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Lark App Will Coach You to Better Health

Written on September 29, 2014 at 10:07 am , by

We’re all pretty hard on ourselves, especially when it comes to failed attempts at eating clean all month, weekends included. But those failed attempts don’t mean we’re forbidden from patting ourselves on the backs for the accomplishments we do make, like sleeping for a full seven hours or taking the stairs.

Julia Hu understands the struggle to accept this, which is why she created Lark, an app that not only automatically tracks your sleep and activity (you can input your food), but gives you encouraging messages along the way. Think of it as your personal health coach that always has your back.

Launching today, the app (which is completely free—score) uses Apple’s HealthKit to monitor your zzz’s and fitness levels and syncs with your other health apps and wearables. Translation: You’ll be good to go when you upgrade to the iPhone 6 or snag the Apple Watch.

Lu and her team knew that only displaying health data could actually backfire and cause users to overeat and fall into an exercise rut, so they worked with behavior-change experts from Harvard and Stanford to develop the concept of a coach that chats with you based on your goals. “Women tend to be a lot harder on themselves when it comes to weight,” Lu says, “and 96 percent of people don’t stick with their diet regimens or their weight-loss regimes. The app is friendly and you’ll feel much more self-motivated.”

We’re so excited to see how this app will really help people feel better about their journeys to living happier, healthier lives. After all, the journey of getting there is just as important as the results.

“If you really try to enjoy what you’re doing right now, you can be a lot happier,” Lu says. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

More from FITNESS:

Everything You Need to Know About Apple’s New Health App

5 Things You Need to Know About the Apple Watch

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This Treadmill Will Do Your Laundry

Written on September 26, 2014 at 7:43 pm , by

Just when we thought we’ve heard it all in the fitness tech world, students, entrepreneurs, and average Joe’s are continuing to wow us with new products that make living healthy lives easier—and make us wonder how we didn’t think of the products first. (Remember that whole sweat charging your iPhone deal? Yeah, freaking amazing.)

How about this? A South Korean student developed an incredibly detailed concept of a treadmill that does your laundry. Um, what?

Called the Wheel, Si Hyeong Ryu’s idea is based on the notion that simultaneously keeping ourselves and our surroundings clean is hardly achievable in the modern world—until now. The energy generated by the spinning of this bad boy is enough to wash your dirty laundry, which you can stash at the bottom—yes, in the treadmill—and any unused power can be saved for future use. Another bonus: It uses much less water (and energy, of course) than the washing machine you use now. We’ll take eight, please?

Ryu entered the Wheel in the Electrolux Design Lab 2014 competition, and while we can’t wait to see if he wins, we really hope he’ll make this concept happen, because who doesn’t want a treadmill that does your laundry?

Photo by Alexa Miller 

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Written on September 26, 2014 at 3:13 pm , by

Written by A.J. Hanley

“You’re not in Spin class anymore,” I told myself as I wheezed my way up a hill of the Best Buddies Challenge: Hearst Castle earlier this month. But it wasn’t just any hill—the 62-miler, my chosen distance for the annual charity bike ride, cruelly started at the base of a 600-foot climb. (For perspective, that’s about a million right turns to your flywheel.) I’m not ashamed to admit that ride, which winds along California’s stunningly scenic Pacific Coast Highway, ending in San Simeon, kicked my butt. I felt confident going in—after all, I’m a semi-regular yogini and runner who crushes it in the front row of my twice-weekly SoulCycle classes. But according to Strava, my moving time was 5 hours and 40 minutes, which gave me plenty of time to think about what can help and hurt you in an endurance activity like this. Overall, it was an amazing experience, and I’m hoping to do the full century (100 miles) in the Best Buddies Challenge: Hyannis Port in May. Only then, I’ll use these hard-won strategies to go the distance.

Put your pedals to the pavement. There’s no question my group-cycling sessions have helped keep me fit, but no indoor workout could have prepared me for the 5,100-foot elevation gain. I’d only bought my road bike three weeks earlier, which didn’t give me much time to train—a mistake since road cycling requires a whole different set of skills. On a fixed-gear stationary bike, you’re in control of the resistance; outside it’s determined by environmental factors like terrain and wind. Do your research—study the race route and topography map—and then train accordingly.

