Your Best 20-Minute Workout

Ready to get in shape but not sure you’ve got the time? Between long workdays, packed weekends and family obligations, it can seem impossible to fit in an hour of exercise several times a week. Fortunately, there are a variety of routines you can add to your schedule that will help you get (or stay!) in shape in just 20 minutes. Bonus: You can do them anywhere.

We’ve asked Lesley Mettler-Auld, a running, triathlon and fitness coach in Seattle, to share a 20-minute workout she does. The exercise routine she gave us can be used as a supplement to your current routine or as a primary workout if you’re crunched for time. “It’s designed to use all the major muscles of the body in a different way [and is] very efficient,” she says. “Start with light weights until you get the motion down, then increase weight as your muscles are ready.”

Repeat each exercise for 50 seconds, taking 10 seconds to move on to the next exercise. Repeat the entire circuit twice.

Get Started:

Equipment needed: one set of dumbbells or a resistance band

  • Burpies: Begin in a plank position, with legs extended and feet hip-width apart. Rest your weight on your hands or forearms. Jump to a squat position. From there, reach your hands over your head and jump as high as you can. Return to a squat, step or jump back into plank pose and repeat.
  • Squat Combination: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet hip-width apart and weight on your heels. Lower into a squat while keeping your knees behind your toes. As you rise, curl the dumbbells into a biceps curl, then extend your arms and press the weights over your head with your palms facing inward. Lower and repeat.
  • Mountain Climbers: Begin in a plank position with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your right knee to touch your left elbow, then return to plank position and repeat with your right knee to left elbow. Continue alternating sides.
  • Narrow Hand Push-Up: Begin in a plank position on your feet or with your knees bent on the ground. Lower your body down into a push-up while keeping your elbows in and along your sides. Return to plank and repeat.
  • Boat Pose: Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Raise legs to a 45-degree angle from your torso. Keeping your back straight, lean back slightly, forming a “V” shape with your body. Bring your arms out in a straight line, parallel to your legs, and hold this position.
  • Bicycle Crunch: Lie on your back with your knees bent and abs pulled tight toward your spine. With your hands behind your head, extend one leg out while lifting your shoulders off the floor and bringing the opposite knee toward the opposite shoulder. Switch sides and repeat.
  • Shoulder Press with Leg Extension: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and bend your elbows to hold the weights at shoulder height. Raise your right leg to 90 degrees and, with your leg raised, exhale and extend your arms up with palms facing inward. Lower your arms and leg at the same time and repeat on the other side.
  • Bent-Over Fly: Bend at the waist, letting your arms hang down with a dumbbell in each hand. With a straight back and moving only your shoulders, lift the dumbbells up and out to the side until they’re even with your back. Slowly lower and repeat. 
  • Biceps Hammer Curl with band or dumbbell: Keeping your arms at your sides and bent at the elbows, raise and lower your arms into a curl.
  • Crunches: Lying on the floor with a flat back and bent knees, place your hands behind your head and use your abs to lift and lower your head and shoulders.

Got an exercise ball? You can incorporate it into your quick workout with exercises such as crunches and the “Superman” stretch (lying face-down on the ball, lift your right arm and left leg; hold and switch to your left arm/right leg).

Completing exercises like these in a circuit format allows you to do more with your workout in the same period of time, making the most of your routine.

Are You Addicted to Being “Too Busy”?

Are you crazy-busy? Of course! Who isn’t? These days, having a crammed work, kids and activities schedule has almost become a status symbol. Why, just look at all the women who post Facebook updates of everything they’ve accomplished during the day!

But being super-busy isn’t always a sign of a fulfilling life, according to Dr. Jaime Kulaga, who holds a doctorate in mental health counseling, and is the author of Type ‘S’uperWoman -- Finding the Work-Life Balance: A Self-Searching Book for Women. It actually can become a bad habit -- and a stressful sense that you need to stay busy in order to be a good wife, mom or worker.

Where does this pressure come from? Fear! “Fear is false evidence appearing real,” says Kulaga. “It can be the fear of guilt, such as, ‘I have to write long notes in the Christmas cards I send to 45 friends because I haven’t talked to them in so long.’ Or it can be fear of loss, such as, ‘I have to respond to a client’s email at 11 p.m. when I’d rather be reading a book because if I don’t, she might not give me a referral.’”

