Holiday Survival Guide

By this point, it’s a full-blown holiday extravaganza. From the holiday-themed coffee drinks (released waay too early, we’re side-eyeing you Starbucks), to the Christmas music playing everywhere (from your car, to the grocery store, to your barre class, whoops), it’s inescapable. And it’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, and yet every year around November, we start to feel an underlying sense of anxiety buzzing in the background of all our Christmas cheer.

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Before you begin bah-humbugging your family and co-workers, here are some common holiday stressors and accompanying ways to bring back your sanity and start enjoying a little more of that holiday magic this year!

  1. BE A Party Pooper. Of course, part of the beauty of the holidays is getting to spend extra time with those you love. Throw in the company parties, GNO ornament swaps, and the local parades, and you’re completely booked until January 1st! But there actually can be too much of any good thing. Ask yourself what feels best for you, and your immediate family, and commit to only what you can handle. It’s hard to say the dreaded n-o, and potentially hurt people’s feelings, or get haggled for being the party pooper. But you truly need to put your needs and your family’s needs first right now. Avoid spreading yourself thin by setting expectations with family and friends up front and let them know your plans. Then hold strong to those boundaries you’ve set for yourself.
  2. Self-Care Gets Serious This Season. It’s no wonder people tend to get sick more often this time of year. Between the weather, the heavy foods, the extra sugar, the stress, and the lack of sleep, you’re not exactly setting your body up for success. Take self-care seriously this time of year and schedule some extra workout classes (consider non-traditional times, like early morning or weekend classes), and do it as a favor to your well-being rather than as a punishment for those three holiday sugar cookies you’ve already had this week (hey, it happens). Prioritize sleep and swap out your morning coffee from time to time with hot tea or lemon water to reset your system a little bit.kombucha mocktail
  3. Detox Not Retox Why does it feel like there’s a drink with your name on it everywhere you turn this month? Probably because there likely is…we tend to indulge in one cocktail too many, especially when it’s a complimentary one, with all the extra socializing right now. Remind yourself that you actually don’t have to drink alcohol just because it’s available to you (Is the holiday party boxed wine really even worth it?). It’s actually easier than you think if you plan ahead. Allow yourself one or two nights a week to partake in the holiday spirits, and otherwise swap out your cocktails or wine with a fun mocktail, like pomegranate juice and soda water, or our favorite, kombucha (Bring it in your purse and no one will probably know the difference of this sparkly substitute for champagne). The less alcohol/sugar you consume, the better your sleep, skin, and overall mental well-being will be. And at a minimum, drink at least 8 oz of additional water for every alcoholic drink you do consume.
  4. Put The Credit Card Down. One of the biggest culprits of holiday stress is money. (Dun dun dun!) All the holiday shopping and gift buying can add up quickly and start to feel like a black cloud over your head. At no point does the tradition of gift buying have to turn into the reason you go into debt. And to make matters worse, we tend to cut down, or completely out, the things that actually our improve our wellness, like our gym memberships. If gift buying is stressing you out and straining your finances, find ways to cut back where you can. Ask your family if you can draw names for gifts, rather than buying everyone something. Try making hand-made gifts if that’s something you enjoy (batch make healthy-ish cookies, or make an ornament or wreath) . Or our personal favorite is making a vow with your girlfriends, or significant other, to do “experience” gifts rather than material things. Think outside the box, and give a little differently this season.

The best advice we can give you is to slow down , listen to your body, and get more comfortable with saying “no.” Both things can be hard and unnatural at first, but the more you practice them, the easier it gets. Cheers to a healthy, happy, and surprisingly sane holiday season this year!

 

At Home Work Out For The Holidays

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, we tend to put ourselves on an extended ‘vacation’, and let our workouts go by the way-side. Whether it’s sick kids, travel, or snowy weather, we’re here to rescue you holiday slump with an at-home Neighborhood Barre workout that will have you shaking in no time 🙂

This workout is less than 15 minutes, so you can easily squeeze it in, from virtually anywhere. Consider switching it up, by simply repeating the thigh exercises 2 – 3 times, instead of completing the entire workout for example. And just as if you were in class and the instructor is adding in little challenges, or giving you options to adjust within the exercise, we’ll give you those choices here ,so you can feel just as good after your workout from home as you do once we dim the lights for cool down after a studio class!

 

First, start waking your body up with some knee lifts, or light jumping jacks, for 1 – 2 minutes. Consider also throwing in a few push ups, or a couple rounds of walking lunges, as dynamic movement is best to prep your body for your workout. Remember, the hardest part of any barre exercise is endurance, which is done by holding a position until your muscles exhaust, versus the specific move you’re performing. Keep this in mind for your workout, and challenge yourself to hold each exercise as long as you can.

 

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Using the back of a chair for stability, step your feet outside of your shoulders and turn your toes at 10 and 2. Tilt your pelvis towards the floor as you bend your knees and sink down to your lowest point, keeping tall posture. Begin to lift and lower yourself in inch increments, concentrating on gripping the floor from your toes on the way up, and pressing your knees back as your lower. Hold it down and work isometrically by concentrating on driving your hips forward, with every press back of your knees for more resistance. Try to move within a fuller range of motion up and down, but stay in your working zone by maintaining a bend in your knees, even at the top of your lift. Consider holding at your lowest point, and add a challenge for yourself at the end (See below). Goal yourself for a total exercise time of 2 – 3 minutes.

Options: Pop one, or both, heels; flex one, or both, feet; balance one or both arms out front, or overhead; incorporate equipment.

