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7 Ways to Stop Being So Clumsy

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You knock over a glass of wine. You tumble trying to put on leggings. You trip up the stairs. Sound familiar? You probably have a clumsy streak. (Jennifer Lawrence, we’re looking at you.) But the good news is you don’t have to resign yourself to a life full of of bruises and stains.

Clumsiness is related to a few different factors, including your reaction time, processing speed, and level of concentration, explains Charles “Buz” Swanik, PhD, director of biomechanics and movement science at the University of Delaware College of Health Sciences. When life gets in the way of those functions—think too little sleep and too much stress, for starters—it can throw you off balance, literally. 

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to make yourself less prone to mishaps: “We have enough evidence within psychology, neuroscience, and biomechanics research to know that people can definitely make changes and prevent accidents before they happen,” Swanik says. Below, he suggests seven ways control your inner klutz.

Know when to take a breather

A little bit of stress can be a good thing, Swanik says. “It does help you concentrate, and focus, and increase your situational awareness.” But excessive amounts of stress can slow down your processing, and even affect your peripheral vision. “You don’t know where to look, or what to attend to that may be unsafe,” he says. “You may over-focus on whatever is stressing you out and avoid seeing potential danger.”

The catch-22? Your favorite way to clear your mind may actually set you up for an accident, Swanik says. If you de-stress by going for a run, for example, consider doing a few minutes of meditation or deep breathing first—so by the time you hit the pavement you're more alert, and don't risk getting hurt.

"It's funny, because the tradition is to get athletes all psyched up before a big game, but that's actually probably the last thing we should be doing," Swanik says. "We should be trying to keep them calm and anxiety-free. They probably would think much better and be smarter on their feet."

RELATED: 19 Natural Remedies for Anxiety

Train your brain

Swanik's research has suggested that people with not-so-great memories, and slower reaction times and processing speeds tend to have more coordination problems than folks with more efficient cognitive functioning. Fortunately, there are apps for that: Swanik recommends doing a Google or app search for "brain games." You'll find many options designed to improve memory and reaction time, he says. "[These apps] can help people foster some change."

Build up your core

Several studies on collegiate athletes have found that having less core control may increase the risk of lower extremity strains and sprains, says Swanik. And research on older adults suggests core strength can help prevent injuries: “When you put senior citizens on a core strengthening program, they usually have fewer falls," he says. "Your core is the center of everything." Try adding plank variations and moves like superman and bird-dog to your regular exercise routine.

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Think ahead

“YouTube is full of videos of people who have really not weighed the consequences and the risks of a situation before attempting to do something,” Swanik says. “Thinking ahead about what’s about to happen next, as basic as it sounds, is probably the best advice we can give people.”

That’s because accidents happen fast. Like, really fast. “We probably only have a quarter or a tenth of a second where a person makes a mental mistake and has some kind of injury,” he explains.

If you're feeling especially clumsy, make an effort to be extra-aware of your actions: Standing up from your seat? Check to see if there's anything you might knock over on your way up. About to climb stairs in high heels? Slow your pace and watch your footing. “Even if it’s just crossing the street, you should be actively thinking, Is this a good time to send a text message?” Swanik says.

Monotask

Do one thing at a time, simple as that. "Once you start to multitask, you get into a more dynamic and complex environment," he explains, "and it’s increasingly difficult to be deliberate [over] any one thing that you’re doing."

RELATED: 7 Exercises to Fix Muscle Imbalances

Be patient when you're trying something new

You know those stories about amazing athletes who join a game of beach volleyball, or start fooling around on a skateboard, and end up blowing out an ankle or knee? Clumsiness is often the result of diving into a brand new activity too quickly, Swanik says. "From a motor control standpoint, if you plan to try something that requires a new set of skills, you really need to be extremely patient," he says. "Think of it as a novel environment, an unfamiliar situation where you need to really slow down and assess how your skills parallel whatever it is you're doing.”

