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Yoga Stretches for Healthy Hips | Five-Pose Yoga Fix

Desk jockeys and jocks, rejoice. If you log hours at the office, run, bike or walk, you probably have tight hip flexors — the muscle responsible for lifting the leg, drawing the knee to the chest and moving you front to back and side to side. You know, all the things you want your legs to do.

Loosening your hips can keep you mobile, ease back pain, improve circulation in your legs and simply feel good. In yoga, opening the hips is often connected with an emotional release as well. Because our hips stabilize us in our everyday life, yogis believe we store negative emotions there. Whether you feel this connection or not, stretching the hips is a great way to unwind.

1. BOUND ANGLE

This stretches the inner thighs, groin and knees. Make the pose more accessible by sitting on a blanket or with your back against a wall.

The move: Start in a seated position with legs extended. Then bend your knees, bringing the soles of your feet together. Pull your heels as close to your body as is comfortable and let your knees drop toward the floor. Press the outer edges of your feet together and use your hands to gently open the feet like the pages of a book.

To come out of bound angle, gently draw your knees together, straighten your legs and give them a little shimmy.

2. HALF LORD OF THE FISHES

Besides stretching the hips, this twist opens the back. If you can’t keep both hips on the ground, straighten the bottom leg.

The move: Sit on the floor or the edge of a blanket with your legs extended. Cross your right leg over left so your right knee points to the ceiling and your right foot sits outside your left knee. You can keep your left leg straight with your foot flexed or bend your left leg so your left foot rests near the right hip. Try to keep both sits bones on the ground.

Inhale, elongate your spine, and stretch your left arm overhead. Exhale and twist to the left, releasing your left hand to the floor behind you. Inhale and stretch your right arm overhead. Exhale and twist, bringing your right elbow to rest against the outside of your right knee. Continue to find length through the torso with each inhale, being conscious not to collapse through the chest. Hold for 3–5 breaths and switch sides.

3. LIZARD LUNGE

If your hips could use a little extra love — and whose can’t — lizard is for you. The pose opens the hips, hip flexors, groin and hamstrings.

The move: From down dog, step your right foot forward between your hands. Walk your foot to the outside edge of the mat and turn your toes out slightly. Bring both hands and arms inside your right leg. You can stay up on your palms or deepen the stretch by lowering down to your forearms. If you’re on your hands, make sure your palms are directly under your shoulders and gently press your right knee into your upper bicep. If you’re on your forearms, make sure your elbows are under your shoulders and gently press your right knee into your right shoulder. Press your left heel back, keeping your left leg engaged. Keep your gaze forward so your neck stays long. Hold the pose for up to a minute. Then come to the palms of your hands, heel-toe your right foot back to center, and press back to down dog. Repeat on the other side.


READ MORE FIVE-POSE YOGA FIXES

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4. PIGEON

Most people have a love-hate relationship with this pose, which really stretches the thighs, psoas and groin.

The move: To come into full pigeon, begin in down dog. Step your right foot forward, placing your shin on your mat so your right knee is behind your right wrist. Eventually, you may be able to rest your shin parallel to the top edge of your mat, but most of us make a diagonal with our leg so our right foot is near our left hip.

Lower your back leg and hips to the ground. Walk your back leg out so it extends directly behind your hip. Press the top of your left foot evenly into your mat.

Walk your hands to the mat next to your hips. Square your hips, making sure you’re not dipping to one side or the other. If you find there’s a gap between one hip and the floor, tuck a block or blanket under that glute for added support.

Deepen the pose by folding forward on an exhale. You can rest on your forearms or place your forehead on the mat.

If you have particularly tight hips, begin with a variation in a chair. Come to the edge of your chair and cross your right ankle over your left thigh. Gently press your right thigh toward the ground and stay long in the spine. Hold for 3–5 breaths and switch sides.

5. HAPPY BABY

This pose, a natural for babies, stretches the groin, releases the back and calms the mind.

The move: Lie on your back and hug your knees into your chest. Reach for the outsides of your feet or shins, depending on your flexibility, and open your knees slightly wider than your hips. Stack each ankle directly over the knee, flex through your heels, and press your tailbone into the earth. Hold the pose for 5–10 breaths before releasing your feet back to the earth.


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Light Workouts Can Cure Post-Vacation Blues

Although a summer vacation should recharge you, returning home can have the opposite effect. Instead of feeling refreshed, sometimes depression levels heighten.  A study at the University of Connecticut suggests that exercise can help you combat the blues.

The study examined 419 generally healthy, middle-aged adults who wore accelerometers to track their physical activity over four days. Participants also answered questionnaires about their psychological well-being and exercise habits. Working out increased happiness levels, but only when the adults completed light-to-moderate exercise. Vigorous workouts provided no positive effect.

