SparkPeople Guest Blogger

4 Push-Up Modifications You Can Try Today

Struggling to master a full push-up? You aren't alone. Push-ups are a great exercise that engages almost every muscle in your body, but they aren't exactly easy to do! The good news is there are several modifications you can use while you are building up into a full one. In this video I'll show you 4 easy ways to modify a push-up (shown from easiest to most challenging) to help you progress and build the strength and stamina you need to finally master a full push-up on your toes.
 
Here are the specific modifications we cover in the video, along with my reps/set recommendations for each to help you build proper form and functional strength:

Modification #1: Wall Push-Up
Try working up to 3 full sets of 15 repetitions before progressing to modification #2.

Modification #2: Incline Push-Up
Try working up to 3 full sets of 10-12 repetitions before progressing to modification #3.

Modification #3: Quadruped Push-Up
Try working up to 3 full sets of 10-12 repetitions before progressing to modification #4.

Modification #4: Bent Knee Push-Up
Once you have mastered 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions of the bent knee push-up, feel free to try adding in a few reps of full push-ups (on your toes). You can try to do as many full push-ups as you can with great form and then drop down to your knees to complete the set.

Oh, and keep an eye out for my workout partner Peanut in this video—she wanted to help me with my push-up form! Do you work out with your pets at home too?



Did you try the modifications? Let me know in the comments below which one you are working on right now and just remember no matter where you are starting out, practice makes progress!

Need an effective workout program without a single push up (or even any floor work)? Get our “WALK ON: 21 DAY WEIGHT LOSS PLAN” DVD Set! It features 4, 30-minute walking-based routines that include low-impact HIIT cardio, strength training, standing abs and even chair stretches to help you burn fat while building your energy!

About the Author
Jessica Smith is co-author of the Thin in 10 Weight Loss Plan (Sunrise River Press, 2012), and a certified wellcoach, personal trainer and group fitness instructor. Having started her own fitness journey more than 40 pounds ago, Jessica knows how challenging it can be to lose weight (and keep it off). Recently named one of Sharecare's Top 10 Online Influencers, she loves finding and sharing the latest info on weight loss, fitness, and healthy lifestyle habits. The star of several best-selling exercise DVDs, Jessica has over 13 years of experience in the industry, and holds a bachelor's degree in Communications from Fordham University.

Posted 9/3/2015  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 5 comments   5,890 views

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Challenge Every Muscle with This Walking Interval Workout

Flowers and trees are pretty, but sometimes a walking workout needs a bit more than scenery to keep things interesting. Incorporating intervals and strength-training moves into a walk not only adds variety, but also challenges your muscles and can boost your metabolism. Dallas-based trainer Kim Truman developed this varied walking workout, which includes three different intervals and three body moves, for people looking to break up their usual walks.
 
Keep boredom at bay today with this fun, heart-pumping workout.

Posted 8/31/2015  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 7 comments   16,898 views

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Health Benefits of Sage

When it comes to healthy eating, most people tend to focus on eating more fruits and vegetables. However, herbs and spices can also provide astounding health benefits. Learn how herbs like sage can improve your health and delight your taste buds.
 

What Is Sage?

Sage belongs to the mint family of herbs, which includes rosemary, basil, thyme and lavender. Sage plants are distinguished by their grayish-green, spear-shaped leaves. Its edible flowers can range from blue to pink to white. For centuries, cultures around the world have used sage to treat a plethora of ailments including sleep disorders, colds and bacterial infections. In fact, its scientific name, Salvia officinalis, stems from the Latin salvere, meaning "to be saved."
 

Nutritional Properties and Uses of Sage

Sage contains a negligible amount of calories, making it an excellent weight-loss food. What it does contain is a collection of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, including:

  • Vitamins A and K
  • Volatile oils
  • Flavonoids
  • Phenolic acids including rosmarinic acid (named after rosemary)

These compounds work together to regulate metabolism and protect cells from free radicals. The acids and vitamins in sage help prevent inflammation and boost the immune system. Consuming sage is especially beneficial for people with chronic diseases such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and atherosclerosis. Herbal sage tea can relieve indigestion and dyspepsia. Studies also support sage's role in regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels in people with diabetes.

Apart from dietary uses, sage can also be used as a skin toner, mouthwash and an antibacterial. Though research is limited, the tannin compounds in sage may help relieve hot flashes in menopausal women.
 