Swanik has seen this in research on collegiate athletes who are starting a cross-training regimen. "Some athletes will be unable to negotiate the new task physically and mentally, and they have coordination problems, and boom, injury."

The takeaway: If you're a a die-hard runner about to hop on a spin bike for the first time, ease your way into the new workout, and recognize that the movements may not be what your body is used to.

Get more sleep

Though never easy, clocking more shut-eye is a no-brainer: “We know that even losing a few hours of sleep is almost like drinking alcohol," Swanik says. "The effects are so profound and fast and deleterious that I would really caution people to make sure they’re getting enough sleep to avoid any sort of accident, whether it’s just being groggy while sipping coffee and spilling it, or something much worse.”

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The benefits of plyometric exercises

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Plyometrics are great for cardio, toning and fat loss here, we take a look at how the humble plyometric box can be a killer workout session.

“The plyo box has been popular among athletes and hard-core fitness enthusiasts for a while now, but has become more mainstream since the introduction of CrossFit,” says elite trainer of over 15 years Matthew Strickland.

“They are great for cardio-based and high-intensity training, but can also be used for rehabilitative purposes and for evening out physique imbalances.”

Plyometric boxes and aerobic steps come in a range of heights and sizes to adhere to varying fitness levels and exercise goals. While fixed-height boxes are available and usually come in sets of three to four, try opting for a sturdy, adjustable step if you are tight on space. And if you aren’t confident in the jumps, we say go for foam rather than metal or wood versions: a lot less chance of skinned shins.

For cardio/fat loss: Plyometric training involves using explosive bodyweight movements to exert maximum force in the shortest amount of time – making them the perfect fat-burning tool. Explosive movements also mean power and strength, especially in the lower body, can be achieved. Again, keep rest periods short and repetitions as high as possible – although given their taxing nature, sessions shouldn’t go much longer then 30 to 45 minutes. Tip: “When performing box jumps, start in a quarter squat and hinge from the hips to engage the hamstrings and glutes,” says Strickland. “Landings on the box should be soft to help avoid injury.” 

For toning: While plyometric training is renowned for explosive bodyweight movements, Strickland says that there are a range of toning exercises that can be performed simultaneously. “Think anything from single-leg step-ups to incline push-ups using the box,” he says. “The varied range will target muscles you never even knew you had.”

“With proper technique, kettlebells can be used to train your entire body for both toning and fat-burning goals,” says Strickland. “I run a half-hour class and never repeat the same exercise, so boredom is never an issue.”

Compound movements such as the kettlebell swing, in which the centre of gravity shifts, work the entire body while moves native to dumbbell workouts often isolate one or two muscle groups.

“Kettlebells, in my experience, allow people to get deeper into the movements than say a dumbbell,” says Strickland.

For toning:  Kettlebells of varying weights can be used to load isolated muscle groups. When setting up your home gym, opt for a set of light, medium and heavy kettlebells to ensure everything from shoulders to legs can be worked. Strickland’s favourite for a killer lower-body toning session? “I often work some of my favourite kettlebell exercises into a circuit to ensure the muscles are exhausted while also providing a killer cardio and fat-burning workout,” he says. “Try a burpee to kettlebell deadlift to kettlebell upright row. Say no more, this will push your whole body to its limits, and then some.”

For fat loss/cardio: Fat loss and cardio fitness are best achieved through circuit-style training, with limited rest and higher repetitions to ensure the heart rate is elevated for long periods. Strickland suggests high-intensity interval work, with exercises performed for 45 seconds at max reps followed by a short 15-second rest. Sessions should last for about 20 to 30 minutes all up. “Work from the larger muscle to smallest, allowing you to achieve a wider variety of movements. It also means the most taxing, compound movements are completed first,” says Strickland.

NEXT: Looking for more fat loss tips? Check out Alexa Towersey’s here.

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The Mental Tricks Laurie Hernandez Uses to Summon Crazy Confidence

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Team USA gymnast Laurie Hernandez is blowing us away in Rio: Her talent is obviously out of this world, but what’s just as impressive is the poise and confidence the 16-year-old first-time Olympian exhibits pretty much every time she’s on camera.

