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SUNDAY WISDOM: Beating Seasonal Stress

With the coming Holiday Season, we can inevitably expect those annual stressful pressures of entertaining, shopping, cooking, cleaning, wrapping, etc…sandwiched between parties and traditional family meals that offer perhaps one-too-many temptations to over-indulge. The irony here is that if you take any of those “obligations” outside the realms of the holidays, they alternatively provide moments of calm, self reflection, self care, valuable family time, and selfless thinking.

It might not help that the season for holidays piles one right on top of the other, but we’re aiming to take one day at a time anyways, aren’t we? Living in the present, which is a gift in and of itself.

So this year, I challenge you to change your perspective on any anticipated “Seasonal Stress”. Here are few ideas…

  1. Approach each of your goals and obligations with gratitude.
  2. Give thanks for a family to feed, a house to entertain in, a child to indulge.
  3. Remember how you used to shop in order to “de-stress.”
  4. Appreciate how cleaning up the last bits of dinner party/holiday remnants gives you back a bit of quiet time.
  5. Take a soft moment to reflect on the joys of sharing the love, light, and joy that so powerfully fill these few days of the year – these “Holy” days.

For me, this time of year brings 40+ performances of The Nutcracker! A lot of professional dancers dread this season because it is so taxing on the body…show after show after show… missing out on all of those holiday parties and the rush of Christmas shopping.. If I’m honest, it does seem a bit ominous, but on the bright side, it gives me 40+ chances to make magic for children! Every performance brings to life snow flakes and flowers and dancing dolls and Sugarplum fairies..I get to call this my job!

We have so much to be grateful for. Let us seek an enlightened perspective on the Season this time around!

Below, a picture by Liza Voll of the Snow Scene from Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker,
Boston Ballet, December 2013

www.shelbyelsbree.com
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TEMPTATION THURSDAY: Vegan Chocolate Mousse

Stay on track this holiday season with my recipe for vegan chocolate mousse!

- 1 ripe avocado
- 2 ripe bananas (preferably frozen)
- 2-4 tbs raw cacao powder
- 1-2 dates (pitted)
- 1/2 inch real vanilla bean, or 1 tsp vanilla extract
- splash of almond, rice, soy milk – add as needed to achieve desired consistency

Blend all ingredients in blender or food processor – sprinkle with coconut and cacao nibs. Serve, and enjoy!
As always, we at Splits59 and KGBody wish you and your loved ones a happy and healthy Holiday Season!

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WEEKEND WORKOUT: Roll it out!

I posted a quick picture about the book Melt Method, by Sue Hitzmann a few months ago but now feel that it is in need of a real blog post to do it justice. Melt stands for Myofascial Energetic Length Technique. I never thought I would actually stay focused for 293 pages of a book just dedicated to a foam roller, but I sure did! And happily. I actually found this book fascinating and also truly helpful in reducing pain (and in some areas) actually resolved pain. For example, if you are someone with shin splints.. WOW, give it a try on your shins.

The Melt Method by Sue Hitzmann

I first started noticing people using foam rollers (as a real thing) a few years ago. I thought they looked a little weird, lying there on a mat, in an odd position and just rolling on the ground. Today, it’s my obsession and no matter how odd I look, I am rolling!

After seeing people in and around the gym, I figured I give it a try. I grabbed a roller. Luckily a nice person in the gym warned me that I had grabbed the “advanced” foam roller and that if I had never tried it before, I should go with the blue softer one. Who knew?! Yes, there are different levels of foam rolling. I do recommend starting with a softer foam roller before moving on to the harder, more advanced foam roller :) .

I started to roll. My own version of it. I liked it. It felt like a nice little massage. I was doing it “wrong” and for only about 3 minutes, so pretty much decided it wasn’t for me.
A year ago, I suffered a back injury. I initially thought it was an issue with my hip. But after a lot of pain and about 6 weeks of misdiagnosis, I was told I had a herniated disk, my L1 S3. It wasn’t fun. I immediately started physical therapy twice a week and that started to help relieve the pain. I had announced in my Barre classes that I could “teach” but had to take a break from demonstrating for a few weeks to let my back heal. One of my barre students came to me after that class and suggested that I should try foam rolling. She highly suggested I read the book MELT before I start to really learn about the benefits of rolling, get directions on how to roll, and more interestingly, to discover how the book describes your fascia (the connective tissue that is everywhere in your body) as its own “body system.”

The book does get a little scientific and medical, though easy to follow. I got sucked into learning more and more about relieving pain, re-hydrating my muscles, rebalancing my nervous system and body, reducing inflammation, improving flexibility, resolving pain, the list goes on and on.. all the way to reducing cellulite. Oh yes, foam rolling has been said to reduce the appearance of cellulite by rehydrating the connective tissues in the back of the legs.

I am in no way connected to this book, or any foam rollers. I just have felt the improvement in the reduction of pain in my hips and lower back from being consistent about foam rolling. I also for the first time in years, felt a big reduction in pain in my shins (having had shin splints forever). I also feel that foam rolling is that extra step in keeping the youthfulness of your body and muscles by keeping them hydrated and balanced. So if you haven’t given it a try, TRY IT!

xoJ

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FRIDAY CHILL: Battling Holiday Stress


The holiday season is the time of year filled with family, friends, and festivities. All this additional merriment can cause stress levels to rise. Roads are busier with shoppers, parking lots are full, schedules are packed with holiday events. How can we stay calm and relaxed during the holiday season? Here are a few tips for battling holiday stress:

1) Before you head out in your car to run errands and fight the crowds, take 1 minute to breathe. Take 3 or 4 full inhales and exhales. This will help calm the mind and relax the body. I do this before I pull out of the driveway!

