LPGA golfer Stacy Lewis’ ability to overcome childhood scoliosis to become one of the game’s rising stars is an inspiring story that hits home with Midtown Athletic Club in Windy Hill, Georgia member Heather McNally, a Coca-Cola Planning and Resource Management Director.
Diagnosed with scoliosis at age 10, Heather began to experience debilitating migraine headaches—often up to 20 times per month—in 2003.
But thanks to a connection made by a Chicago neurologist that directly linked Heather’s migraines to scoliosis, along with a four-day-a-week fitness regimen at Midtown Athletic Club at Windy Hill, her monthly migraine toll is down to just a few each month.
In desperate search of relief for her headaches, McNally, 41, visited four Atlanta neurologists over an eight-year period. Her quest would eventually lead to Chicago, and her stepmom’s recommendation of the Diamond Headache Clinic. It was here where a clinic doctor observed a direct connection between her scoliosis and headaches.
Heather’s doctor in Atlanta had prescribed a drug given for epilepsy. While it reduced the migraines, the side effects were unbearable.
“I lost 10 percent of my body weight, my cognitive reasoning was weakened, and I had memory loss,” she remembers. “Worst of all, the medication made carbonated beverages taste awful. And that’s not good for a woman who works for Coca-Cola.”
Her family coordinated an “intervention,” insisting that she stop taking the drug. McNally did, but the migraines returned with a vengeance.
It was Diamond Headache Clinic’s Alex Feoktistov, M.D., who finally asked the right question.
“He asked if my head hurt when I tilted my neck,” McNally recalls. Tests would later help the doctor determine that McNally’s headaches were actually caused by stiffness in her neck and upper back—and most likely aggravated by her scoliosis.
Says McNally: “This connection was something that all my doctors previously dismissed.”
After talking with her personal trainers at Midtown Athletic Club at Windy Hill, McNally was provided with a four-day training regimen that has been working well. On Monday, for instance, it’s Pilates; Tuesday is for strength training (including neck and shoulders); Wednesday is her day for physical therapy; and Thursday is for massage therapy at the club’s spa.
Eight months into the program, Heather says that her migraines have virtually disappeared. Her back, she adds, is straighter than it has been in 30 years.
“We all know that physical activity is good for the body,” says Dina Casso, Windy Hill’s General Manager. “But for Heather, the results have been literally life-changing.”
“Many members come to us not only to help them lose weight or firm up areas of their body, but also to help them with debilitating ailments,” Casso adds. “We help by designing specific physical fitness programs to help provide our clients with a better quality of life.”
McNally wholeheartedly agrees.
“For me, even my personality has changed,” she says. “Not living in constant pain has made me a happier person. My family, friends and co-workers have all noticed. If it weren’t for Dr. Feoktistov and my great team at Midtown, I can’t imagine where I’d be today.”
A recent study published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed that although junk food was found to be cheaper per calorie, healthy foods (foods from specific food groups whose nutritional values fell below a maximum amount of saturated fat, added sugars, and sodium) were cheaper by portion size and weight. In other words, it costs less to put healthy food on your plate than junk food when you adhere to serving sizes.
Here’s an example. According to this Mark Bittman column, four “complete” meals from the leading fast food restaurant cost just under $30. But you can easily feed four-to-six people with a roast chicken, vegetables, salad, and milk for under $14. Choose a meal of rice and beans instead, and your total bill goes down about $5 more.
You might think, “that’s all well and good, but it still feels like junk food is cheaper and easier to put on the table. Why is that, and what can I do about it?”. In a country whose obesity-related medical expenses already cost $147 billion per year, that is one of the billion dollar questions.
The answer is complex. But that doesn’t mean we’re powerless.
Here are some steps we can take now to curb the ever-widening effects of our “junk food” culture:
Ignore Manipulative Food Marketing: Fast food companies alone spent $4.2 billion on marketing in 2009, and the Food and Beverage industry as a whole has done a pretty good job convincing consumers that the foods they sell are cheap, convenient, and tasty.
It’s important to recognize that the tactics used are just that – ways of enticing you to buy products. Their bottom line doesn’t care if you enjoyed your burger after you bought it, or if it caused you to gain weight. But, your body cares, and who would you rather listen to?
