To stretch or not to stretch

One of the more commonly held beliefs when it comes to exercise, is that before you do anything you need to stretch. You will often see people about to head out for a run, take to the elliptical machine, or even start their weight routine first by doing a series of static stretches such as a quad stretch or butterfly pose thinking that before they get started they need to stretch their muscles. But the fact is, that if you are stretching cold muscles you are not only risking a strain or even a tear, but you may be reducing your muscle's power too!

Research is showing that not only is it a bad idea to stretch before working out, but it can actually hamper your performance too. Muscles that are not warmed up or loose before being put into a stretch are not only more likely to be injured but can have a reduction of power of up to 30 percent. Not good news to anyone looking to play harder, run faster, or lift heavier. Stretching isn't all bad, but it needs to be done at the right time. This would be after your warm up or after your workout; once your muscles have been activated and put to use. Stretching is great at increasing flexibility and gaining a full range of motion, but the best time to do that is after your workout.

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The Power of the Core

Your body's central powerhouse lies in your core and all the muscles that comprise it. Your core is more than just your abs, and while many of us strive for that elusive six-pack, if you neglect the other muscles making up this region you are setting yourself up for injury. Your core includes your abdominals, obliques, lower back, and pelvic region. If you strengthen only one part you will be left unbalanced and more prone to strains, sprains, or tears.

For athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike, your core is vital to not only look your best, but to complete your routines and sports to the best of your ability. Your core is responsible for holding you in the correct form when performing exercises, keeping your posture upright when running, and every other activity you undertake. By toning and building these muscles you will make yourself more efficient, and improve your overall fitness. It is important to focus on each muscle and to do each exercise correctly. You may not be able to complete them all perfectly at first, because many of the smaller muscles are weaker and unused to being stressed, but be diligent and eventually you will have a stronger center. Start by doing one set of each exercise and then gradually work your way up to three sets three times a week with at least one day of rest between them.

* Bicycle crunch: Lying on the floor, back flat and raise both legs to 90 degree angles. Alternately bring your right elbow to your left knee, return to the starting position and then bring your left elbow to your right knee. Continue until you've done a total of 30 (15 on each side).
* Bridge: Lie on the ground with your back and feet planted on the ground. Your knees will be bent toward the ceiling; while keeping your shoulder blades pressed down, raise your butt upward until your lower back and upper thighs are at a 45 degree angle on the floor. Squeeze your butt to hold yourself there for 3 seconds then return to the ground and repeat 10-15 times.
* Back Raises: Lie face-down with your stomach on the ground, legs straight behind your. Interlace your hands and rest them behind your back. In one motion, raise your upper body and legs off the ground so that your arms reach back toward your legs and only your pelvis is fixed on the floor. Gently return to the ground and repeat 10-15 times.
* Plank: Resting on your forearms and toes, keep your body straight and parallel to the floor. Contract your abs, pulling them inward and be sure to keep your back flat. Hold this position for 30 seconds, rest, and that is one set. When you've mastered that, try holding the position while doing a set of 10 leg lifts for each leg.

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Don't fret over eaters' remorse during the holidays

With the first of the seasonal holidays checked off in the way of Thanksgiving, hopefully your pants aren't fitting too snugly after a full fledged feast! It is possible to escape the holidays without packing on the reported 5 to 10 pounds that the average American will between November and the New Year, and you can do this while still indulging in your favorite dishes by sticking to your workout and fitness regime. In fact one of the biggest benefits of eating a generally healthy diet and being active is the ability to treat yourself when these special occasions occur! It's normal that in order to balance out a few giving-in's to a particular food favorite you can add a few more sessions in the gym and minutes on the treadmill. Many professional athletes, celebs, and even the most avid gym goers themselves cave in to their holiday cravings without any attacks of guilt!

So what are the favorites among the stars? Kim Kardashian won't pass up her turkey and cranberry sauce, and to keep her enviable curves during the holidays she logs miles around Runyan Canyon and follows her own workout DVD's. while Jessica Szohr is a sucker for her grandma's special powdered sugar cookies, she doesn't actually tip the scales as heavily as she claims, "I gain like 20 pounds every year because of them." The Gossip Girl starlet isn't obsessed about a few cookies or junk foods every now and then and instead focuses on finding a balance between the healthy and not so healthy fare. For her that usually means a week of being 'good' and then easing up on the weekends. But don't think she doesn't hit the gym too, in addition to yoga she tries to fit in 30 minute bouts of cardio.

Also a fan of the desserts is Justin Timberlake, but don't think we'll be seeing those abs go to flab anytime soon as he's an active athlete. Between lifting weights, running, and biking he's usually up for a game of basketball or other sport. Yet not everything that the stars are looking forward to noshing on is completely bad for you, as Ali Larter claims green bean casserole as her favorite Thanksgiving day fare.

