News Room

I know it isn’t officially winter quite yet, but it’s feeling more and more like it every day!

With winter comes cooler (rather, FREEZING) temps, ice, longer bouts of darkness, and yes…the “s” word…snow. Last week’s blog touched on the changing seasons and their negative influence on our motivation to exercise and maintenance of a healthy lifestyle in general. What if you are an outdoor exerciser or can’t stand being indoors all winter?

When I am exercising, namely running, I struggle being indoors on a treadmill. I’d much rather get the fresh air and have a change of surroundings, but this can be challenging when the elements outdoors are less than ideal. It is entirely possible to exercise outdoors in the winter and early spring, but takes a bit of planning to ensure a safe and efficient workout session. (Don’t forget that shoveling, sledding, snow-shoeing, and skiing are ALL exercise too!)

When exercising in the dark, safety is still an absolute must. It’s important to wear reflective, bright, colored gear so that you are easily visible to cars and passers-by. I wear a blinking band on my arm and I have witnessed a lot of night exercisers wearing head lamps and other blinking and light-up gear. Carry your water and hydrate as you normally would and let someone know your route and estimated return time. Another option is to carry your cell phone in case you run into problems along the way. Safety first!

Cooler temps mean layering is a must when venturing outdoors for a walk, bike ride, or run.  There are various companies that promote their ‘cold weather gear’ that help keep you warm outdoors while exercising. Adding the extra, loose-fitting layers will help you to avoid injuries and will keep you comfortable. I try to avoid cotton as much as possible as a base layer as it holds onto moisture from sweat a lot more than a ‘tech’ material that is moisture-wicking. When you are wet, your body temperature drops faster, so be aware of that when you start to sweat! Remember to cover your neck and face, especially when it is extra frigid out. Although, sometimes I feel like I spend more time putting on layers than actually exercising!

Injury prevention is still as important in the cooler months. Warm ups and cool downs are vital and can be done indoors before and after heading outdoors. Make sure to dress warm enough and keep in mind your surroundings if there is snow or ice on the ground. Black ice becomes a real threat and can be dangerous if you step on it expectantly (been there, done that—embarrassing, especially on Main Street in Fort Atkinson).

Last but not least, remember to keep your face and lips protected. I know I forget in the winter months about the sun and potential for sun burn, but the rays can reflect off the snow and road and give you a ‘summer glow’ without the summer.  Remember your sunscreen and lip balm!

It is entirely possible to exercise in the colder months outdoors with a bit of preparedness. Use your best judgment and common sense when venturing outside, and don’t forget to have fun!

9/18/2014

Hey Hey Hey everyone!

It became very apparent last weekend and a little into this week that fall is coming quickly, and if you’re not ready—too bad! I ran a 5k this previous weekend, and the temperature at the start of the race was 41 degrees! Holy moly! I had to pull the gloves AND running tights out!

With fall comes a lot of positives—pumpkin-flavored EVERYTHING, football games, changing leaf colors, and, my personal favorite, caramel apples. In midst of all of the negatives, it seems that illness runs rampant through schools, corporations, and wherever else you decide to venture out to.

I started to feel the effects of a cold coming on this week and immediately went into “oh crap” mode—I took my Zicam, washed my hands obnoxiously, drank a bunch of orange juice, and doubled my fruit and vegetable intake. Thankfully, I got by pretty easily with my cold this week, but I know others are not as fortunate with the crud that is going around.

It’s always better to be proactive with cold/flu prevention than to deal with a nasty bug and try to fight through it with everything else that goes with life. Here are a few tips to avoid catching the “plague”:

  1. Wash your hands. Wash them often. Think about how many surfaces you touch in a day (door knobs, counters, pens, keyboards, etc) and how many germs are festering on everything you touch. I motivate myself to wash my hands with really good-smelling soap from Bath and Body Works, and carry over-the-top-smelling hand sanitizer everywhere I go.
  2. Take vitamins. I take a gummy multi-vitamin twice a day (no, I am not 5). Vitamins help to boost your immune system and help supplement any shortfalls you have with nutrients in your diet that your body needs to function daily. Vitamin C may be beneficial if you feel a cold coming on to pump up your immune system.
  3. Avoid contact. Avoid those individuals in your office, department, or workplace that have a cold and wash your hands if you are in close contact with them. Also, try to avoid touching your nose, eyes, and mouth, which can be a gateway for germs to enter your body and make you ill.
  4. Water. Drinking lots of water will help to flush all of the junk out of your body and keep you from getting dehydrated, which would be a double-whammy.
  5. Healthy diet. Many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains provide vital antioxidants, nutrients, and vitamins that can help ward off illness and help you overcome them if you start to feel under the weather. Branch out and try to kick-up your fruit and veggie intake!
  6. Rest. Ok, I do feel like a hypocrite on this one, but rest, sleep, and taking time for yourself will help to keep your immune system functioning properly and keep you in tip-top shape.