Sage and Brain Health

It's not surprising that an herb synonymous with wisdom can promote a sharper mind. Studies conducted in the U.S. and the UK found sage helpful in the treatment of Alzheimer's Disease. Subjects who incorporated sage into their diets over several months showed improved recall and fewer disruptive symptoms. Sage can also improve brain function in people without cognitive disorders. A double-blind study found that even a small dosage of sage oil extract significantly boosted short-term memory among young adults compared to the control group.
 

Choosing and Storing Sage

Fresh sage beats out dried or powdered sage in both flavor and nutrition. Look for vivid grayish-green leaves free of yellow patches or dark spots. Farmers markets often have a fresher selection of sage, and even dried varieties provide substantial health benefits. If possible, choose organic sage, which retains more of its natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Like most herbs, sage is available year-round.

Fresh sage can last for several days when wrapped in a moist paper towel, placed inside a plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator. Store dried sage in a sealed glass jar away from sunlight, heat and moisture. It should keep for about half a year.

Sage is also available as an oil extract, herbal supplement and an ingredient in topical products.
 

Cooking with Sage

Sage makes a flavorful addition to salads, sandwiches, soups, sauces, meat and poultry. Due to its low sodium content, sage makes a healthy salt substitute and can help lower blood pressure. Take care when cooking sage, as high heat and long cooking times can destroy its nutritional and medicinal properties.

Health Risks of Sage

While sage allergies are extremely rare, a few people may exhibit mild symptoms. The potential side effects of sage supplements and other derivative forms of sage vary depending on other compounds present in the product. Sage should not be consumed in excessive amounts, as high concentrations of volatile oils can be toxic. Topical application may cause mild irritation, especially from store-bought creams and lotions containing sage. As a precaution, pregnant and lactating women should consult their doctor before using sage.

Aromatic, heart-healthy, and brain-boosting, there are virtually no downsides to adding sage to your diet. However, it's important to eat a variety of foods and not focus only on the benefits of one. Ask your nutritionist or dietitian for more sage advice.

Posted 8/30/2015  2:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 5 comments   7,121 views

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6 Ways to Fit in Exercise at Work

Having trouble staying fit while managing your career? A good workout doesn't require fancy machines or hours of free time. Lose weight, boost your metabolism and increase your energy with these six smart office exercise tips.

NOTE: To avoid injury, consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.
 

Take Advantage of the Commute

For many, the morning commute conjures up images of congested roads, angry drivers and fickle stoplights. If your office isn't too far, why not leave the car keys behind and rev up your lungs? A refreshing morning jog or bike ride has numerous health benefits. While it may be a struggle at first, a cardiovascular routine reduces bad cholesterol, improves stamina, and cuts down on the risk of heart disease. It will also leave you feeling energized and focused throughout the day. If your workplace is too far, consider taking public transit part of the way and jogging the rest. Still on the fence? Even small changes like parking further away or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can make a difference.
 

Use Your Lunch Break Wisely

Instead of squandering your one hour browsing the web, use it to get in shape. If your office has a fitness center, sneak in a quick session of weight training or work up a sweat on the elliptical machine. If you missed your morning jog, now's your opportunity to make it up. If it's raining or there are no gyms close by, do some calisthenics (bodyweight exercises) at your desk. These include push-ups, sit-ups, squats, and jumping jacks. Studies also show that a midday workout refreshes the brain, keeping you productive through the rest of the day.

Posted 8/27/2015  2:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 6 comments   8,494 views

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Cinnamon Health Benefits

Cinnamon awakens the senses and makes people think of pumpkin pie, spiced coffee, and the aroma of the holidays. However, cinnamon doesn't just have a pleasing smell; many often fail to recognize how much of a positive impact cinnamon may have on health. Cinnamon carries many benefits, which include antioxidant and microbial properties. Take a look at how cinnamon can make you healthier.
 

Cinnamon and Diabetes

Cinnamon has been widely used throughout human history for a myriad of medical treatments. Among these ailments, cinnamon has been shown to improve the prognoses of those with diabetes. In October 2013, a comprehensive analysis of cinnamon and its effect on diabetes was conducted, reports the National Library of Medicine. Throughout the two-year study of 543 patients, the levels of fasting plasma glucose, total cholesterol, low-density lipoproteins, and triglycerides decreased with the assistance of a cinnamon supplement. 