Get a bike fitting. After nearly blowing out my knee on a too-small hybrid a few years back, I know the right two-wheeler can make all the difference. Be sure yours can withstand the rigors of a long road trip, and if your bike is older, it may be time for a tune-up at your local bike shop. Thankfully, my ride for the Challenge was a spanking-new Cannondale Synapse, which was designed for feats like this. So I simply brought it to the shop to have the height and angle of the seat and handlebars adjusted to my body, and my SPD pedals were tightened just enough so I could clip in and out easily. It’s a quick trip to avoid a long road of injury—well worth it, if you ask me.

Pack snacks. According to my Garmin Edge bike computer, my calorie burn for the day was a whopping 2,244 calories. That means my pre-ride dinner and breakfast PB&J were ancient history before 11 a.m. To keep from bonking, have some easy-to-digest carbs (think bananas, energy gels and gummies) on hand, in addition to lots of water.

Dress the part. I used to think a recreational biker like myself didn’t need head-to-toe cycling apparel. But it’s what keeps you visible, aerodynamic and dry. A bike jersey, I learned, can also double as an overnight bag: In addition to an array of snacks, my back pockets housed arm warmers, my cell phone and I.D., CO2 cartridges for my tires, lip gloss and a tiny fold-up brush (don’t judge). Bibs, too, have become more user-friendly. Padded in all the right places, my new Sugoi RS Pro Bib Shorts have a “Pit Stop” design that lets you unclip for easier bathroom breaks.

Pace yourself. It’s true that I’m a little speed-phobic, but these windy downhills were daunting! I often found myself holding my breath and pumping the breaks compulsively until my fingers seized up. Then, in an effort to catch up with my friend Amy on the ascents, I’d power up it in a higher gear, which only served to sap my energy and stress out my quads. Clearly, I’m no model of efficiency. My goal for future rides is to relax a bit, focusing less on speed (or my lack thereof) and more on maintaining a steady and sustainable cadence.

Find motivation. Each time I struggled during this ride, I thought about my reasons for participating, and it gave me the push I needed to keep going. The bike race is a fundraiser for Best Buddies International, a nonprofit dedicated to finding jobs and fostering friendships for people with intellectual disabilities. Some of the Best Buddies walked, ran or rode that day (one cycled 100 miles on a city bike!); others raised lots of money for the cause. I told myself that if the obstacles they faced weren’t insurmountable, then neither were mine.

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Triathlon Training: How to Fuel for Your Best Race

Written on September 25, 2014 at 9:00 am , by

If you’re an endurance athlete, then you already know that what you fuel with in preparation for—and during— your race is just as important as your physical training. Your body needs to have the right nutrition and hydration in order to do what you are asking it to do. Zoot Sports athlete and Ironman World Championship qualifier, Jennifer Vogel, gave us the low down on how to fuel up on race day.

Figure out your sweat rate.
You have to know how much you lose in order to know how much to replace. Here’s how:

1. Strip down and weigh yourself right before an hour-long, race-pace workout.
2. Do your workout and keep track of how many fluids you take in, measured in ounces.
3. Towel off, strip down again and weigh yourself immediately.
4. Subtract this weight from your pre-workout weight and convert to ounces. Then add to that number however many ounces of liquid you consumed during your workout.

For example, if you lost one pound (16 ounces) and drank 16 ounces of fluid, your total fluid loss is 32 ounces.

And a math breakdown:

Pre-workout weight — Post-workout weight = New number, measured in ounces

New number + Liquid consumption = Total Fluid Loss

Once you figure out your loss, you’ll know around how much you need to take in per hour. You can divide that number by four to figure out how much you should drink every 15 minutes. If you’re a salty sweater (you’ll see white marks on your clothing or your skin will feel gritty after the sweat dries down), then you need to add electrolytes to your water as well. We like Nuun tablets or Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix.