And just like any other fitness minded individuals, sport's stars aren't ones to pass up their holiday foods of choice. For Alex Rodriguez that comes in the way of cheesecake, but he obviously is able to stay in top form due to his rigorous training both on and off season. And Houston Rocket player Yao Ming will gobble up anything made by his mother. America's top distance runner, Kara Goucher, is always a sucker for black and white cookies and a great milkshake; but when you're running over 100 miles a week no amount of ice cream will pack any pounds to her slender frame!

So take assurance in knowing that in your own post Thanksgiving days and in anticipation for the next holiday or event, a few variances in your diet isn't anything to beat yourself up about. Remember that moderation and balance is the key, and when you return back to your more healthy food fares, and keep your workout appointments you can enter the new year just as fit and healthy as you left off!

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Alberto Salazer named the 2009 USATF Coach of the Year

The 2009 USATF Coach of the Year is awarded to none other than the legendary Alberto Salazar. For those in the running community, that name itself brings to mind images of an athlete with inhuman grit, fortitude, and a fierce competitor. During his own illustrious running career Salazar not only pushed the envelope of what was considered possible and testing his body's own ability, but did so willing to state his goals aloud for all to hear. Salazar was able to speak his intentions, and more often than not deliver upon those with results meriting him plenty of titles and of course his World Record Marathon time.

Yet today Alberto Salazar is being awarded this great honor not as an athlete but as a coach. While being the head of the noted Oregon Project out of Portland, Oregon he oversees a multitude of not only the Nation's leading harriers, but the World's. They include: Kara Goucher, Dathan Ritzenhein, Galen Rupp, Ari Lambie, Adam Goucher, and Alan Webb. Among them there are countless records, titles, and medals, yet they all share the same inspired work ethic and dedication traited of their coach.

In accepting this 2009 Coach of the Year, Alberto Salazar remains humble, a characteristic of the man who is always willing to go to any length for this athletes, in stating "I am very honored and grateful for this great honor that I've been presented. However, I do so humbly as I know there are many other coaches out there that have done an equal or better job in helping their athletes achieve their goals. I am especially proud of the resurgence in American distance running that is occurring and thank all those athletes and coaches that have worked so hard for the last ten years to make this possible." While I may dispute the fact that there is a finer coach, I offer my most sincere congratulations to Alberto Salazar and look forward to what 2010 brings from him and his athletes!

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Rihanna's workout to look great and sound just as good at the 2009 American Music Awards

Stunning those watching the 2009 American Music Awards, Rihanna made a spectacular showing preforming and proving she has overcome all of the bad press she may have garnered from the whole Chris Brown incident. Wowing the crowd for not only her vocal prowess, Rihanna further looking great rocking her amazing body that she attributes to a strict workout and fitness routines.

Relying heavily on calorie blasting cardio, Rihanna's go to choice for a workout is running on the treadmill. She stays motivated from the help of her personal trainer that travels with her, always mixes things up to keep them fun for the singing star. This Barbados born beauty names her bum as her prized asset, no doubt from her resistance and weight training. Squats are great for giving your back end that great shape, and Rihanna seems to be no stranger to squats and lunges!

As for her diet, Rihnna is a fan of the low carb frenzy that seems to have gripped the masses, and spaces smaller meals throughout her day. By fueling herself every three hours she keeps her metabolism running and her energy levels even. Usually pairing high protein fare, such as egg whites, with fruit for breakfast, she will turn to healthy servings of fish for lunch and dinner. While she may not like vegetables she does do her best to fit them in, knowing they are good for her.

Thankfully Rihanna recognizes working out and fitness is more than a means to stay skinny or lose weight, and that it is part of a healthy lifestyle. She tries not to obsess too much over her size and exact weight as she can vary between a size two or four. She likes being trim and toned because it gives her confidence, and with such a slamming body we can see why!

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How Taylor Swift stays in shape while winning Artist of the Year in 2009 American Music Awards

In the 2009 American Music Awards that aired on Sunday, November 22nd, it sure looked like Taylor Swift made quite the sweep, scooping up a stunning five of the coveted trophies. Taylor came out on top for best Country album, Adult Contemporary album, and of course the Artist of the Year award, which is perhaps the most prominent category. This 19 year old songstress certainly looked just as amazing as well gracing the stage, and she can attribute that stellar body to her workout and fitness routine as well as a health diet.

Taylor recognizes that when she's up on stage and in front of her fans she likes to keep things energetic and high spirited. To keep in top form and able to do all of those dance moves while still holding her tunes, Taylor Swift's workout is not only aimed at getting her looking her best, but feeling her best as well and with the energy to carry out her impressive concert tours. Relying mostly on cardio to give her the stamina and endurance she needs, Taylor is an avid runner.

Taylor doesn't solely train to stay a certain weight, but instead looks to incorporate a healthy diet and exercise routine into her life so she is both able to preform her best and treat her body right. Taylor knows that skipping workouts or eating too much junk food saps her energy and leaver her feeling sluggish. "Basically, if I'm indulging too much and not exercising enough, I can feel that. I can feel a change before I see it. For me, working out is not so I can get skinny. It's so that I can keep up my endurance so I'm not panting on stage. Heavy breathing is the worst when you're in concert. You don't want to see that if you're going to see a show," Swift told Allure Magazine.

