I'd been training for for 6 weeks due to the knee discomfort, which admittedly had upgraded to an actual injury. Still determined not to seek help, I kept on with my busy schedule, enduring the painful hours of exercise pounding my knee.

Today is October 19th and I have only just scheduled an appointment with an orthopedist. I stubbornly waited until past the point of pain, past the point of injury, and only now will I honestly was stupid.

Here at bene-fit, we take our mission of consistent physical activity and enjoyable healthy living very seriously - but I was trying to "trade out" the latter for an overload of the former, and it resulted in a frustrating setback.  I'd lived the words of G.K. Chesterton, who once said that "the trouble with always trying to preserve the health of the body is that it is so difficult to do without destroying the health of the mind."  I'd become so focused on the "have-to" of exercise that I'd forgotten the "want-to" of inner peace and physical comfort.

So what can you, as burgeoning fitness buffs or eager newbies, learn from my sob story?  First of all, slow down.  The great part about a healthy lifestyle is that it lasts just that long - your entire life.  There is always time to recover, heal, and emerge an even stronger version of yourself if you are struggling with injury or fatigue.  Get a massage, try practicing gentle yoga, or even just soak in a hot bath with epsom salts.  Thank your body for speaking to you directly - even if it yells! - and repay it with honest rest.

Second, try something new.  When I was sidelined from runnning, I felt lost, as though I'd just begun exercising.  I realized how reliant my fitness routine had become on the daily run, and without it, I needed to reassess my cardio as well as my overall physique and goals.  I began checking out different classes at my local gym and fell in love with Les Mills Body Pump, a high-energy weightlifting class, which fit into my schedule and gave me something to look forward to in lieu of a jog.  I am loving the challenge as well as the added toning bene-fit of a new strengthening workout.

Finally, allow yourself to grieve.  When I first got injured,  I almost literally went through the five stages of grief - denial ("I'm not hurt!"), anger ("ARRRRGH THIS HURTS AND I HATE IT!"), bargaining ("Maybe if I take my run down to 3 days a week, it'll be fine."), depression ("Without running, I'm just worthless.") and finally, acceptance ("There are far worse things in life than a little setback.").  I needed to express my frustration and sadness over losing a large part of my fitness routine before I could buck up and see the light - I still had my health, my new exercise challenges, and my supportive relationships.  What's a little knee pain when most everything else is going so great?

In any arena of life, there are going to be ups and downs.  An illness, injury, or burnout period can be devastating, but it's not life-threatening.  If you maintain a positive attitude and find your bene-fit in new and different ways, chances are that you will recover in less time and with more energy than before.  Stay strong and yes - rest up this week!

October 13, 2010

Excuses, Excuses: bene-fit Beats 'Em All

Being a bene-fit trainer is not always easy.  Our commitment to personalized, individualized personal training is one we take very seriously - and as we all know, each person's needs are different.  We accept every client that comes to us with dedication and earnest - meaning that we have trained everyone from a 63 year-old grandmother with a hip replacement to a Boston-qualifying marathon runner to a husband-and-wife duo looking to lose over 100 pounds.

If you need to find your bene-fit, we are there to help you do it.  But as I said above... it's not always easy.

Facing excuses is the number-one challenge for fitness professionals of any kind - and on the flip side, making excuses is one of the most common strategies when it comes to clients who are tired, fearful, or stressed about making healthy and lasting lifestyle changes.  We've heard every excuse run the gamut - long work hours, no child care, no clothes to wear, too out of shape to start, don't know where to begin...and so far, we've been able to combat every one with our simple philosophy of individual attention, social support, and group motivation.

Think about it this way: if your child was sick, or if your car broke down, something would have to give.  You would have to move around a "want-to" - whether it meant leaving work an hour early or giving up your favorite TV program at night - to address the "need-to" of the emergency situation.  Granted, exercise in itself does not constitute a daily emergency - but a lifetime of being overweight, unhappy, stressed out, and facing inactivity-induced chronic illness can definitely be considered one.

A great first step is to take inventory of your time - whether using time management software, a paper and pen, or just a good (and honest!) memory - and figure out exactly where you can fit in nutritious meal planning and exercise.  You only need 30 minutes a day to get started (two bouts of 15 is just fine).  After you've set aside time, create a mantra that will motivate you and give you purpose on days you just don't feel like working out (something simple, such as "I'm doing this for my family," is great; you can also choose something like "I am getting my Madonna arms!" to make it more fun and energy-boosting).  Finally, schedule your workout into your planner or calendar as you would an appointment - an appointment with absolutely no cancellation policy!

At bene-fit, we are realistic about your time and money - but we ask you to be realistic about your own health.  Finding time to get fit is an investment you will never regret, whether for your own sake or the sake of your loved ones.  Take some time this week to assess your schedule and make yourself - your health - first priority.

October 5, 2010

31 Days to Stronger Families: October is Family Health Month!

Here at bene-fit, we celebrate national health-related months with gusto - making sure to give you the most up-to-date information about what's going on and what's relevant to your world.  That's why we're so excited to join up with the great folks over at SparkPeople (a great resource for calorie logs, healthy recipes, and much more) to spread the word that October is Family Health Month!

Whether your family consists of a whole bunch of kids or just you and a well-loved canine or feline companion, Family Health Month is a great time to get on track with a healthy lifestyle - making small changes just once a day!  To help you do it, SparkPeople created a cute and printable daily health calendar to post on your refrigerator and help you observe the month in some really fun, creative ways.

