6 Ways to “Green” Your Workout

You re-use canvas bags at the market, drive a fuel-efficient car — maybe even take public transportation or walk your errands — and buy organic in an effort to be kind to the planet. If you’re looking for ways to extend this environmental stewardship to your workout, here are six tips to green your workout without sacrificing the quality of your sweat session:


There is a “fun factor” associated with outdoor fitness activities like golf and tennis. “Outside exercise requires more energy and greater caloric expenditure because our bodies have to adapt to the temperature, the terrain and resistance from wind,” says Ramona Braganza, global fitness expert and celebrity trainer.

Research confirms this: One study found that treadmill runners expend less energy than runners who ran outdoors; a second study found similar results for riding a stationary bikes versus bicycling outside.

The natural light — compared to the fluorescent bulbs in a gym — may help boost mood, says Braganza. The sunshine also offers up a healthy dose of vitamin D, which builds bone strength, eases depression and improves immune function.


It takes 17 billion barrels of oil — enough to fuel one million cars and trucks — to manufacture the 51 billion water bottles we purchase each year, according to the nonprofit think tank Pacific Institute. The Container Recycling Institute reports that 86% of plastic water bottles are tossed in the trash, not the recycle bin.

Reusable water bottles a more eco-friendly option. Opt for a stainless steel, glass or BPA-free plastic water bottle and remember to wash it thoroughly between workouts.


Your favorite organic foods can help fuel your workout. And shopping at the farmers market also supports local farmers.

Braganza recommends going to the farmers market to stock up on nuts, greens, apples and other healthy sources of protein, fiber and carbohydrates instead of buying processed protein bars.


Your worn out, smelly sneakers are not worthy of the donation pile, but that doesn’t mean you should toss them in the trash. The soles of used sneakers can be recycled into cushioned surfaces for tracks, sport courts and playgrounds.

Look for drop-off boxes at running stores and athletic retailers. You might end up shooting hoops on a court made with your favorite sneakers.


You could go to the gym, hop on a treadmill and watch TV or use the touchscreen to monitor your speed and calorie burn while the a/c blasts, which increases your carbon footprint as well as your heart rate.

Or, you could opt for an analog workout experience, trading machines plugged into the walls for resistance bands and balance balls. You’ll expend physical energy while using fewer resources to power your workout.


Carpooling to the gym, soccer field or hiking trail cuts down on emissions but there is another reason to recruit a friend to be your workout buddy. A 2016 study found that those who had a workout partner exercised more than those who got sweaty solo. The reason, according to researchers, was the added element of emotional support.

“A friend can motivate you and challenge you,” says celebrity fitness expert Mandy Ingber. “It doubles [your] energy, makes it more social and also is a wonderful, healthy way to bond. It causes you to be responsible and show up.”

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18 Ways to Fuel for a 6 a.m. Workout: What Dietitians Eat Before They Work Out

When you jump out of bed at the buzz of your 5:30 a.m. alarm for an early morning workout, eating breakfast might be the last thing on your mind. But after fasting all night, your energy stores are depleted — and the last thing you want to hear during a grueling workout is your stomach growl.

While simple carbohydrates found in sports drinks, energy gels and cereal provide a quick source of energy, they might not sustain you through a longer workout. Pairing these energy-boosting carbohydrates with a small amount of fat and protein is the best way to ensure sustained energy while working out. Adding in a dose of protein floods your bloodstream with amino acids right when you need them the most, allowing for muscle-building optimization. Healthy fats slow the digestion process, promoting a gradual release of energy throughout a longer workout.

The size of your pre-workout meal will vary depending on the length of your workout and your energy needs. Going for a long or high-intensity workout? Consider a more energy dense meal, but keep in mind it may take 3-4 hours to fully digest. A lower-intensity workout will require less energy. Aim for a small meal that can be digested in about 2–3 hours. But, if you’re working out early in the morning, you won’t have 2 hours to spare. Consider a blended option, such as a smoothie. They digest quickly because the blender has already done a lot of the work for your stomach. Another quick option is a 100–200 calorie snack (like many of the examples below); these will take you less than an hour to digest and won’t weigh you down.


Just can’t eat breakfast early in the morning? While you may be used to running on fumes, your performance may be suffering. Luckily, your gut can be trained to accept a light morning meal. Start small with a snack that will be easy on your stomach, such as a banana or a piece of toast. Gradually add onto this meal until your stomach can tolerate it. A little change in eating habits can make a huge difference in your performance!