Find the foods that work for you.
Figuring out what tastes good to you—and what sits well with your stomach—will take some trial and error. Depending on how long the training session or race is, solid foods work better on the bike and gels and chews can work for either the bike or run. For real food, Vogel suggests peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (Ed note: these work really well for me when cycling), and bananas because they are portable and the potassium helps balance your sodium intake to prevent cramping. If you can make rice bars, those are great as well. Skratch Labs has some great recipes here. As for gels and chews, buy a few different kinds and test them during training.

Start your plan days in advance.
For longer distances like an Ironman, Vogel starts to emphasize carbohydrates about 72 hours before the race and will indulge in Mexican food to up her salt intake. Two days out, more carbs like sweet potatoes, plantains, and proteins like fish or white meat rotate through her diet, and she cuts out red meat. Then, within 24 hours, Vogel slurps down a lot of smoothies so she can still get the nutrients she needs from veggies, without worrying about digestion issues (greens are difficult to break down, but the blender does the work for you if you take them in smoothie form). Her go-to meal right before the race: a baked potato with hummus and salsa, thanks to it’s portability and the simple fact that it’s easy to find anywhere. She’ll also drink Ensure to get glycogen (energy that’s converted from carbohydrates) stores up.

You can follow a similar plan for shorter distances, but be mindful about calorie intake—your body doesn’t need as much for an Olympic distance as it does for an Ironman. For your typical Olympic-distance triathlon, you want to top off your stores so your body has something to pull from during the race and then replenish as needed throughout.

Recover the right way. 
After a hard workout or race, everyone falls into two camps: you either have no appetite whatsoever, or you want to reach for the nearest cheeseburger and beer. But it’s important to refuel properly for the best recovery. Vogel suggests veggie smoothies, and often reaches for one with turmeric, ginger, beets, kale, and lemon juice. The  vitamins and minerals in the smoothie help your body restore what was depleted during strenuous activity. Also aim to get in 12 to 14 grams of protein within 30 minutes of your workout to aid muscle recovery and limit delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. Best bets: a cup of Greek yogurt with berries or half a bagel with peanut butter.

Photograph by Diana King 

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Birth Control Prescriptions: Coming to a Video Chat Near You

Written on September 24, 2014 at 1:45 pm , by

From FaceTiming our far-away BFFs to chatting with a doctor about bothersome symptoms, we do everything online. So why not make the next step in healthcare a digital one? After the Obama administration ruled last month to make access to birth control easier for women, Planned Parenthood is making it possible to get prescriptions via video chat.

The organization is rolling out a pilot program in Minnesota and Washington that allows patients to get prescriptions for birth control—and later, STIs—through a video chat service with their app, and then have that prescription mailed directly to their doorstep. The main point is to help women in underserved or rural areas get access to the reproductive care they need quickly. As someone who used to live in a remote area, and had to drive 30 to 45 minutes just to meet with my gynecologist, I totally understand the need for a service like this one. That being said, video chats should not eliminate face-to-face time with your gyno completely, and you should still stop in for the check-ups and tests necessary to stay on top of your health.

But what do you think? Would you use video chat to secure a birth control order?

Photo by Blaine Moats

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This Plane Used Cooking Oil to Fly 4,000 Miles

Written on September 24, 2014 at 1:09 pm , by

Well this sounds frightening.

Finnair, Finland’s largest airline (and allegedly the safest), sent a plane from Northern Europe to the Big Apple Tuesday fueled by a common household ingredient: cooking oil.

The decision to use biofuel—aka recycled cooking oil—was done in honor of the UN Climate Summit in New York City, where world leaders came together to address the need for climate change and emission reduction. Though it sounds like cooking oil would make for a mighty shaky flight, Aviation Tribune says it’s actually preferable to regular jet fuel because of the significantly lower amount of greenhouse gas it releases (around 50 to 80 percent less gas). The downfall? It’s more than twice the price of regular fuel, making it unreasonable for airlines to rely solely on this eco-friendly way of flying.

