Earth Day: Tips to Help Keep the Earth and You Healthier

Today is Earth Day and, interestingly, many of the things you can do to help keep the Earth healthy can also help keep you healthy. We have compiled a short list of things you can do to protect the Earth and local wildlife that will also get you moving and eating better.

1. Click here to calculate your carbon footprint so you can understand what you can do to reduce the amount of energy you consume. The added benefit? Reducing your energy consumption can also help reduce your gas and electric bills.

2. Because cows, pigs, chickens and other animals require large amounts of land and resources to raise, eating lots of meat increases your carbon footprint. Reducing your intake of meat will not only help the Earth, it will also help reduce your waistline. Try small steps like eliminating meat from your lunches or by starting a once a week vegetarian night. Check out recipes here.

3. Eating local whenever possible can help reduce the amount of energy and resources needed to produce and transport your food. It also means you are supporting the local  community. Head to the Farmer’s Market or hop on over to Southern Belle Farm in McDonough to do some fruit and/or veggie picking.

4. One of the things scientists have learned since last Earth Day is that some bat populations are at increased risk because of a new disease. (Ew! Bats! Who cares, right? Stick with us for a second here.) Install a bat house in your back yard to help conserve bats. In exchange, the bats will help you by eating those annoying mosquitoes that infiltrate your backyard in the summer and carry nasty diseases and parasites with them when they come. (I know bats are ugly. But if we can do it, you can do it!)

5.  Plant a garden in your backyard. When you do the growing, not only do you learn new things about plants and get your body moving, you also get to control what chemicals you include or exclude from your food. If you have kids, teaching them about gardening is a great way to get them excited about fruits and vegetables and proud of what they have helped create.

6. Because of the way many neighborhoods in Henry County are designed, it is not always easy to walk to a local store or favorite restaurant. If you are one of the lucky people who lives within walking distance of a place you frequently shop or visit, ignore the desire to hop in your SUV to get there. Take the extra steps (or hop on a bike) for your health and save a little gas too.

7. Whenever possible recycle and/or compost. This can help reduce the amount of junk that accumulates in landfills each year, (Yuck!) and you can use the compost for your garden later. (Our tip: Freeze small scraps for the compost in a container in the fridge. When it gets full, take the frozen scraps out to the compost pile. This keeps you from having to keep old scraps in a container on the counter which can attract fruit flies and smell bad over time.) Visit to learn more about recycling.

8. Take your friend, significant other or kids out for some fun hiking, biking, kayaking or canoeing in one of the local State Parks. Enjoy the time with nature and get your body moving. The Clayton County Wildlife Center (just barely outside the Henry County limits) is a great place to catch beavers, turtles, birds and occasionally some deer in their natural habitat. Some doctors are even recommending a little one-on-one time with nature for their patient’s health.

9. Don’t blast the AC this summer. Follow the recommended temperature and tips for energy conservation and use ceiling fans or standing fans in the room you are in to get the feeling of cool without all the waste of the AC. Check out some of Georgia Power’s other energy efficiency recommendations here.

10.  Did you know that your old athletic shoes will sit in the landfill for years after you toss them? Gross! Look into Nike’s Reuse a Shoe program, which turns old sneakers of ANY BRAND into courts, playgrounds and tracks.

11. Get involved in Georgia Nature Conservation by volunteering to plant a tree, clean up a park or donating to nature conservation.

Erin Echols, daughter to Innovations owners Frank and Jeanie Thomas, spent most of her teenage years helping members at the front desk before graduating from Luella High in 2007 and heading off to college. She now lives in Atlanta with her husband, Noah, where she is pursuing a PhD in Sociology at Georgia State University. She currently serves as the voice behind the Innovations Twitter and Facebook accounts, and is online daily to answer your questions and to share tips, workouts and recipes with you. 

Liquid Disaster

Liquid diets can be disastrous! These diets work better for people who are morbidly obese and, for health reasons, have limited options. And even then, they should only be used under close medical supervision.