If you’re ready to amp up your a.m. fuel, check out what dietitians eat before their morning workouts!


Fruit is a key RD go-to. (Are you surprised?) Tara Gidus Collingwood, MS, RDN, the sports dietitian for the Orlando Magic eats a half or full banana before she heads out for a morning run. Fruit, whether it is fresh, frozen or dried, has quickly digestible carbohydrates that can fuel a morning workout, and it offers a light option if you’re not an early morning eater. For a more filling alternative, Ashley Munro, RD, of A Pinch of Grace, likes to stuff 1–2 dates with 1 tablespoon almond butter “because it’s quick and easy on the stomach.”


If you’re heading out for a longer workout, you need enough fuel to sustain you. Pair a hearty homemade muffin, such as these Almond Butter Banana Oat Muffins, with a small smoothie or a fresh piece of fruit. Freeze these muffins and heat in the microwave or defrost on the countertop overnight for a grab-and-go breakfast.


You can’t go wrong with a classic bowl of warm oatmeal. Packed full of carbohydrates and fiber, oats will give you sustained energy throughout your morning workout. There are endless possibilities for mix-ins, including nuts and nut butters, dried or fresh fruit, yogurt and protein powder. Angie Asche, MS, RD,owner of Eleat Sports Nutrition, uses overnight oats as her go-to early morning pre-workout meal. Simply add oats, milk and a handful of berries or sliced banana to a sealed Mason jar. Place the jar in the fridge overnight for a quick breakfast in the morning. Need some inspiration? Give this High Protein Chocolate Banana Overnight Oats recipe a try.


Smoothies are both easy to make and full of the nutrients necessary for an intense workout. This Tropical Superfood Smoothie provides a boost of antioxidants from superfoods that aid in recovery from the natural stress of exercise. Smoothies can be as simple as a blend of fruit or can include protein powder and vegetables to provide nutrients from all food groups. Try adding Greek yogurt, chia seeds or nut butter. There are endless combinations to experiment with.



These bowls are similar to a smoothie except you can sit down and enjoy them with a spoon. Energy bowls are the perfect combination of energy-dense carbohydrates blended for easy digestion prior to a long workout. The easy preparation is an added bonus at 6 a.m. This Green Energy Bowl blends energizing carbohydrates with walnuts and chia seeds for sustained energy that provides a punch of protein.


Greek yogurt is ideal for athletes; it provides less added sugar (if you opt for plain) and is higher in protein than traditional yogurt, while also providing a great source of probiotics and bone-strengthening calcium. Parfaits are an optimal pre-workout snack that’s easy to digest while providing key nutrients from a variety of food groups. Try this Peach Parfait to energize your next early workout.  


Waffles are versatile and easy to prep ahead of time. Simply choose your favorite waffle base (such as bananas, protein powder or whole grains). You can even experiment with different types of flour, like coconut flour for a grain-free option. If you are gluten-free, check out these Gluten Free Blender Waffles. Freeze extras and pop them in the toaster on busy mornings.  


This breakfast staple can be made with a variety of grains to provide the carbohydrates needed to fuel your workout. If you don’t have time to sit down and eat them, they are easy to eat on the go, either plain or topped with a little nut butter. Check out this recipe for a Tart Cherry Greek Yogurt pancake that combines the recovery power of tart cherry juice with the protein boost of Greek yogurt. Jessica Levings, MS, RD, of Balanced Pantry, agrees. Her favorite pre-workout fuel is one homemade buckwheat pancake. “I make a big batch and freeze them so I can defrost a few at a time,” she says. “One gives me just enough energy for an hourlong run, plus it’s portable so I can eat it in the car on the way to meet my running buddy!”


This may sound like too much to handle in the early hours of the morning, but breakfast sandwiches are easy to prepare ahead of time, wrap and freeze. Don’t forget to add the veggies; this is an easy way to sneak in a handful of leafy greens or bell peppers. In the morning, simply unwrap your sandwich and microwave for 60–90 seconds.



Avocados in the morning? Yes! They are perfect to combine with whole-grain bread for long-lasting energy that won’t leave you feeling overfull. This Avocado Toast with Kale Sprouts adds the powerful nutrient boost of kale sprouts.


Have you seen this trendy new breakfast? Simply cut a sweet potato (round ones work best) into thin slices, then toast on high for 2–3 cycles. The sweet potato will be soft but not soggy and ready for your choice of toppings. Go sweet and add peanut butter, raisins or cinnamon. Or, try a savory version and top with an egg, avocado or cheese. Sweet potatoes are a great pre-workout pick because they are rich in carbohydrates, high in fiber and provide a boost of vitamin A.