 

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Using a yoga mat or on a carpeted surface, come down onto your knees. Stack your knees just outside of your hips and sit on your heels, with your hands on your hips. Hover your seat away from your heels and keep the torso upright, with core engaged. Begin to lift and lower in inch increments, keeping your shoulders over your hips and pressing into the tops of your feet when you lift. Hold your lowest point, and think about tucking the pelvis forward, one inch deeper, again pressing down into the tops of your feet or your toes. Lower yourself down just before your reach your heels, then lift all the way up, just before your hips meet your knees, and repeat. Hold down at your lowest point, re-tuck your hips, and add a challenge for yourself at the end (See below). Goal yourself for a total exercise time of 2 – 3 minutes.

Options: Flex your feet for less; flatten your toes for more intensity; work side-to-side when tucking; balance your arms out front, or overhead; incorporate equipment.

 

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Come down onto your side, with your head resting in your hand. Pull your knees in line with your hips and extend your top leg forward, bringing your foot in line with your hip. Plant your front palm down to the floor, while inverting your top hip down, pressing your body weight forward.  Begin lifting your leg in inch increments, focusing on lengthening your leg so there’s no bend. Hold your lift and perform tiny squeezes inwards, closer to your chest. Try to build upon your squeezes so your leg never relaxes back out, maintaining the “L” shape in your body. Slowly lower your foot to hover off the floor, then lift back up to your starting position, and repeat. Make sure you’re not shifting your body weight back when you lift your leg, by pressing firmly into your front palm. Hold your foot in line with your hip or slightly above, and add a challenge for yourself at the end (See below). *Make sure to repeat this exercise on the other side.* Goal yourself for a total exercise time of 1.5 minutes – 2.5 minutes.

Options: extend both legs forward for more of a challenge; bend both legs bent at 90 degrees for more hamstring work; balance your boxed arm by extending out front, or overhead; incorporate equipment.

 

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Using a yoga mat or on a carpeted surface, come down onto your back. Stack your knees just outside of your hips and your heels under your knees. Hover your seat off the ground and tilt your pelvis up towards your knees. Begin to lift and lower in inch increments, pressing your weight into your feet on the way up, and stopping yourself on the way down with your core engaged. Hold it up at the top of your lift and begin to tuck  an inch, engaging from your glutes. Focus on pressing your weight into your right feet while keeping your hips level. Begin to pop and drop both heels. Isolate your hips so the only movement is coming from your heels, clinching your glutes together. Option to hold the pop in your heels as you lower down to your lowest point, and lift back up to your highest point. Be mindful you’re not pressing into your shoulder blades or arching your back on the way up, and slowly resist against your body weight on the way down. Hold at the top of your lift and pulse up an inch. Hold your lift, and while keeping your hips bridged, step your feet outside of your hips, keeping your knees aligned with your feet, Re-engage your core, and repeat the same moves in a wide stance. If you feel the work start to shift into the small of your back, press your weight into your feet, consider lowering down an inch, and stretch your tailbone toward your calves. Goal yourself for a total exercise time of 3 minutes – 4 minutes.

Options: pop one, or both, feet; flex one, or both, feet; flat feet for less; balance your arms overhead; incorporate equipment.

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Come onto the floor with your elbows stacked under your shoulders and legs extended long behind you, hips-width. Tilt your pelvis forward and contract your abs from there by tucking one inch deeper in your core. Engage your breathing, exhaling with each tuck. Next alternate soft taps from your knees to the floor. Keeping your hips stable and in-line the entire time. Consider straightening your legs and holding, and add a challenge for yourself at the end (See below). Goal yourself for a total exercise time of 1 minute – 2 minutes.

Options: straight arm or forearm planks; knees down for less; leg lifts; feet wide; balance one arm forward (repeat on other side).

Prefer the guidance of a professional? We got ya covered with our streamable workouts! Pick a 12 minute toner, or a full 55 minute class, available for rent or purchase online here.

Own Your Work(out)…Like A Boss

Cancelled. AGAIN. Ugh it’s so annoying when your friend bails on you. You know the one, that makes a habit of it. The one you can’t fully trust or depend on to follow through with what she says. Well consider this an intervention, friend. That person is YOU – when you talk to yourself. Are you constantly giving up on yourself? Are you always bailing on the goals you set for yourself? We’re here to help!! We’re bringing you the best ways to keep yourself accountable, inspired, and following through like. a. BOSS. Because the more you stay inspired, the more your goals will flourish. Here are our top tips to get you motivated, when you work(out) for yourself:

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1. Remind Yourself That You’re In Charge: There are loads of reasons we get off track with goals, especially long-term ones. Self-doubt, fear we won’t succeed, and concern that we are not setting realistic goals are just a few of them. So this is really important to remember: You can change your goal if you want. When we are experiencing doubts, it’s easy to feel like we don’t have a choice, or to make excuses. However, you are in the driver’s seat and you are in control. Take action to recognize what’s not working, and react by finding an alternate solution. If you set a goal of working out Monday through Friday and you’re consistently not making it to class daily, try alternating days, or backing 1 or 2 classes off your goal. If you’re frustrated your not seeing ‘immediate gratification’ from our workouts, consider upping your game by adding in a HIIT class; asking your instructor how to add more intensity to an exercise; or consider tracking your diet on My Fitness Pal. These may seem like obvious answers, but how often are you actually adjusting your goals, versus completely giving up on yourself? Put your big girl pants on and remind yourself that Y-O-U are the only boss of you!

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2. Share Goals And Plans With Others: Without someone breathing down your neck to make sure you get the job done, or even literally just to show up, it can be easy to slack off. It’s important to have friends or family members that can keep you in check. You are much more likely to stay on track if you have someone holding you accountable. Just think about it. How often do you currently tell your husband or significant other about your plans to work out? It’s usually an internal conversation, or maybe a quick text shared between you and a friend. This week, try committing to one exercise goal and tell your significant other about it. Like, “Hey, I’m going to try to make it to three barre classes this week; or I’m going to set my alarm early for a 6 am class on Monday; or I’m gonna get up and take class before we catch the game this weekend.” The seed of responsibility is planted, and when you engage the power of social expectations, you’re 65% more likely to stick to your commitment.

