care

Of Gifts and Gratitude

"If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." --John 15:6

Read: 1 Corinthians 12

Anyone who is blessed enough to be around children for any length of time knows that you often end up with the strangest collection of gifts. My girls are no different. Much to the dismay of our community groundskeeper, Mya and Ella are intent upon picking every flower that they see, always with a single plan in mind -- to brighten someone else's day with a makeshift, yet heartfelt bouquet.

This gesture, which holds great meaning to the girls, is quickly lost on us grown-ups. We accept the flowers with a showy smile and a nod, only to set them down in the moments to follow. We carry on with our business, leaving petals to wilt and whither from neglect. It is only when Mya and Ella return to inquire about the condition of their floral good tidings that we are suddenly forced to ponder the true value of their gift. Put plainly, the flowers matter to them because they probably carefully selected each one with me and Wendy in mind, and no explanation can soothe the heartbreak of our apparent ingratitude.

Our bodies are exquisite and unparalleled works of art. Formed from the dirt in His own garden, each for a unique purpose. And like flowers handed to you by a child, they were given to us with an expectation of continued care. How we express gratitude for our bodies doesn't just matter to us. It matters, perhaps more than we'll ever know, to the One who gifted them in the first place.

--Eric Velazquez

SPRINT TIP: INTERVALS Yesterday, American ultramarathoner Josh Cox dropped some truth on the PrayFit Nation: "Long slow distance makes long slow runners. If you want to run fast you need to run fast." Cox recommended that intervals should be part of your program each week if your goal is to build speed. But intervals also help you burn fat faster and workouts are shorter to boot. For the next few weeks, try this simple interval scheme to start getting leaner -- and faster.

Week 1: After a two-minute jog to warm-up, sprint at top speed for 10 seconds, then walk for 50 seconds. Repeat this until you have completed 10 sprints. Perform this workout on two, non-consecutive days.

Week 2: After a two-minute jog to warm-up, sprint at top speed for 11 seconds, then walk for 49 seconds. Repeat this until you have completed 11 sprints. Perform this workout on two, non-consecutive days.

Week 3: After a two-minute jog to warm-up, sprint at top speed for 12 seconds, then walk for 48 seconds. Repeat this until you have completed 12 sprints. Perform this workout on two, non-consecutive days.

Week 4: After a two-minute jog to warm-up, sprint at top speed for 13 seconds, then walk for 47 seconds. Repeat this until you have completed 13 sprints. Perform this workout on two, non-consecutive days.

Week 5: After a two-minute jog to warm-up, sprint at top speed for 14 seconds, then walk for 46 seconds. Repeat this until you have completed 14 sprints. Perform this workout on two, non-consecutive days.

You're essentially working in one-minute increments, adding one second to your sprint and eliminating a second from your recovery time each week. By challenging your body with greater intensity each week, you are paving the way for better improvement in body composition as well as sprint efficiency.

RUNNERS FORUM Walk, jog or sprint your way into the growing discussion on the forums Are you a runner? You have a 5K coming up? Maybe you're just interested in running and don't know where to begin? Whatever the case, it's time to surround yourself with a community of like-minded individuals. This thread on the PrayFit forums is dedicated to those who prefer to get fit by running. So dive into the discussion to encourage one another, to share experiences or to pick up some tips.

>> RUNNERS FORUM - CLICK HERE

MIRACLE GROW

June 23, 2011Read: Luke 19

"'I tell you,' he replied, 'If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." --Luke 19:40

I know I'm getting older and much more sentimental, because few things in life nowadays are as great as overhearing my wife talking to her plants. Can you relate? Her voice changes in pitch as she compliments and encourages. She apologizes to those not getting enough sun and to those getting too much. Supplying all that love simply brings her pleasure.

