THE TAKIN' CARE O' BUSINESS ISSUE: FITNESS TIPS FOR COMMUTERS, TRAVELERS, AND DESK JOCKEYS #497 03/15/12
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Fantastic Voyage: 10 Easy Ways to Guarantee a Blissful Commute

By Sarah Stevenson

Ah, the joys of commuting . . . For some reason, we live in a society in which we all need to be at work at the exact same time. Thanks to this, we also live in a society where we all need to deal with road rage, traffic, construction, and yo-yos who never should have received a license in the first place. While you don't have control over these stress-inducing obstacles outside of your vehicle, what happens inside your vehicle is entirely up to you. Here are a few simple tricks to turn stress into bliss during your commutes.

Freeway at Night

  1. Just breathe. Breathing is such a key component in releasing stress from the human body. With your mouth closed, take a deep inhale and allow your stomach to expand, making space for the lungs to fill completely. This not only gives your entire body all the oxygen it needs, it also opens up tiny pores that line the walls of your lungs that store toxins, old blood, and stale oxygen. When you breathe as deeply as possible, you open them up, flush them out, and fill them up with nice clean blood and oxygen. Now comes the exhale (my favorite part). Open your mouth to release a long deep exhale. Sometimes it even feels good to let out a sigh. Imagine you're releasing all your worries and stresses with the breath exiting the body. Calm bodies = Happy drivers.
  2. Exercise. WHAT? Yup . . . you can indeed exercise in your car without causing a pile up. Here's how to get a nice, firm butt on your way to work: flex your gluteus muscles, hold for 8 to 10 seconds, breathing normally, then slowly release and relax. Repeat 8 to 12 times or until your muscles are tired. You can also slip some Kegel exercises in there as well. This pelvic floor exercise named after Dr. Arnold Kegel consists of contracting and relaxing the muscles that form part of the pelvic floor—the muscles you contract when you have to pee but have to hold it. These exercises tone up your internal muscle structure and can even increase sexual satisfaction for both men and women.
  3. Woman StretchingStretching. A great way to relieve stress held in your body is to stretch. Circle your shoulders around clockwise 8 to 10 times, then rotate the circles in the other direction. This will help release tension in the shoulders and upper back. You can even loosen up a sore neck quite simply by tilting your right ear toward your right shoulder. Drop the left shoulder down as far as you can to intensify the stretch. Take several deep breaths (the longer you stay in this stretch the more it releases). When one side is done, do the next side.

    Also, your hands can get kind of cramped when you white knuckle the steering wheel for long periods of time, so take one hand off the steering wheel (when it's safe of course), spread your fingers out as wide as possible, and inhale. On the exhale, make a tight fist, imagining that you are squeezing the air out of your lungs with your hands.
  4. Aromatherapy. The Department of Health Science at Japan's Osaka Kyoiku University conducted a study in December 2001 testing the effectiveness of aromatherapy on stress. Lavender odorants were associated with significant levels of reduced stress. Scents like eucalyptus, chamomile, and vanilla are also related with calm, peaceful feelings. Many beauty supply companies make aromatherapy diffusers that you can plug into your lighter or clip on to the air vents in your car. You can also purchase a little jar of aromatherapy oil or a sachet at most health food stores. It's easy to keep in your purse, car, office, or home. Bring it close to your nose and take a deep breath in, then breathe out, releasing the tension and stress from your body.
  5. Woman ScreamingLet out a nice scream. Hint: Nobody will hear you. YELL your loudest. Imagine a teapot. The water gets warmer and warmer until eventually it starts to boil. That poor little kettle can't hold it in any longer; it has to SCREAM!!!! (Once it screams, you turn off the heat and, voilá, you get to enjoy a nice hot cup of chamomile.) See yourself as that teapot. When you feel like you just can't take it any longer, let out a loud SCREAM!
  6. Music. I can't tell you how many times I've missed my exit because I'm lost in the experience of a great song. Music can lift your spirits and flood you with memories in such a blissful way. When I know I'm going on a long drive, I often make a playlist on my iPhone® specifically for that trip. You can also use Pandora® or a similar personalized internet radio service; just log on, plug your device into the auxiliary port, and you're on an amazing music adventure. And if you don't happen to have any of these gadgets, there's this thing called "radio" that I hear can offer some interesting musical choices . . .
  7. A Book With HeadphonesTake in a good book. Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting you read while driving. There is this amazing invention called the "audio book." Check it out. So far, I've learned skills like how to meet people like me in 90 seconds or less, as well as how to think and grow rich—all while braving the northbound 405 on a congested Monday morning. Although I tend towards nonfiction, there's no rule that says you can't have a fictional adventure during your morning commute. It'll turn something that seems dreadful into something adventurous and educational.
  8. Smile at fellow commuters. The simple act of smiling releases chemicals in the body that not only reduce stress but also promote a healthy immune system. When you smile at someone they typically smile back, which is also a great stress reliever and positive reinforcement for you to smile more. In fact, several years ago, I smiled at a handsome driver next to me in traffic and, eventually, he became my boyfriend.
  9. Woman Driving With Curlers in Her HairEnjoy the scenery. Investigate the sights around you. Nature, the sky, clouds, the sun, the moon, trees, birds, bridges, buildings, cars, and people. Sometimes people can be the most entertaining scenery of all. You can even liven up another person's commute by livening up the scenery yourself. I love it when I am singing my heart out in my car and the driver next to me looks over (sure he has humiliated me by catching me singing). I turn to him and finish singing the song with all the passion I can muster up. I typically get a roaring laugh as a response.
  10. Positive affirmations. I like to place positive affirmations or quotes around my car where I can see them. I try to put them into my memory. Once I've memorized the quote I switch it out for a new one. The same trick works for scientific facts, historical dates, foreign phrases, and all other things Cliff Claven. Why not grow dendrites while driving? Big brains are sexy.