They’re not there to grade your success, or judge your downfalls, but just having someone who is aware of your goals is really helpful. When they ask about your progress, you can brag about your success, or maybe even admit to some bumps in the road (being vulnerable keeps it real, ya’ll!), but either way you’ll be motivated to continue pushing yourself. And nothing is more rewarding than recognition, so find your cheerleaders! Remember, they don’t need to take classes with you, just help you stay on track. (Mama’s are shoe-ins for cheerleaders, whereas your significant other is a better accountability partner).

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2. Sign a commitment contract: There’s a reason lots of gyms and fitness studios have accountability techniques built into their memberships and class cancellation policies. The psychological power of loss aversion and accountability has been proven to drive behavior change. If literal contracts make you nervous, checkout the app stickK. StickK asks users to define their goal (whatever it is!), pick a timeline to accomplish it, and put something at stake (whether it’s money or their reputation). If you don’t fulfill your commitment with stickK, it automatically tells your friends and opens you up to public failure. The likelihood of getting new habits to stick, or reaching your goals, is remarkably higher when you set a time to report back to someone on your progress. Sundays are usually a great day to not only set expectations for the new week ahead, but take the time to reflect on how you measured up the week prior to track your progress. Remember progress isn’t always a number on a scale. Maybe you’re finding you’re in a consistently better mood when you exercise, or have more energy. Maybe you’re sleeping better, or made a new friend in class. Maybe your husband asked you to open a jar of pickles this week since you’ve been flashing those guns around the house. Whatever it is, recognize it and track it!

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3. Think Big Picture:  We are busier than ever, and we are unfortunately a society that often considers our own health our lowest priority. Most people don’t worry about their health until something is wrong. And when something is seriously wrong, it can be too late. So why does your health honestly matter? Remember your health is both mind and body. Is it really a number on the scale for you? Maybe your workout is your ‘me time’ to mindlessly chatter about Netflix with your neighbor before or after class. (Seriously, there’s a least one other person in the room that’s currently binge watching Stranger Things or The Handmaid’s Tale, promise). In a world where we open our phone 80 times a day on average, (yikes!!), it’s important to connect with people face-to-face, too.

Maybe you have a parent or relative that deals with a chronic health condition and you’re secretly scared you’re genetically pre-dispositioned for it. Take action now by MOVING. A new study, reported on CNN, found that the current Western Civilization sedentary lifestyle is worse for your health than smoking, diabetes and heart disease.

Focusing on the end game is much more motivating than seeing each task as an individual chore. Try the “5 Why’s method” to get to the heart of your answer. Ask yourself why you work out 5 times, like the obnoxious toddler style of repetitive “Why????” asking. And really dig deep to the root reason for this to be effective. Then find a way to visualize your motivation for pursuing your workouts. This way we’re not constantly disappointed by not meeting our individual goals 110% of the time. Whatever your big picture is, write it down and place it front and center on your desk, or keep a picture that reminds you of your goal in your car dashboard to remind yourself what you’re really working toward.

4. Use the 20 second rule: In the book The Happiness Advantage, author Shawn Achor describes a simple strategy for developing better habits and doing things even when we don’t feel motivated. Achor says, “Lower the activation energy for habits you want to adopt, and raise it for habits you want to avoid. The more we can lower or even eliminate the activation energy for our desired actions, the more we enhance our ability to jump-start positive change.” So the next time you decide to commit to an early class? Try laying out your workout gear the night before. Have a babe at home? Restock the diaper bag and place it in the car the night before, so you’re not flustered the next morning to make it on time. This philosophy also works in reverse. If you are likely to sleep through your alarm, place your phone on the other side of the room so you’re forced to get out of bed. If you’re likely to talk yourself out of packing up all the kids to get to class the morning of, put something you need in the mornings in your car, or the diaper bag, so your forced to get in your car to use it. It can be your morning vitamin, your baby’s favorite toy, dry shampoo or a hairbrush, or maybe even your favorite coffee cup or water bottle!

Remember to reward yourself for all the small victories too! Maybe you grab your favorite latte after class, or maybe you give yourself a face mask that night, just remember you don’t get the reward unless you complete the goal 🙂 We rarely take the time to celebrate, or brag, on ourselves. Never be embarrassed to share a personal highlight with your instructor. It seriously give US so much pride, and actually serves as a great motivator for us as well, when we hear your successes! So remember not to simply mark it off and move on, plan for your small celebrations in advance, and take time for yourself!! Hey, when you’re the boss, you’re the assistant, manager, and party committee all in one 🙂

How Counting Your Macros, Not Just Calories, Can Tip The Scale

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One of the biggest issues with fad diets is that they tend to favor one macronutrient and restrict the others. Enter the Macro Diet. Many people have had success maintaining results long-term, since it’s balanced and not too restrictive. Counting macros not only shows you what the right balance of food looks like for health and performance, but it can also serve as a great way to shift your eating habits and create a sustainable transformation. It gives you wiggle room for eating out with friends, or going out for lunch meetings at work (#irl dieting goals).

So let’s get started with a Macro Diet 101: Macronutrients are the three nutrients your body uses to produce, and store, energy, including energy for exercise! The three macronutrients also happen to be those you’re most likely already familiar with: protein, fat, and carbohydrate.

Each macronutrient contains energy, which is commonly measured in calories.

  • Protein has 4 calories per gram.
  • Carbohydrate has 4 calories per gram.
  • Fat has 9 calories per gram.

So when you count your macros, you are technically controlling your calories, too. But the same isn’t true in reverse. When you’re counting calories, you’re not necessarily finding a balance of all the macronutrients your body needs—and that is what sets this approach apart.