For example, check out today's (October 5) tip: Buy some small pieces of equipment to keep around the house.  Encourage your kids to exercise during TV commercials, and stretch before bed each night.  bene-fit challenges you to go even further - join your kids!  Even without any equipment, making a habit of doing sit-ups or jumping jacks during a commercial break is a great way to make TV time less sedentary - and doubling up with a healthy TV snack of carrots and low-fat ranch or sugar snap peas and hummus turns family time into a serving of health!

Since bene-fitters love their sleep, we're extra excited for October 20th: Establish a bedtime routine.  Sometimes the hardest part of the day isn't waking up - it's getting to bed at a reasonable hour!  Run a hot bath, read a magazine or chapter of a book, perform a few nighttime yoga stretches, and most importantly - enforce your bedtime.  Whether adults or children, everyone appreciates an energetic, lively day that can only be the product of a full, undisturbed night of sleep.

Finally, check out the wise words of October 31st: Lead by example.  This may be the most effective way to teach anyone anything. Explain why you choose to order the garden burger and why you work out. Kids are sponges for knowledge!  And yet again - as a central part of the bene-fit philosophy - we believe that role modeling (more so than nagging, yelling, begging or forcing) is the best way to help someone else change their behavior, whether young or old.  Put down the remote, pick up the jump rope, skip the butter-laden mashed potatoes when cooking dinner, or pick up a bag of salad to add color to your table.  The small examples can often be the most profound when trying to establish healthy habits in your household.

We've only got 26 days left of Family Health Month - so start making health a priority for you and your family today and watch the bene-fits grow as you do.

September 27, 2010

Testing Celebrity Fit Tips: Hype or Help?

We've all seen them at least a few (hundred) times: the eye-catching weight loss headlines on the tabloids surround us at the grocery store, nail salon, or even our own mailboxes.

"The incredible shrinking Drew Carey!"
"Kelly Osbourne: Size 12 to Size 2!"
"Body after baby - 10 amazing celebrity mom slimdowns!"

Stories (and their accompanying glossy photos) like this are easy to dismiss.  Most celebrities have access to all-star personal trainers, top-notch doctors and dietitians, and expensive fitness equipment and services.  "Walk a day in my shoes," we want to mutter, "and we'll see how 'easy' it is to get fit and lose weight."

Outside the protected shell of fame, there are definitely obstacles to getting healthy "like the stars."  Many people have children and cannot pay a child care professional just to steal away an hour at the gym.  Few folks can afford the convenience of a chef or meal delivery service and must count their own calories and/or prepare their own healthy meals, a skill that takes planning and some nutritional education.  Finally, there is the motivation issue - while most of us truly want to live a healthy lifestyle that feels good and bene-fits our bodies, we won't get fired from our jobs if we gain a few pounds or suffer the humiliation of having a photo taken of us enjoying that huge double-dip ice cream cone.

However, after poring over some of this articles (admittedly while getting a pedicure!), I noticed one thing - if you look past the extreme (liquid diets, fasts, detoxes, and three-hour workout regimes), many of the celebrities actually maintain fairly reasonable routines to achieve their health and fitness goals.

Take Drew Carey, for example, featured in this week's PARADE magazine.  He notes that "the hardest diet I was ever on was when I was don't have energy for anything.  It's horrible."  He goes on to claim that his diet - a balanced routine of three protein-and-vegetable meals and two fruit-based snacks daily - along with 30 minutes of cardio exercise per day was the simple formula to achieve his 77-pound weight loss.  Now that's the level of simplicity that bene-fit can get behind!

How about the aforementioned Kelly Osbourne?  While it is definitely not possible - nor healthy - for every body to transform into a size 2, the petite Osbourne knew that carrying 50 extra pounds on a small frame was going to be a long-term health issue.  She found an exercise she was passionate about - ballroom dancing (in her preparation for Dancing with the Stars) and found that a healthy snack before bed (in her case, an apple) kept her satiated at night yet ready for breakfast the next morning.

And as for those hot mamas, bouncing back almost impossibly after having a baby?  Well, the basic answer is genetics - how well women's bodies cope with the demands of pregnancy varies widely depending on one's hormones, body composition, and health history.  However, some "secrets" - such as practicing yoga at home, jogging with baby in tow, and avoiding snacking off kids' plates - are easy enough for any mom or dad to add to their daily routine.

At bene-fit, we know that our clients are not celebrities - you're everyday people with real-life demands.  That's why we offer health and fitness options in a variety of different formats - from in-home and outdoor personal training to private yoga instruction to online and virtual training programs.  You don't have to be a celebrity to look like one - and you sure don't have to be famous to deserve good health!  Start by contacting a bene-fit professional today and in no time, you'll be feeling like the star of your own healthy life.

September 20, 2010

Accounting for Health

For many, fall - even more so than spring - is a time for new beginnings.  Students return to school, work schedules reestablish stability after a summer of vacations and flex time, and exercise routines often begin to wane due to the end of swimsuit season.  We here at bene-fit find that the clients that make it through the "autumn hump" (rather than abandon their summer routines) are often the most successful all year 'round. 

Fall can be an ideal time to take inventory of your health and fitness goals and start "accounting" for your past year and future plans.  Rather than wait for the typical New Year's resolutions, why not get a jump start on some new lifestyle changes now?