Sometimes, no matter what you do, illness is unavoidable. However, make sure you take every step possible to prevent the misery and “annoyingness” that comes with being ill. You value your health when you are sick, right? Take care now so you can continue to feel better later.

Until next week!

9/3/14

September has made it!

I know people say that Labor Day marks the ‘end of summer’, but I don’t see it that way. After all, it seems like summer just began!

One of my favorite parts of summer is exercising outdoors. I love that the sun is up early in the morning when I run and is out later in the evening.  It is refreshing being able to get out of my office and apartment to spend time in the fresh air and getting a tan. The downside? The smell of fresh doughnuts at local grocery stores in the morning and grills fired up in the evening. Pick your poison.

One of the newest ‘adventures’ I embraced this summer was teaching an outdoor boot camp class in Jefferson. I never really viewed myself as the epitome of a classic boot camp instructor (yelling at participants to correct their push-up form after seemingly doing hundreds of them), but I thought “hey, I’ll give it a try. What’s another fitness class? Should be easy enough!”

I remember my first night of teaching, shaking throughout the entire hour-long class. Here, I had taught 8-10 classes per week for 3 years and now I was standing in front of a group of 12 and couldn’t formulate a sentence. The hour dragged, it was hot outside, the exercises were hard, and I couldn’t wait for it to be done. I remember getting in my car, humbled, and feeling completely deflated and like a failure. I woke up the next day with a few new aches and pains and wasn’t sure if this was for me.

The next week came around and I was bound and determined to make a better impression and to have fun. You know what? That’s exactly what I did and I was more at ease. The class was better and I smiled the entire time. I woke up with less pain the day after and realized I could do it and that I would be ok.

Flash forward 3 months and I’m teaching boot camp 3x a week and now am a bit hooked. I love the challenge and have become stronger mentally and physically because of it. The class was completely out of my comfort zone, but I am so glad I attempted something different and found a new love.

I think many people share a similar experience when they try a new exercise class or embrace a new exercise program. They may not come in as cocky as I did, however, they may have different expectations or wake up the day after and go “Holy *&#%, I didn’t know I had muscles there!”, which could be a deterrent for the next class or week ahead.

Like any lifestyle change, it will take a few weeks and some potential setbacks before it becomes a habit. Setting goals and making a plan is a way to envision where you see your life going and the steps it will take to make the changes necessary. It may be a good idea to include family, friends, or a significant other in your plan to keep you accountable or to have them join in your efforts. I know class for me is MUCH more fun when my friends are there and I have someone ‘waiting’ on me. It all may be challenging and may not feel comfortable, but keep at it!

I think it’s of utmost importance to prioritize the steps you need to take in order to make your goals a reality. This could include meal prep, exercise time or joining a class, grocery shopping, and even time to unwind and recover. Make time in your calendar and schedule to ensure nothing will get in the way.  For some individuals, this may be more of a challenge with kids, spouses, sports schedules, and laundry, but it is possible when you make it a priority and set your mind to it. The results will not be handed to you; YOU have to be the one to earn every pound lost and make the commitment to yourself.

Stepping out of our comfort zone with exercise is one way to challenge the body and push it to a level that will give it a jump start and eventually produce results. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to buy new running shoes and go for a 10 mile run or jump into an advanced boot camp class, but you need to be able to expect to work to see the results you want. I can promise it will be worth it and you may even find a new passion.

Until next time!

Hey friends!

Wednesday already?!  End of August?! Summer is FLYING by!

If you’re like me, your weekdays and weekends are crammed full of every activity under the sun.  My weekdays are filled with swim team, work, classes, and the occasional eating and sleeping; even less on the sleeping because I love to eat!

Although eating, exercise, and staying busy are great things, so is sleep. I have had a personal struggle with insomnia for many years, and it does concern me with the scary side effects of only getting a few hours per night.  Anyone who has had a late night with friends, a newborn baby, a sick child, or an excess of stress that keeps them awake at night knows that awful, groggy feeling the next day, like a ‘fog’ that clouds the brain.  Without an appropriate amount of sleep, there are serious health-related concerns that can develop.