For Taylor that means jumping on the treadmill she has in her tour bus and home or taking it to the streets to run those miles. Taylor Swift no doubt gets a rush from the endorphins running releases and states that she truly loves it as her workout. In fact, she's been known to run on the treadmill before her performances to work out any pre-show anxiety. And of course when she's in concert and on stage for her fans, Taylor Swift gets quite a workout from her high energy dancing and showing.

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Get Twilight star Robert Pattinson's chest and arms

While it may have been Taylor Lautner's killer abs that stole the show at the box office hit movie Twilight Saga: New Moon that opened this weekend, there are still those more partial to Robert Pattinson's physic. Not generating quite as much buzz for his subsequent bulking up and toning up as his Lautner teen wolf counterpart, Pattinson did adhere to his own workout and fitness routine in reprising his role as one of the most famous vampires to date.

As it turned out, Pattinson was in fact instructed by his movie producers to head to the gym as a means to curb his habits of late night drinking and his penchant for cheeseburgers. while Robert obviously wasn't lifting nearly as much as Taylor, he did take up running and karate to keep himself fit and in top form. As he does go shirtless in the Twilight New Moon movie, there no doubt was a bit of an added incentive.

So how did he build up his biceps and chest in order to dare to bear? Exercises like dumbbell press, bench press, and inclined dumbbell press would do the trick for the pecs. By pairing higher weights with less reps, you will be able to gain more muscle mass and subsequently bulk up. This would look like doing a set of 12 reps with a weight that you can maintain for that amount, then go up in weight and cut back to 8 reps for the second set. Follow this with yet another increase in weight and cut the reps down to 4. Rest completely between each set, as each set should be an all out maximum effort.

For biceps like Mr. Pattinson, you will do the same sort of idea but with bicep curls and preacher curls. Start with 12 reps, then go up in weight for 8 reps, and end with the highest weight for 4 reps. And whenever you work one muscle group you should aim to work their counter parts, so for the biceps that would be the triceps, so you should do triceps extensions and bench dips. To add weight for the bench dips, you will plant your arms on the backside of one bench and then elevate your legs on another so that you are above the ground and then rest a weight in your lap for the duration of your sets.

Surely if you want to look like the hunky vampire Robert Pattinson portrays in Twilight New Moon, you've got to work for it! Finish your workout in the gym with a run to get in some calorie blasting cardio. The jury may still be out as to who actually looks best shirtless, Robert Pattinson or Taylor Lautner, but either way you can steal their workout and fitness moves!

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Heidi Klum takes center stage modeling and hosting 2009 Victoria Secret fashion show

For those at this years' 2009 Victoria Secret fashion show, among all of the lithe, slim models host Heidi Klum made quite an impression in a surprise strut down the cat walk proving that she has yet again made an astonishing transformation from pregnant mother to runway model chic in a mere five weeks after giving birth! While Heidi Klum has made herself almost as famous for dropping her baby weight in record time as for stripping down to her swimwear and panties. She has previously graced the Victoria Secret stage after her last childbirths, but this year has been the most recent one to date. Obviously her post baby workout and diets do the trick!

When asked about her secret to shedding pounds, Heidi notes that she is by nature an active person and in staying fit throughout her pregnancy with regular walks, she is ever more motivated to get back to her workout and fitness routine as soon as she gives birth. She cites those steep hills in her neighborhood as her secret weapon to sweating off the pounds, and runs pushing her other children in a jogging stroller up those inclines. With workouts with her trainer, Klum does a full body routine that includes along with cardio, resistance training, and work with a medicine ball.

Heidi Klum has been open in the past for her ability to eat healthfully but still indulging in some of her favorite dishes like schnitzel, goulash, and spaghetti bolognese. She was noted for being one of the first models to make headlines boasting a curvier figure than those others of the heroine chic nature. Yet Heidi isn't finished yet, and she still has the goal of losing another 20 pounds; but this 36 year old mother already has her fans in awe over her amazing figure.

While she may not have planned to be a model this year, Heidi Klum is the host for the 2009 Victoria Secret fashion show event that is set to air on CBS December 1st at 10 pm ET/PT. You too can bear witness to her amazing ability to stay healthy and remain dedicated to her own workout and fitness regime as she dons those famous Victoria Secret duds.

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Twilight star Taylor Lautner worked hard to get those enviable abs

In prepping for his role as Jacob the teen wolf in the Twilight Saga: New Moon movie hitting theaters today, Taylor Lautner spent hours in the gym perfecting the abs that have all the young Twilight New Moon fans swooning. In order to pack on a report 30 pounds to his 5'10" frame, the 17 year old Lutner said he spend two hours each day in the gym lifting weights and focusing on higher weight and lower reps. The star was trained by Jordan Yuam who was spotting the star in exercises such as bench press, leg press, and other lifts with a weight load of 40 percent over what he was able to lift for 10 reps. With the heavier weight, he may only do 5 reps but would be maxing out.