Take her performances so far. At the Olympic trials back in July, Hernandez calmly stood before a huge crowd, closed her eyes, put one hand on her stomach, and breathed deeply. Then she proceeded to kill it on beam. (She took first.)

This week, as she struck her starting pose for the floor exercise, she sent the judges a smile and sneaky wink. Later, before hopping up on the beam, the camera caught her whispering to herself, “I got this.” And she was right.

But these little pre-routine behaviors aren’t just a fun part of her personality, says sports psychology consultant Robert Andrews. They’re actually valuable tools for getting in the right mindset for optimal performance—and they’re easy enough for anyone to learn, elite athlete or not.

Breathing like a champ

Andrews, who has a master’s degree in psychology and a background in fitness, runs the Institute of Sports Performance in Houston. He’s worked with hundreds of professional athletes, including Hernandez and her teammate Simone Biles; in fact, he taught Hernandez that very breathing routine she practices before competition.

“I like to say that oxygen is the cure for stress and anxiety,” says Andrews. “A lot of athletes, when they’re stressed out, start breathing a lot shallower and faster. So learning how to monitor and be aware of breathing patterns under stress is important.”

What Hernandez is doing before she competes, he explains, is called diaphragmatic or “belly” breathing. “She’s moving her diaphragm down so that her lungs can open up,” he says. “Laurie, like a lot of people, tends to hold her stress in her stomach—so she’s connecting her mind to her stomach and her breathing patterns.”

Deep, diaphragmatic breathing can release tension in the body, says Andrews, which can also relax the mind. That changes hormonal function in the brain, and lowers the production of the stress hormone cortisol.

RELATED: How 6 Olympic Athletes Deal With the Pressure

Acting confident goes a long way

Andrews also works with athletes on body language and posture, which he says can have a big psychological influence on performance. “Laurie has a very upright, straight posture when she’s getting ready for a routine,” he points out. Not only does that make an impression on the judges, he says, it can also make an impression on her own brain.

“Strong body language like that can actually increase the production of testosterone and lower the production of stress-related hormones,” he says. “It creates brain chemistry that increases assertiveness and confidence, which you need just the right amount of when you’re on the bars, the beam, the floor, wherever.”

The same goes for Laurie’s now-famous “I-got-this” pep talk. Andrews didn’t teach her those words exactly, but he says he has talked with her about the power of positive thinking.

“Where you point your mind, your body follows—so Laurie has figured out that those words are very empowering for her mind and body, and they’re going to help her bring out that fierceness that she needs,” he says. “I can’t think of a better powerful, affirmative statement of belief in herself.”

RELATED: What 5 Olympic Athletes Can Teach You About Body Confidence

You can use belly breathing too—and not just for sports

Anyone can benefit from diaphragmatic breathing before a stressful event, says Andrews—from an age-group runner competing in a race to a teenager taking an exam. The practice can help in the corporate world, too, with everything from job interviews to sales pitches to public speaking. 

“I’ve had high school and college students who report back to me that they’re making better grades on tests and giving better presentations in front of the class because they’re using these mindfulness techniques,” says Andrews. “Athletes call it their peak performance zone, but really everyone works better when they’re in a mindful, centered state.”

Ready to give it a try? Here’s what to do next time you’re in a stressful situation and feeling nervous. (If you’re not in one right now, just picture yourself there.)

Close your eyes and sit or stand up straight.
Find the spot in your body where your stress is building up. Is it in your throat? Your chest? Your stomach? Focus on that spot.
Inhale deeply, so that your stomach expands out and not up. It can help to put your hand on your stomach to feel this movement happening.
Concentrate on slowly breathing in and out, and feel your stress levels come down.

Andrews works with athletes on bringing those emotions down to the appropriate level. If 1 means no stress at all and 10 means all-out freak out, some people might perform best at a 5, others at a 3, he says. The key is to learn what works best for you.