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As a general starting point, start out eating about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight if you exercise regularly (hello barre babes!), then using a handy macro counting guide to figure out a good ratio of fats and carbs for your body and your goals. It may take some trial and error, and that’s normal. Remember this isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. We like that the above guide factors in 1) your activity level and 2) how you generally gain weight.

With a macro diet, you’re not meant to be depriving your body; you’re meant to be feeding it ideal nutrition that makes it more efficient. Let’s cover some meal inspiration around the 3 primary macronutrients!

Macronutrient #1: Carbohydrates

Fill your plate with healthy carbs, including leafy greens, whole grains and root veggies. A few good picks: broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, squash, dark leafy greens, green beans, onions, cucumbers, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, potatoes and quinoa.

Macronutrient #2: Protein

You need plenty of protein, but remember all protein isn’t created equal. Choose fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring), cod, lean grass-fed beef, turkey, eggs and nuts.

Macronutrient #3: Fat

Getting plenty of healthy fats is important for healthy hormone levels, metabolism, mood, and even vitamin absorption. Foods high in essential fatty acids include: coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, almonds, brazil nuts and macadamia nuts.

 

 

 

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Counting your macros is actually very simple, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. Luckily, the app and website, MyFitnessPal, does most of the work for you. Use the app as a food journal to track one week of normal eating (clearly if you know you’re going to have a busy week and will be eating out a lot, or traveling, that’s not your week to try this). Next, review your habits and identify where you struggle, and can make improvements. Do you tend to under-eat in protein? Swap out your snacks with protein-rich foods (*be mindful most protein bars sneak in lots of unnecessary carbs in the form of sugars, and saturated fats! Think lean beef jerky, hard-boiled eggs, or cottage cheese or greek yogurt). Tend to sneak in too much fat? Maybe reduce those two tablespoons of almond butter you slather on your apple to just one; or try using 1/3 instead of 1/2 of an avocado on your morning toast.

If your head is already spinning from all this tracking, we got your covered with some simple nutrition tips, by simply listening to your body’s cues:

  1. If you’re hungry, add more protein, as it is the most satiating nutrient. More fiber is also filling.
  2. If you’re tired, add more fibrous veggies to ensure sufficient energy from carbs.
  3. If you’re not losing weight, lower your carbohydrate intake, especially with dinner.
  4. If you have sugar cravings, balance your blood sugar better with more protein and fiber and remove all sugar.
  5. If you are losing weight too fast, add 5 to 6 bites of starch, such as sweet potato, oatmeal or squash, with one meal per day.
  6. If you are losing muscle mass, add more protein—ideally, an extra 5 to 6 bites of protein per day—and add strength training to your workouts.

Using macro counting to maintain a healthy weight is a good idea—this diet plan will keep you on track, choosing healthy, well-balanced meals, and keep you from feeling starved or having low energy. The great thing about this approach is you don’t need to stress yourself out with exact measurements, or feel guilt if you have a meal that doesn’t completely meet your macros. You can make up for it with your next meal, or the next day’s meals!

Barre At All Levels – How and When to Modify

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Are you meeting us half-way in class? We want you to feel like you can really give each exercise your all, but knowing that your all looks different, depending on the exercise, and maybe even on each side. It’s easy to set the expectation of performing at one level when exercising. But we’re here to give you the ante you need to approach each exercise, not just each class, customized to your personal level. Here’s what it really means to modify (whether upper or lower), to make your workout truly your own.

So where to begin? You should always begin ANY exercise at Neighborhood Barre from an origin of muscle activation. There’s a reason it’s called isometric strength training, right? There’s no choreography here, it’s just straight up flexing your muscle, which causes your body to move an inch. Let’s think about this in reverse. Instead of telling your mind, I’m going to lift my arm an inch in order to work my shoulder – Try thinking, I’m going to contract or flex the top of my shoulder, which causes a slight lift of my weight, or wrist. The muscle contraction is your cause, the physical movement is the effect. Stick your arm out right now, without any equipment, and try it, using this reversing method of thinking. It makes a difference right?!

You have to master the basics and train your body to engage from the right place, before you take on equipment, balance checks, popping your heel, or anything else that your instructor may cue. Remember these are always options, and there’s a reason we don’t begin with a lot of these choices right away when starting an exercise. Whether you’re a new or veteran client, we challenge you to take your next class without any equipment, to tune into how you’re engaging your body throughout class.

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Next, check in with yourself to see if you’re actually listening to your body during an exercise, or are you telling your body what it needs to do? Or worse, are you secretly trying to be your neighbor’s shadow? You have to have your blinders on in class, and not get discouraged by what someone else may be doing that you’re not. Things feel different from exercise to exercise, from left side to right side, from day to day. Remember to respect the signals your body is giving you and adjust from there. If you feel the exercise somewhere differently from what the instructor is telling you, that’s your signal to adjust.

We hear this most commonly in seat exercises (feeling it in your standing leg, or in the hip flexors). Any time you feel something more in the supporting side of your body, or worse – in the front-side (and not back-side) of your body, its a matter of where you’re resting your weight. You must stay centered, so you can put as much body weight, and work, into the correct side. When standing, think about adding a slight hinge from your waist, so you are able to re-engage your core, and keep your shoulders in line with your hips, versus leaning into the barre. If this still doesn’t cut it, then turn to face the barre, take a forward-folding position (head to the barre), and box your arm out, on the same working side. Any time you’re on All 4’s, try lowering yourself onto both forearms. This basically forces your body to redistribute your weight onto the correct side.

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A similar effect, for advanced clients, is a balance check. Not only does adding in a balance check add a greater core and stability challenge, it re-adjusts your body weight, so you can re-center and better isolate the working side, with an added cardio element. Try adding a balance check throughout class, meaning in thigh work, seat work, and during abs. Other ways to increase the burn include adding a reverse grip in any standing thigh or seat exercise facing the barre. This forces more opposition utilizing your own body weight.