Taylor Lautner relied mostly on free weights to get a full range of motion and also incorporated exercise bands to add resistance to his stretching moves to further lean out those muscles. Instead of breaking a sweat, Lautner reduced his amount of cardio so as to not burn up too many calories that could be used for muscle growth, "I was exercising so hard that I began to lose weight," the star exclaims to Men's Health.

So how does he get those famed abs? The answer may be contrary to what many would think, as his trainer Yuam says that less could be more, "A lot of guys hit their abs every time they hit the gym. That's why so few of them have six-packs." Instead, focus on your abs only three days a week and allow the muscles to rest, recover, and then grow and get definition.

But exercise alone won't get you the cut and muscle definition that this Twilight Saga: New Moon teen wolf has, he also had to up his intake of protein and although Lautner is a bit vague as to what his actual diet entailed was, saying only, "I worked out a lot and ate a lot," you can bet he was constantly fueling his body to keep is metabolism charged and running. Weight lifters generally eat every two to three hours, with three meals and three snacks and protein shakes. Staples like eggs, low fat cottage cheese, and lean meats are usually heavily relied upon to provide that boost of muscle growing protein they need.

Whatever the process, the results seem to speak for themselves, as Taylor and his Twilight physic has earned him multiple sexiest body and abs awards from varying publications including a listing among People's 100 Sexiest Men. And cementing his status as a teenage heart throb Taylor finds it hard to escape his yelling and eager fans, yet by retaining his refreshingly humble charm, he could only be adding fuel to the fire.

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'400 Calorie Fix' - New diet book causes a stir on today's Rachael Ray Show

Making headlines across the Nation, Rachael Ray fans and viewers are eagerly anticipating today's show. This Thursday, November 19th, taking center stage, or center kitchen rather, on Rachel Ray will be the woman who reportedly lost six pounds in only two days following the diet plan written in, '400 Calorie Fix'. This new diet book entitled of course, the '400 Calorie Fix' was put together by the same authors behind the Flat Belly Diet.

While it has not hit bookstores or the online market yet, '400 Calorie Fix' has already created quite a stir. On today's show Rachael Ray will talk to this newly slim woman as to what her days looked like and what she did to drop all that weight. In what has already been revealed, the diet plan is nothing more than simply portion control and keeping your eating habits in check. While this is nothing revolutionary in nature, it puts a different spin on it in implementing four 400 calorie meals spaced through the day. This is good at training you to establish portion control, and by continuing to keep your body fueled your metabolism will be most effective at burning those calories.

The '400 Calorie Fix' touts that you can still eat all of your favorite foods, just so long as you keep each meal at 400 calories or less. It is appealing in that no foods are off limits, and I do give it credit for debunking the whole 'good food, bad food' stigmas, but as for the six pounds in two days I am still skeptic. It takes a negative amount of 3,500 calories to lose a single pound, and if this lady dropped that much so fast a good portion or it is inevitably water weight. Yet the message is still true: eat what you want in moderate amounts and practice portion control.

I've written before how you can incorporate any kind of food into your diet and still both lose weight and live healthy. You need to just be conscious of what you're putting into your mouth and in what portion size. If it takes reading the '400 Calorie Fix' to bring that message home to people so be it; if you get eating healthier and living a better life for it, that's great. But don't expect to lose six pounds in two days as it's unrealistic and unhealthy, and obsessing over any kind of diet could put you at risk for an eating disorder.

I've said it time and time again, eat sensibly and over time the weight loss will follow. Add exercise into the mix and you've got the recipe for success, with or without Rachael Ray's cooking!

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Avoid that holiday weight gain by sticking to your workouts!

As we are all no doubt eagerly anticipating our Thanksgiving Day festivities and subsequent feasting, it may not come as a surprise that during the holiday season from November and through the New Year, the average person packs on anywhere between five and ten pounds! EEK!! While the pumpkin pie, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and sugar cookies galore certainly taste good going down, they don't necessarily hold their appeal when their lasting memories are left on our hips, thighs, and stomachs. But luckily for you, you are a fan of working out and living a fitness inspired lifestyle, right! hehe.

Exercise is not only a great way to help combat a few extra calories, but an active body is crucial for optimum health. Sticking to your fitness routine and getting in those workouts despite a crazy or hectic holiday schedule will pay off dividends in keeping your waistline in check and those clothes still fitting. The wonderful thing about this time of the year, is that there are also many races and fitness inspired events to take part in (think of the annual turkey trot) that can help keep you motivated when you may be tempted to pack it in for the day or skip the gym.

You can further take the extra time off that you may have from work and the kids from school in getting everyone working out together. Head out for a family run, a weight session all in tow, or take a new class that you may have been wanting to try. Bonding through exercise is a great way to not only build relationships but implement a more healthy lifestyle too. And if you aren't living close to family per se, you can still get your fitness fix in good company by calling up a friend or inviting a coworker. Take the opportunity to meet new people, and even build new friendships.

When you are ringing in the New Year both fit and in shape you can still indulge in your Thanksgiving Day dinner and other holiday food favorites and still be able to slip into the same jean size as you count down to 2010! Talk about having your cake and eating it'll just have run off those extra calories!