Banish the Fast-Food Habit: Sixty years ago food was less plentiful and more expensive than it is today. Now, in part because of the overabundance of food, Americans dine out about five times per week. We have to reverse this trend. Our bodies do not need large portions of oil-saturated foods, a staple in many fast food restaurants.
We can also get more comfortable saying “no” to our kids, who sadly, are unfair targets of manipulative marketing. We need to show them that grilled chicken and potatoes can taste just as good as chicken nuggets and fries.
Know Your Options: Healthy food can be cheap and convenient too; it just takes a little more knowledge and forethought than ordering a Value Meal. The cost of organic produce and $5 loaves of hearty whole-grain bread (vs. $2 white loaves) can be discouraging, but buying store brands and in-season produce, and taking advantage of coupons and sales can help keep costs low.
Embrace substitutions. Less expensive, conventionally grown foods can still be healthy, and brown rice is an alternative whole grain that costs under $1 per bag. Take 10 minutes to plan your trip to the store, and you can be in and out in less time than it would take for you to wait in a drive-thru line. Plus, you’ll have a smaller tab!
Get Cooking: Americans are watching more cooking shows, but spending less time in the kitchen. What’s wrong with this picture? There is a misconception that cooking takes lots of time and skill. Stock “staple” items, such as rice and beans, chicken breasts (which freeze well), and spices. Also, invest in a good knife and large cutting board, and use the Internet to find healthy and easy recipes you can prepare in 15-minutes or less.
If you have time to watch your favorite TV show, you have 15 minutes to prepare dinner for your family. Try it for a month and see if your bills and your belt stay a little tighter.
We don’t like to hear that healthy food is cheaper than junk food because it gives us one less excuse to eat junk. While it’s easy to go out and eat 5,000+ calories a day, our bodies simply can’t handle that lifestyle, even with exercise. Our choices impact the quality of our lives, and it’s up to us to embrace a healthier lifestyle that doesn’t include junk food products.
Do you think it’s possible to eat healthy on a budget? What challenges have you faced in providing healthy meals for your family, and how have you overcome them?
She has 20+ years of dance and fitness industry experience, and we decided to pick her brain to see what we could learn.
Question: How does your experience across several different fitness disciplines help you as a trainer?
Vanessa: While there is some overlap between different fitness disciplines, I enjoy being able to pull from all of them to develop well rounded programs for my clients. Variety is important, not only to keep muscles from getting too used to a particular exercise, but also to add fun to workouts.
Question: One of your specialties is Pilates Reformer training. What are its benefits?
Vanessa: Reformer training is great because it compliments any level or type of fitness program. The equipment is designed to help your body achieve neutral alignment and build a strong, stable core. I have seen incredible strength gains in athletes wanting to take their sport to the next level, as well as beginner-level clients that struggle with proper posture and low back pain.
Question: The Reformer looks a little intimidating. Would it be better to start with a MAT Pilates class?
Vanessa: People often comment that the Reformer looks more like a torture device than exercise equipment! However, the Reformer is actually an easier method because it guides your body into the proper position for each exercise. Reformer also incorporates principles of progressive resistance, similar to changing gears on a bike, so participants of any level can adjust the intensity to meet their needs.
Question: How can you expect to feel after a Reformer session?
Vanessa: Unlike MAT Pilates, which focuses mainly on core muscles, Reformer helps to build overall strength through the arms, legs, and core, through strengthening and stretching weak and tight muscles. The best thing about it is that it is challenging, yet gentle on the body. Most people who have never tried it before say that it helped them “discover” muscles they haven’t used in a long time.
Question: How does Pilates fit into an overall fitness program?
Vanessa: If you are new to exercise or strength training, starting with one-to-three days of Reformer training per week can help expose and correct muscle imbalances before you move into more intense forms of exercise. Pilates should not replace cardiorespiratory, strength, or flexibility training, but it can help improve all of those components. No matter what you do, start slowly and address weak areas one by one to ensure that you are training in the safest and most effective way possible.
Question: What do you like most about training?