Some facts to consider prior to beginning a liquid diet:

If you choose a liquid diet, what will happen when you resume eating whole foods? The liquid diet is not helping you learn good eating habits, good nutrition, or how to control portions. You may be leaving your body short of vitamins, minerals and nutrients – possibly creating serious health hazards.

Some liquid protein diets have been associated with cardiac arrythmias, and many contain high amounts of sodium which can be especially detrimental to those with high blood pressure. They can also cause too much fluctuation in blood sugar levels for diabetics and cause loss of lean body mass in people who are mildly obese.

Beware of the claims that liquid diet programs make. They are rarely backed by scientific evidence and often fail to provide important information such as how much weight people tyically regain after completion of the liquid diet. They can also cause muscle cramps, dizziness, and other negative side effects.

Liquid diets leave you longing for the pleasure of eating. We were designed to eat – just not excessively and not in conjunction with a sedentary lifestyle. Liquid diets may also lead to binge eating later.

It is much safer to set up a regular diet and exercise plan that will be better for your body and provide longterm success.

Frank Thomas is the owner of Innovations Fitness in McDonough, GA. He & his staff at Innovations are available to help you find a healthy, longterm eating and exercise plan.

Too Good To Be True

Do you need to lose weight, tone up, or shape up?  First, avoid fad diets, potions, pills & creams.  If it sounds too good to be true, it is.  You can’t lose dramatic amounts of weight in a short period of time – at least not in a way that is healthy and will last.

So here are some safe weight-loss tips:

1. Watch your portion sizes.

2. Limit sugar and white flour products.

3. Don’t skip meals.  Always eat breakfast.

4.  Eat a variety of foods with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

5. Lower your intake of saturated fat.

6. Limit sodium & cholesterol.

7. Exercise on a regular basis – 30-60 minutes on most days of the week.

8. Include strength training in your exercise program.

Don’t fall for things that are too good to be true  Lose weight the right way.

Frank Thomas is owner of Innovations Fitness.  If you need help in how to establish a proper weight-loss plan, contact him or one of the Innovations Fitness staff members at 770-898-9691.

Combating ZAD (Zumba Anxiety Disorder)

Like most people who have never tried group exercise classes, I must admit that I entered my first Zumba class with a fair amount of fear and trepidation.  Added to that was my complete lack of dance (or even coordinated movement) ability.  But as the spouse of a fitness center owner and one who generally hates more traditional cardio exercise methods, I felt the need to try to support this new venture in our fitness center.

After several weeks of combating Zumba Anxiety Disorder (ZAD), I feel compelled to share my 12-step method of combating ZAD in hopes of helping those of you who also suffer from this common, dreaded disorder.

1.  Give up worrying about what someone else will be thinking about what you look like.  They are likely way too busy worrying about their own steps to worry about yours.

2.  Don’t look in the mirror at first.  You may psyche yourself out of continuing.

3.  Get a partner to go to class with you and encourage each other.  You can laugh with, not at, each other.

4.   Have some water or a sports drink nearby.  You will probably need it.

5.  Don’t panic if you have to take it slow or stop at first.  That’s better than passing out.

6.  Don’t fret over being able to follow the moves exactly.  Realize that the point is to get you moving – which burns calories and makes you healthier.

7.  Believe the instructor, when she tells you that you need to just jump in and try to follow rather than having her show you every step one at a time.  It will eventually come to you with repetition.  Trust me, I am incredibly slow in catching on, but I find that with each session, I get at least one move down a little better.

8.  Spend a little time at home between classes working with a Zumba DVD or Zumba videos on the internet.  It will increase your confidence level.

9.  Don’t think you are a pervert because you stare at the instructor’s behind.  It actually helps you to learn to move yours.

10.  Don’t listen to anyone else who puts down your efforts.  This is about you, and any critics are likely closet ZAD sufferers.

11.  Sticking with it is the only way to be cured from ZAD!

12.  Loosen up and enjoy yourself!  Take it for what it is – a fun way to get fit.  Nobody is going to be talking about how inept you were at Zumba steps when they do the eulogy at your funeral.