Posted 8/25/2015  8:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 9 comments   9,401 views

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A Full-Body Foam Roller Routine for Beginners

Foam rollers are excellent, inexpensive tools that can be used both for muscular warm up and recovery. Most gyms have a few of them available in the stretching area, but if you are an at-home exerciser you may want to consider investing in one of your own (they usually run between $7-$20—here's a link to the one I purchased on Amazon).
 
Studies have shown that foam rolling (also known as self-myofascial release) can actually help reduce stiffness, pain, and even improve your range of motion (aka performance) during your workout. Think of it like this—when you first grab a pair of jeans out of the dryer and put them on, they are super stiff and hard to move in, so you do your squatting ritual to help ''break them in'' and fit comfortably again, right? Utilizing a foam roller can help loosen up your stiff, sore muscles again so you can move comfortably and efficiently. Try rolling as often as you like—before or after a workout, and/or on your recovery day. 

Posted 8/24/2015  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 4 comments   21,880 views

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Essential Hot Weather Running Tips

Some people loathe running in the hottest months of the year. For those springtime, fall and winter running enthusiasts, it might seem like a chore to survive a run during the searing summer heat. However, there are steps you can take to mitigate the sun exposure and make summer running an enjoyable experience.

Continue reading to learn all the essential tips you need to make summer running a successful venture.
 

Plan Your Run for Cooler Times in the Day

During the scorching summer months, it makes little sense to run at the hottest times of the day. Skip the afternoon run, and opt for an early morning run instead. Typically, running just before sunrise is the ideal time to get in a workout at the coolest part of the day.

Not only will this help you beat the summer heat, but you will also enjoy a surge of energy that carries you through the rest of your day.
 

Dress for Warm-Weather Running Success

To survive warm-weather months, you need to gear up appropriately. Wear light-colored, breathable clothing that gives your body and skin plenty of room. Couple your running attire with a hat that will keep your face shielded from UV rays and keep you cool at the same time.

Posted 8/22/2015  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 1 comments   5,553 views

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8 Health Benefits of Coffee

If you enjoyed a cup of coffee this morning, you have already started the day on a healthy (and possibly more productive!) note. Not only does a cuppa Joe deliver your trusty a.m. caffeine boost, but it also may reduce the risk for certain health problems and can improve bodily functions. Check out the top eight health benefits of consuming coffee.
 

Increased Alertness and Energy Levels

Coffee contains caffeine, which is responsible for the increased alertness you feel once your first cup has kicked in. Caffeine is a stimulant, meaning that it increases heart rate, respiratory rate and metabolic activity. As a result, more body cells respond to nerve impulses, which improves energy levels.
 

Stronger Cognitive Functioning

When consumed in small amounts over a period of time (such as two hours), the gradual increase in caffeine heightens the amount of impulses within the brain cells. As a result, the brain recognizes stimuli faster and with more resolve. 

Posted 8/17/2015  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 7 comments   11,269 views

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A Do-Anywhere Routine for Stronger Wrists

If you've ever experienced wrist pain during a workout, you know it's no fun and it could even be holding you back from seeing progress if it prevents you from completing your routine! This basic, wrist-focused routine is designed to help you build strength, range of motion and flexibility in the muscles that surround and support your wrists. 

Posted 8/10/2015  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 4 comments   13,965 views

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Best Foods for Runners before a Race

You're preparing for your race when hunger suddenly strikes, but after months of training you're worried that a meal will slow you down during the big event. Trainers and friends give conflicting advice on what to eat, but your stomach is rumbling louder than they are. Luckily, there are tasty foods that you can eat before a race that will keep you full without harming your performance. In fact, these top foods will help you to harness all of your power during the race! First, let's look at the general timeframe of your pre-run meals before getting into the specific foods.

Posted 8/6/2015  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 0 comments   6,438 views

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Black Tea Health Benefits

Enjoying a healthy lifestyle doesn't mean reducing pleasures. In fact, one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself is simply adding a tasty drink to your daily routine. Black tea's numerous health benefits are scientifically sound, and along with the drink's rich taste and varied styles, you can't go wrong with a morning or evening cup! Here are the greatest health benefits that black tea has to offer!

A Reduced Risk of Stroke

Drinking more than 3 cups of black tea a day can reduce the risk of stroke by nearly 21%. Researchers found that this effect worked across all genders and ages and is due to the tea's helpful effects on the heart and arteries. While many things factor into the risk and severity of strokes, adding black tea into your diet is a simple, tasty, and effective way of preventing a terrible occurrence.