Vanessa: I enjoy helping people no matter how big or small their fitness goals are, and it doesn’t have to be a physical change like fitting into a size 4. One client told me that she couldn’t walk up the stairs without knee pain, and that she couldn’t bend over to tie her shoes. After several weeks of hard work, she accomplished both of those goals. Her excitement from having overcome those hurdles was some of the most meaningful feedback I’ve ever received.
Question: Any last words of advice?
Vanessa: Just remember to start slowly, add variety to your routine, and continue to learn about and challenge yourself.
Thank you Vanessa! If you have a question you would like one of the trainers in the Fitness Department to answer, you can post your question as a comment to this post, or e-mail it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you email the question, I will ask it anonymously on your behalf, and post the question and answer (but not your name) on the next “Ask the Trainer” post. You do not need to be a member to ask a question. Let’s hear it!
Warmer weather has finally arrived and with it come the inevitable thoughts of summer. If you’re like many parents, you’ve already begun to plan ways to keep your kids active, happy, and engaged through the upcoming summer months. Luckily, you need look no further than Camp Midtown to ensure quality summer days for children aged 6 to 13.
The summers we remember from our youth are different than the summers our children experience. Kids today reportedly spend an average of 4-to-6 hours a day in front of screens: televisions, computers, and cell phones. The number of hours of screen time sadly often rises, not declines, during the unscheduled days of summer.
In order to continue the active games, social interactions, and learning experiences they crave in the summer months, kids need to be around groups of their peers daily.
That is why Camp Midtown fills such an important need for both parents and campers. While they are enjoying their best days of the year, parents can rest assured that their kids are making friends, mastering new skills, and getting exercise without us having to coax, nag, and entertain them. Rather than meeting an hour a week for a sports class, campers spend each day, all week, with a group of their peers fully engaged in an athletic activity.
Still not convinced?
Here are a few more reasons you should make Camp Midtown a top choice for guaranteed summer fun for your kids:
We’ve all heard about camps with under-trained counselors, disastrous field trips to amusement parks, and overcrowded pools with questionable safety practices. At Camp Midtown, campers don’t need to take a bus or van anywhere – all the fun takes place in and around Midtown’s resort-like setting.
Says Aquatics Director and Youth Programming Coordinator Tim Auerhahn, “We keep a strict cap on the number of kids in each camp (30-40 campers depending on the week) and maintain a 5:1 camper-to-counselor ratio throughout all activities. Our counselor group is a mix of college students majoring in recreation sports and physical education, as well as teachers who are off for the summer. The average age of our counselors last year was 26.”
With small camper-to-counselor ratios and plenty of staff on hand in all locations, your child is in good hands.
No camp in Rochester has a nicer, private, outdoor pool setup than Midtown. Even on cloudy days your child will never be shivering in the 82-degree heated water. Two swim lessons and free-swim time are offered every day with trained staff and lifeguards, making the pool one of the most popular activities for Midtown campers.
Technical skills are developed during camp, but the focus of sports at Camp Midtown is fun. Summer camp is often the place where children develop their love for a particular sport. At Camp Midtown, kids receive instruction from top-notch athletic professionals, including certified tennis pros and swimming instructors. Campers enjoy an hour of tennis time daily as well as time spent with basketball, volleyball, large group games, and a sampling of many other sports.
Tim says, “Every week is full of activities designed to be fun and enriching. Camp Midtown is a great mix of tennis, swimming, yoga, Parkour, and themed events run by passionate youth programmers.”
There’s no need to worry about your child’s peanut butter sandwich getting soggy in her backpack. Camp Midtown provides its campers with the best lunches and snacks, prepared fresh daily by the chefs at one of Midtown’s two cafes. Parents are able to go over the menu choices with their children in advance and choose the best options, and campers can guarantee that their food will always be nutritious, fresh and delicious. And the club’s awesome smoothies are often provided as a daily snack!
Tim says, “Camp Midtown is a 180 degree turn from the typical Rochester mega-camps,” and from what I’ve seen, I agree. Your child will stay healthy and active this summer. Separated from their screens, and out enjoying the beautiful Rochester sunshine and our gorgeous club, they will enjoy new experiences with their peers, try new sports or refine their skills in their favorites, play games, participate in arts and crafts projects, and have a blast with the fun weekly themes, and not miss their Xbox one bit.