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Moves to get you ready for the Thanksgiving Day football game

Almost as much of a tradition on Thanksgiving as the bird is, so too the 'friendly' game of football before the dinner feast! While it may be a matter of fun and games for some families, I know that for more than a few of us, to the victor goes not only the spoils but bragging rights that may extend for years to come. Whether you plan on scoring a memorable touchdown, leading your team to victory, or simply rubbing an upset win in the faces of your relatives, there are a level of stakes that come into play whenever we gather to huddle up and then hike. So when you are getting ready to score those touchdowns and be on the winning side this Thanksgiving Day Bowl, here are a few moves and drills to get your feet quicker, your body in better shape, and ready to avoid being tackled on the field!

Even better, these drills will not only help you in a friendly family game, but can improve your skills during the actual season. These moves are also great for athletes in other sports that rely on quickness and agility. For each drill, make sure you are fully warmed up and loose. Do each drill twice to a length of 20 meters. The aim is to gain power, agility, and get your fast twitch muscle fibers ready to move!

* Butt kickers: Working to alternate your left and right lower legs to reach behind you and smack your butt, you want to do your best to keep your thighs under you and pointed toward the ground. Your knees will act as the hinge as you bring your calf up to your hamstring. Try to move your feet as quickly as possible to reduce the time they are on the ground.

* Karaoke: Standing sideways, you will then cross your left foot over your right, then cross it behind you. Keep your arms extended out at your sides for balance and pivot at your waist. Your torso should remain forward and only your pelvis should work to move. Do a run leading with both your right and left side.

* Skip for height: Lift off powerfully with your left leg leading and fully extend your right leg as it trails. Aim to get as far off the ground as possible, and explosively as you can. When you land, spring back up leading this time with your right leg and alternate from there.

* Bounding: Push off with your right leg, and let your left leg will extend ahead of you as far as you can. Try to cover as much distance as you can and when you land forcefully push off with your left leg and let your right leg lead.

* High knees: Keeping your torso straight up, you will bring your left knee up as high as you can, and then switch to bring your right knee as high as you can. Keep your back straight, and try to get your feet up and off the ground as fast as possible.

* Piston feet: You will stand in one spot, and work to quickly pop your feet off the ground as fast as you can. Keep your feet low to the ground as the emphasis is on a rapid motion and speed. Do this for a total of 15 seconds and then rest before a second set.

* Sprints: End this routine with three all out sprints that are about 50 meters in distance. Recover fully between each one.

Be sure to cool down whenever you finish your workout. With a little preparation you can be the star of the Thanksgiving day game!

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Get that enviable cheerleader body!

No matter what time of the year it is, there are usually some peppy and energetic cheerleaders on the sidelines of our favorite sports shaking what they've got and rooting for their own teams! While of course the action occurring on the court or on the field may take center stage, there are many looking to the sidelines between plays and envying those lean legs and tight glutes of the cheerleaders. Whether you wish you were down there shaking those pom poms, or simply covet their svelte shapes, you can rah-rah yourself slim with a few cheerleader inspired moves of your own! Add these moves to the end of your cardio sessions three times a week, and in no time flat you'll be cheering for yourself!

* Touchdown Lunge: Stand with feet together, lung your right leg to the side and squat down into a deep lounge, touching both hands to the ground by your foot. Pop back up and return to neutral, clapping your hands then repeat on the other side. Do a total of 20 lunges. (10 on each leg)

* Toe Touch Hurray: Standing straight up, kick your left foot as high into the air in front of you as you can and reach for your toe. Repeat with other leg. Do a total of 20 kicks. (10 on each leg)

* Squat Leap: Standing forward, duck to the ground in a squat with your hands touching the ground, then spring up as high as you can and reach your hands to the sky. Do a total of 15 jumps.

* Back ward leg kick cheers: Standing upright, bend your legs at the knee one at a time to kick your butt. Alternate your legs as fast as you can while clapping your hands. Do a total of 30 butt kickers.

* Slam dunk sashay: Standing feet together, slide to the side two quick steps, clap your hands, then slide to the opposite two quick steps and clap. Repeat 10 on each side.


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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar looks to win the battle against cancer

Following his startling diagnosis with chronic myeloid leukemia, noted basketball legend, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has now set out to conquer another arena. Although, instead of becoming king of the court or appearing on the silver screen, this basketball phenom has set out to spread the awareness about his disease. Despite living a healthy and active life even today, Abdul-Jabbar was not able to dodge this opponent. Known to adhere to a rigorous and daunting training regime at the peak of his career, he has continued to workout and remain active on the court as a special assistant coach to the Los Angelos Lakers. Yet despite this he too has fallen victim to the presently incurable leukemia. However, unlike only ten years ago, his cancer diagnosis is not a death sentence, and it is that message he is hoping to send to sufferers and their loved ones around the world.