I like to think about how sentimental God must be. He cares for us, talks to us, feeds us and protects us. We're alive simply for His pleasure, and He loves to watch us grow. But the cool thing is, we're the part of His creation designed to thank and praise Him in return. And friends, the way we care for our health is one way to do just that. After all, if we find fulfillment when the things we love respond, just imagine God, seeing us do the same.

--J.P.

TIP OF THE DAY: Visualize to Maximize

Monday, our workout of the week targeted your back. But a few of the moves are easy to get wrong if you don't make one simple adjustment.

Pulling exercises are multijoint moves, meaning that movement occurs at more than one joint. In the case of rows, pulldowns and pull-ups, your elbows and shoulders are both working to execute each rep. But the tendency with many back movements is to let your biceps dominate -- flexion at the elbow takes center stage, giving your back a bit of a break and thereby minimizing the effectiveness of the exercise.

One way you can reduce -- not eliminate -- the assistance provided by your biceps is to use your imagination. On movements such as the lat pulldown, imagine you have strings attached to your elbows that pull them straight down toward the ground. This will help you initiate the pull with your elbows instead of your biceps, which will engage your lats harder. The concept is similar with seated rows, only your elbows should pull straight back to start each rep.

By making this simple mental adjustment, you'll be able to get your brain to "speak" more effectively to the muscles in your back during each workout.

Bonus Tip: To work your back muscles even more thoroughly, allow your shoulder blades to spread fully at the "top" of every movement. This will provide a longer stretch on each rep. Then, be sure to squeeze your shoulder blades together for a count at the bottom of each rep. This extends your range of motion on both ends, providing greater stimulus for strength and tone in these hard-to-reach muscles.

"IT'S A RENTAL"

May 17, 2011Read: 1 Corinthians 6

"You are not your own. You were bought at a price, so honor God with your body." --1 Corinthians 6:20

Somewhere, on some rental car lot -- with the sounds of inbound flights drowning out the hum of transit buses coming and going from the terminal -- an economy sedan sits in solitude, used, beaten and soiled. Coffee stains, cigarette ashes, Slim Jim wrappers. An inadvertent pen mark is making a home in the upholstery and the suspension on the car is aching from the accumulation of sharper-than-normal turns and a Dukes of Hazzard approach to the speed bumps on the return route to the terminal.

Why are we so hard on our rentals? Because we don't have to take it home with us, of course! Strangely, the same person who would put their Avis in peril prefers to park their high-priced Mercedes in the remotest corner of the grocery store lot at home.

Our bodies are rentals -- they are only ours for a fleeting moment of time in eternity -- but we need to treat them more like our own credit depends on the condition in which we return them. Today, take to cleaning out your personal make and model -- better fuel, a spotless interior and a shiny, polished coat. You'll feel better and the ultimate Lessor will be appreciative of the upkeep.

--E.V.

DARK CHOCOLATE PRE-WORKOUT?

It may sound like the most counterintuitive performance training advice ever, but having dark chocolate with approximately 70 percent cocoa pre-workout, can actually make your workouts more productive.

Subjects in a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition consumed a single, 100-gram serving of dark chocolate 2.5 hours prior to a cycling routine. Researchers found that consuming the dark chocolate before intense exercise caused an increase in antioxidant status and a reduction in a compound called F2-isoprostane, which is an indicator of oxidative stress.

For the full story, click here.

>> EXERCISE CENTRAL: Find out how to properly perform many of the key exercises presented in our workouts by clicking here.

>> SHOP: Looking for a good Father's Day gift? Visit PrayFit's online store to pick up a hat, shirt, wristband or book for the dads in your life!

 

 

I'LL DRIVE

March 3, 2011Read: Psalm 139

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." --Psalm 139:14

"Jimmy, you drive." Those three innocent words used to cause me serious panic. Well, it wasn't so much what was said, but who said it. Growing up, whenever the family went anywhere, Dad drove. In fact, I can probably count on one hand the number of times he didn't. But on the other hand, when I got old enough to drive, he'd surprise me and want to take my truck.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't so much the driving that worried me, but it was the condition of my truck. See, I wasn't a neat freak. Alright, that's putting it mildly. I was kinda messy. (My mom and Loretta are both nodding and shaking their heads right about now.) And whenever Dad caught me off guard, his disappointment in how I was taking care of the truck he gave me was like a dagger.