When I am trying to establish or return to healthy habits in my own life, I find that basic accounting principles are often an easy and organized way of doing so.  While I am neither an accountant nor a mathematician (!), it can be helpful to put an area of your life (like health) into different terms to look at it more objectively and from a new perspective.

First, consider cost.  What have you invested in your fitness goals over the past few months or weeks?  Have you reaped the bene-fits of those investments (such as losing weight after changing your eating habits), or have you squandered them (for example, by purchasing a gym membership and then not going regularly)?  Make sure that the effort and expenditure you're willing to offer is enough to cover the rewards of your work.

Next, assess full disclosure.  Are you frustrated because you're doing all the right things and not seeing results - or because you really aren't staying honest to your diet or exercise routine and actually cheating yourself?  Because your body, health, and well-being are so intensely personal, you must commit to honesty in your habits and expectations, and make sure that you're not establishing self-destructive patterns while trying to get healthy.

Third, I really like the idea of the going concern principle, which reads: " an entity will continue to exist long enough to carry out its objectives and commitments and will not liquidate in the foreseeable future."  In layman's terms?  Try your best to give your fitness program a long-term commitment and consistent effort for as long as it takes to see the results you want.  Giving up a healthy diet after a week or foregoing your exercise program after your first visit to Spin class doesn't give you a realistic chance to reach your goals.

Finally, try to practice revenue recognition whenever possible - even if there are no viable "profits" to speak of.  For example, even if you haven't lost a pound from your first month of clean eating and regular exercise, consider the "revenue" of increased energy, emotional positivity, and long-term health.  Recognize the fruits of your labor in all forms - more sleep, enhanced quality time with a friend or partner, better-fitting clothes - and don't get so blindsided with a singular goal that you can't appreciate all the other bene-fits of your lifestyle change.

Any time the seasons change, our routines inevitably do as well - so this fall, make sure that your seasonal adjustments include plenty of exercise, a good amount of sound sleep, and a healthy diet (it's pumpkin season, after all - why not try a new autumn-inspired recipe??).  Stay accountable for your health and be sure to find your bene-fit.

September 13, 2010

Workout Whereabouts: Home, Gym, and Beyond

Many folks are shocked to find out that most bene-fit workouts - particularly our Boot Camps - don't use any fancy equipment outside the participants' own bodies.  How can you get a good workout without lifting heavy weights or slogging up a stairmaster, they might ask.  The answer, of course, is that basic calisthenics and high-intensity cardio are often better done outdoors amid fresh air, natural (soft) ground, and sunshine.

However, as well-rounded bene-fit trainers, we also acknowledge the usefulness of both equipment and the gym environment.  For some folks, slinging a kettlebell or joining a Spin class offers a diversion from the usual routine; a way to enter a place and forget about all the things going on outside it.

So which way, then, do we think is better?  Which format does bene-fit recommend to our clients?

I wish I could offer a singular response, but in life as on Facebook, sometimes the better answer is: it's complicated.  There are a few questions to consider if you are trying to save money by terminating a gym membership or start a new gym routine to complement your outdoor fitness work.  Ask yourself:

1) What are my goals?
If your goals are to run a marathon, complete a triathlon, or start a fitness walking program, outdoor exercise is probably your best bet.  bene-fit offers coached endurance training for these types of events, and you can find great outdoor walking and cycling routes on MapMyRun or similar websites (tailored to your local neighborhood).  However, if you are looking to gain a significant amount of muscle mass (think bodybuilding) or train for a weight-related event (such as boxing), you are likely better off finding professional training in a gym setting. 

2) To what type of setting do I respond best?
For folks who enjoy the shared energy of a group setting, a gym-based exercise class or outdoor group activity like bene-fit Boot Camp is your best bet.  However, for those who are shy about or new to exercise, such settings might be intimidating - in which case hiring a personal trainer or beginning private yoga instruction might be just the welcoming, more intimate relationship you need to get started. 

3) How much do I have to spend?
Depending on what value you want to receive from your fitness lifestyle, the cost comparisons are many.  Most gyms offer a flat-rate monthly membership for using the facilities and attending classes.  In some smaller gyms, classes cost extra.  Personal training in gyms is always an extra cost; personal training with bene-fit charges per session or in packages of 3, 5, or 10.  Be realistic about both your finances and your goals - make sure the investment you make matches the commitment you're willing to offer.

Once you've asked yourself these questions and made a decision about your fitness lifestyle, you've taken the first step to figuring out what works best for you - a cornerstone of the bene-fit mission and philsophy.  Finally, we offer a few of our recommendations for the "hidden gems" of both at-home and in-gym fitness:

--a plank.  You can do it anywhere, hold it as long as you like, and work several muscle groups at once.
--jump rope.  It's one of the highest calorie burns for the lowest cost you can find.
--stairs.  Whether in your house or in a stadium, these can get your heart rate up FAST.
--DVDs.  If you have Netflix, you can rent them and return them for a never-gets-old video library.
--run-walking.  Try 1 minute jogging, 2 minutes walking, for a total of 30 minutes - in your neighborhood!

--classes.  Take advantage of the diverse and often calorie-busting group exercise activities.
--kettlebells.  A few swings of these weighted fitness tools and you'll be feeling the burn.
--treadmill.  Play with incline and speed to vary your workout and break up the boredom of cardio.
--box jumps.  If your gym has jumping platforms, ask a trainer to show you how to use them - and have fun!
--cable machines.  There are over 100 different full-body exercises than can be done on this one apparatus.