You can find the full camp schedule here, including pricing and theme week information. Non-members are welcome, so your child’s best pal need not belong to Midtown to experience summer camp at the club. Discounts are available for signing up multiple children, or for enrolling your kids in more than one week of camp.
There are spots left in all camps; however, Inventors Camp (July 30-August 3), Winter Wonderland Camp (August 13-August 17), and Camp Midtown Idol (August 20-August 24) are close to selling out, so if you’re interested in these, sign up soon.
What’s your favorite childhood camp memory?
As the obesity epidemic grows in scope, so too does the “blame game.” Lack of exercise, over-consumption of food, sedentary work environments, lifestyle choices, biological predispositions, genes…the list of possible culprits for America’s fatness goes on.
Fast food is a common target. Earlier this month, an advocacy group launched a campaign petitioning 26 hospitals across the country to remove a major fast food restaurant from their cafeterias with the aim of sending a “better message” to consumers.
Some of the reasoning behind the group’s initiative comes from a 2006 study published in the journal Pediatrics that concluded that allowing fast food centers to operate in hospitals not only affects guests’ consumption of fast food on the day of their visit, but also unintentionally boosts the perception of the “healthfulness” of fast food in general. Here’s more research that supports the initiative:
So being near to fast food increases the likelihood of obesity, but will removing fast food from hospitals (and other institutions and neighborhoods) help solve the problem?
Blaming fast food restaurants for obesity can place us on a slippery slope. Should we remove buses from our streets to force people to choose the less convenient, but “healthier” walking or biking options? After all, sitting for long periods of time is correlated with obesity, and most adults do not get the recommended level of exercise.
Similarly, while we should limit consumption of fast food, we can’t eliminate it from the American diet as long as there is a demand for convenient, inexpensive, and (arguably) tasty food. We need to improve health through education and develop incentives that encourage healthy lifestyle decisions, proper nutrition, and exercise.
Perhaps a partnership between hospitals and Weight Watchers (or other proven commercial weight loss programs), or the establishment of walking groups or active events within hospital walls, could promote lasting change.
We won’t make any progress in the fight against obesity by playing the blame game at the expense of taking responsibility for our health into our own hands.
What do you think? Will restricting fast food lead to a decrease in obesity? How can we as individuals, families, and institutions promote a healthier America?
In 2010, I took on the challenge of TNT, our patented Tennis in No Time program, which promises to turn both members and non-members into tennis players in a mere 3 weeks. Our Tennis Director encouraged me, even though I doubted I could become a player in my 40s.
I was wrong. I fell in love with the game and to this day look forward to playing.
TNT runs annually at our club, and is offered both this month, and in May. It begins with an orientation, which was helpful in preparing me for what to expect. I did not own a racquet at the time and did not want to buy one. Turns out, this wasn’t an issue. Midtown offers free loaner racquets during TNT.
My second concern was signing up for a class that did not fit into my work and personal schedule. Conveniently, TNT is only six, 1 ½ hour classes offered six days per week at all times of the day, from morning until evening. Two Friday night cardio tennis parties are an added bonus, if you are up for a great time. Even better, you can jump into any of the other classes as a make-up if you miss your scheduled one.
The Midtown tennis pros are full of energy, entertaining, and tons of fun. Classes include participants from a variety of skill levels, from those who have never held a racquet to those who just need a refresher course in tennis. The pros focus on game rules, skills, drills, and matches. More than three-quarters of the participants who took the class with me are now playing on a regular basis. At least half of them are playing in leagues at Midtown, have gained lots of new friends, and are in better shape than they were before TNT.
If you are looking for something new to try this Spring, I highly recommend TNT. It is only $65 for members and $115 for non-members. If it could turn me into a tennis player, I know it can turn you into one too. You can find registration forms online or at the front desk. If you want to learn tennis in a non-competitive environment while laughing and having a great time, TNT is for you!
It’s no secret that the media isn’t kind to girls. From unrealistic, Photoshopped pictures of women in fashion magazines to overtly sexualized images of tweens and teens on television and in movies, many girls grow up with diminished self-esteem, believing they’re neither pretty enough nor thin enough to hold worth in our society.