Jeanie Thomas, a licensed social worker by day, owns Innovations Fitness in McDonough, GA, along with her husband, Frank.  Fellow ZAD sufferers can receive encouragement from her via their Facebook page at or come to Innovations Fitness for a Zumba class where you will likely find her in the back looking goofy. ;)

Treading Onward

The most popular cardio piece in any gym is the treadmill.  Treadmills are also top sellers for home gyms.  They allow you to take a walk or run in any weather, at any time of the day or night.

Walking is great for calorie burning and workout for your cardiovascular system.  Leg strength and endurance is increased as well.  For optimal use of the treadmill, consider these recommendations:

1. Wear good shoes.  Walking or running shoes have broader heels and help with pronation control.

2. Familiarize yourself with the safety features of the treadmill first.  Be sure that you know how to stop it in case of an emergency.

3.  Be careful in getting on and off a treadmill.  Don’t step on a treadmill that is already in motion.  Start the treadmill slowly, and pay attention as you build up speed.

4. Be sure that your treadmill workout includes a warm up and a cool down time.

5. Hold onto the hand rails until you get steady, but then swing your arms naturally.

6. Keep your head up, shoulders back, chest slightly out, and hips aligned with the rest of your body.

7. Change the incline to work different muscles and decrease boredom.

8. Never run backwards.  It puts the lower back at risk because of poor alignment and increases your risk of falling.

9. Vary your speed.  If the speed of your walk into the gym is faster than your speed on the treadmill, you are not likely to see any benefit from your treadmill time.  Varying your speed provides a better cardiovascular workout and works different muscle groups.

10. Set the timer to a reasonable goal for you and stick to it until you reach your goal.

If you are new to using a treadmill or any other piece of gym equipment, we have personal trainers who can help you get comfortable and get the most out of your workouts.  Come by or call us at 770-898-9691 to schedule an appointment.

Frank Thomas, Owner, Innovations Fitness


Oh, My Aching Joints!

Many people (including me) suffer from a variety of joint problems from stiffness and inflexibility to minor and major pain. If this is true for you, you may need to consult a doctor before starting an exercise program. However, if you want to gain movement in your limbs, exercise may be the best remedy.

The muscles that surround the joints actually protect the joints. Improving the joint muscles can help alleviate pain and stiffness.

Some tips from the Arthritis Foundation:

1) Before you exercise, apply heat or ice treatments to the area you will work.

2) Spend fifteen minutes warming up before you exercise.

3) Stop if you feel chest tightness or shortness of breath. Stop if you feel sick or faint.

4) If you have a muscle cramp or pain, gently rub and stretch the muscle.

5) After exercising, cool down for five minutes.

Check out other suggestions on the Arthritis Foundation website at, and get started today to improve your flexibility and decrease your pain.

Frank Thomas, Owner of Innovations Fitness


Lies…Lies…All Lies!

Gym members and personal training clients often allow common misconceptions to get in the way of reaching their fitness goals. Following are just a few of those:

Aerobic (cardio) exercise is all I need to lose weight. Wrong! Good exercise programs for weight loss should include strength training and stretching as well.

Exercise makes you hungry. False. Intense exercise usually suppresses your appetite for a short time.

Exercise has to be hard. No - just think physical activity and add more to your daily routine. Walk the steps instead of using the elevator. Walk three times a day for ten minutes instead of one long 30-minute session. Get a partner to work out with you to make it fun and to hold you accountable.

Ab work will flatten your stomach. No! It strengthens muscles and improves posture. Fat is fat though, and you won’t see your abs by only doing a few ab exercises. You’ve got to go something to burn the fat.

No pain no gain! It has to hurt to workout. No. Exercise shouldn’t be painful. Yes, there will be a little muscle soreness when you do something new, but if it is pain then you should stop!  Soreness isn’t the same as pain.

Come see us at Innovations Fitness today to dispel those fitness myths! We will get you started on a plan toward better health. 770-898-9691

Break the fast!  Don’t Skip Breakfast!