And while Andrews says that the mental aspect of competition is especially important in Olympic sports—where a hundredth of a point or a literal split second can determine the winners—he agrees that it’s also a big part of successful performances of any type, at any level.

So next time you’re feeling unsure of yourself, try giving yourself a little mental boost a la Laurie Hernandez. Close your eyes, focus on your breath, and maybe even give a little wink. Because guess what? You’ve got this.

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Home gym under $100

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Don’t want to spend your hard earned cash on a gym membership? Here’s the equipment you need for a home gym all for under $100. 

 

Suspension straps for toning and fat loss 

“Suspension straps are easily one of the most versatile and popular apparatuses on the market,” says elite trainer of over 15 years Matthew Strickland.

“They can be used to isolate particular muscle groups, or as a full-body compound or high-intensity workout.”

 

Plyometric box for cardio, toning and fat loss

Plyometric boxes and aerobic steps come in a range of heights and sizes to adhere to varying fitness levels and exercise goals.

Kettlebell for toning and fat loss

“With proper technique, kettlebells can be used to train your entire body for both toning and fat-burning goals,” says Strickland. 

Compound movements such as the kettlebell swing, in which the centre of gravity shifts, work the entire body while moves native to dumbbell workouts often isolate one or two muscle groups.

Resistance bands for activation, recovery and toning

Also known as physio bands or Thera-Bands, resistance bands are often used to improve flexibility or for rehabilitative purposes.

“Resistance bands are great for rehabilitation from injury as they don’t load the spine or put pressure on the joints to the same extent as heavy weights,” says Strickland.

“When added to your stretching routine, they can allow you to reach a deeper stretch than you might otherwise be able to achieve, aiding recovery and improving flexibility.”

Foam roller for activation, recovery and toning

“While foam rollers are often thought as being exclusively a recovery tool for massaging sore muscles, I’ve often also used them as a rehabilitation tool with my clients,” says Strickland.

“By rolling out the outer thighs or glutes with your feet elevated off the floor, your core is forced to engage and you can actually get quite a solid, yet low-impact, abdominal workout.”

Swiss ball for toning

“Gym balls can be used for an endless number of exercises that work the entire body,” says Strickland. “They are actually popular among athletes as they can target the muscle groups specific to the athletes’ performance.

For specific exercises to promote toning, fat loss and card get your hands on the July 2016 issue of Women’s Health and Fitness Magazine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How to stay motivated

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Whether you’re experiencing a plateau or need a fitness pick me up, stay motivated with these simple tips.

Self-inquiry: bring on the confidence

What it does: Also known as ‘interrogative self-talk’, self inquiry promotes acknowledging doubts as part of a process to overcome them. An empowering process, it demands articulating what you’ll do by turning them into questions.

How to do it: Many negative thoughts originate from subconscious beliefs, which affirmations largely choose to ignore. Saying ‘I can’ and ‘I will’ works by making you more positive about yourself and your situation, but this has little sway if your fears surface and give you a list of reasons why you ‘can’t’ or ‘won’t’. By acknowledging these thoughts and bringing them into your full consciousness you can create congruence between what you’re saying to yourself and what you believe. A study in the journal of Psychological Science found that even something as simple as writing ‘will I?’ as opposed to ‘I will’ in an apparently unrelated writing task produced better intentions to exercise.

 

Goal priming – accountability

What it does: Planning exercise sessions can work against piking last-minute, as in the act of crafting a well-articulated plan, you’re effectively programming your mind to follow the script. “You will be more likely to stick to something when you can see it mapped out in front of you rather than just saying you want to do it,” says personal trainer and triathlete Sarah Menlove. You’ll also feel accountable to the plan. “Having specific exercises to target your individual goals means you have a plan of attack, so you don’t get to the gym and slack off or wander around wondering what to do,” Menlove says.