Whether you choose to work out in your home, outside, or in a gym, remember - consistency is key!  Choose what you like to do, then stick to it.  Build a healthy lifestyle in a way that makes you happy and content.

August 30, 2010

bene-fit Spotlight: The Power Nine

Here at bene-fit, we are constantly reading and researching to make sure we bring you the latest in health and fitness news, tips, and trends.  This week, we're spotlighting life coach Dan Buettner and his advice for achieving happiness and satisfaction in life by researching life in the "Blue Zones" - the longest-living cultures on Earth.

Check out some of his thought-provoking (and highly useful!) work, summarized in the Power 9.  The Power 9 (below) is a pyramid plan intended to help people figure out where they are falling short in reaching their maximum potential and identify the areas in which they can improve their lives:

[note: this is a great one to print and post on your refrigerator, on your mirror, or in your office cubicle!]

The base of the pyramid is the most important stuff - family, faith, and friends - and it builds upon that foundation with other healthy lifestyle features, with the peak being a bene-fit favorite - exercise!

Check out some great ways to secure each level of the Power 9 for your own well-being  - and leave us comments about how YOU incorporate these areas into your healthy lifestyle!

Tribe: Make family a priority.
Whether it's a Sunday dinner or a quick check-in at breakfast, make sure to acknowledge and communicate with your family members as often as possible. 
Beliefs: Participate in spiritual or religious activities.
Whether you attend a weekly service or a weekly yoga class, finding the time to connect with your deepest inner self and/or your higher power has been proven to increase happiness, satisfaction, and longevity.
Belong: Create a healthy social network.
You can't always choose a healthy family environment, but you can pick your friends!  Make sure to surround yourself with yea-sayers- not just "yes men" - and eliminate negative influences from your immediate circle.

80% Rule: Stop eating when you're 80% full.
A great way to do this is to simply serve yourself smaller portions - switch to a smaller dinner plate, and watch this "rule" take care of itself!  Fast eaters, slow down - serve yourself different foods in "courses" (vegetable first, then protein, then grains) to make sure each bite is mindfully taken.
Plant Slant: Eat mostly veggies and avoid processed foods.
Load up on vegetables to curb appetite and wean yourself off the processed stuff - visit a local Farmers' Market for inspiration, or start using these fun gadgets to keep your produce intake in check!
Red Wine: Drink alcohol in moderation.
If you're a teetotaler, we're not recommending that you load up on the booze - but if you enjoy one drink daily, pat yourself on the back for all the bene-fits you're bringing your body daily!

Downshift: Work less, slow down, rest, and take vacation.
Can't afford a week on the beach?  Grab a full-body massage.  Can't even splurge on a rubdown?  Try soaking in epsom salts.  Establish a serenity routine in your life and reap the bene-fit of a moment of mental peace.
Plan de Vida: Know your purpose in life.
If you don't have a life plan written down, take a half hour to an hour this week and do it - in whatever format is natural to you (a poem, a list, or a sketch all work equally well).  Sometimes believing that our dreams are worthy of our attention is enough to refocus our life course in a really positive way.

Move: Find ways to move mindlessly.
And finally - our favorite!  Don't just associate "moving" with "exercise" - little changes like sitting on a Swiss ball instead of a chair at work, parking far away from a shopping mall entrance, or standing up while you talk on the phone can all shift your daily life from sedentary to energized in just a few short weeks.

Check out more on the Power 9 here - and visit us next week for more great health and wellness information at your fingertips!

August 23, 2010

Cheap & Chic Fitness Finds

It's no secret - we here at bene-fit have been doing this whole "health and wellness" thing for some time now, and along the way, we've picked up some great tips and tricks for making the journey a whole lot easier.  I am constantly asked about my favorite products, foods, and clothing for making a fit lifestyle even more enjoyable - and affordable.  Well, loyal readers, today is the day I share some of my top secrets with you!

The less-than-glamorous way I start each and every day is with an oatmeal combo - some mixture of plain ol' rolled oats (usually bought in bulk for cents on the dollar - a great way to save money!) and fresh fruit, nut butter, or protein powder.  This way, my morning activities are fueled up, I get "going" from the hit of fiber, and I'm not hungry until lunch!

However, because of my heavy training schedule, I get a lot of soreness in the morning, particularly in my lower body.  While I will swear by a good sports massage, sometimes it's just not in the budget.  A great alternative is to use Tiger balm on the affected area and rub over any achy muscles with The Stick.  The combination of the longer-term relief from the balm and the spot treatment from the stick is nearly as good as a legitimate massage - and costs a lot less.

As for clothing?  While I own multiple pairs of the classic Tempo short from NIKE and I adore the adidas by Stella McCartney line, I never buy these items at full price.  The Chelsea Premium Outlets chain typically features both stores - as well as Puma and Reebok - with stylish, deeply discounted workout wear.  Let's be honest - we all want to look good in the gym, but at the end of the day, these are clothes we sweat in!