Your pants seem to be squeezing your middle a little too much. The bathroom scales say you have gained weight. Like many people, your body has been shedding muscle and replacing it with fat without your awareness.

As we age we tend to become less active. The fat we formerly burned with activity begins to collect. Most of us can make some noticeable changes by being more active, but we also need to be smart about what we eat.

Start the day right by eating. Breakfast means to literally “Break the fast”. Your metabolism slows down during sleep when you are not eating so that your body can conserve energy. So you wake up your metabolism when you eat breakfast. You should not skip breakfast any more than you would expect your car to start in the morning without fuel. Don’t expect your body’s metabolism to start its work of fat burning without fuel either.

Some quick tips for a healthier breakfast:

Eat a fruit like grapefruit first. You will gain fiber and vitamins and eat less of other stuff.

Stay away from high-sugar foods like danish and doughnuts. The blood sugar dip that will occur a couple of hours later will likely result in you seeking out another sugar rush to perk you up.

Get some fiber by eating cereals that are low in sugar, toast with a sugar-free jelly, or oatmeal.

Think egg whites. It’s the egg yolk that is bad. Eat a three-egg omelet with two egg whites and one egg yolk. The taste will be the same, but you will save 10 grams of fat.

Try ham, not bacon. If you want meat with your eggs, ham is leaner than bacon and sausage. If you have to have bacon, try Canadian bacon. You can eat twice as much for half the fat.

Low-fat pancakes are frozen and ready for the toaster. They typically have 1-½ grams of fat per three pancakes saving six grams over those that are made from scratch. Top them with fresh fruit instead of syrup or butter.

Buy frozen hash browns, but skip the instructions on the bag. Brown in a nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Cook on medium heat for 12 minutes per side for crispness. You will save ten grams of fat over hash browns fried in oil.

“Break your fast” with healthy options. For other help with a healthy weight-loss plan, call us at 770-898-9691.

The $85 Billion Big Hurt

Back pain is the second leading cause of disability for those ages 19-45. Over 85 billion dollars is spent annually due to back pain. Often it is a chronic pain that has been brought on by years of degenerative changes.

Factors which increase your risk for low back pain include obesity, smoking, advanced age, being female, physically strenous or sedentary work, a stressful job, anxiety and depression.

Exercise is a great way to prevent back pain and to alleviate minor pain.  More serious pain may require medical treatment or physical therapy.

Some back care tips:

1) When sitting, position your hips and knees at a 90-degree angle.

2) Choose a properly designed chair to support your lower back.

3) Place your feet shoulder width apart and use the buttock and thigh muscles to push yourself up from sitting to standing.

4) Keep your back in its natural alignment when walking.  The legs and arms should swing naturally during forward motion.

5) When lifting, place the feet a minimum of shoulder width apart, keep the load close, maintain a straight spinal position, and lift with the large muscles of the legs.

6)  Avoid twisting and bending of the lower back.

Using common sense, exercising regularly, and implementing these tips should decrease your chances of suffering from chronic back pain.

Let us help you get started today on an exercise program that will decrease your risks of chronic back pain.  Check us out at

Rev Up!

Getting fit doesn’t have to be a major production. Try these simple ideas to rev up your lifestyle:

1) Walk the dog 2-3 times daily.

2) Walk the mall. It can be fun in all types of weather. Some malls even give incentive to walkers.

3) Walk during your lunch hour.

4) Jump rope.  It is one of the top fat burners.

5) Get outside and ride a bike.

6) Use a fitness professional for a couple of sessions to teach you routines that are right for you.

7) Try simple exercise equipment like a body bar, mini trampoline, tubes and bands.

8) Lift weights 3 times per week. It can increase your metabolism as much as 20%.

9) Don’t get stuck in the same workout rut. For fun, do that favorite routine in backwards order.

10) Exercise during TV commercials at a high intensity. Try to do 8-10 commercial sessions in a day’s TV viewing.

Need some other ideas or some accountability to get you going?  Come see us!