Taking the opportunity to use his fame and fabled career as the podium on which to stand upon, Abdul-Jabbar is just the latest celebrity to actively battle this disease in front of millions worldwide. Proving that he can still enjoy the sport that has been his passion since youth, Abdul-Jabbar has no plans on slowing down or stepping aside in his assisting the Los Angelos Lakers basketball team. While fitness and his continued working out may not have spared him from contracting cancer, it will still remain a staple in his life.

With the latest in cancer research and revelations, Abdul-Jabbar can still participate in the rigors of the game he has mastered, and he hopes to prove that to the world. Now taking an oral medication, he is waging the war on cancer, and he is joined in good company in that fight. Just as Lance Armstrong, Cheryl Crow, and even the brave and heroic Farrah Fawcett who never lost hope up until the end, have not shied away from the public in their own diagnosis, Abdul-Jabbar hopes to prove to all cancer patients that not everyone with the disease must face a cruel and crippling demise. For many they can live life to the fullest and still be active while in the throws of their own disease.

Of course he by no means is making light of the leukemia and its potentially fatal nature, he only hopes that through his own continued active and fulfilled life he can shine a ray of hope to those patients struck with terror at their own diagnoses.

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Biggest Loser shows you can heal through exercise

For any of those currently enveloped in the latest season of The Biggest Loser, along with the continued eliminations and goals of the contestants still striving to win the title, one particular contestant has won over our hearts for her bravery in the face of tragedy. While she has already been voted off of the show, Abby Rike has overcome personal loss to come to the point she is at today. In a devastating accident that claimed her beloved two children and husband, she had ventured to the ranch not only to reach a healthy weight but to reclaim her life.

Through finding peace in exercise and a healthy diet, she hoped to set herself up for the best possible chance at healing her own emotional wounds. In fact, the mind and body correlation is quite strong and with a healthy body comes a stronger spirit as well. It is true that exercise can not only help with healing but battling depression as well. I've spoken before of the mood enhancing effects of the endorphins released from exercise, but working out can further help the mind through struggles and times of great stress and loss.

Being physical, such as you are when you are working out, can not only help take one's mind from what may be tying it up or circulating, but can also clear your focus and get you in a more logical and serene state of mind. By taking your focus from a more emotional state with exercise, you can clear a lot of the circular or obsessive thoughts or tendencies and think of ways that can impact or change your life for the better. Of course personal losses and tragedies will no doubt still be hard to cope with, but in exercising you are given an outlet for a release of the accumulating hurt and feelings.

When Abby Rike looked to a way to heal her emotional scars by a physical means she can then gain a healthier body while achieving a healthier state of mind. An exercise routine will also aide in her own mental work, as we are minds and bodies connected.

As for last night's Biggest Loser, for those contestants sill at the farm actively engaging in ways to create their own healthier bodies and lifestyles, both Shay Sorrells and Daniel Wright were asked to leave. In a turn of events that lead to two people leaving, in only true rating inspired drama, they will now pack their bags to hopefully continue on their own weight loss and fitness goals at home.

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Stay happy this holiday season with exercise

While it is true that for many the holiday season is filled with festivities. Family gatherings around a roaring fire, caroling around the town, decorating the home, and spending time with the ones we love and cherish the most. However, it is also true that these same holidays come with stresses and sadness if we are alone or away from people that we miss. It is with this that the holiday season comes with an increased rate of suicides and depression.

However, despite any lingering longings or frazzled days in anticipating family gatherings that may be the ground work for some family conflicts, continuing to work out and follow your fitness routine can be key in not only reducing tension levels but keeping you upbeat and supplied with that holiday good cheer. Working out, and exercise in general, are proven to be an excellent mood boosters. In fact, regular exercisers are known to be more happy in their overall lives and less prone to depression.

This is because when you workout your body produces endorphins, which are responsible for causing feelings associated with happiness, satiety, and rewards. You have no doubt experienced this yourself, often feeling better after a workout, and usually less tired than you did prior. Regular exercise has been shown to not only help those suffering with depression, but can actually aide in warding its onset.

So by continuing your fitness routines and working out during the holiday season, you will not only be doing well to avoid packing on any extra pounds that have been known to creep up when we are surrounded by such wonderful treats and favorite foods, but it can make this time of the year more enjoyable and less stressful too!

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Forget right!

Whenever people exclaim that they plan on going on a diet, the words dread, hunger, deprivation, and misery are often synonymous; but that doesn't need to be the case! In fact, the most healthy people allow themselves the freedom to eat what they want just in the right amounts. There is plenty of room in any diet to eat your favorite foods, just so long as you don't over-do it and you balance those food that may not necessarily be the best for you out with healthy fruits and vegetables.

Weight loss and management comes down to two factors: calories in versus calories out. Keep the two numbers equal and you will maintain your weight, create a caloric deficit and you will lose weight, and when the calories coming in is more than the calories going out that is what leads to weight gain. To successfully lose one pound you need to trim 3,500 calories; you can do that by eating less, exercising more, or a combination of the two. The best tactic is to aim to create a caloric deficit of 500 calories each day to lose about one pound each week.

