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April Fitness Tips

Michelle Walker, the fitness specialist at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., poses for a photo in the base gym on November 2, 2011.  Michelle’s goal is to train, educate and encourage McEntire’s airmen to remain “fit to fight” and excel in the new Air Force fitness standards. 
(National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

Michelle Walker, the fitness specialist at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., poses for a photo in the base gym on November 2, 2011. Michelle’s goal is to train, educate and encourage McEntire’s airmen to remain “fit to fight” and excel in the new Air Force fitness standards. (National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --

Stability Ball Workout to Strengthen Your Core
Here's how to do each move:

Oblique Crunch
Lie on your back and place the ball comfortably underneath your knees with your legs resting on top of the ball.

With your hands behind your head and your elbows wide, crunch up to the center, then rotate to the left, bringing your right elbow toward your left leg. Rotate back to the center, keeping your abs engaged the entire time.

Lower your body back to starting position, stopping when your shoulder blades touch the floor. Immediately repeat.

Do 8 reps on one side and then do 8 reps on the other side.

Plank Rock
With your toes on the floor behind you, lie on the ball and place both forearms on the center of it.

Engage your abs, glutes, and quads to lift your core off the ball so that you're in a plank position.

Since the ball is so unstable, this makes it more challenging than a regular plank. If you need to, lift your hips an inch or two higher to avoid dropping them and arching your back.

Move the ball slightly forward and backward, or side-to-side while maintaining plank position.

Continue for 30-45 seconds.

To make this move easier, simply hold a plank position on the ball for 30-45 seconds (no rocking).

Ball Pass
Lie on your back, arms and legs extended, and place the ball between your feet.

Slowly bring your feet (and the ball) toward the ceiling, keeping your legs straight. At the same time, slowly reach up with both hands, crunching your abs, and grab onto the ball when it reaches the center of your body.

After securing the ball with both hands, slowly extend your arms (and the ball) overhead. At the same time, lower your feet back to the floor.

Then, pass the ball from your hands to your feet by crunching up and bringing the ball overhead as you lift your legs to meet it above your body.

Slowly lower your legs (and the ball) and your upper body and arms back to starting position. This is 1 rep. Do 8 reps.

Pike-up
Start on your knees with the ball in front of you and your torso and arms resting on the ball.

Slowly roll out with your stomach on the ball and walk your hands out in front of you on the floor. As you do this, the ball will gradually move down your core to the top of your quads and then eventually to your shins.

Once your shins are resting on the ball, make sure your hands are stacked directly underneath your shoulders, so that you're basically in a plank with your legs elevated on the ball.

Slowly roll the ball toward your core, keeping your legs straight. As you do this, your butt will move up toward the ceiling. Pause for a second at the top. Then, slowly reverse this movement so that you return to the starting position.

Spring Healthy Foods and How to Use Them
Spring is here! The days are getting longer, the air is getting fresher, and everyone seems to be in a good mood! For our bodies, it means leaving behind the heaviness of grounding foods and embracing all things light and fresh.

In spring these foods include a wide array of veggies and fruits that will make you feel nourished while also gently cleansing and resetting your digestive and immune systems.

Arugula
(And other leafy greens like Romaine and Red Leaf Lettuce)
Rich in vitamins like A, K, and folate, plus chlorophyll, fiber and even water, these leafy greens will help reduce inflammation while also hydrating and detoxifying your body.
How to eat it: Just toss the raw greens in a bowl with other veggies, nuts or seeds and drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar or citrus juice. Chop or tear them into bite-sized pieces to enhance the texture of your salad.

Artichokes
Available in both spring and fall, artichokes are rich in folic acid, vitamin C, B-complex vitamins, and many minerals. These nutrients help lower cholesterol, ensure healthy pregnancies in women, reduce free radicals, and ensure optimal metabolic cell function.
How to eat them: There is an art and science to the basic way of cooking an artichoke, I like to boil it for about 20 minutes then peel off and eat the leaves. They are great dipped garlic infused extra virgin olive oil.