Prevention of Cavities, Plaque Formation, and Gingivitis

Black tea contains many beneficial substances including polyphenols. Polyphenols help your mouth by suppressing the bacterias and sugars that can eventually lead to tooth decay. They also slow down the production of plaque so that your teeth remain shiny and smooth. This also leads to a decreased risk of gum problems such as gingivitis. As with all oral benefits, your breath will remain fresher throughout the day as well!

Cancer-Fighting Antioxidants 

The previously mentioned polyphenols are a group of strong antioxidants that differ from those found in fruits and vegetables. Their main claim to fame is fighting destructive free radicals in the body. By hindering their growth, your body has a better chance of preventing cancers and tumors from forming or spreading. This is especially helpful for those who regularly consume tobacco or alcohol. While black tea cannot cure a preexisting cancer, it still remains one of the simplest and most affordable ways to add daily health and pleasure into your life.

Posted 8/1/2015  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 2 comments   8,185 views

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The Natural Benefits of Ginger

The next time you get an upset stomach, you might be relieved to know that you don't have to down spoonfuls of gross pink fluid or chew chalky tablets. In case of bellyache, stock your fridge with one thing: Ginger. Hundreds of years ago, people sailed all over the globe in search of this natural soother of upset bellies. Ginger has been proven to reduce nausea and vomiting, even in chemotherapy patients. But that's not the only reason you should start consuming more of this spice. 

Posted 7/28/2015  9:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 11 comments   17,325 views

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A 6-Step, Full-Body Barre Workout

Barre, the ballet-inspired workout that focuses on isometric strength training, continues to gain new fans around the country due to its quick results and unique, graceful movements. Get a taste of this increasingly popular way to work out with this routine developed by BarreAmped creator and fitness instructor Suzanne Bowen. The total-body barre workout can be done anywhere you have a ledge or some other support for balance. These six effective moves will have your muscles shaking and working. Grab your mat, some light hand weights and a stopwatch, then warm up for five minutes and try it for yourself!

Up & Back with Arm Sculpt 
To begin, hold on to something sturdy for balance and grip a light weight in your left hand. Extend left leg forward while keeping the right knee soft and hips squared. Take your left arm straight back behind rib cage as you feel your triceps contract.

On your inhale, hinge at the hips, bend your left leg and move the torso to face down as you reach the left leg straight back and your left arm forward. Exhale and return to start move. Continue for one minute.

Make it easier: Decrease range of motion, hand weight size or duration.

Make it harder: Increase time to 90 seconds and, with each move, pause and pulse arm and leg 10 times.

Troubleshoot: Be careful not to lock out the standing knee. Make sure that the leg is moving straight. When you hinge to move the leg back behind your body, bend the knee and press it back.

Works: Quads, hamstrings, glutes, shoulders and triceps.

Fiddler with Rear Shoulder Lift 
From the last rep of "Up and Back" above, hold that hinge. Bend your elbow and face palm to the back, keeping the arm in line with your shoulder. Bend your left knee and point toes, then lift your right heel. Pulse left knee and elbow up in tiny moves up and down for one minute.

Make it easier: Drop right heel down, drop the weight and stay more upright.

Make it harder: Hinge more parallel to the floor, dip down a little lower in the right knee and increase duration to 90 seconds.

Troubleshoot: Keep hips square, right knee soft and core tight so that you don't move the lower back at all.

Works: Glutes, hamstrings, calves, rear deltoid, lower back. 

Posted 7/27/2015  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 4 comments   22,496 views

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Breakfast, the Most Important Meal (for Weight Loss)

You might want to lose weight for a variety of reasons: to feel better, look better, or maybe because your doctor told you that it will benefit your overall health. One thing to keep in mind is that, like every other thing you put in your mouth, breakfast (or lack of breakfast) can really make or break your weight-loss efforts.


Mix It Up

It's important to have protein, whole grain carbs, and fruit at every breakfast, both to keep yourself from getting bored and to ensure you get a good balance of nutrients. This balance not only helps stave off hunger for a longer period of time, but the whole grains won’t make your blood sugar spike. When blood sugar spikes, eventually it crashes, and then you’ll be hungry and more likely to feel tired. A balanced mixture of foods is not only important in helping you lose or maintain weight, but it also keeps you from foraging for more food before lunch.