Now we come to the part where so many diet myths and rumors start: fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Exactly what are these terms and how do they apply to weight loss and management? Fat, carbohydrates, and protein are all energy sources that make up the foods we eat. Each of them have a certain amount of energy that they provide us with fat containing 9 calories for each gram, and protein and carbs both containing 4 calories for every gram. Fat has gotten a bad reputation because of its confusion with the fat tissue on our bodies, and also because it has more calories for every gram. This is why many high fat foods are also high in calories. But fat, just like the other nutrients, has a crucial place in every diet. Now carbs too have been shunned by many and looked to as the culprit for weight gain, but this shouldn't be so. Carbs are also critical for our energy levels and keeping our insulin levels even. Protein is the nutrient most adept at helping to build muscle mass. A healthy diet needs a combination of all three of the nutrients.

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Your own brain could be your worst fitness foe

The biggest obstacle standing in your way to achieving your fitness goals and getting in the shape you've always envisioned could very well be yourself! In fact, it is a fact that the brain will tell you to give up, let up, or stop well before your body actually ever will. When you begin to tire during your workout, the fatigue signals your brain to tell you to stop. This is actually a survival technique that is well outdated, as the brain is simply trying to protect the body. So when you begin to get winded during your workout and you're being told that you simply can't go any further, you may do well to simply tell that little voice to stuff it and keep on hoofing it!

We often think of certain feats of strength or achievements as unobtainable. Some imagine a marathon well out of their capabilities, and others shudder at the mere thought of finishing a single mile. Whatever your glass ceiling is, I challenge you to look beyond that as it may come down to a matter of mind over matter. Studies prove that the human body is actually the most evolved and best equipped at handling endurance. Our species may not be able to run at the same speeds as gazelles or cheetahs, but we can keep going long after they tire. This is how citizens in some African and other countries are able to routinely run up to 50 miles a day.

While many of us don't even want to do that, it goes to show what the human body is capable of. It is just a matter of pushing past the discomfort and barriers our own mind sets up for us. In your own workouts and fitness routines, keep this in mind; you will be surprised at how much you can accomplish when you shift your thoughts from, "I'm too tired and I can't go any further" to, "I know I can do it!" It may sound corny, but when you remember that even Oprah, Katie Holmes, and funny man Ryan Reynolds have all finished marathons, it should be further proof that you too can achieve any fitness goals you set out to do!

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Do liquid fasts live up to the hype?

In our weight obsessed society, it's tough to pass a day without being bombarded with the newest weight loss advice, fad diets from Hollywood, or being showed before and after pictures of celebrities who miraculously dropped 20 pounds in 10 days. We've heard everything from magic diet pills that allow you to binge of french fries and chocolate cake while still losing weight, machines we simply stand on and they gyrate the fat right off of our hips, and the craziest diets on this side of the Milky Way.

Yes, we are a Nation, and a World intent on getting the perfect body as quickly as possible, and many times with the least amount of effort. So comes the idea of liquid fasts. We've heard Beyonce spreading the word that simply sipping her crazy blend of Cheyenne peppers helped her peel off pounds, Rachel McAdams and her maple syrup drinks, and gurus pushing the Master Cleanse further crediting their secrets to losing weight quickly to a fast, but do these liquid fasts really work and are they safe?

Let's be honest, most of what we hear about diet, weight loss, and even fitness tips isn't totally true and a lot of it is simply a lie or a bit of a stretch from the truth. The same goes with these fasts, and in fact days on end with nothing being consumed but liquids can not only leave you tired, cranky, but it is potentially dangerous. When you consume below a minimum amount of calories, your body will go into a starvation mode, your metabolism will slow down to almost nil, and after a while your body will actually begin to break down muscle mass and turn catabolic.

Beyonce and other followers of the Cheyenne pepper fast state that the hot flavoring will boost your metabolism and make you burn extra calories naturally. Well, while there may be a bit of a raise in your metabolism, this is almost negligible and in fact you burn calories eating anything as your body works to break it down. Further, you are much better off raising your metabolism by exercising and building your muscle mass to body fat ratio.

Further, these fasts will often leave you too tired to get in your workouts, and then when you do begin to eat again you are prone to over doing it simply because you are starving. The weight you lose when you go on a fast is initially simply water weight, and when you return to a normal diet you will gain that right back. Simple mathematics make it virtually impossible to lose 10 pounds of fat say in 10 days, because it takes a deficit of 3,500 calories to simply lose one pound. So in the end, you are much better off sticking to a healthy diet and exercising. Plus you will be much happier in the process; and fitness is fun and you want to have the energy to partake in your favorite activities.

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Staying Motivated to get Your Workout In

It can happen to even the most fitness conscious, the professional athlete, and those who generally love working out. The lull in motivation, or a day when it's simply harder to get yourself moving, and out the door for you run, bike, or weight training session. Whatever the reason, perhaps stress, a long day, or an overall level of fatigue, battling a bout of the workout blahs is something everyone has to face at one time or another. The key is how you handle a loss of motivation to go to the gym or get your workout in, and that is what separates the people who continue to live a healthy, active life and those who let a few lapses in their workout turn from days, into weeks, into years.