The consequences are devastating, as evidenced by the 2011 film, Miss Representation.
Enter Kids Yoga Instructor Jen Hess and her GirlPower! program, designed to help girls in 4th and 5th grades focus on personal strengths and self-empowerment, instead of the negative media messages surrounding them.
“Girls this age are at a confusing stage in their lives, “ says Jen. “My goal for this yoga-centered program is to help them increase their level of self-awareness, channel their feelings, and connect those feelings to actions and words.”
In addition to yoga, each girl will be given a book for journaling, and will create an individual magazine to capture the positive messages learned in class.
“I want to affect change in girls’ lives before they hit high school, and absorb the baggage that comes from strong peer influence, and influence from the opposite sex,” Jen stresses. “Girls need to learn how to recognize and trust their own voice, to choose wisely when something doesn’t feel right to them, and to be confident enough to do so. This program will absolutely help with this.”
As a longtime yogi, a certified instructor of children’s yoga for the past 4 years, and the mother to a young daughter, Jen knows firsthand how yoga can foster feelings of self-empowerment and trust. Yoga has been transformative in her own life, and she is passionate about giving kids the same opportunity to find ways to manage stress and how to listen to—and nurture—their bodies and minds. She hopes to teach girls in her GirlPower! program how skills learned on the mat can translate into their everyday lives, a topic she often covers on her yoga-inspired blog, karmaspotkids.com.
Each class will begin with 45 minutes-to-1-hour of yoga, followed by discussion and writing in journals. The class will be a safe space where girls are encouraged to talk freely about their feelings without fear of judgement. Jen, who holds an MFA, will then assist each girl with the creation of her personal magazine.
This amazing program is open to Midtown members only, and girls are encouraged to reach out to their friends and invite them to enroll. I wish my own two daughters were old enough for this program. Clearly, they believe they’re ready now.
GirlPower! takes places on Sunday afternoons from September 9th through October 28th from 4-6pm in Yoga Studio B. The cost is $140. Membership is not required.
If you have a daughter in 4th or 5th grade, the lessons she’ll learn in GirlPower! will prove invaluable for her as she navigates through the confusing and often negative world of our media-driven culture. We hope to see her (and her friends) in class.
Pilates exercises strengthen your abdominals, lower back, hips, and thighs, which will make your regular daily activities easier.
Here are the top three ways you can maximize your results while practicing the Pilates discipline:
1. Be Efficient
At times, you may find the need to make exercise harder, other times, easier. There may be times you find it necessary to take the pressure off your neck or back while keeping the challenge in your abdominals. Learning how to modify each exercise will insure your success as you work towards any fitness goal.
2. Be Focused
It is more effective to focus on a few precise and perfect movements as opposed to many incomplete ones. You will gain more strength from a few energetic, concentrated efforts than from several repetitions of listless movements. When you continually practice precision, it will soon become second nature, and carry over into everyday life as grace and economy of movement.
3. Be Consistent
Make time in your schedule to be consistent, especially in the beginning. Participating in Pilates once a month will give you a great workout, but if you consistently participate in Pilates once or twice a week, you will build steady progress. Steady progress transitions into faster and more complete results.
Consider your Pilates session as your reward, your break from a hectic day, a gift you give to yourself so that you can be your best for your family and the important people in your life.
Pilates is more than a workout; it’s an exercise discipline and it’s a process. Whether your goal is increased flexibility, better posture or a flatter tummy, being efficient, focused, and consistent will catapult you into success.
To find out more about Pilates programming at the club, contact Pilates Director, Teri Lewis at 954.635.4373.
March is National Nutrition Month, and this year, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is urging Americans to “Get Your Plate In Shape.” With the help of the “My Plate” model, which replaced the Food Pyramid in June 2011, the experts are giving us a reminder of the healthy nutrition goals we have heard before:
Last week the results of a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics disproved the belief held by many parents that playing “active” video games like Wii Fit and Dance Dance Revolution could increase their kids’ activity levels. However, before you throw away your Wii Fit systems and go back to the drawing board, let’s take a look at the study to determine whether video game fitness really is too good to be true.