How to do it: Build your plan around the emotive goal you’ve identified, accounting for practical limitations (if you know you’ve got kids’ footy training on Thursdays or tend to finish work late on Mondays, factor it in). “Once you have your short- and long-term goals in place, you then need to schedule in your training, meal preparation and eating around your already busy life, ” says PT Emma James. A diary or spreadsheet or mobile phone app are ideal. Enlist gym staff or a PT to write a program that matches your vision.

Up your mood with your playlist

What it does: Music has been likened to a legal drug for athletes by exercise expert Costas Karageorghis, Ph.D. Research shows that listening to music during a workout can extend the duration before fatigue sets in, buying extra time and exertion. The analgesic effect of endorphins, which are activated by music, can mask fatigue, says psychologist Dale Barclay from Victoria’s Performance and Sport Psychology Clinic.

A study published The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that listening to a favourite playlist reduced non-productive behaviours in training and improved sprint and long-distance running performance. Studies show that a strategically chosen tempo can make hard gym graft feel easier, leading to longer sessions.

How to do it: Dr Karageorghis suggests planning your playlist around songs with which you’re familiar and that you find motivating. The tempo (measured in beats per minute) should loosely match your speed and intensity. Choose music of around 140 to 160 BPM for cardio like running and HITT, and around 115 BPM for weights and walking.

Read the full article by Madeline Lakos and Bronte Chaperon in the June 2016 issue of Women’s Health and Fitness for more motivational tips. 

For more motivational tips and tricks, check out lifestyle section. 

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9 Health Mistakes New College Grads Make

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Commencement speakers love to give flowery advice: Dare to dream! Reach for the stars! Embrace the whole new world waiting for you on the other side of graduation! 

They’re a little less likely to mention what really matters when it comes to securing your long-term success. A lot of it involves adjusting to adult life and learning what it means to be healthy, both phyiscally and mentally—and it's something a lot of new grads seriously struggle with. 

After you change out of your cap and gown, keep this cheat sheet on health mistakes to avoid in mind. You'll be #adulting like a pro in no time. 

Mistake #1: Going to urgent care for all your medical needs

We get it: you're young, you're healthy, and you haven't been sick since that unfortunate case of mono in the 11th grade. But building a relationship with a primary care doctor now establishes your baseline level of health and allows for continuity of care. And, in parts of the country where there are more primary care physicians, people live longer and have lower rates of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and other medical conditions, according to study published in the International Journal of Health Services. 

If none of that's enough to sway you, then remember: on many insurance plans, a trip to the emergency room or urgent care is more expensive than a visit to a PCP. 

RELATED: The Early Signs of Stroke You Need to Know—Even if You're Young

Mistake #2: Skipping health insurance

Speaking of insurance, you really won't be saving any money if you don't sign up for it after you graduate. The Affordable Care Act says you have to be insured, and you can get hit with a fine if you don’t register quickly enough. You can usually be added to a parent’s health plan if it covers dependents and you’re under 26—even if you're living on your own. If you’re younger than 30, you can buy a catastrophic plan with low monthly premiums; you’ll pay most non-emergency medical expenses yourself, but coverage includes three primary care visits each year—as well as preventive care like shots and screenings—before you hit your deductible.

Mistake #3: Eating a sad desk lunch every day 

Chowing down in front of the computer might seem like a good way to gain traction at a new job. In fact, one 2012 survey found that 39% of employees spend their lunch breaks at their desks. Truth is, in the working world, many of us aren’t counterbalancing our hours of inactivity with regular movement (such as crisscrossing campus for classes). Moreover, “when we eat distracted, we tend not to enjoy, appreciate, or even register the calories—they’re calories eaten, calories forgotten,” says Katherine Zeratsky, RD, an associate professor of nutrition at the Mayo Clinic. “If you absolutely have to eat at your desk, appreciate each bite of food in your mouth, chew it, notice that you’re chewing it—and do so at least several times before you swallow it—and then type a paragraph or read what you have to read. If you can take a bit of time to appreciate your food, you’re less likely to be looking for a snack an hour or two later because you forgot you ate.”