I won’t write a novel about the scary side effects of sleep deprivation because, let’s be real, that is my life in a nutshell. I am, however, motivated to change when it comes to my health, realizing what could be coming to me if I do not make changes now.

Some of the side effects that I have experienced and that are listed in many articles regarding sleep deprivation include: forgetfulness, impaired attention and concentration, impaired judgment, and getting sick more frequently. On a more serious note, after an extended period of time, a lack of sleep can increase a person’s risk of heart disease, irregular heartbeats, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and premature death. Yikes. Seeing a list such as this should be enough to shock you, and make you want to change.

After seeing my doctor for the first time for my insomnia, we made a game plan for a pre-bed routine. I have made changes in the last few years, but I always stick with my routine night after night, and I can say it has helped tremendously.  For me, I always shower, brush my teeth, and read before bed.  I make sure to turn the sound off my phone and put it face down so I don’t see any blinking lights. I also wake up within the same 30-minute window every morning, even on the weekends, which is usually beyond my control because of my ‘internal clock’ (hey, I get my best grocery shopping done at 5a on the weekends! J).

Some other tips I have read include avoiding caffeine entirely, or after a certain point in the day; using soft music or guided imagery/meditation; adding exercise into your routine (but being mindful of the time so it doesn’t keep you racing all night); and using ‘natural’ remedies such a warm milk or valerian root. A cool, dark bedroom will allow the body to ease into sleep easier than a warm atmosphere.

It may take a few days or a week to find something that works for you, but making an effort in the right direction is better than nothing.  Your M.D. can provide you with information regarding medications that may help you get shut-eye and other suggestions to help you overcome this ailment also!

Biggest thing? Try something new or ask for help. Make the effort to change and find a solution that works for you. It took time for me to find a routine that worked for me, and I’m glad I tried. Some nights are better than others, regardless, there are now more good nights that make for even better days.

Until next time peeps!

FHC Meatless MondaysWell, another month down-hard to believe. For many individuals and families this is the last week of summer before school is back in session, and the calendar is starting to become scary with all of the activities, meetings and plans. (On a positive note, September means football is starting back up!) It’s easy to lean toward making poor nutritional choices when the schedule gets crazy and convenience takes priority. Perhaps this school year new goals for tackling new health regimes can be made for you and your family!

Growing up, I broke the mold with diet and nutrition and stopped eating meat when I was in first grade. My family is very “meat and potatoes” and did everything they could think of to get me to eat meat. However, I spent dinnertime picking out every minute piece of hamburger and chicken out of my dinner because I hated the taste and texture. Bless my parents’ hearts for trying, but I was a lost cause becoming a carnivore.

There was always a separate meal for me growing up and my mom went above and beyond to make sure I had enough protein sources and was always introducing new foods such as quinoa and TVP (textured vegetable protein) to ensure I had enough to eat. Dad always made sure there was enough celery in the fridge. As the years went on and as I started high school, more and more meals with the family were vegetarian and I could count on at least one meal a week where everything was “safe” from meat. This brought our family together, and encouraged a healthier day during the week.

Now, I won’t go on a rant about converting everyone reading this into a vegetarian, as it may not be a good fit for everyone. But, a well-balanced vegetarian diet tends to be lower in cholesterol, certain fats and calories and can offer numerous health benefits. Even just replacing the meat in one meal a week can kick-start healthier habits.

Meatless Mondays is a concept I have heard about in magazines and from other families and individuals adapting their lives on a quest for a healthier lifestyle. Once a week, (Mondays in this example) one meal is made entirely sans meat. It’s an easy way to branch out and to make an adjustment during the week that is health conscious and a great way to try new foods. Many vegetarian recipes that are available simply omit meat and/or add vegetables and have all the flavors of the original dish. Examples of this would be spaghetti with sauce and vegetables, chili with extra beans, and tacos with vegetables and guacamole.

If the thought of one vegetarian meal a week scares you, adding vegetables or fruit to each meal may be a better starting point. Start with one day a week adding a fruit, or a vegetable and work your way up to most meals of the week. There are so many options available, and a variety of ways to season and cook them that can jive up the flavors and make it an easy transition for day to day usage. Branching out and trying new foods can be a fun and rewarding experience, especially when you find fruits and vegetables that are winners in your family.

As a resounding theme this month, farmers markets and stands are a great place to peruse and pick up vegetables, fruit and other products during the week that can be incorporated into meal planning. The produce is almost always fresher straight from the farm than in the supermarket, and many times you can taste the difference-making eating vegetables a little more fun and palatable. Make it a goal to start small and continue to make changes that will benefit your body today and in the future!