So kudos to Finnair for using the eco-friendly flying method again (the airline first did it in 2011) and supporting a cleaner earth!

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Categories: The Fit Stop | Tags:
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The Fit Girl’s Guide to Colorado’s Keystone Resort

Written on September 24, 2014 at 10:18 am , by

Written by Triona Moynihan, art production assistant

Looking for a nature-filled, adventurous girlfriends’ getaway? Not anymore, ’cause you’ve found the Keystone Resort in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, which my friend, Emily, and I just explored for four incredible days. Let me tell you why it was awesome.

It’s not just a ski resort. While it famously upholds a reputation for awesome slopes that’ll satisfy any snow bunny, there is no shortage of activities for warm-weather adventurers. Mountain biking is one of the most popular—and intense—warm-weather activities offered, and bikers come out in droves daily to pedal the trails. If you’ve never given it a go, sign up for one of Keystone’s their biking clinics first, where they’ll provide a bike, all the necessary gear and a lesson in the skills park before heading down a “gnarly” mountain trail.

The temps are perfect. For those looking to disconnect from their smart phones and reconnect with nature, Keystone’s temperate weather is perfect for spending tons of quality time outdoors. Its rarely above 75 degrees and almost always sunny. Like Emily and I, you could start your day with a morning mountain top yoga class followed by a two-hour horseback ride exploring White River National Forest. Or, perhaps you would prefer getting up close and personal to Decrum Mountain during an invigorating two-hour and 2,000 calorie-burning hike. When you’re not too busy scaling rock scrambles, pause and soak in all your surroundings have to offer: sweet smells of pine and the soft rustle of the trees in a cool breeze. Ahhh, perfection.

The summer music festivals rock. If you’re looking for a party, check out one of Keystone’s Signature Festivals running throughout the summer months. Emily and I hit up the Bluegrass and Brews Festival where we tried to identify Colorado’s best IPA and porter, respectively. Keystone’s quaint River Run Village was filled with over 30 local breweries offering samples of their finest libations, and live bluegrass music from three different stages.

Pampering is, of course, included. After all,what vacation would be complete without an element of relaxation and indulgence? From their fantastic spa facilities—including a top-notch sauna, steam room, massage therapies, relaxation room etc—to their delectable dining options, Keystone brings out a sense of calm. The three AAA four-diamond rated restaurants feature #nofilter-worthy mountain views and charming amenities, like expert sommelier wine pairings and fire-side desserts. Plus, anytime you can order a perfectly made Souffle baked at 9,000 feet, you should.

All in all, Keystone gave us an opportunity to disconnect from our hectic lives while enjoying an adventurous, outdoorsy girls-only retreat. As soon as we boarded the plane home, we began planning our next trip back. I suggest you begin planning yours too.

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An Update on the Ebola Virus: Is There Hope For A Cure?

Written on September 23, 2014 at 2:15 pm , by

As the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history continues to make its rounds, the United Nations made a major move Saturday to square it away. For the first time ever, the UN issued a mission on Saturday for a public health emergency: United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response. The mission will pull resources from UN agencies to strengthen the World Health Organization’s efforts to halt the disease’s spread.

As of Saturday, there have been 2,803 deaths in three different West African countries—Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone (Sierra Leone even went on a three-day lockdown last week to try to contain the virus)—more than double last month’s number, according to the World Health Organization. As of Monday, 348 healthcare workers in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone have been infected with Ebola—186 of them died as a result.

However, we’re remaining hopeful because Nigeria and Senegal haven’t reported any new cases of the virus since late August/early September, and authorities claim the three-day Sierra Leone lockdown was successful, with just 130 new cases found among millions surveyed. What’s more, Johnson & Johnson is said to begin testing a new vaccine for the virus early next year.

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Categories: Health, The Fit Stop | Tags:
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Learn How to Dance—At Home—With the Brooklynettes

Written on September 22, 2014 at 10:57 am , by

Written by Jacklyn Kouefati, editorial intern

If you’re rhythmically challenged like many of us (translation: me), the thought of dancing probably makes you squirm in your seat. I’m much more of an admire-from-afar type of person who prefers to keep a rather large distance from dance floors.