Alternately, try relying on the barre less for other standing exercises. Check yourself by letting go of the barre for a second or two during the exercise to make sure you’re not using your upper body to rest weight onto the barre. Next, try improving your balance by taking your hand(s) forward, and eventually overhead for more of a challenge.  Just make sure your posture isn’t compromised when you add these elements, or your lowest working position (try not to lift your body up with your arms!). Next, try adding a pop to your heel to again improve stability, while also increasing your calorie burn by adding in more work for another part of your body. Think also about engaging on the equipment throughout the entire exercise, versus only when an instructor may be cueing a squeeze, or a press. See if you can hold the squeeze, or press, from beginning-to-end, then challenge yourself to squeeze deeper, or press harder, every time it’s being cued.

We also hear complaints of a sore neck or tight hip flexors during abs. In ab exercises, you want to focus on finding a C-spine (without pushing your shoulders into your ears!), to engage your core, regardless of the move that you’re performing. So think about constantly pulling your belly button back, and stretching your shoulders, or fingertips, forward. The same principle actually holds true when we’re performing ab exercises on our backs. You want to lace your rib cage, by pressing your waistband into the mat, and still maintaining your ‘tucked’ lower abdominal position, so you’re not pulling from your hip flexors.

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Need less in abs? Remove the equipment. Utilize a soft, supporting grip with one or both hands to support your body weight, but also reconnect your mind to the “C-spine” formation, so think about your elbows pointing up anytime you take a light grip. Neck on fire? Try taking the physical movement out of it, and engaging your core through breath control. Think about exhaling to contract your core, feeling your belly button draw down and inwards. You can add an arm pump to help you connect your contraction to your breathing, which will increase your exhalations. Tight hip flexors? Keep a bend in your leg(s) whenever we’re working in an extended position (think bicycles, scissor kicks or lifts, etc.).

Want more during abs? Think about incorporating movement from other parts of your body. Any time more than one part of your body is working, it automatically increases your calorie burn. So for example adding punches to your twists, or extending the leg that you’re twisting towards. Try  flexing your feet back and crunching your heels in, to add lower abdominal work, while continuing your upper abdominal work at the same time. And again, adding in intentional breathing techniques throughout will also strengthen your core and improve your results.

Remember, your number one rule will always be muscle activation over anything else. And because your own body is your number one tool and most valuable ‘piece of equipment’ at Neighborhood Barre – we truly can add, or remove, something within every exercise to create a tailored approach to working out with your own body in class.  Whether you’re looking for less, or more!, it’s important to talk to your instructor so we can empower you with the best choices in class.

Pushing Past Your Plateau – When Diet & Exercise Aren’t Enough

Stocksy_txp177de598lhJ100_Medium_477814The losing weight equation is a no-brainer right? Burn off more calories than you take in, by eating less and moving more. Sounds simple! But what if you are filling your plate with seemingly the right types of food, and hitting up your favorite exercise class at least three times a week, and it’s still not enough? Your mental game is likely the missing piece of the puzzle.

Before you roll your eyes, and go back to your bulletproof latte, hear us out. It turns out, the way we think about food, our body and our goals makes a big difference in how likely we are to stick to a weight-loss plan, regardless of whether your plan involves counting calories, going Keto, or taking an extra HIIT class every week.

Here’s 5 tips to get your mind right once and for all, and elevate your weight loss results, without the latest trendy diet or an overly intense workout plan.

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  1. Disconnect The Distractions: What we often deem these days as successful multi-tasking, is in reality overstimulation, and losing sight of getting back to what we actually think and feel. When you eat, STOP watching TV, answering emails, or scrolling through social media. When you ditch the distractions, you can focus more on what you’re eating, how much you’re eating, and how it makes you feel. This new relationship with your food will likely leave you feeling more satiated and lead to a strong, clear picture of food as part of your diet in the long-term.
  2. More Is Actually More: Diets immediately lead to the connotation of less, by cutting out carbs or sugar, cutting down portions, or even cutting out entire food groups. This act of cutting puts us and our minds into scarcity mode. When something is off-limits, even if you’re able to avoid it for a while, you could end up bingeing on it later because you’ve gone so long without it. Instead focus on celebrating the foods that you can eat, by crowding your plate with protein and vegetables, therefore simply making less room for the other stuff. Shift your focus away from what you can’t eat, and more towards what you can. It’s the same thought process with good vs. bad foods. Take pizza for example: with the mindset of filling up your plate with what you can eat, make a salad *with protein* to fill up your plate, then grab a slice of pizza. Before you move in on your second, or third, slice, see how you feel after you finish your plate. This is a much more realistic approach to still eating a ‘bad’ food without the guilt later, or telling yourself it’s your cheat day and eating 3 slices of pizza, with a side of breadsticks (we can’t quit you carbs!).Screen Shot 2018-08-20 at 3.06.45 PM
  3. Write Down What’s Off Limits: We’re not talking food here (remember, we want a healthy relationship with what we eat!). Declare, in writing, what you’re unwilling to do. This might sound counterintuitive, but it can help provide a “why” when motivation starts to falter. Are you unwilling to be the girl who’s always complaining about the same body part, to her friends or family? Are you unwilling to be the next person in your family to be put on cholesterol meds? Are you unwilling to wear an oversized t-shirt, or black-only bathing suit your next beach trip? Are you unwilling to be the parent who’s too tired to play with their kids at the end of the day? Think both long and short-term, as again your health, and your weight, are something that you will be dealing with the rest of your life. Remember to write these down, and keep it at the ready.
  4. Tracking 2.0: We’ve told you before about tracking what you eat to make yourself more mindful of your calorie input. But let’s go a step above the calorie counting. Start tracking not only what you ate, and how much, add on when you ate it, and how it made you feel. You’d be surprised how many times you may be eating your feelings, or eat when you’re bored, or that you have developed a habit of snacking before bed time when watching TV. The key here is you’re not only tracking your food intake, you’re tracking what you’re doing while you’re eating, and how it makes you feel. Becoming more mindful of what you eat, when and why you eat it, will help you create a healthy diet for life.
  5. Sleep On It: One of the strongest risk factors for becoming overweight is lack of sleep. When you’re feeling tired, you’re more likely to choose unhealthy comfort foods and to skip your workout. Additionally, sleep deprivation may slow down your metabolism. Yikes! If you’re wanting to see an added tick on the scale, try shooting for a consistent bed time, 7 days a week. Sleeping at least 7–8 hours per night consistently, is one of the easiest ways to control your weight without having to factor in food or exercise! Plus sleep helps aid muscle recovery from class 😉