See, to Dad, that truck was more than something to get me from here to there. It was a gift that he practically built with his own hands. And my negligence might as well have been a blow to the gut. Speaking of, at PrayFit, we believe that our effort to be healthy, whether it be to lose weight or lower our blood pressure, is a way to show God just how thankful we are for the body He made to get us through life. Hypothetically speaking, if God asked us to take Him from here to there, in what condition would He find us? On second thought, that's not all that hypothetical after all.

--J.P.

DAIRY-FREE HEALTH A look at five alternatives to your traditional glass of milk

Whether it’s because of allergies or other personal or dietary reasons, many folks choose to avoid cow’s milk. For a while, soy was the only option at many stores – not anymore! We tested five types of milk alternatives for taste and nutrition.

The Criteria

For our taste tests, we typically sample the same product from various brand names, like peanut butter or nonfat vanilla yogurt. Since the most popular cow’s milk alternatives are made from very different ingredients, we are testing the five most common: rice, hemp, almond, coconut and soy. Each beverage was ranked using our 5-point scale (5 being the highest) and judged based on taste and nutrition information. Since many of the brands offer a variety of options like low fat, vanilla flavored and unsweetened, we chose the “original” version of each brand. We found that all were best served (very) chilled.

Rice Dream Organic Rice Drink Rating: 4.5 Cost: $1.99 (per quart) Nutrition Info per 8 fluid-ounces: 120 calories; 2.5 grams fat; 1 gram protein

Our Take: An overall great option if you’re used to skim milk. It’s surprisingly sweet even though it contains no added sweeteners. A watery consistency (just like skim milk) with some fat added from organic vegetable oils (safflower, sunflower and canola). It’s also very low in protein but fortified with calcium and vitamin D in similar amounts as cow’s milk.

Recommended Uses: Drinking plain or over cold cereal. You can also cook with it – there was a yummy-looking recipe for polenta on the box.

Pacific Hemp Milk Rating: 2 Cost: $3.99 (per quart)

Nutrition Info per 8 fluid-ounces: 140 calories; 5 grams fat; 3 grams protein

Our Take: We weren’t fans of this dairy-free option. It was thick and chalky with a sour, nutty aftertaste. It was sweetened with brown rice syrup and was fortified with 50 percent of the daily recommended amounts of calcium as well as hefty doses of vitamins D and B12. It was the most expensive and among the highest in fat, though the fat came mostly from the heart-healthy polyunsaturated kind.

Recommended Use: Smoothies

Pacific Organic Almond Milk Rating: 4.5 Cost: $1.69 (per quart)

Nutrition Info per 8 fluid-ounces: 60 calories; 2.5 grams fat; 1 gram protein

Our Take: A much more pleasing nutty flavor than the hemp milk with an easily drinkable consistency. It does have a strong almond flavor, which is fine if you like almonds. It was sweetened with evaporated cane juice and fortified with riboflavin, and vitamins A and D, but no calcium.

Recommended Uses: Chocolate milk, over whole-grain cereal, soups, pancake batter

So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage Rating: 4 Cost: $2.00 (per quart)

Nutrition Info per 8 fluid-ounces: 80 calories; 5 grams fat; 1 gram protein

Our Take: Thick (almost too thick) and creamy with a mild sweetness from added dried cane syrup. There was really no noticeable coconut flavor, but since it’s made from the fruit, most of the 5 grams of fat per serving comes from the less healthy saturated kind. Added nutrients included calcium and vitamins A, D and B12.