While that’s fine (to each their own), that doesn’t mean you need to fear dance cardio classes. I recently hit up one at Crunch Gym led by the Brooklynettes—the Nets’ dance team—who taught us a workout inspired by an actual hip-hop routine they perform courtside. The dance combines old-school moves with calorie-burning booty shakes—but don’t worry. You learn the dance in two parts before combining everything together.

You can try it too with Crunch Live, a streaming service that lets you follow along with different instructors right from home. Crunch Gym member or not, sign up for a year ($90) or pay per month ($9.99), and you’ll have access to more than 40 workouts (and counting!). But because we’re so excited about the dance we learned, you can try it free for a week. Just sign up on the Crunch Live website, choose a membership, and enter the code FITMAG by September 29th to dance along with “Center Court Choreography with the Brooklynettes.”

And to our fellow can’t-dance gals who are already cringing in their chairs, the routine is a surefire way to get your heart pumping in the privacy of your own home. You don’t have to be a professional dancer to enjoy this workout—pinky promise.

Photo by Mira Steinzor

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Olympic-Worthy Fashion Advice from Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross

Written on September 19, 2014 at 3:40 pm , by

Written by Anna Seils, fashion intern

While beach volleyball is all about the sand, hot bods and bikinis, the fashion trends spread far beyond the surf. Olympic volleyball athletes and teammates Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross sat down from their hectic lives of volleyball training—and winning like crazy in the AVP tournament—to talk about their trend-worthy style.

They wear what works for them. Although they look super similar (per tournament protocols), the winning ladies have different sponsors, so the gear isn’t identical. Jennings works with Asics for all of her equipment needs, whereas Ross teams up with Mizuno. Thankfully, for some tournaments, the uniform requirements are more flexible. “It’s fun, I can wear a green bottom and she can wear a green top,” says Ross. “But on the World Tour, you have to match exactly. So we wear a lot of black then.”  And keep an eye out for gear designed by the pros—Jennings is developing a shoe and apparel line with Asics that is sure to be full of functional style.

Uniform features matter. After all, you don’t want to start a game and realize there’s no way you’re making it through a set with the top you have on. So Jennings and Ross test, test, test—and keep an eye out for key gear components. “For me, having a bikini that ties behind the neck, it crushes my neck, so I can’t have that,” says Ross. “And if you wear a bikini that ties behind the neck every day, it hurts really badly. So we do the criss-cross straps in the back.” One thing they don’t look for? Skimpy suits. “I think our sport is sexy enough,” explains Jennings.

They buy each other gifts. Many athletes are notorious for good luck charms, and Walsh and Jennings are no exception. For an extra mental push on the courts, “I got each of us a Giving Keys [pendant],” says Jennings. “Mine says, ‘breathe’ and April’s says ‘dream.’ I want to invite breath and pause into my life, and this is just a daily reminder.”

Beauty takes a backseat, but it’s not dismissed. Hair and nails take a pounding thanks to sweating in the elements these Olympians train in (tons of sand = not so great for manicures). To make ‘em last and look good throughout the competition, “You have to do gel on the beach,” explains Ross. “If you get a normal manicure, it’s gone in a day.” As for the hair, both whip it into a cute pony or braid so it stays out of the way while still looking stylish.

Their styles off-court vary. When they’re not kicking a** and taking names, the pair likes to relax (and, well, cover up) in comfy, casual outfits. While Jennings is a fan of the classic jeans and tank combo, Ross opts for feminine, flowy outfits (Free People is a fave brand)—but with an edge. “I like being more girly off court, but I can’t be too girly or I’ll feel weird,” she says. “So I’ll wear sundresses with sneakers or pile on harder jewelry to offset it. I try to find the balance, and my main concern is to feel comfortable.”

To get more of Jennings and Ross, watch them in the championship game of the AVP Beach Volleyball Tour this weekend.

More from FITNESS: 

Why You Should Try to Be More Like Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross

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