 

Getting Warmed Up, From Front To Back, This Fall

Your warm-up should do just that – gently prepare the body for exercise by gradually increasing your heart rate and circulation. This will loosen the joints and increase blood flow to the muscles, prepping your body and mind for physical activity.  Just how we keep your mind and muscles constantly guessing in class by switching up the exercises, we do the same at the start of class in our quarterly warm-ups. Let’s break down the current warm-up release, shall we?

Did you know your core has two sides? We want you to keep your entire core engaged this warm-up, so think about working both the back and front side of your abdominal wall. The key to mastering the first few moves of class is your breath control. Starting with your breathing is a great connection for mind and body, throughout class. With every inhale, imagine the belly button is pulling in towards the floor, and with each exhale, try to pull in even deeper, focusing on your transverse abdominals. Keep your shoulders wide and roll your shoulder blades down your back, maintaining the isometric contraction of your core throughout each move. The pumping of your arms also helps get the blood moving in the body, bonus!

Think of the next four-count ab move, “reach, roll, twist, extend” as a jazz-hands version of the original and aforementioned arm pump. It’s still all about breath control and a deeper contraction in your core, with a little more pizzaz (wink). Your number one goal is to keep your belly flat by squeezing your navel in and scooping your belly out with every exhalation. Think about working deeper and smaller over time, versus starting over with every set, exhaling on the reach and the tap. Your number one goal in class is always muscle engagement over a large scale of motion.

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Moving onto reverse planks, otherwise known as the hardest, but most effective(!), plank on the planet. Think about driving your heels and palms into the ground, and staying in control during the drop. When you start to feel your weight move into your lower back, that’s your signal to bridge yourself back up. That should be considered your lowest point in this plank. If you have wrist sensitivity, or generally want a little less intensity for this move, try performing a static hold instead, or lowering yourself down onto your forearms.

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When working out your triceps, you want to keep as much weight pulling behind your body as possible. Most of the time people lead with their hips, versus their arms. Our bridged reverse tricep push up is a great way to make the mind-body connection to actually dip from the elbow and not your hips. Elbows should shoot straight back, with your hands and feet planted, and hips raised the entire time. You want to think about engaging the muscles in your back to bridge your hips up, pressing yourself away from the floor. Make sure when you lower your seat to finish, that you focus more on stretching your seat back allll the way back, so your weight rocks into the heels of your hands. You’re not tapping your seat up and down during these small isometric dips. If you don’t feel this in the backs of your arms in this position, try seated dips instead to master isolating your triceps first!

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Push ups are usually generally performed on our knees, or in a modified position in class. But we’re really challenging you to add leg raises, and even pop onto your toes, for this current warm-up. Keep in mind when you are raising each leg, to keep your body weight centered, meaning you’re not favoring one side of your body over the other. A good check-point for yourself is to see if your shoulders and hips remain level throughout the exercise. When you pop onto your toes to finish your push up series, use the mirrors around the room to check and see when your form is compromised. If you can’t remove the small sway from your lower back, it’s time to lower your knees so you can really scoop out your abs and re-center. Remember you’re using your own body weight on the way down, powering through the floor on the way up, and always leading with your chest (not hips)!

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We’ve made it to our last floor exercise before you start your weighted arm work, woo hoo! The plank is credited with working the entire body, and that’s what we want you to think about when performing the rolling plank in class. Let’s not complicate this move, as you seriously don’t need to be coordinated to pull it off, promise! Think of your bent leg as never losing it’s shape. It’s starting in a kick-stand behind your body for the side plank. That leg crosses behind as you lift your body back over to your forearm plank (think figure-4 leg cross), then take it back to your starting side-plank. Think about keeping your hips at the same height the entire time to ensure the work stays in your core and out of your back. If this still feels a little too much like rubbing your belly and patting your head at the same time (no judgement), just hold the kick-stand side plank and lower and lift your hips instead. We finish off planks by threading our floating leg through (think reach forward for the edge of your mat) to find a true isometric lift to finish. By straightening that bottom leg out, and forward, you’re removing the gap of space for your hips to drop down to keep the work centered in your core, from front to back. It’s actually just better form, not crazy hard, we promise!

Now that your feeling warm and limber, and a little out of breath, it’s time to pick up the intensity with your dumbbells. Stay tuned for a later blog post about our weighted arm work. We hope that you use these tips for your next warm-up in class, and remember to always ask your instructor if you’re pre-or-post-natal, dealing with an injury, or if something just simply doesn’t feel right, for alternate moves and positions to better suit you!

 

Finding Your Rhythm With A Routine

The sun is setting on summer, and there’s something looming over your head – you need to get back on track with your health commitments (womp womp). While some of us are SO ready to get back to feeling and looking better, others are a little….underwhelmed. The longer your ‘break’ may have been, the more difficult it may be to get back to the groove you were in pre-summer break. The struggle is real, ya’ll.