It took me years to learn all these tactics, having had several jobs and relationships over the years that required me to spend hours on California's highways and byways. I am, and have always been, a very sensitive person, so those drives meant that I wasn't exactly a lovely goddess to be around after an hour and a half on the road. Now, a couple of boyfriends and jobs later, I'm all about vehicular Zen, so it's my pleasure to save you the heartache and unemployment checks. Now get on out there commuters and make this world a better place, one blissful car at a time!

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Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Check the Team Beachbody Chat Room for the next impromptu video chat. Or, if you just can't wait, log onto the Information & Education section of the Team Beachbody Message Boards for questions, answers, and scintillating conversation.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com. We may even answer your question right here, for all the world to see!

And if you'd like to know more about Beachbody Director of Results Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration. You can also read a more scientific (not to mention snarky) take on many of the topics we discuss here at The Real Fitness Nerd blog.

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Don't Take This News Sitting Down: Your Desk Is Killing You

By Andrew Rice

Everyone knows that it's better to spend your free time getting up and exercising rather than sitting on the couch watching old Gilligan's Island reruns. But if you look at the actual time most of us spend sitting down, couch potato time is only a small part of the problem. What's really hurting us is the 8 hours every day spent sitting down at work.

A Woman Grabbing Her Back

The bad news is that sitting too much can actually kill you, much quicker than if you don't. The American Cancer Society tracked the health of 123,000 Americans for over 10 years. Men who spent 6 hours or more per day sitting had an overall death rate that was about 20 percent higher than the men who sat for 3 hours or less. The death rate for women who sat for more than 6 hours a day was about 40 percent higher.

According to statistics compiled by the US Bureau of Labor, in 1960 more than half of American jobs required at least a moderate amount of physical activity in order to perform their duties. In the last five decades, that number has fallen precipitously, to the point where now only 1 in 5 jobs require a moderate amount of physical exertion.

A Piece of Paper With "Calories" Written on It Is BurningCoinciding with that change, the number of calories burned during work time by American men and women dropped by 142 per day, on average. That equates to every man and woman in America eating a Hostess® Twinkie® at work, every, single day.

According to research at the Mayo Clinic, entropy takes hold when you spend too much time sedentary. Your body rebels and begins to do bad things to you—specifically, not only do you begin to get fat but your body also begins to store that fat around your middle, which is correlated with heart disease. In addition to giving you a big spare tire, sitting too much is linked to increased risks of cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and a host of other bad things, including hemorrhoids.

And let's not even mention back pain, which is the thing that drove San Francisco Marketing Executive Alex Salkever to switch from a sitting desk to a standing desk several years ago. According to Salkever, the change was immediate and dramatic.

"I began standing up in my office almost two years ago when we moved and there was a chest-level work bench in my office," said Salkever, "I thought, rather than buy a desk, I'd try standing. And I found it made my back feel better. I could concentrate for longer periods and felt less sleepy. I can work while sitting, now, but not for extended periods and I really prefer the standing desks. In fact, I convinced two coworkers to do the same and they both said it was a dramatic improvement."