Here’s how to rid yourself of that fear and kick the busy addiction.

Ban the “Musts”
“We use the words should, must, ought and have to all the time, and psychologically speaking, they are words that will fill you with anxiety,” says Kulaga. “80 percent of our thoughts are ‘habit’ thoughts. If you say, ‘I must drop that off’ or ‘I must clean that closet,’ you’re keeping yourself in the habit of staying busy and expanding your to-do list, even if it’s not essential for you to do those things right away.” By taking the “shoulds” out of your vocabulary, you will tell your brain that it’s okay to be a human being, not a human doing.

Become a Delegator
Think you’re the only one in the house who can make the bed and fold clean clothes the “right way”? Accept the idea that there’s more than one way to get the job done -- and then assign those tasks to the rest of your family so your day isn’t totally taken up by housework. “Your husband might not do the grocery shopping perfectly, but get over it -- nothing is perfect,” says Kulaga.

Stop Being a “Yes” Woman
If you’re asked to lead a project at school or chair a committee at church, don’t cave in to pressure to make a quick decision. Instead, take a time-out with this standard answer: “I’ll need to think about this and get back to you.” As Kulaga points out, “When you say ‘yes’ immediately, you’re rewarded with a warm and fuzzy feeling, but you may come to regret it if you’ve got a full plate. Saying ‘no’ pays off later, when you actually have more free time.”

Dump the Drama Queens
Surrounded by peeps who expect you to be available 24/7 so they can vent about bad bosses and homework wars? Or pals who constantly ask you to drive the carpool and watch their kids? “Needy people will suck the last two drops of energy out of you if you let them,” warns Kulaga. “They deplete you emotionally, so you don’t have the energy to take care of yourself.” The solution: If you can’t avoid the drama queens completely, set tighter boundaries. For instance, you could agree to carpool just once a week instead of four days, or let the voicemail answer your cell phone after 7 p.m. so you can enjoy a quiet evening with your family.

Schedule “Me” Time
Make a daily appointment to do something fun that’s totally unrelated to your family or job -- and stick to it. Go to the gym, catch up on “Downton Abbey,” read a book, meditate or phone a friend. It doesn’t matter what the activity is or how long it lasts, as long as it brings you pleasure and lets you step off the “too busy” treadmill.

How to Kick the Sugar Habit

Trying to cut down on sugar? Maybe you’ve heard all the health warnings from doctors and government officials, or maybe you’re trying to look better in your swimsuit.

Whatever the reason, you’re on the right track -- Americans are still eating and drinking two or three times the amount of sugar recommended for optimal health. Scientific studies have linked sugar overloads to obesity and health concerns including diabetes, tooth decay, heart disease, stroke, pancreatic cancer and cognitive decline. 

Sugar, which can fuel the brain and temporarily boost energy, occurs naturally in many nutritious fruits, vegetables and dairy products. But it also gets added to a number of foods we may eat every day. The American Heart Association advises women consume no more than 100 calories’ worth of added sugars per day, which comes out to about six teaspoons. But we often get more of the sweet stuff than we realize; manufacturers inject different forms of sweeteners to heighten taste and improve texture in a surprising variety of products.

To gain more control over your own sugar cravings -- and your family’s -- try these health tips from registered dietician Elisa Zied, mother of two and author of Nutrition at Your Fingertips.

Learn Label Language 

Sugar takes many forms, but all of them work in the same way on your body. And even if you skip dessert and take your coffee black, you may still be eating extra sugar in items like pasta sauce, ketchup, salad dressings and frozen dinners without realizing it.

When you shop, check labels closely for things like corn syrup, honey, molasses and nectar, as well as words in the “ose” family:  sucrose, fructose, dextrose, lactose, maltose and glucose. The higher up these words appear on the ingredient list, the higher the sugar content. (Check what’s in your family’s favorite foods at the USDA Database.)

Be Skeptical of “Health” Foods

Don’t assume that products touted as “low-calorie” or “fat-free” are good for you: To make them more palatable, many manufacturers compensate by boosting their sugar content. For instance, one particular brand of “light” whole-wheat bread boasts that it has just 45 calories a slice, but if you look at the ingredient list, you’ll see it contains not only high fructose corn syrup, but also honey, molasses, brown sugar and sucralose -- hardly a dietary bargain! Watch the labels and choose fresh foods as often as possible.