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But have no fear, we’re here to help give you that swift kick in the seat (that you’ve been missing right!?) to get your fall rolling, beginning N-O-W.

  1. Grade Your Current Lifestyle. Are you taking a dynamic approach? There is nothing like feeling well in your mind and body to improve your focus, sleep and energy levels. This includes your habits, exercise and diet. Yes physical activity matters, but are you also paying attention to what you’re eating, and how you’re spending your time otherwise to really feel your best? You likely don’t need to do a complete re-haul here, so don’t stress before you even get started, but remember exercise is only one piece of the puzzle. And no amount of calories burned or classes taken will ultimately mend a calorie deficit, or poor life habits that cause you to skip your workout or eat junk food the next day.
  2. Make A Plan. For your diet, clear out all the crap in your pantry that starts whispering your name when you turn on Netflix. Set a cut-off time where the kitchen is closed and communicate this with ALL of your family members. Consider eating earlier, by making your biggest meals early in the day. This will prevent you from pigging out at night and helps your metabolism burn those calories before hitting the hay. Aim for exercise daily. Of course there will be days where you miss it, but if you aim for it every day and put it on your calendar, you will at least end up with a solid 4 or 5 days of movement.Screen Shot 2018-08-20 at 3.06.45 PM
  3. Get Organized. Prepare everything the night before. Lay out your workout gear and pack your gym bag. Plan your meals the night before and if possible, have them prepped and waiting for you. We think this grocery staple list from Theeverygirl.com for your weekly shopping is a great way to start with meal prepping next week.
  4. Hold Yourself Accountable. Start making yourself aware of all your fitness and dietary habits by tracking them. A few great internet options are MyFitnessPal.com or Lose It! App for smart phones. They are both thorough and quick, and eye-opening as well as addictive! Also research has proven again and again that people who track their eating are the biggest losers, literally.Girls chatting cubbies
  5. Stay Psyched. Find a workout buddy. Whether it’s your child, your dog, or ideally a fellow #barrebabe*, commit to finding someone who is waiting for you at a preplanned time. (*We bet you’d be pleasantly surprised if you leaned over next class and asked your neighbor if she wanted an accountability partner. Simply swap numbers and text each other to stay accountable and excited about class. BONUS, you just made another new friend, Miss Congeniality.) If you find yourself losing interest in staying on track, reward yourself with a massage or a new pair of leggings (not food or alcohol!).
  6. Have A Plan B. Nothing will ever 100 percent work according to plan, because life. There will be good days, and bad days. Give yourself a break, and start over again the next day (not next Monday, the very next day). Plan some quick fixes to get your spirits back up, and your body already working towards recovery. Ate a big (late) meal? Take a quick 10 – 15 minute walk afterwards to help your food digest and feel better. Skipped your workout? It’s ok because you’ve planned them daily (riiight?), so you’re 100% attending the next one tomorrow. Skipped the grocery store this weekend? Look into a healthy meal delivery service that you know you can fall back on for those weeks you’re too busy to prep.

Lastly, remember to focus on the outcome, not the action. How does eating, sleeping and exercising better make you feel? Keep your goals dynamic (a number on a scale should not be your measure for success), keep it simple and approachable, be gentle on yourself when you stumble, make adjustments along the way, and always, always keep going. You’ve got this!!!

What Really Happens When You Skip Out On Stretching

We know we know, you’ve got lots of places to go, and lots and lots of things to do. But is skipping out on that final five minutes of stretching after class costing you precious workout results, and potential pain later?

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This may seem like a no-brainer, but without stretching, your muscles begin to contract and tighten after a long workout. Sometimes, achy knees or painful hips are caused by muscular contractions surrounding the joint. Stretching loosens the muscle, which aids in a quick recovery and the prevention of pain.

Similar to the initial effect, the contracted muscles will remain in their shortened state if not sufficiently stretched. Certain movements within workouts keep specific muscles in a contracted state while others are kept in a lengthened position which, over time, can result in muscle imbalances. This tightness increases the wear and tear on your joints and decreases your range of motion due to the reduced extensibility, making future injuries more likely.

When you skip a stretch after your workout the tissue remains in the position in which you left it, which can also add density, or bulk, which is why we always find time for a quick stretch in-between exercises during class to lengthen your muscle back out.

Taking time for your cool down can also increase your flexibility and mobility over time, which is thought to help avoid muscle tears, back pain, and joint issues. The 30 minutes directly after your workout are prime time to get the most out of your stretch, and ultimately see the most progress. So although skipping a stretch here and there won’t offset your entire workout, investing a little more time to loosen hard-working muscles, will set you up to be a better, pain-free barre babe over time.

If you absolutely must duck out of class early (hey at least you came right!!), here’s our top five, dynamic stretches you should perform at home. Think about holding each stretch for 30 seconds, or perform the reps listed, then repeat the entire sequence on the other side.

Low Lunge:

  1. Lunge forward with left leg until thigh is parallel to floor, and place hands on floor on either side of left foot, or on the left knee.
  2. Raise right arm straight up toward ceiling as you rotate left shoulder back. Lower hand to starting position.

Down-Dog Extension:

  1. Start in a tabletop position with shoulders under wrists and knees under hips. Press into both hands and lift your knees off the floor.
  2. Push hips up as you extend left leg behind you and press right heel down.
  3. Pull left knee in toward chest and lower into a lunge again to complete 1 rep. Do 8 reps of the entire sequence.

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Active Pigeon:

  1. Start in a straight arm plank. Pull left knee in toward outside of your left wrist, then lower left leg to floor so foot is near your right hip.
  2. Lower hips as you push through hands, lifting head and chest.
  3. Option to lower chest and forward fold for a deeper stretch. Alternately you may use a prop such as an exercise ball or pillow under your left glue for more support.