If you're handy with tools it's easy to make your own standing workstation. Otherwise, there are dozens of good commercial options ranging from $200 to more than $1,000.

Chalene Johnson Holding Turbo BallOthers have found that sitting on a large balance ball instead of an office chair allows them to be at a regular desk while allowing their body to remain engaged and dynamic rather than slumped in a chair. Thanks to programs like P90X2® and Chalene Johnson's Get on the Ball!, most Beachbody® readers have at least one balance ball bouncing around the house. I don't use mine all the time but it's a great change sometimes. Because my body must actively balance on the ball, it continuously uses the hundreds of muscles that consist of the core. And my nervous energy gets absorbed by a natural bouncing. While researchers who studied the benefits of using a balance ball this way say it shouldn't be considered exercise on its own, it can definitely help add variety to your office ergonomics.

You can buy souped-up versions of the balance ball chair with a weighted base, casters, and in some versions, resistance bands to allow exercise right at your desk. In my opinion, they seem like overkill, especially the casters (and the price), but your mileage may vary.

I'm not suggesting that you should haul your fancy desk and office chair to the dump tomorrow. But don't accept sitting down all day as an inevitable consequence of modern life. While my career requires that I spend more time than I wish at a computer, I mix up my position a lot, the working stiff version of Muscle Confusion. Sometimes I sit at my regular desk, which has a full keyboard, monitor stand, and what an ergonomics expert would describe as a good position. Much of the time I sit with my laptop on a hard wood bench that requires good posture but is surprisingly comfortable for long periods. And, finally, when I'm restless, I throw in the balance ball just for good measure. I also make it a point to stand and walk around when making phone calls, which cuts my sitting time probably in half.

Related Articles
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Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Check the Team Beachbody Chat Room for the next impromptu video chat. Or, if you just can't wait, log onto the Information & Education section of the Team Beachbody Message Boards for questions, answers, and scintillating conversation.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com. We may even answer your question right here, for all the world to see!

And if you'd like to know more about Beachbody Director of Results Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration. You can also read a more scientific (not to mention snarky) take on many of the topics we discuss here at The Real Fitness Nerd blog.

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Fit Trippin': 10 Ways to Stay Fit While Traveling

By Kim Kash

When you travel, do you leave your healthy habits at home? On business trips, it's easy to overdo it with carb-fest lunches and expense account dinners, sedentary meetings, and late nights at the hotel bar. (It's networking, right?) And pleasure trips are all about cutting loose, living it up. But do you really want to return home feeling worse than when you left?

A Man and Woman in Loose-fitting Jeans

A far more satisfying way to travel is to stay active, and fuel your body and mind with all the things that keep it running at its best. Try just a few changes in your travel habits and you'll be sharper and more effective on business trips, and more alert, comfortable, and energetic on vacation.

  1. Bring fitness DVDs for your laptop. If you're on the road for business, then you're probably carrying your laptop. Throw a fitness DVD or two into the computer bag, and pop one in first thing each morning. Do a quick workout early, and notice how much easier it is to resist the temptations of the breakfast buffet.

    However, if you're on vacation, skip the computer. Aren't you trying to get away from it all? Leave the laptop and all that seated screen time back at home. Your eyes, back, and wrists need a holiday too.
  2. Explore the local area on foot. If you really want to get a feel for an area, the best way to see it is by walking. (Unless you're in Los Angeles. Nobody walks in L.A.) If you're on a business trip, try to schedule it so that you can walk to at least some of your meetings.

    Skip the cab unless you're late, it's raining like crazy, or your destination is more than a mile or two away. And steer clear of tour buses, unless there is really no other way to visit a particular sight.

    Also, avoid the hotel dining room in the morning. Instead, walk to a nearby breakfast place. You'll probably get a more satisfying meal at half the cost. You'll also see some street life on the way—businesses opening their doors, sidewalks getting swept, locals waiting for the bus or hurrying to work.
  3. Two People Using Workout BikesUse the hotel gym. Some people thrive on routine. If you have a regular gym schedule that's working for you, then continue it while you’re away. Keep your healthy habit going, and it won't be a struggle to get back to it when you return home. Most hotels have some sort of gym or exercise facility. Even if it's just a basement room with a couple of stationery bikes—use it!