To help you re-enter “normal life” after a vacation, follow the light-to-moderate exercise recommendation of this study with how-to advice from  three experts:

1. PERFORM RANGE OF MOTION EXERCISES

“When coming back from vacation, it’s important to focus on reinstating range of motion. You aren’t going for a personal best,” says Jordan Shallow, DC, of The Muscle Doc in Mountain View, California. Shallow recommends workouts using the five major motions after time off: squat, lunge, push, pull and deadlift (if you’ve done deadlifts before).


READ MORE > 31-DAY SQUAT, LUNGE AND PUSHUP PLAN


2. ENJOY SOME LIGHT CARDIO

Ash Moon, a personal trainer based in London and Bristol in the U.K., recommends a little cardio, even an activity as laid-back as walking will do. “Walking not only gets your body moving and gently releasing endorphins into the system, but it also gets you outdoors and out of the house into different environments,” she says.

Running can also provide a positive effect on the mind similar to meditation, bringing you back to the relaxation you felt on vacation. “It is a chance to be in your body with a certain amount of focus, which allows the mind to relax a little and digest anything that is going on in your life at that time,” says Moon.

3. COMPLETE CIRCUIT TRAINING

Nina Raquel Nyiri, a fitness specialist from Tampa, Florida, recommends circuit training to get your mind and body back in rhythm. Circuits encourage versatility, are beginner-friendly and efficient. Below, she provides an example circuit you can do anywhere, targeting large muscle groups, which creates an uptick in your heart rate, but doesn’t burn you out.


READ MORE > MASTER THE MOVE: THE BURPEE


SAMPLE CIRCUIT WORKOUT

Before you start, warm up. It’s imperative you get your heart rate primed and muscles warm prior to a workout or you’re just asking for an injury. Nyiri recommends this simple move:

  1. Stand with your feet close together. Keeping your legs straight with a slight bend at the knee, stretch down and place your hands on the floor directly in front of you.
  2. Begin walking your hands forward in a controlled manner, alternating your left and right. As you do this, try to bend only at the hips, keeping your legs straight.
  3. Keep walking forward until your body is parallel to the ground; mimicking a push-up position.
  4. At this point, reverse the motion by walking your hands back to your toes, keeping your legs straight and returning to an upright standing position.
  5. Repeat this 5–8 times, depending on how quickly your body warms up. Throughout this exercise start taking deep breaths through your abdomen.

Circuit Routine
(1–2 rounds, 2–3 times per week on nonconsecutive days):

  1.     25 bodyweight squats
  2.     10 push-ups (military or modified)
  3.     20 stationary lunges (10 right, 10 left)
  4.     10 “supermans” holding two small water bottles
  5.     30 hip thrusts
  6.     30 seconds of high knees
  7.     30 seconds of plank
  8.     10 burpees

Modifications

  1. For bodyweight squats: If you can’t do them properly, try using a chair. From a standing position, sit down onto the chair and immediately stand back up driving your weight through your heels without leaning forward.
  2. For bodyweight lunges: make sure to use an exaggerated lunge back position as the back foot should be resting on the ball of the foot. As you start the descent, make sure your upper body stays completely vertical. As you start the ascent, push through your front heel. If you feel unstable, place your hand on a wall.

Reminders

  1. Throughout every movement, engage your core as if someone was about to punch you in the stomach. Protect your core at all times and remember to inhale deeply through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
  2. Don’t rush the movement. Each movement should be practiced with absolute control and attention to keeping the muscles engaged. For example, as you are completing your hip thrusts, think about squeezing your glutes as you are fully extending your hips toward the ceiling.
  3. Listen to your body and stay in tune to your intensity. If you can handle more, then complete one more round. On the other hand, if you need a break, take one.

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Greek Mac & Cheese Casserole | Recipe

Greek-Mac-n-Cheese

Feta cheese, along with tons of spinach and scads of herbs, means this green-packed version of mac and cheese has plenty of flavor without a heavy cream sauce. You can prep it to the point of baking up to 2 days ahead; keep it covered and chilled and pop it in the oven just before you’re ready to eat.

Greek Mac and Cheese Casserole

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces large elbow macaroni or other hollow pasta
  • 1 pound spinach
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 6 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 sprigs parsley (leaves), chopped
  • 6 sprigs dill, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 4 ounces kasseri or provolone cheese
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to box directions, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a pot over medium heat. Add 1/3 cup water and the spinach. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook until spinach is wilted and tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold, running water to cool. Use your hands to squeeze as much liquid out of the spinach as possible; working in small handfuls. Fluff the spinach back up a bit, place  in a large bowl and set aside.

Return the pot to medium-high heat, add the oil, onions, scallions and salt. Cook, stirring, until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add to the spinach. Toss in the parsley and dill. Stir everything together. Add the pepper and nutmeg; stir to combine.

Add 3/4 of the cheeses. Stir to mix. Add the pasta; stir to combine.