Butterfly Pose:

  1. Sit up tall with the soles of your feet pressed together and your knees dropped to the sides as far as they will comfortably go.

  2. Pull your abdominals gently inward and lean forward from your hips, being careful  not to round down from your shoulders.

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Seated Head Roll:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position and clasp your hands behind your back. Lower your chin toward your chest slowly.
  2. Rotate your head to the right so that your ear is directly over your right shoulder. Hold the position for five seconds.
  3. Roll your head back down toward your chest and then to the left. Bend your neck so your head is over your left shoulder. Hold the position for five seconds. Repeat for up to 8 reps.

Coping With Stress, Starting Today

1.) Reduce Your Intake Of Stimulants. 

Eliminating our most common vices simply isn’t realistic, and especially not all at once. So try starting small. Can you replace your second, or afternoon, cup of coffee with herbal tea? If you need wine or a cocktail to unwind after work each day, pick 1 or 2 weekdays to make a mocktail instead, drink flavored sparkling water (add fruit or herbs!), or even kombucha for a similar placebo effect. Bonus: Keeping yourself better hydrated will enable your body to cope better with stress.

You should also aim to avoid or reduce your consumption of refined sugars – they aren’t only in desserts, they’re in most manufactured foods (even salad dressings and bread), and can cause energy crashes which may lead you to feel tired and irritable. Make sure to check the labels of all processed foods, and try to find an alternate brand, or better yet pick something up from your neighborhood farmer’s market to avoid all the additives!

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2.) Get Moving To Burn Off Your Stress.

Stressful situations increase the level of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol in your body. These are the “fight or flight” hormones that are designed to protect us from immediate bodily harm when we are under threat. Physical exercise can be used as a surrogate to metabolize the excessive stress hormones and restore your body and mind to a calmer, more relaxed state.

When you feel stressed and tense, go for a brisk walk in fresh air (check out our previous post about the benefits of walking!).  Try to incorporate some physical activity into your daily routine on a regular basis, either before or after work, or at lunchtime. (Pro tip: make your workouts *non-negotiable* with yourself and your schedule, and pick a consistent class time to attend regularly).  Regular physical activity will also improve the quality of your sleep!

3.) Go To Sleep.

A lack of sleep is a significant cause of stress. Unfortunately though, stress also interrupts our sleep as thoughts keep whirling through our heads, stopping us from relaxing enough to fall asleep (stop thinking about your to-do list at 2 am!!).

Rather than relying on medication, try maximizing your relaxation before going to sleep.  Avoid caffeine during the evening, as well as alcohol if you know that leads to disturbed sleep. Stop doing any mentally demanding work several hours before going to bed so that you give your brain time to calm down. Stop multi-tasking! Quit scrolling stories on your phone with the TV on. Pick one or the other, to help your brain slow down. Try reading a calming book for a few minutes to relax your body, tire your eyes and help you forget about the things that worry you. Aim to go to bed at roughly the same time each day so that your mind and body get used to a predictable bedtime routine.

4. Try A Relaxation Technique.

Meditation isn’t for everyone. But literally anyone can do this, anywhere, even at your desk or in the car. One very simple relaxation technique is to focus on a word or phrase that has a positive meaning to you. Words such as “calm” “love” and “peace” work well, or you could think of one self-affirming mantra such as “I deserve calm in my life” or “Grant me serenity”.  Focus on your chosen word or phrase and return to the chosen word or phrase even when your mind wanders. If you find yourself becoming tense again later, simply silently repeat your word or phrase.

Don’t worry if you find it difficult to relax at first. Relaxation is a skill that needs to be learned and will improve with practice, like anything in life! So make sure to try this technique more than once to get the hang of it.

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5. Keep A Stress Diary.

Keeping a stress diary for a few weeks is an effective stress management tool, to help you become more aware of the situations which cause you to become stressed.

Note the date, time and place of each stressful episode, and what you were doing, who you were with, and how you felt both physically and emotionally.  Give each stressful episode a stress rating (on, say, a 1-10 scale) and use the diary to understand what triggers your stress and how effective you are in stressful situations.  This will enable you to avoid stressful situations and develop better coping mechanisms.

Not a dear diary type? Just talking to someone about how you feel can be helpful.

Talking can work by either distracting you from your stressful thoughts or releasing some of the built-up tension by discussing it. Stress can cloud your judgement and prevent you from seeing things clearly. Talking things through with a friend, work colleague, or even a trained professional, can help you find solutions to your stress and put your problems into perspective.

6. Take Control: Just Say No.

At times, we all feel overburdened by our ‘To Do’ list, and this is a common cause of stress. Accept that you can not do everything at once. (repeat this out loud three times right now because we are serious, sister!) Start to prioritize, and ultimately organize, your tasks.

Make a list of all the things that you need to do and list them in order of genuine priority, and over a longer timeframe. Remember to create buffer times to deal with unexpected tasks, and most importantly schedule time for YOURSELF, whether that’s exercise, a pedicure, or even a walk or phone call with a friend.

Take some things off your plate! Note what tasks you need to do personally and what can be delegated to others to do. See what you may even be able to completely eliminate, or move a task or two to a ‘when time allows’ bucket with no deadline.

Lastly, just say N-O. A common cause of stress is having too much to do and too little time in which to do it.  And yet most of us will still agree to take on additional responsibility.  Learning to say “No” to additional or unimportant requests will help to reduce your level of stress, and may also help you develop more self-confidence. Think about practicing some pre-prepared phrases to let other people down more gently, so you feel more comfortable saying no more often.

Which tip do you find will be easiest for you to work on today? Any other tips you’ve found personally helpful that aren’t on this list? Let us know!