    At the other extreme, you may find that your hotel has a big, glamorous gym with machines you've never used before. It's like being a kid at a new playground! Schedule a session with a personal trainer to learn how to use the stuff, and experience your workout as a novelty, a pleasure. The hotel might also have a great sauna or steam room, and maybe they offer spa services that are new to you. Bodywork is definitely a part of keeping fit and healthy. Schedule a Thai massage, or some other kind of therapy that sounds interesting.

    Travel is about experiencing the new and the novel. Apply this attitude to your exercise routine as well, and you'll find that even your same old workout in a new setting can be a treat.
  4. Take the stairs. This one's easy. Never, ever take the elevator, unless you're schlepping luggage. No excuses. It doesn't matter how many flights up your room is. In fact, book a high floor. Better views from the room, and more calories burned to get there!
  5. Discover local fitness activities. Whatever your destination, there's probably some kind of sport or physical activity that's popular in the area. Go skiing, hiking, bouldering, or climbing if you're in the mountains. At the beach, take a surfing lesson, or boogie-board, or at least get off your beach blanket and actually swim in the ocean. Those are the obvious ones, but think of others. Near a river or lake? Spend an afternoon canoeing, sailing, or rafting.

    In urban parks, there are inevitably pickup games of soccer, ultimate frisbee, and basketball. Big cities are also rife with climbing gyms, martial arts dojos, a million yoga emporiums, and even dance studios. Think how much more fun your museum day would be if you capped it off with a salsa lesson!
  6. A Person Riding a BikeRent a bike. Most major European cities—and an increasing number of American ones—have "smart bike" arrangements, with checkout stations all over town that allow users to pick up a bicycle in one location and drop it off in another. These are great for urban commuters, but are also ideal for tourists, since the services tend to be located in the busiest core of cities. Get around town on a bike and you're sure to see more of it.

    Beaches and other tourist destinations almost always have rental services that allow you to take out a bike by the hour or by the day. Have you been curious to try a recumbent bicycle, or a bicycle built for two? Rent one! Take it for a spin up and down the boardwalk and see what you think.

    If you're travelling by car, load up the bike rack and vow to leave the car parked once you arrive. In crowded resort towns, you'll be pleased as punch as you pedal past cranky tourists stuck in high season traffic.
  7. Keep one habit, no matter what. Vacations are notorious for undoing months of virtuous diet and exercise. This may have a little something to do with a steady holiday diet of fried appetizer platters and Piña Coladas. However, what really derails a healthy fitness routine is an interruption to it.

    But it's a vacation! It’s time for a break! True enough, but consider keeping just one healthy habit while you're away, to keep your momentum going. For example, go to bed at your normal time (if you're happy with that habit), or wake up at your normal time. If you have a yoga or meditation practice, continue doing even a very abbreviated version of it. Say, one Sun Salute without fail when you first get out of bed. Or, if you're used to a specific, healthy breakfast, keep eating it every day. Make a promise to keep one good thing going, and then follow through on that commitment. This will create a powerful sense of control and continuity that will make it easier to get back on the health and fitness wagon when you return home.
  8. Have a day of gluttony. Early in your trip, pick one day to totally overindulge. Eat like a starving hound. Drink like a lush. Stay up too late. Make an ass of yourself. Seriously. You have been dreaming about this holiday for months. You are livin' la vida loca!

    When you wake up the next morning, notice how you feel. Don't gulp down your usual hangover remedies, whatever they may be, and don't have a big guilt trip. Simply notice what is going on with your body. Let yourself feel it. Your head is pounding, right? Your stomach feels sour. You have no energy. Everything feels awful. You want to go back to bed. Ask yourself, do I want to feel like this every morning of my vacation? Do I really have that kind of time to spare?

    Later in the day when you're thinking of having a fourth Mai Tai or a second dessert, bring your mind back to what it was like when you woke up. No judgment, no worries. Just remember how you physically felt. Then make a conscious decision about whether or not you want to feel that way again tomorrow morning. If you do this on day one or two, maybe the lesson will sink in.
  9. Woman Meditating at the BeachSlow down and enjoy. The American lifestyle is so fast-paced, frenetic, and stressful that it can be hard to downshift into vacation mode. That go-go-go attitude can cause you to miss what's right in front of you.