Mistake #4: Getting out of the exercise habit

Regular exercise at a campus gym? No sweat. Juggling physical fitness with an entirely new set of life circumstances? Not so straightforward. Researchers have found that even elite college athletes struggle to exercise consistently after graduation, and that everyone who wants to squeeze into their favorite big-game tee a few years later stands a better chance of doing so if they make exercise a habit ASAP. First step: Find an activity you really love, whether it's SoulCycle, Orangetheory, CrossFit, dance classes, or something else. Those people you know who get up at 6 a.m. to run do it because they truly enjoy it. 

RELATED: 10 Habits of People Who Love to Work Out

Mistake #5: Ignoring stress

A study in Social Science & Medicine linked student loan debt to poor mental health for young men and women. Generation Opportunity, a nonpartisan youth advocacy group, reported that the national unemployment rate for people between ages 18 and 29 is more than double that of Americans older than 29. Finding one’s way in the working world has never been easy, but some argue that it’s never been harder than it is right now—and millennials report higher levels of stress than any other generation. “Stress can impact everything from one’s sleep to their energy, attention, concentration, and interpersonal relationships,” says Simon Rego, PsyD, director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. “If you’re experiencing some of those symptoms at a level that is uncomfortable or that people are commenting on, it may be a good idea to seek support from a friend or loved one, or, if necessary, professional help.” Talking to a pro, Rego notes, yields the long-term benefit of developing skills that will help you manage life better for years to come.

Mistake #6: Developing a Seamless addiction

The idea that takeout food is cheaper than healthier home-cooked meals is a myth, plain and simple. So is the idea that preparing your own meals is a time suck. “You don’t have to be a chef in order to cook,” says Zeratsky. “You can love to cook or you can hate to cook, you can have no time or you can have all the time in the world; you don’t have to be a gourmet to put a healthy meal on the table. Think back to the basics of what comprises a nutritious meal: Do you have a fruit or a vegetable, a protein-rich food, something starchier that will provide you with good energy? It might not look like what you see on a cooking show or at a restaurant, but it’s a complete meal.” Almost anything you prepare for yourself, experts argue, will provide better nourishment than hyperprocessed fast food ever could.

Mistake #7: Happy hour wings and beer five nights a week

You're going to be spending 40 hours a week with your new coworkers—probably more time than you spend with your friends and family. So it's important to forge friendships in the office, and a common way to do it is hitting the bar after work. In one survey, 82% of respondents who headed to happy hour said they did so to bond with their coworkers. But those bargain drinks and buckets of wings add up fast. A beer rings in at around 145 calories, and those savory little snacks are 50 to 100 calories apiece, even when you haven’t dipped them in anything. Keep an eye out for lower-calorie options, and don’t be shy about bowing out before someone suggests karaoke.

Mistake #8: Forgetting what you learned in sex ed

According to the CDC, reported cases of three STDs (syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea) are on the rise in the United States for the first time in a decade—and STDs continue to affect young people, particularly young women, most severely. Some health department officials believe online-dating apps like Tinder are to blame, and they could have a point; while moving to a city and turning to your phone to meet a friendly stranger can be good, clean fun, with sexual freedom comes responsibility. Playing it safe means testing and treatment for STDs (the CDC recommends that sexually active women under 25 be screened for chlamydia and gonorrhea, which often have no symptoms and go undetected, every year) and using condoms consistently and correctly.

Mistake #9: Losing contact with friends and family

In college, your friends lived down the hallway from you. Now, you're lucky if you live in the same city, or even the same state. But even if you don’t have a whirlwind wedding engagement or splashy new job title to report, keeping up with old pals after graduation is worth the time and energy. “People are social beings and therefore we derive a lot of benefits from staying in contact with others,” says Rego. “This includes emotional support and comfort and a sense of belonging. These benefits help create a buffer against daily and life stressors that come our way.”

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