Tea, Please!

Is coffee not your cup of tea? Green tea can give you the morning pick-me-up you need while providing healthy antioxidants and aiding in satiety.

Make Your Own

Many storebought products come with added preservatives or other ingredients for the sole purpose of expanding the shelf-life of those foods. Although a longer shelf-life is great for convenience and food storage, some of these additives aren't exactly the healthiest things you can put in your body. But you don't have to rely on the storebought stuff! It's plenty easy to make your own wholesome granola. Give this homemade granola a spin and see what you think! 

Posted 7/24/2015  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 2 comments   10,018 views

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The Best Post-Run Recovery Foods

Many runners plan out their daily health routines down to the nth degree.  However, even though you are seeing your desired results on the outside, you may not be doing everything you can to ensure your body is being properly cared for on the inside. 

Eating the proper foods at the right times can mean the difference between a healthy body and one that isn't receiving the post run nutrition it needs to recover.  Therefore, you should take some time to learn exactly what foods should be eaten before, during and after your running events, if you want to keep your body in optimal condition.  Let’s take a look at some of the best post run recovery foods.

Post Run Recovery Foods By Category

There are a number of different types of foods your body needs after a run.  Let's start with discussing specific categories and why they are important. Then, we will go into the types of post run recovery foods your body needs.

1.  Carbohydrates

You should strive to consume carbohydrates within 20-30 minutes after your run.  Eating carbohydrates shortly after your workout helps optimize your body's recovery as that is when your muscles are the most receptive to rebuilding your glycogen reserves.

2.  Protein

Protein helps with the repair of muscles after a strenuous run. Therefore, you should try to consume some carbohydrates and proteins at a ratio of 4:1.  In other words, 4-grams of carbohydrates for every 1-gram of protein you eat.
 
3.  Electrolytes and Antioxidants

Running, especially long-distance running, significantly depletes your body's electrolytes and antioxidants.  There are several ways to help restore these vital nutrients in your body.  Certain fruits and fruit juices will do the trick.  Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day and eat frequent small meals to help combat fluid loss and replenish your body's electrolytes. 

You are probably asking yourself "what about a sports drink?" Well, sports drinks can be helpful. However, while a sports drink will supply your body with the sodium and potassium you lost through the sweating process, they really don't have any nutritional value.  Therefore, you can guzzle a sports drink for a quick fix but you should ultimately strive to replenish your reserves with fresh fruit or fruit juices. One more tip is to avoid drinking alcohol or large amounts of caffeine as these will only dehydrate your body further.

The Best Post Run Recovery Foods

Now we are going to provide you with specific examples of the best post run recovery foods you can eat to help replenish your body with the vital nutrients it needs.  Of course you need to start restoring your fluids as soon as possible after a strenuous run. Therefore, a sports drink or some water are both great for a quick fix.  However, the recovery process does not stop there.  Here are some specific foods that will help restore your body back to pre-run status.
  • Oatmeal
  • Greek yogurt
  • Chicken
  • Hummus
  • Salmon
  • Lean beef
  • Turkey breast
  • Sports/Energy bar
  • Banana
  • Berries
  • Fruit Juice
  • Low-fat cottage cheese
  • Eggs
  • Almonds or other nuts
  • Vegetables
There are some great food combinations that also work well, such as:
  • quinoa salad
  • chicken/turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread
  • whole-wheat pasta or rice with a lean meat and your favorite sauce
  • salad with some lean meat or fish
  • omelet with veggies and lean meat
  • turkey and avocado sandwich on whole-wheat bread

What You Should Do If You Can't Eat Immediately After A Run

It's best to try and eat a post run meal within an hour or so.  However, if that's not possible, strive for one of the following:
1.  Chocolate milk is helpful for immediate nutrient replacement.
2.  Drink a protein shake with either milk or water.
3.  Snack on some Greek yogurt.
4.  Grab an apple.
5.  Have a banana with some peanut butter.
6.  Try some Hummus with carrots or pita chips. 

Last But Not Least

Although running is an integral part of your health regimen, it can also be hard on your body.  Therefore, you will need some rest and relaxation after your run.  Make sure you give your body plenty of time to recover properly after a rigorous workout.  That means sitting down, relaxing and putting your feet up as you enjoy the fruits (no pun intended) of your labor!

Posted 7/7/2015  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 1 comments   7,156 views

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