Coat an 8-by-8 baking dish with cooking spray. Dump the mixture into the dish, top with the remaining cheese and bake until browned and bubbling, about 30 minutes.

Let sit about 5 minutes before cutting into 4 pieces. Serve warm.

Nutrition Information

Serves: 4 |  Serving Size: 1 piece

Per serving: Calories: 379; Total Fat: 12g; Saturated Fat: 5g; Monounsaturated Fat: 3g; Cholesterol: 25mg; Sodium: 665mg; Carbohydrate: 48g; Dietary Fiber: 4g; Sugar: 3g; Protein: 21g

Nutrition Bonus: Potassium: 356mg; Iron: 18%; Vitamin A: 97%; Vitamin C: 32%; Calcium: 35%

Recipe and photo by Molly Watson

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How a 60-Year-Old Became a Lean, Mean, Cycling Machine

It was really just a routine doctor’s visit for Gary Miller three years ago, but the news took him totally by surprise: He was officially in the overweight category, had high cholesterol and was pre-diabetic.

At 57 years old, it was all reason for Miller to worry, but the last diagnosis concerned him the most as he thought of a cousin who lost a leg to Type 2 diabetes.

“That was a wake-up call,” says Miller, a materials handler for an RV and trailer manufacturer in Goshen, Indiana. He knew he needed to get healthy. The question was how.

It started with exercise and changing what he was eating. Miller’s doctor suggested looking at his diet, becoming more active and trying MyFitnessPal to monitor his food intake.

“Before then, I’d never even heard of it,” he says. Since downloading the app, however, he hasn’t missed a single day of logging.


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By March 2015, he’d gone from 257 pounds to 215 pounds and dropped his pant size from 47 to 35, where he’s stayed for the last three years. “I still have the belt I used because it’s kind of a reminder.”

But a lighter body was just a small part of Miller’s journey to better health. Now 60, he’s also found a whole new lifestyle by cycling every day, to the point his younger co-workers have trouble keeping up with him. Come next month, the three-year anniversary of that doctor’s visit, he will have ridden more than 6,000 miles.

“I haven’t been in this good of shape since my 20s,” he says. “I try to ride every day, even in the snow and cold. Now I can ride 30 miles without much trouble at all.”

Reinventing yourself doesn’t happen overnight. Miller was lucky to have the support and encouragement of his family and work colleagues to drive his efforts. But he had to start strong by himself.

“I never regret it. I try to not have any excuses.”

At first, he started simply by walking 30 minutes per day. Then, hoping to reignite his childhood love of biking, he pulled his old bike out of the basement and mixed in rides of 4–6 miles around his neighborhood. When his kids got him a Fitbit and introduced him to Endomondo, he started tracking his rides, too, and paid close attention to the data.

Eventually, he took the bike out of the neighborhood and quickly realized he liked biking more than walking. A lot more. “I think my family thinks I’m a little obsessed now,” he says. He used to text his wife every time he went on a ride; now he texts her if he’s not going.

After putting 1,800 miles on the old bike, Miller upgraded his wheels and now rides almost daily, regardless of the weather —  which is no joke in northern Indiana. He’s even ridden on a snowy, 23° day. “It’s actually kind of fun,” he says, “if you dress warmly.”

While sticking with a new exercise regime might be hard enough on its own, Miller’s job makes fitting in his rides even trickier. He wakes up every morning at 3:15 a.m. and is at work by 5 a.m. He spends his day operating a forklift and lifting heavy materials, so by the time he gets home after 2 p.m., the last thing he wants to do is work out.

“I used to come home and couch it,” he says, recalling the feeling of exhaustion from the day’s work. When he decided to commit to a his fitness plan, he had to force himself to get on his bike immediately after getting home — he knew if he sat down or took a break, it would just be harder to get going.

“But once I’m out there, it relieves stress,” he says. “I never regret it. I try not to have any excuses.”

He now rides for a bit over an hour most days — sometimes more — and recently finished his longest ride of 41 miles in just under three hours. Though he knows he could ride even faster if he biked on the road, he prefers to stick to bike paths to avoid cars and stay safe.

His dedication has even rubbed off on others around him. When one of his four children, Bobby, visited this summer, Miller rented a second bike so they could go on a ride together. Even though his son is a runner, “I knew he’d have trouble keeping up,” he jokes. Together, they rode 18 miles.

At work, one of the younger guys wasn’t sure if Miller could keep up with the heavy lifting because of his age. But another colleague set him straight, joking, “Just ask him how much he rides his bike!”

These days, Miller has no problem keeping up with anyone. He beams: “I now proudly wear a T-shirt that says, ‘Never underestimate an old man with a bicycle.’”

Written by Kelly O’Mara, a professional triathlete and reporter outside San Francisco, where she is an on-call producer for the local NPR station. Her work appears regularly in espnW, Competitor, Triathlete and California Magazine.

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