Finally, if a gym membership is out of your budget, there are some great cost-effective home gym products that can mimic the strength benefits of a gym (since we all know cardio is most fun done outdoors anyway - running, biking, swimming, jump rope, walking, and rowing are all great options!) with a far lower cost.  Try a set of resistance bands, inflatable weights, or even the much-advertised but very effective Iron Gym for some versatile options.  Not very good at working out at home, or by yourself?  bene-fit Boot Camp and Happy Hour Circuit Training provide high-quality, calorie-burning group fitness - and they're still only $20/session!

Stay tuned for more money-saving tips, tricks, and tactics to help you find your bene-fit - without emptying your wallet.  And as always...we want to hear from you!  Share your favorite fitness finds with us by leaving a comment or sending an email to

August 19, 2010

Unhealthy People 2010

Astoundingly, since the Healthy People 2010 initiative launched in 2001, still not a single U .S. state has been able to reach the goal of a 15% or lower obesity rate.  The closest is Colorado, with 18.6% of its population reporting a BMI or 30 or higher, while the state with the most work to do is Mississippi, with a 34.4% rate.  Yes, that means that more than one-third of the population of the state of Mississippi is not just overweight, but obese - the equivalent of 185 pounds or more on a 5'5" frame.

This past weekend, I spent four days in Atlanta, Georgia for an academic conference.  Ironically, I was presenting a paper on obesity and health in a state where 28.1% of the adult population is obese (the 17th highest rate among U.S. states).

One might stop and wonder - how could different states in the same nation have such wildly varied obesity rates?  While there are many answers to this question, each complex and riddled with socioeconomic, educational, and class differences, let me offer one possibility from my personal experience this weekend: food environments. 

Part of the bene-fit lifestyle includes eating a healthy diet with foods that fuel your body and treat it with kindness - we strive to limit processed foods, eat meals with lots of vegetables and lean protein, and stay conscious of portion sizes.  However, depending on the environments in which you buy, prepare, and eat your food, this may be easier said than done.

Consider an example from Friday night in Atlanta.  We were taken by our colleagues to an "authentic Southern food" restaurant for dinner.  One glance at the menu and I shuddered - there were zero healthy options (the closest being collard greens which, upon investigation, were cooked in a mixture of pork fat and salt) and nearly everything else was fried.  I was in a food environment without healthy options, in a community of people who did not mind the menu, and with no way to substitute my own food or select another restaurant.

So what did I do, you ask?  Regrettably, I ordered fried chicken and painstakingly removed the skin (not an easy thing to do once you get a whiff of that buttermilk coating!) and ate the fatty collard greens as described above.  I went to bed feeling bloated, dehydrated, and sweaty - and couldn't imagine how my dining companions felt after their combinations of fried plantains, bourbon and marshmallow-drenched sweet potatoes, and pork aplenty.  This was crazy, I thought - but now I understand why certain states have certain rates. 

At bene-fit, we understand that different regional, cultural, and familial norms make it harder or easier to adopt a healthy dietary lifestyle.  It's a lot easier to transition from nutrient-free iceberg lettuce salads (as was the case in my family) to nutrient-rich spinach salads than it is to switch from deep-fried chicken (as I saw in the South) to a boneless, skinless chicken breast.  We grow up with taste patterns and preferences that, once we know they don't always align with our health goals, are very difficult to change.  That said, it is up to you to take a stand for yourself, your family, and your health - no matter where you live.

This week, bene-fit challenges you to think about one unhealthy food environment you frequent - whether it's the break room at work when the dozen doughnuts are brought in, or the freezer at midnight where you stash that extra quart of ice cream.  How can you change your choices - or in some cases, alter the environment - so that you aren't stuck in an unhealthy situation?  What small "tweaks" can you make to an established outine to avoid tough food choices or feeling helpless around a sea of poor nutritional options?

Be mindful of what you put in your mouth and you can be one more "healthy person" in 2010 - no matter what the statistics say.  Be strong and stay healthy this week!

August 10, 2010

What Have You Done Today?

What have you done today to make you feel proud?

As I hopped on the treadmill to pound out a few "required" miles for my upcoming 1/2 marathon training program, the above lyrics (from the inspiring song "Proud" by Heather Small) popped onto my iPod. Between the strength in her voice and the challenge of the workout I was doing, it really hit home: what do we do, each and every day, to find pride in our accomplishments?  How do you find your bene-fit?

So many of those new to exercise become unmotivated when large-scale results don't happen quickly enough - for example, when they can't lose 10 pounds in a week even though they've worked out each day, or when they are still struggling to run a full mile after building up a base for nearly a month.  The problem, of course, isn't the lack of trying - it might just be the lack of pride.

Those of us who grew up in more traditional households may subconsciously regard pride as a sin - a sign of vanity or preoccupation with oneself.  However, pride in your accomplishments - real, valid efforts - is quite the opposite.  People are drawn to self-confidence and autonomy that comes without arrogance or attitude.  Realizing your worth and articulating the bene-fits of your healthy lifestyle choices should bring you joy.

I once trained for - and finished! - a marathon.  I trained hard for 20 weeks, running through rain and pushing past my comfort zone, and when I finished I felt a sense of pride that I thought would never be matched.  How could anything else compare to the feeling of overcoming a huge obstacle like running 26.2 miles?

A year later, my Mom expressed interest in running her first 5K (3.1 mile) race.  I assured her I would train her up for the distance and run it alongside her.  Lo and behold, we finished the race side-by-side in under 45 minutes - our original goal time!  The pride I felt for her - knowing she had worked so hard and come so far - was greater than any of my own accomplishments, marathon included.  Feeling as though I was a partner in her success was more important to me than any 20-mile run or early-morning bicycle ride.