Asparagus
Even more abundant in vitamin K (which you need for blood clotting, heart and bone health, cancer prevention, and many other functions), as well as copper, selenium, B vitamins and many other important nutrients. Asparagus can improve your overall health.
How to eat it: asparagus is delicious simply sautéed with a garlic and sea salt in some butter, ghee, coconut oil, or even a little vegetable or chicken stock. Just be sure not to overcook it! You want it to remain vibrant green and retain its shape as it softens a bit but stop cooking before it gets too wilted. About 10 minutes should do it!

Beets
Some foods give you a clear indication of what part of you they’ll benefit and that’s the case with beets. Their deep and juicy color let you know they’re great for your blood and circulation. They can lower blood pressure, boost your stamina, and support detoxification all due to being a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains.
How to eat them: so many options! You can juice them or add them to a smoothie, roast them as a side dish, use a julienne veggie peeler to shave them into salads.

Carrots
We’re all familiar with this classic vegetable but when they’re in season locally carrots are absolutely amazing! Rich in vitamin A and other antioxidants, they’re great for maintaining healthy hair, skin, and nails, and are therefore considered an “anti-aging” food, plus they’re a powerful cancer-fighter.
How to eat them: I love to eat them raw and you can play around with many different ways of chopping, slicing, or shredding them onto anything from salads to sandwiches or tacos. You can even spiralize them as an alternative to zucchini to make healthy “pasta.” They’re also the perfect travel snack too!  

Mint
This powerful herb grows like a weed and sometimes doesn’t get enough credit for its powerful healing properties. Mint contains an antioxidant called rosmarinic acid, which can relieve seasonal allergy symptoms (the not-so-great side effect of spring!), the menthol it contains is a natural decongestant, and it can also soothe an upset stomach.
How to eat it: Mint is a delicate herb so it’s better not to cook it. I love adding it to water or iced tea for refreshing natural flavoring, it also makes a great edible garnish, and can be chopped and added to fruit and salads.

Peas
Peas typically have a very short growing season of just a few weeks and that makes them all the more special. They contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals including vitamins C and K, and several B vitamins, plus manganese, phosphorus, and protein. This makes them an excellent anti-inflammatory food.
How to eat them: You can eat sugar snap peas straight out of the pod for a light snack, add them to salads, smoothies, stir-fries, noodle dishes, and basically anything! Fresh peas make a great kid snack and you can also cook and puree them into baby food.

Strawberries
Not much is better than a fresh, ripe, and delicious strawberry in late spring/early summer? Despite being a fruit and containing fructose, strawberries can actually help balance blood sugar, and the polyphenols they contain will support immunity, healthy cell renewal, and many other functions.
How to eat them: Aside from eating them raw, you can freeze them (just cut the stems off before freezing) and add them to smoothies,  you can melt dark chocolate over a double-boiler to dip them into and then freeze with a chocolate coating for dessert. (Just remember portions and it’s a treat).  You can also put them in your oatmeal, or make a quick jam by chopping them up and simmering in a bit of water with a cinnamon stick and then adding some vanilla extract and maple syrup at the end.

Spring Onions
Onions contain a high amount of polyphenols, and especially flavonoids, which are compounds that play a major role in disease prevention and reducing the oxidative stress that wears our bodies down when we don’t take good care of ourselves. They are also natural antihistamines and have antibacterial and antifungal properties.
How to eat them: You can add raw onions to things like salads or tacos, or simply sauté them with some sea salt as a tasty caramelized onion side dish. They also make the perfect base for your spring sauces and soups.

Radishes
A great detoxifier, radishes are great at removing waste and toxins from both the stomach and liver. They are also a natural diuretic and help treat urinary and kidney conditions, not to mention fight cancer, hydrate your skin, reduce fevers, and even treat insect bites.
How to eat them: They are great in salads, roasted or used with a healthy dip.