Do Sugar Swaps

When sugar cravings hit, satisfy your sweet tooth with healthier substitutes. For instance, top oatmeal with half a baked apple instead of brown sugar, and freeze banana slices or grapes for a sweet snack.

If you’re baking cookies or cakes for the family, use unsweetened applesauce to replace some of the sugar in the recipe. And when you serve ice cream, spoon a small portion into the bowls and then top them with lots of fresh berries.

Serve Better Beverages

Sweetened beverages -- including fruit drinks -- are the No. 1 source of added sugar in our diets. Just a 12-ounce can of regular soda packs 8 teaspoons of sugar, or 130 calories, while adding no nutrients. Stock your fridge with healthier options, such as water or seltzer with a squeeze of lime, or a blueberry-banana smoothie straight from your blender.

Leave Yourself Some Wiggle Room

It’s okay to indulge in an occasional sweet treat as long as you’re watching your total calories and filling up with lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat proteins. “Sometimes it’s okay to have something simply because you want it and it tastes good,” says Zied -- whether that means a glass of low-fat chocolate milk for your kids or an ice pop on a hot summer day for you.

Eight Fitness Tips to Get in Shape for Summer

Does the thought of slipping into shorts or a swimsuit leave you panicked? No sweat. With these easy fitness tips, there’s still time to get in summer-ready shape without going on a crash diet.

Taking small steps will put you in the right direction, says Heidi Powell, personal trainer, life coach and co-transformation specialist (with husband Chris Powell) on Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition. Here are her eight best fitness tips to get you ready for the season:

1. Make a Small Change -- And Stick To It

“Make one goal to yourself at a time,” says Powell. “Maybe it's removing soda from your lunch or moving for five minutes a day. Just make it attainable and commit to it.”

Once you master that first goal, you can add another to it, and so on. “When you do what you say you're going to do, the scale will follow,” says Powell.

2. Be Realistic

As much as we’d all love to drop 10 pounds in a week -- especially as summer approaches -- it's not very doable without going to extreme measures.

“Instead, strive to lose one percent of your body weight a week,” says Powell. “That's a healthy goal.” 

3. Watch Your Calories

Nutrition is more than half the battle in weight loss. And while you don’t have to obsess over every bite, you do need to be aware of how many calories you’re taking in. The average woman should aim for 1,500 calories a day.


4. Eat Real Food

Forget the packaged diet dinners and low-fat snacks. “You can’t out-train bad food,” says Powell.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are higher in nutrients than processed meals -- plus, they’re rich in fiber, which will keep you feeling fuller longer. Lean meats like turkey are high in protein and will help you burn more fat while building muscle mass. And yes, you can put some steak on the grill -- just eat it in moderation. “The calorie count is higher in red meat, so opt for three-ounce portions instead of the four ounces you would eat of chicken or fish,” Powell says.


5. Don’t Skip Carbs

“Chris and I both have wristbands that say I <3 carbs!” says Powell. “Carbs fuel the body for weight loss.” Just remember that not all carbohydrates are created equal: White bread, rice and sweets are nutritionally poor, but sweet potatoes, brown rice, steel-cut oats and whole-grain bread are both delicious and healthy.


6. Work Out at Home

You don’t have to commit to a gym to get your exercise. Powell, a busy mom of three, says she’s lucky if she goes to the gym once a month. Instead, she focuses on fat-blasting moves she can do from the comfort of her home…which is where her next two tips come in!

7. Learn to Love the Burpee

“I have a love-hate relationship with burpees,” admits Powell. They’re tough, but “they hit nearly every muscle in the body and get your heart rate up.”

To perform this whole-body exercise, start by squatting with your hands on the floor in front of you. Kick your legs back into a push-up position, jump back into the squat, and then jump to a standing position. You can modify the move by doing the push-up on your knees or going directly from the push-up to a standing position. 