As a bene-fit trainer, I am lucky enough to experience these incredible moments on a regular basis.  However, too often I find that my own enthusiasm for my clients' successes - from completing their first unassisted pull-up to finally being able to balance in the boat pose without tipping over - exceeds their own.  Many folks are remiss to celebrate the fruits of their labor and actually express pride in their growth.

Today I ask you to think about the little things that make your heart proud.  Whether honoring yourself or a loved one, sometimes offering praise in someone's accomplishments - the smaller the better, as those are the ones that seem to go overlooked most often - is a surefire way to keep them on track toward reaching their larger goals.  Compliment a coworker's healthy lunch, tell your son or daughter you're inspired by their sports participation, or look in the mirror and find a muscle you've recently worked to develop and thank your body for putting it there.  Find the bene-fit of pride and share it with others this week!

August 2, 2010

A Real Fountain of Youth

At some point in time, everyone in this country has wondered about our health care system and how exactly a nation like ours has so consistently failed to provide adequate health care for all - heck, even most - of its citizens.  Allow me to pause here - this is not a political rant.  This is a story about the power of prevention.

At bene-fit, we believe that wellness is more than a diet, a training program, or a stress-relief class.  Wellness is is a lifestyle; something to be learned, developed, and maintained throughout the entire life span.  

Last night my partner and I visited his grandfather.  He is months away from turning 87, looks about 67 (minus the tufted white hair!) and likely is in the health condition of a man ten to twenty years his junior.  After marveling at his fitness throughout our visit, I broke down and asked him his secrets.  He smiled wisely and offered up the following tips, based solely on how he has lived his life.

"I'm Indian," he explained, "and I didn't wear shoes until I was 12 years old."  He swears this was how he avoided corns, bunions, and the other foot problems that plague even younger folks who are tempted by too-tight, stylish shoes.  "We didn't have much money, so we ate a mostly vegetarian diet," noting that meat was a special-occasion food to be enjoyed in small, reasonable portions (and shared among 12 brothers and sisters - talk about automatic portion control!). 

"Every night that I can remember, I sleep for seven hours," adding with a wink that there were, of course, nights he couldn't remember, but they were few and far between.  "I keep the mind busy," describing his younger days as a missionary and student of several languages, as well as his current life of writing his memoirs, learning the keyboard, tending his garden, and singing in the church choir.  

And as for that garden?  "Talk about organic," he exclaimed, "I've got the healthiest produce you can get outside of a legitimate farm!"   We walked off with a bag of his home-grown bounty ourselves - "giving good food away feels just as good as growing it," he promised.

One of the greatest tragedies of his older years was losing his wife of over 50 years just over a year ago.  "I don't give up," he said with a sigh, "I just use the time I have to remember her best."  A profoundly simple lesson on managing grief from a man who memorizes his favorite quotes from his favorite books and movies (his recent pick was a line from Elizabeth Taylor in The Deadliest Season) to recite when he feels down.

Lest we miss out on one of the strongest bene-fit beliefs, Grandpa is a strong proponent of exercise.  Every other day, he walks 3 miles assisted with walking sticks, and on the other days, he attends his local community center to do a moderate strength-training circuit - "the rotation," as he calls it - along with a shorter walk of 1-2 miles.  "This keeps me robust," he offers, "and helps keep the belly down," he says with a laugh. 

As for diet, besides growing much of his own food, he drinks red wine in moderation ("everything in moderation," he chuckled, "even moderation!") but eschews beer and hard liquor.  He enjoys spicy foods to boost his metabolism, but abides mainly by an alkaline/acid balanced diet to "keep the gastritis down."

Add to all this a lifetime of international travel, a steady marriage and family life with three kids, a strong faith and a positive outlook and I left our visit believing that I'd seen the fountain of youth - and it was 87 years old.  I hope you are as inspired as I was to maintain - or begin, it's never too late! - a lifetime of truly healthy habits.  Now that's finding your bene-fit!

July 26, 2010

The ABCs of Summer Success: Part Three

How quickly time flies when your weeks are packed with to-do lists, planning schedules, and of course, enjoying those late summer evenings!  Our three-week series comes to an end today with Part Three of   bene-fit's tips for your healthiest and most active summer ever. 

The calendar tells us that summer begins with Memorial Day and ends with Labor Day -  so use these last few tips to help "fill the gap" until September and get the most out of each and every sunny day.

Are you already a runner, cyclist, swimmer, rower, or other sportsperson?  Why not test your skills in a friendly, competitive environment against a group of peers?  Summer is a great time to train for an endurance event or short race and enjoy the challenge of trying your hardest - and maybe even reaching a new personal record or goal.  For some endurance events in the Southern California area, check out Raceplace Online.

Remember what it felt like to be a kid and spend all day splashing around in the pool?  Why not revisit those fun-loving days with a splash around your local pool?  You can swim laps, kickboard, play water volleyball, take an Aqua Fitness class, or jog through the shallow end for an effective, cool, sun-filled workout that won't even leave you feeling sweaty.  No pool?  Visit a nearby lake, river, or beach and enjoy the natural scenery while you get active.