Pizza for breakfast? Why not! Pizza has a carbohydrate-rich crust, and adding eggs, cheese and vegetables can make it a satisfying and tasty way to energize in the morning. Breakfast pizza can be prepared at the beginning of the week and portions can be reheated daily.


Energy bites are tasty and easy to grab if you are not a morning person. I love energy bites before a morning workout,” says Edwina Clark, MS, RD. “They provide a little bit of protein and carbohydrate to fuel working muscles, without leaving you heavy and uncomfortable.” Have a sweet tooth? Here’s one of our favorite recipes for Cookie Dough Energy Bites.


Instead of swinging by the drive-thru for a fast breakfast option, why not make your own? Breakfast burritos are a quick and easy way to incorporate carbohydrates, protein and whatever else you would like into a hand-held, energy-packed option. They can also be prepared ahead of time and frozen, making them a convenient heat-and-go meal.


Make granola bars on the weekend then use all week. These Tart Cherry Dark Chocolate Granola Bars are filled with lasting energy plus a recovery boost from the tart cherries. If you are a heavy sweater or do high-intensity workouts, you may benefit from the added sodium of these granola bars. To reduce your added sugar intake, try homemade granola. Grab a handful while running out the door, or add it on top of a yogurt parfait or an energy bowl. Here is a fun, breakfast-inspired recipe to try: Blueberry Muffin Granola.  


Cookies for breakfast? Don’t worry, these aren’t your typical chocolate chip treat. Breakfast cookies are typically lower in sugar and made with ingredients like whole-grain flour, oats, nuts and dried fruit to make a condensed, energy-packed snack.


Rice cakes topped with nut butter, banana and chia seeds are a complete and easy breakfast. This option combines all the good stuff dietitians love: whole-grain carbohydrates, healthy fats, protein and fruit. “I always have two rice cakes with peanut butter, banana and a sprinkle of chia seeds about 45 minutes before a workout,” says Sarah Schlichter, MPH, RDN, of Bucket List Tummy. “It’s a great balance of carbs, with a tiny bit of protein to help sustain me but is easy on the digestive system.” She also adds 16 ounces of water.


To switch up your usual hot cereal routine, try quinoa instead. Quinoa provides the benefits of a whole grain with the added bonus of extra protein. It can be prepared similarly to oatmeal with your favorite add-ins, or you can get creative and try these Roasted Quinoa Stuffed Pears.


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How to Turn Walking Your Dog Into a Workout

When it comes to walking partners, it’s hard to beat your dog.

Your dog will never get caught in a meeting, cancel because of a cold or choose a must-see-TV marathon over a long walk. The fact that dogs love walks is good for humans, too.



A study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that 60% of dog owners who took their dogs for regular walks met the minimum federal recommendations (150 minutes) for moderate exercise per week. And, thanks to Fido, almost half of dog walkers exercised at least 30 minutes per day, five days per week. Only 1/3 of non-dog owners got that much exercise.


Dogs influence more than the amount of activity you get each week. Researchers at the University of Missouri found that walking a puppy increased walking speed 28% compared with just a 4% increase when walking with a friend.


“Speaking from personal experience, when you have a dog as a running partner, you are more likely to stick to your own plan,” says Glenn Pierce, DogTown behavior consultant at Best Friends Animal Society.

Just as studies have shown cardiovascular exercise can alleviate mild to moderate depression in humans, Pierce notes that, in dogs, it can help with anxious behavior.


For short walks around the block, grabbing the leash and telling the dog it’s time to go is often enough. Going for longer walks (or runs) takes training — and a little caution.

“Someone who has never run before doesn’t start out doing five miles,” says Sharon Crowell-Davis, PhD, a veterinary behaviorist and professor at the University of Georgia. “You need to build your dog up to go longer distances.”

A Couch to 5K-like program is a great approach for training your dog to go longer distances or faster speeds: Start slow, integrating running intervals into your walks. Your dog will build up endurance gradually.


While dogs ranging from teacup Yorkies to Great Danes love to go for walks, some dogs were not made for distance or speed.

“You have to know your dog,” Crowell-Davis warns.

Short-legged dogs like dachshunds might have trouble keeping up; short-nosed breeds like pugs might have trouble breathing on a run; and older dogs and dogs with health issues like arthritis or hip dysplasia are better suited to leisurely strolls in the park rather than high-speed or long-distance jaunts.