Recommended Uses: In coffee or tea, smoothies, or frozen into ice cream and popsicles

EdenSoy Extra Organic Soymilk Rating: 4 Cost: $2.99

Nutrition Info per 8 fluid-ounces: 130 calories, 4 grams fat;, 11 grams protein

Our Take: Like all soy milk, this had a distinctive flavor and slight aftertaste. It did score some points for having far more protein than any of the others, but it did contain some added sweetener. Fortified nutrients included calcium and vitamins E, D, B-12 and beta-carotene.

Recommended Uses: Great for baking due to its high protein content – these banana muffins are proof.

TELL US: What’s your favorite variety of dairy-free milk? Post your thoughts in the comments below.

>> SHOP: Have you picked up any PrayFit gear yet? Browse our online store for shirts, hats, polos and wristbands to show your support for faith and fitness, and be sure to send us pics -- we will post here and on Facebook!

I'LL DRIVE

December 8, 2010Read: Psalm 139

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." --Psalm 139:14

"Jimmy, you drive." Those three innocent words used to cause me serious panic. Well, it wasn't so much what was said, but who said it. Growing up, whenever the family went anywhere, Dad drove. In fact, I can probably count on one hand the number of times he didn't. But on the other hand, when I got old enough to drive, he'd surprise me and want to take my truck.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't so much the driving that worried me, but it was the condition of my truck. See, I wasn't a neat freak. Alright, that's putting it mildly. I was kinda messy. (My mom and Loretta are both nodding and shaking their heads right about now.) And whenever Dad caught me off guard, his disappointment in how I was taking care of the truck he gave me was like a dagger.

See to Dad, that truck was more than something to get me from here to there. It was a gift that he practically built with his own hands. And my negligence might as well have been a blow to the gut. Speaking of, at PrayFit, we believe that our effort to be healthy, whether it be to lose weight or lower our blood pressure, is a way to show God just how thankful we are for the body He made to get us through life. Hypothetically speaking, if God asked us to take Him from here to there, in what condition would He find us? On second thought, that's not all that hypothetical after all.

--J.P.

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: ORANGE-CHOCOLATE COOKIES

That's right, it's time for some dessert. Being healthier, after all, isn't about painful deprivation as much as it is about better choices. So if you are moving your body regularly, you shouldn't feel guilty about occasionally giving in to your sweet tooth. But if you are being calorie-conscious, this can be a bit more agonizing unless you know how to indulge without going overboard. That's where PrayFit contributing nutritionist Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, comes in.

"My mother-in-law discovered this recipe last year in a magazine, and these cookies became an instant family favorite," she says. "The combination of orange and chocolate makes for a light but decadent cookie. At 90 calories each, you can have one (or two) and not feel guilty about dessert."

Orange-Chocolate Cookies

Makes 4 dozen

1 cup butter, softened 1 cup granulated sugar 1 egg yolk 2 teaspoons finely shredded orange peel 2 cups all-purpose flour 1/4 cup orange marmalade 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate 1 tablespoon shortening

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar. Beat until combined, scraping sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in egg yolk and orange peel. Beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/2 inch thickness. Using a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut into rounds. Press your thumb into center and fill with 1/4 teaspoon orange marmalade.

Bake on parchment-lined baking sheets in a 375-degree oven for about 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. In a small saucepan, melt chocolate and shortening over low heat. Dip half of each cookie in chocolate mixture. Place cookies on rack to set.

Calories: 89 Fat: 5.5 grams Saturated Fat: 2.5 grams Protein: 1 gram Carbohydrate: 11 grams Sodium: 2 milligrams Cholesterol: 15 milligrams Fiber: 0 grams

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC is a registered dietitian and is currently a nutrition expert for the Food Network, and has worked as a media spokesperson for Cooking Light Magazine. She has appeared on Good Day Street Talk, Food Network.com, Access Hollywood and GMA Health. Visit her at Dana White Nutrition. You can also visit her blog for more recipes at http://blog.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/.

>> PLUS! 3 ways to start losing bodyfat...today