Please note: bene-fit would never advocate getting in one of those death-beds and using an indoor lamp to tan your skin!  On the other hand, summer just doesn't feel like summer without a robust, healthy, sunless glow.  New to the fake bake?  Try a light bronzer lotion or shimmer powder for your face.  Ready to take the plunge?  Invest in an organic self-tanning solution to upgrade your look from fair to fabulous.

Let's be honest - in the fun and sun of summer's spell, you may have neglected some of your most valuable parts - and the results might not be so sunny!  Now is a great time to go through your "unmentionables" and make sure you have 100% cotton undergarments to wear when the summer heat and humidity make down-there diseases (like yeast infections) a very real possibility.  Need some wicking undies for active sports?  Find his and hers here.

We all have one - the inner voice that talks to us when we look in the mirror, when we get scared, or when we're bursting with pride over a recent accomplishment.  Take some time to actually sit down and listen to that voice - making sure to note whether it tends to be positive or negative most of the time - and figure out how that little voice connects to the innermost yearnings in your heart and mind.  Meditation is a great way to spend some focused time listening to yourself and interpreting the messages you send yourself each day.

Dehydration is one of the most common detriments to summer activities - too little water, and we can become unfocused, confused, and sick.  On the other side of the spectrum is hyponatremia, the consequence of drinking too much water without enough sodium intake to manage the hydration.  Not sure how much water you need every day?  Check out this handy hydration calculator to find out how much H2O you really need.

Ok, so maybe we don't want to make you a legitimate "xenomaniac" (someone who has an inordinate attachment to foreign customs, institutions, or manners) - but bene-fit believes that there is a great deal to be learned from the cultures of other countries - particularly about health.  For example, did you know that Guatemalans boil and drink tea made from oregano to combat asthma without drugs or inhalers?  Ask friends and family for their "home remedies" and broaden your understanding of how to be holistically healthy.

If you haven't tuned in to 0% Greek yogurt, you are missing out on one of the lowest-sugar, highest-protein snacks you can possibly sneak into a lunchbox!  For an extra-special and icy-cool summer treat (enjoy sparingly!), get the protein and probiotic bene-fits with a bit more sweetness with frozen Greek yogurt.

Haven't checked out the latest dance craze sweeping gyms across America?  Check your local fitness center to see if they offer this high-energy, all-ages dance class that promises to help you "ditch the workout, join the party!"  No Zumba in your area?  Try an at-home version with a Zumba DVD!

Thanks for following bene-fit through the "ABCs" of your summer success - check back with us next Monday for more great health, fitness, diet, and wellness tips!

July 19, 2010

The ABCs of Summer Success: Part Two

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is finish a task you've begun - which is why we're determined to do it with Part Two of our summer success series!  bene-fit wants you to have the healthiest summer ever and we're here to inspire you to action.

After the energizing promise of spring and before the changing air of fall, summer is the perfect time to keep up with your health and fitness goals and perhaps even set some new ones.  Need help?  Without further ado, bene-fit gives you J-Q:

Think we're joking?  Plyometrics (movements where muscles are expanded and contracted in quick sequences, such as jumping) are an incredible way to burn calories and boost performance, especially if you've hit a plateau in conditioning or weight loss.  Check out these animated ideas for "plyo" workouts you can try!

Yep, it's come to this.  bene-fit is actually advising you to stand up in front of a bunch of strangers and belt your lungs out to your favorite song.  Why?  Well, would you believe that singing (even in your car alone) reduces stress and boosts the immune system, particularly for older adults?  If you just can't rally the wherewithal to sing out loud in front of others, try dancing (alone or out with a group), yodeling, or even gardening - all are leisure activities that are proven to reduce stress and increase feelings of happiness.

Speaking of singing and dancing, there's another easy activity to boost your health this summer - and it starts with a ha-ha-ha!  There's a reason they say laughter is the best medicine - happy people are better employees (and employers) and live longer lives.  People who use humor throughout their lives develop stronger coping mechanisms and report higher life satisfaction.  Need a daily boost?  Get a joke delivered straight to your inbox each morning and start off with a giggle!

Grandma knows best on this age-old adage: everything in moderation (even moderation!).  Dieters who have small portions of full-fat or full-sugar foods are more likely to lose weight than those who rely on low-fat or sugar-free alternatives.  Here at bene-fit, we don't advocate deprivation - only moderation, the safe and balanced way to change unhealthy habits into a seamlessly positive and fulfilling lifestyle.  And let's be serious - when's the last time you felt absolutely wonderful after stuffing your face, spending too much at the mall, or drinking far too much in one night?  Yeah.  We thought so.

The appeal of tough-but-fair personalities like Judge Judy, Joan Rivers, or even comedian Bill Maher lies in their ability to deliver the truth, loud and clear - but soften the blow so that it can be heard.  Many of us spend a lot of time sugar-coating, white-lying, or otherwise masking what we truly feel so that we don't "rock the boat" or hurt anyone's feelings.  This summer, free yourself from the confines of others' expectations with a no-nonsense approach to constructive criticism and advice-giving.  You may need to take some risks to make sure that you are giving open and meaningful feedback to the people in your life who deserve your most honest self.

It's no coincidence that summer days are the ones marked "laziest" in songs, pop culture, and poetry - most people use the heat and laid-back attitudes as an excuse to kick back and yes, slack a bit on their typical responsibilities.  If you take summer by the horns - get out there and interview for jobs, pitch your novel to agents, start your marathon training, fill out your graduate school applications, or even just deep-clean your house - you will beat the busybody crowds bustling to "catch up" when fall hits and you'll be able to ease into autumn on your hard-earned (and well-timed!) laurels.