    Are you back for a third helping at the all-you-can-eat buffet on the pool deck, and you can't specifically recall what was on your first or second plate? Relax. There's more than enough food for everyone, and no rush for you to finish eating. Remember, you're on vacation. Slow down and enjoy whatever you're eating, whether it's "healthy" or not. Relish it. If you focus on and savor your food, you won't eat as much. That's not the reason to slow down, though. Go slow so that you can truly enjoy every single, delicious bite.
  10. Make your vacation an adventure. Do you really just want to sit on the beach for a week and drink? (Wait. Don't answer that.) The best way to stay fit when you're on vacation is to get out and do stuff. Tips number one through nine will help you shoehorn a little bit of wellness into any business or pleasure trip. But this last tip is the biggie, and doing this one means you won't need to bother with the others.

    If you have been taking been taking good care of yourself—working out, eating right, getting enough sleep—then you have been in training for real-life adventures. Give yourself a huge reward yourself on your next holiday. Pick a fun, physically active adventure, and build a trip around it.

    Cycle from Saigon to Angkor Wat, or through New England. Dive or snorkel in the blue waters of the Caribbean, or the Pacific, or the Indian Ocean. Refine your yoga practice at an ashram in India, or Costa Rica, or upstate New York. Go climbing in the Swiss Alps, or Utah, or Kentucky. Take a rafting trip down the Colorado River—or through the French countryside, where you'll float past vineyards and villages.

    Are these just pipe dreams that are too expensive or complicated to be considered? Think again. If you can afford a family vacation to Disney® World, or a Caribbean cruise, or a high season week at any seaside resort, then you can afford something better. You can do something much more memorable, interesting, and active. Before you go on auto-pilot and book the usual beach holiday, think for a minute.

    What's your dream? Do you want to charter a sailboat in the Mediterranean, or on the Chesapeake Bay? Have you always talked about wanting to cross-country ski in Vermont? Then do it. Go! Why else have you been clocking all those hours in the gym? You have the strength and the energy—and if you don't, you know how to train for it.

    Do some internet research, and book a trip that excites you and makes you a little nervous. These are the eyes wide open, active experiences that you will remember for the rest of your life. As an added bonus (not that you need one), you'll return from an adventure vacation looking and feeling exhilarated, re-charged, inspired, and even more fit and fabulous than when you left home.

Can six days of all-you-can-eat seafood buffets and beach lounging do all that? Hardly.

Related Articles
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"Down and Dirty One-Pot Meals"
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Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Check the Team Beachbody Chat Room for the next impromptu video chat. Or, if you just can't wait, log onto the Information & Education section of the Team Beachbody Message Boards for questions, answers, and scintillating conversation.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com. We may even answer your question right here, for all the world to see!

And if you'd like to know more about Beachbody Director of Results Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration. You can also read a more scientific (not to mention snarky) take on many of the topics we discuss here at The Real Fitness Nerd blog.

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Recipe: Hearty Chicken Stew

(Makes 4 servings)

Hearty Chicken Stew
No meal says "Hard Workin’ American" like a hearty chicken stew.

Wait, that's not true. Actually, a giant rib-eye and steak fries would probably say it better, so allow us to rephrase that. Nothing says "Hard Workin' American with a busy schedule on a budget who doesn't want to have a heart attack at 53" like a hearty chicken stew. This is one of those delicious "one-pot meals" that may take a little time to make initially, but it'll last all week long—or you can freeze it in several small containers, pulling it out when you just don't have time to cook. Otherwise, you can just stick with the nightly beef and fries because, well, heaven forbid you eat something that makes your life healthier and easier!

  • 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 lb. chicken breast, boneless, skinless, and cut in cubes
  • 1 12-oz. carton organic chicken broth (no MSG)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 medium potatoes, cut in cubes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt (optional)
  1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add onions, carrots, and chicken. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are soft, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add chicken broth, water, potatoes, bay leaf, garlic powder, thyme, pepper, and sea salt, if desired. Cover and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the potatoes and carrots are tender, about 20–25 minutes.
  4. Remove bay leaf; serve in soup bowls.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):

Calories Fat Saturated Fat Cholesterol Sodium Carbs Fiber Sugar Protein
300 6 g 1 g 67 mg 871 g 36 g 5 g 5 g 27 g

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.


P90X® and P90X2® Portion Information

Nutritional Information: (per serving)

Protein Vegetables Carbs (legumes & tubers)
1 2 1/2


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"Sara / I know exactly what you mean. I think that I would fall into the group of peolpe that just quit. My whole life I have never finished anything. After reading your posts for a few months now and reading the book you suggested, I have had a personal re-birth. I have recommitted to my workouts and just recently signed up to be a coach. I want to change my life and not be a quitter anymore!! Thanks Josh!"

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