To get yourself pumped up and motivated to workout when you may not feel like it is all about changing your point of view and getting yourself excited to get a sweat session in. The old saying, "fake it 'til you make it" comes into play. Even if you really don't feel like going to the gym, pretend you do, give yourself a pep-talk and think about how good you'll feel when you are done. Here are some tips:

* If you wake up early to get your workout in before work, have all of your things packed and your shoes ready, so all you need to do is get out of bed and get out the door.
* If you're going to the gym after work, have your bag packed so you can go directly there instead of home first. If you have to fight the temptation sitting on the sofa in front of the TV, the odds of you getting your workout in lessen!
* Envision how great you'll feel once you get your workout done. You'll have that rush of endorphins, and you can bet you'll be glad you went to the gym.
* Tell yourself you'll only do a short bout if you are dreading your usual routine. If you usually do an hour of cardio, tell yourself you'll just do 30 minutes then see how you feel. Often, once you actually get started you'll be motivated to keep going and will usually be able to do your full routine.
* Fill your iPod with the best workout music that will get you pumped up and ready to sweat! Listening to music is also found to make your workouts more effective as you push yourself to work harder.
* Plan a race, event, game, or goal in the near future. Everyone works better with a definitive goal they are striving toward. Find out if there is a local 5k run, or triathlon you can enter. It'll be harder to brush off a workout if you know you are training for something.
* Finally, remember why you love to stay fit and workout. Know that everyone battles a lack of motivation some days, but know that is the rarity. Remember how good you feel pushing yourself and keeping your body healthy and that tomorrow your outlook will probably be different!

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Head to New Zealand for a once in a lifetime running experience

Tickets to an exclusive trip to New Zealand to run with some of the most famed Kiwi distance runners are now being sold! Head to New Zealand's North Island for an incredible 14 days of hitting the trails for runs along the stunning forestry, visiting the noted attractions, and simply spending time among great distance running legends and current world class competitors.

The first trip is set to begin December 28th and will extend until January 11th of the new year. The fete will kick off in Auckland and then you will travel and train through Rotorua, National Park and Wellington, all the while soaking up the local history and sights. Noted speakers are Barry Magge, Bronze medalist in the 1960 Olympic Marathon, Bill Baillie, who placed 6th in the 1964 5k final and the New Zealand record holder for both the 20k and 60 min. event, as well as current track star and Beijing Olympic silver medalist for the 1500m, Nick Willis.

Your days will be divided into both runs, touring, and of course seminars where you can hear all the tales from the track. After plenty of time logging the miles, you will further be extended the option to put on a pair of spikes and compete in various races along the tour. Experience all the lore of New Zealand, while delving into a distance runner's haven. For more information, and to secure your ticket head to: but don't wait too long because spots are filling up fast!

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Meb Wins the NYC Marathon but is Only the Latest in a String of American Marvels

In an exciting display of American distance running finally returning back to the competitive level of the dominant African nations, Meb Keflezighi was the first American man to cross the finish line for the 2009 New York City Marathon. This feat has not happened since Alberto Salazar won the fabled race in 1982, some 27 long years ago. In his own race, Salazar won with a combination of grit, fortitude, and guts, and it was in following the same example that Keflezighi surged to the finish, upstaging the pre-race favorites, both representing Kenya.

This latest win for the American comes after a string of recent exciting developments for American distance running. Once thought to be so far lagging behind the Kenyans and Ethiopians filling podiums at every World competition, many
resigned to the fact that these African runners were just simply physically superior to their opposition and that their natural gifts and apparent physical make-up deemed them untouchable. For the last decades it appeared that Americans and any other distance runners not from these regions were not in a race for a win, but simply hoping to break into the top ten or even twenty spots. This changed with a string of American upsets and cornerstones passed. Dathan Ritzenhein's third place finish in the Weltklasse Meet in Zurich, Switzerland with a time of 12:56.27 for the 5000 meter event not only bested the long standing American record once held by Bob Kennedy, but even more impressive was that he placed third in the event, motoring past the rest of the African field.

This feat eventually lead to him to a third place finish in the World Half Marathon Championships with a time of 60:00 and established him as the first American distance runner to medal in the World Championships. Beside Dathan, it appears that Americans across the Nation have stepped up their game as well, with others emerging to claim previously unheard of times and finishes. We can't forget the women who have blazed the way either, notably Kara Goucher tackling the Marathon event with her eyes set on not just American records but titles as well against her African counterparts. Steepler, Jenny Barringer has proved to be a force to reckon with on the International scene, as well as the remaining members of the select group comprising the Oregon Project team based out of Portland, Oregon among which both Goucher and Ritzenhein train with. Who heads and coaches this group? Well, it is none other than the noted Salazar himself, which seems to bring us full circle.

With this amazing upset from Keflezighi, American distance running seems to have proven that these latest events are not to be regarded as mere flukes, but are only the beginnings of much more to come.

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