8. Try Interval Training

For the optimal metabolism-boosting workout, sprint on a track or treadmill as fast as you can for 30 seconds, rest for 90 seconds, and then sprint again. Ten sets of sprints will give you a heart-thumping 20-minute workout -- plus your body will continue to burn calories at a higher rate for the rest of the day. “You put your body in an oxygen debt, so the body has to overcompensate and work harder to oxygenate the body,” says Powell.

By making easy changes and following these fitness tips, you’ll be confident and beach-ready before 

Mediterranean Diet Recipes Your Family Will Love

You’ve probably heard the recent news about a study focusing on the Mediterranean diet, published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It basically confirmed what doctors had suspected for years: Eating the foods popular in Mediterranean countries such as Greece and Italy can help people at high risk of heart disease avoid strokes, heart attacks and even death.

The Mediterranean diet -- often referred to as the “heart-healthy diet" -- is known to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering levels of LDL cholesterol, or the “bad” cholesterol that’s more likely to build up deposits in your arteries, says Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, founder and president of Nutritious Life and author of The New You and Improved Diet, notes that . Studies show that a Mediterranean-type diet is advantageous across the board for cardiovascular risk factors, including total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure and blood sugar levels

More than that, “it incorporates the basics of healthy eating, with a focus on small portions of high-quality foods that are fresh, seasonal and local,” says Glassman. The Mediterranean plan is much more than just a diet, she adds; it’s an overall approach to healthy living that emphasizes getting plenty of exercise and enjoying meals with family and friends.

Even if your heart is healthy, you and your family can still benefit from eating the foods typical of Mediterranean cuisine. Among them: olive oil; nuts; oily fish like salmon and mackerel (all rich in omega-3 fatty acids); garlic (which can lower blood pressure); herbs and spices such as cinnamon and rosemary; and legumes like peas and beans (rich in protein and fiber).

These recipes from Glassman will help introduce your family to the benefits of Mediterranean eating. Each makes one serving, so increase the ingredients accordingly for delicious meals that will be popular with everyone.

MEDITERRANEAN SHRIMP PITA

This recipe is a fun meal to make together. Line up the ingredients as you would with tacos, and let everyone fill up their own pita!

Ingredients

•  3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

•  2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

•  1 teaspoon chopped garlic

•  3 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 3 ounces)

•  1/2 cup baby arugula

•  1 tablespoon chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomato halves (about 2)

•  1/4 teaspoon dried basil

•  1/4 teaspoon dried parsley

•  2 tablespoons hummus

•  1 mini whole wheat pita 

Directions

1. Combine the lemon juice, oil, and garlic in a small bowl. Transfer the mixture to a zipper-lock bag and add the shrimp, tossing to coat. Refrigerate 15 minutes.

2. Coat a nonstick grill pan with olive oil cooking spray. Preheat over medium-high heat. Toss the arugula and tomatoes in a small bowl.

3. Remove the shrimp from the marinade. Sprinkle the basil and parsley on both sides and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

4. Cook 2 minutes per side, or until opaque throughout, flipping halfway through. Let cool 1 to 2 minutes and cut into 1/2″ pieces.

5. Spread the hummus inside the pita. Fill with the arugula-tomato mixture, then add the shrimp.

WHITE BEAN & VEGETABLE SOUP

Ingredients

•  8 ounces low-sodium vegetable broth

•  ½ cup water

•  2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

•  2 tablespoons each chopped carrot, broccoli, and onion

•  ¼ cup mushrooms, sliced

•  ⅓ cup frozen green peas

•  1 tablespoon garlic, chopped

•  ½ teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped

•  Salt and pepper, to taste

•  ½ cup canned white beans, rinsed and drained

•  1 tablespoon walnuts, finely chopped

Directions

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add carrot, broccoli, onion, mushrooms, peas, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the vegetables release some of their juices, about 3 to 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and continue to cook, stirring often, until most of the liquid has evaporated.

2. Add broth, water and white beans; bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables and beans are tender.

3. Remove from heat, add walnuts and serve.

SNACKS & SIDES

  • Mediterranean Mix: 8 chopped olives, 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts, 4 cherry tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon capers, ¼ cup celery chopped and spread on endive

  • Mediterranean Tomato: 1 large tomato slice with 1 ounce goat cheese, drizzled with fig vinegar

  • Mediterranean Dip: 2 tablespoons hummus with 1 cup red and yellow pepper