2) Create a playlist of relaxing music. Listen to it when you are in the car, on the subway, or at home trying to cook a meal for the entire family.

3) Take time for yourself. We often get busy rushing from one thing to the next during the holidays. Pencil in time to do something relaxing for yourself. Take a yoga class. Go on a walk with a friend. Get a massage.

Whatever your holiday plans are, make sure you find a little time to relax, breathe, and do something for yourself. Wishing you a happy and stress-free holiday season!

Cathy

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TUESDAY TREAT: A Healthy Twist on an Old Fall Favorite!

With the holidays come indulgences.  It’s hard to resist the scents of seasonal delights that fill the kitchen.  I’m a big believer in moderation, not depravation.  After all, these festive days only come once a year.

On Sundays, I love shopping at the local farmers market.  The fall produce is so colorful and inspires my cooking.  I’ve never been into baking, but I could not resist the beautiful array of apples I saw on a recent visit.  I immediately thought, what would be cozier on a chilly December day than an apple crisp!  I bought a mix of several beautiful varieties and headed home to troll my favorite food blogs for ideas.  I looked in my cabinets to see what I had on hand, and came up with this recipe.  It’s my healthy, gluten-free twist on a good old fall favorite.  SO easy, and will make your home smell heavenly.  It’s so delicious, and guilt-free, that I’ll confess to even having it for breakfast one morning!

HEALTHY HOLIDAY APPLE CRISP


Filling

5 – 6 Apples:  I like to mix different types.  It adds interest and depth of flavor, as well as texture since some apples are firmer than others.  My latest concoction: Fuji, Honey Crisp, and Ginger Gold.

¼ cup of Maple Syrup:  Nothing better than a natural sweetener without any chemicals or additives.  Like good olive oil, you can taste the difference between good and poor quality syrup.  I like Brad’s Organic Maple Syrup because it’s rich, pure, and made right here in New York.

2 tablespoons of Cinnamon:  I love cinnamon so I put quite a bit in this recipe, not only for the taste, but for the health benefits.  Did you know cinnamon: 1) Reduces LDL cholesterol levels (a.k.a. the harmful type of cholesterol), 2) Regulates blood sugar, 3) May reduce the proliferation of cancer cells, and so much more!

1 teaspoon of Nutmeg:  Nutmeg might be a quintessential fall spice.  I like to buy it whole and grate it fresh.  The aroma always reminds me of one of my favorite desserts, pumpkin pie.

1 teaspoon of Ginger:  Another spice that I find is so much more fragrant and flavorful when ground fresh.  Since it’s only called for in small amounts for most recipes, I buy a decent-sized piece, peel it, and freeze it.  It lasts virtually forever, and the freezing makes it much easier to grate.

Topping

2 tablespoons of Golden Flax:  I always have a bag of ground flax in my refrigerator.  It’s chock full of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.  I use it in smoothies, on eggs, even as a topping on frozen yogurt!

1 tablespoon of Cinnamon:  Because I can’t get enough!  You can certainly omit if you are not as a big of a cinnamon fan as me.

3 tablespoons of Coconut Oil:  Most apple crisp recipes call for a TON of butter, like ½ a stick or more!  I rarely have butter on hand as I cook with either olive oil or coconut oil, so I figured, “Hey, let’s give this a try,” and used coconut oil instead.  Worked like a charm.

1 ½ cups Gluten Free Quick Oats:  I used to feel lethargic most days and thought it might be an iron deficiency but my blood checked out just fine, so I did some research and decided to see how I felt after omitting gluten from my diet.  Don’t get me wrong, when I go out for an authentic Italian meal I’ll get “real” pasta, or when I’m craving pizza, I get “real” crust.  But I’ve made simple adjustments in my daily diet that have left me feeling much more energetic, so I’m not advocating you go gluten-free, it’s just a choice I made that makes me feel better.

Maple Syrup:  I drizzle a little all over the top to help the crisp caramelize.

Preparation

It’s simple!  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Lightly coat a 9 x 13” glass baking dish with coconut oil (I use the type in a spray can to make this step easier).  Slice and core the apples.  I like to leave little remnants of skin on to add texture and fiber.  Toss with the other filling ingredients and coat well.  Mix up topping ingredients and spread evenly over the top.  Remember to drizzle a bit of maple syrup across the top at the end.   Bake for 45-50 minutes or until apples are soft and the top is golden brown.  Allow to cool for about 5-10 minutes before serving.  Since this apple crisp does not have butter or cane sugar you might find it a tad dry, so I love to put a dollap of my favorite vanilla frozen yogurt on top, which not only adds moisture, but is the perfect compliment.  Right now I’m loving Stonyfield Organic Oikos Nonfat Vanilla Greek Frozen Yogurt.  It’s rich and creamy and does not have that artificial taste of some frozen yogurts.  Plus it’s peppered with tiny flecks of real vanilla bean. Y U M!  Lastly, since we tend to eat with our eyes, I always like to add a pop of color to my desserts, so this time I happened to have some fresh raspberries in the fridge, so I sprinkled a few on top.

I hope you enjoy my recipe, and would love for you to share your thoughts if you try it out!  What’s your favorite healthy holiday treat to make?