Younger, active dogs in good health tend to be the best choices for long walks and runs. But puppies younger than 18 months, whose bones are still developing, are too young to safely run with you.

It’s a good idea to get the green light from your vet before signing up for a dog-friendly 5K, or just embarking on a running routine. “Just like you would do before you start an exercise regimen, it is crucial that you take your dog to your veterinarian, get a good physical and discuss your exercise goals,” says Pierce. “Your veterinarian can guide you how to build up to increase gradually.”


During a long walk or run, keep a close watch on your dog. If it starts to slow down, falls back, tries to make a break for the shade or lie down in the grass, it’s probably tired or overheated. Some panting is normal but excessive panting is a sign of exhaustion. “You need to watch for signs you’re pushing too hard,” Crowell-Davis says.

Most important, watch for signs that your dog likes running with you. It should act excited and ready to go when the leash comes out. If it hides at the sight of the leash or needs to be pulled along, it’s better to leave the dog at home.

“As long as your dog is raring to go and walking or running out in front of you or by your side, you’re good. If they are lagging or resisting, stop,” adds Pierce.


For longer walks, take extra water for the dog — you’re not the only one who needs to stay hydrated during exercise. If you’re walking at night, use a reflective leash or collar to make your dog more visible. After long walks or runs, check your dog’s paws for blisters (dogs can get them, too) and give it a break until they heal.

Long walks and runs are great exercise — for both you and the dog — and a fun way to spend time together.

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Why Your Workout Might Not Be Working

Let’s say that you and a friend are roughly similar in terms of eating habits, age, gender and weight, and you decide to buddy up on some serious spin class action. After a couple of weeks, you notice that she’s seeing major gains in strength, energy and body composition. Meanwhile, all you’ve got to show for it is a laundry hamper full of sweaty gym clothes. She’s crushing it, and you’re just feeling crushed. What gives?

One recent study may have the answer: You may be a nonresponder to the type of exercise you’ve just taken on, while your friend is a big-time responder.

Whether you’re just getting started on your fitness journey or you’re an athlete looking to avoid plateau, knowing whether or not you’re a responder can help quash frustration and lead you to activity that’s more your groove — with plenty of results along the way.


In the study, researchers recruited 121 sedentary, middle-age men and women with significant belly fat and had them complete five exercise sessions over a six-month period.

The types of exercises varied in terms of intensity and duration. What they discovered was that cardiorespiratory fitness increased for everyone to some degree but that results were uneven across each group. Some people simply responded better to the kind of exercise they were given than others.


> How to Bust Through Any Workout Plateau
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A number of those nonresponders did, eventually, begin to see more traction after a few months, but others didn’t see any improvement even after six months.

Lead researcher Robert Ross, PhD, at Queen’s University in London says that the “nonresponse” rate was about 30%. “That’s not a trivial amount,” he says. “That’s significant when you’re talking about whether you respond well to certain exercises or not.”

The study didn’t measure other potential results of fitness like lowered blood pressure, better insulin sensitivity or healthier cholesterol numbers. But even if it had, those advantages tend to fall away if someone decides to quit exercising from lack of results.


If you’re just starting to work out and you’re not seeing progress, it can be especially discouraging, says Aaron Leventhal, a certified personal trainer and owner of Fit Studios in Minneapolis.

“You might think that you’re the problem,” he says. “That puts you in danger of quitting altogether, when it’s more likely that you just need to change what you’re doing instead.”

For athletes that have seen results in the past, the chances of hanging up the gym towel are lower. But the frustration level can still be sky-high. “Every athlete knows what it’s like to hit a plateau,” notes Leventhal. “That’s when you have to really switch things up to get past it. You can’t push past a plateau by doing the same thing over and over and hoping that your body will catch on eventually.”

For both beginning exercisers and experienced athletes, his advice is the same: Set a baseline, track your results and mix up the training after two weeks if you’re not seeing changes.

Results might be less about physical shifts — like muscle gains or weight loss — and more about endurance, energy stability outside the gym, better sleep or an overall feeling of wellness. If you’re not getting any of that, change your activity and start over.

For example, stop going to spin class and start a weight lifting program, or ditch the treadmill and commit to kickboxing instead. Leventhal changes his own activity mix every two to three weeks to keep his training fresh and increase performance.

“When your body gets used to what you’re doing, that’s when it stops working as hard,” he says. “Keep it guessing.”

No matter where you are on your fitness track, just remember that change is a good thing — especially if you’re not responding to what you’re doing.


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