Quick - when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?  On a scale of 1 to 10, how close is your current profession to that childhood ideal?  If the answer is "not even on the scale," it might be time to rethink your path - and regain your passion.  A 2009 study suggested that the best indicators of midlife career attainment were having role models, discussing future plans with others, and achieving similar aspirations to those set in high school.  If you are unhappy in your career and not sure why, it might be time to boost your potential by revisiting your dreams from years ago.  It might be enough to set you right back on course.

Although you loyal readers know that I can't wait for "S" to give you the numerous joys of sleep (a bene-fit wellness must!), quiet is nearly as important for peace of mind, relaxation, and reflection.  As the teachings of yoga explain, a quiet mind is one that can treat extremes - both of triumph and devastation - with the same steady assurance.  Take a few minutes to read through these seven paths to a quiet mind - and take some time to rediscover your own inner peace.

We hope you enjoyed our second installment of the ABCs - and don't miss our last entry in this bene-fit series next Monday!  Stay healthy and happy this week.

July 12, 2010

The ABCs of Summer Success: Part One

Welcome back to  bene-fit, healthy people!  We hope you had a safe and happy Independence Day.

Despite the scorching heat on the East coast and unseasonable coolness on the West, the reality is that summer has only just begun - and we've got a few months left to revel in sunshine, that undeniable sense of relaxation, and the weekend-after-weekend festivals, parties, and BBQs that make summer, well, summery.

I don't know about you, but as much as I love this season, it can also be somewhat overwhelming - and destructive - for my regular fitness routine.  Little by little, an evening yoga class here is replaced with a patio happy hour there, or a regular Sunday training run is foregone for a lovely late-morning brunch, and suddenly I'm feeling less summery and more sluggish than I did just a few weeks ago in the cool comfort of late spring.

As I was reflecting on my so-called summer woes, something struck me: it doesn't have to be so stressful!  There has to be an easier, faster, more summer-spirited way to maintain my health and have some fun while enjoying the many gifts of the season.  Thus, I present the bene-fit "ABCs" of Summer Success - a three-part blog series giving you easy ways to keep up - or kick-start - your fitness journey in these steamy summer months.

Today, I give you A-I:

We tend to see a lot more of our bodies in the summer, when heat dictates a sparser wardrobe and a lot more bathing-suit time.  To combat negativity when you look in the mirror, try pasting a Post-It note with a daily affirmation on your bathroom mirror or on the inside of your front door to remind yourself how great it feels to be you.  Try something simple like, "Today I choose happiness," or "I am everything I need to be."

You  had to know we'd choose this as our "B" feature!  Our mission is for you to find your bene-fit - on your own terms, and toward your own passion.  Finding your bene-fit means pursuing the goals that will make you a happier, healthier, more successful version of yourself - in a way that is good to your body, mind, and spirit.  Seek the positive in even the smallest action, reminding yourself of the bene-fit of a good workout, healthy meal, or full night's sleep.

Almost any fitness guru will tell you that it's what you do 90% of the time that determine your results - and allowing yourself 10% "wiggle room" is a great way to stay on track without feeling deprived.  Make sure to be honest with yourself about what 10% is, however: an ice cream cone once a week is great; once a day might not be so realistic.

Why eat food that doesn't bring you joy?  Why revert to frozen meals when you have the abundance of fresh summer produce around you?  Try to bring taste, freshness, intention, and thought to your meals this summer.  Try cooking in a new way, like grilling fruit or making pizza from scratch.  Don't let your diet turn to drudgery when there are so many healthy, light options this season.

Many folks fall away from their fitness routines because they don't know to to start or continue one.  Take the time to educate yourself on health - even if it means something as simple as following @findyourbenefit on Twitter for daily tips or making sure to read the Health section of your local newspaper.  Education can be empowering and set you on a straight, informed path toward your health goals.

No one has to forge a new path on their own - and your family is often the first line of support when the going gets tough.  Use the late summer light hours to establish a new family tradition - like taking walks after dinner - even if the only "family" you can rely on to keep up with you is your dog!  Ask your family for help and support when you are trying to make healthy - and sometimes hard - changes in your life.

Tracking your progress - whether it's logging your calorie intake, mapping your run distances, or counting your workouts per week - is a great way to monitor growth and make sure you are moving forward in your journey.  Take some time to think about your central health goal and find a way to measure your steps toward reaching it, then stay honest about what you are doing each day to get there.  It's a no-brainer to stay motivated - and accountable.

Hard Work
Nothing desirable in life is easily attained - and health and fitness goals are no different.  Prepare yourself for the difficulty of making significant change, whether that is reducing your sugar intake or trying to walk 15 miles per week - and make up your mind to power through it no matter what obstacles arise.  Give yourself credit for the strong person  you are and don't let the levity of the task stop you in your tracks.

Finally, find someone, something, or some place that inspires you to keep going on your journey.  Some people find it helpful to create an "inspiration board" - a collection of clippings, quotes, and photos that remind them why they're doing what they're doing.  Be conscious of your motivations for making the change you are trying to make, and focus on the positive people, choices, and actions that will get you there.

That's it for our first installment - make sure to check back next Monday for more bene-fit ABCs!