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    50 For 50: Dena Levy’s Story

    denaDena Levy, a 14-year member of Midtown Athletic Club in Rochester, NY, turns 50 years young on Sunday, March 22.

    In January of this year, Dena decided to commemorate her milestone birthday by recommitting herself to a once vigorous fitness routine that had in recent years been thwarted by injury and illness.

    Dena decided to complete 50 workouts in the days and weeks leading up to her 50th birthday.

    There was just one challenge, which she didn’t realize until after setting the goal. She had just 53 days to fit in the 50 workouts before March 22.

    With a determined spirit and an unwavering desire to make 50 her best year yet, Dena is on track to reach her goal by Sunday.

    We sat down with Dena to learn more about her 50 For 50 project.

    Q: What inspired you to set this goal?

    A: I had surgery on my Achilles about two years ago and since then, I’ve had a difficult time returning to a consistent workout routine. Each time I got started, something would happen (chronic pain in my foot, pneumonia, etc.). I used to work out regularly, so I was very frustrated.  At the end of January, I decided that before I turned 50 I would get back to a regular routine, and so I came up with “50 for 50.”  The only problem was that I discovered I had just 53 days to get in the 50 workouts.  But I think having so few “rest” days available actually made the challenge more intense, which served as great motivation.

    Q: Do you have a fitness goal in mind for your 50 workouts?

    A: My goal is to get back to a regular routine after the challenge is over, where I work out 4-to-5 times a week. My next goal is to run a 5K in the spring. I haven’t done one since I had my daughter almost 9 years ago. 

    Q: What’s a regular workout at Midtown like for you?

    A: I work out with Dina (personal trainer Dina Smock) once a week, and then generally I use the treadmills. Sometimes, I will mix it up by using a bike or an elliptical. 

    Q: How many workouts have you completed so far?

    A: As of today, 47.

    Q: How have you kept yourself accountable?

     A: The best decision I made was to tell people about this challenge. Doing so has kept me accountable. I also put together a small “50 for 50″ Facebook group so I can report to my friends and family where I am and what I have done. It’s a pretty shameless attempt to get encouragement, but it definitely helps. And my daughter made count-down chain for me and every evening she takes off one of the loops from the chain. This has actually helped a lot because we can see how it keeps getting shorter and shorter!

    Happy birthday, Dena! We are incredibly proud of your resolve and commitment to improving your health, and we have no doubt that 50 will be your healthiest year yet.

    Top 10 Nutrition Trends for 2015

    Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer Jenny Maloney from Midtown Athletic Club in Chicago is talking real food, healthy fats, food allergies, and seven other top nutrition trends for 2015.

    We’re six weeks into the new year, and setting and meeting health-related goals is still tops in the minds of many. Whatever your health goal might be this year, staying on-trend will get you on the right track to weight loss, a healthier immune system, or a more fit you by the time the year comes to a close.

    1. Eat Real Food

    This year, fad diets are out, and real foods are in. Consume as many real, minimally processed foods as possible. Grab an apple and some almonds instead of a granola bar and give your body some real nutrients. Also, Big Food is taking notice of increased consumer spending on healthier, organic foods and is making changes to offer more healthful options.

    organic veggies2. Eat Local and Farm-to-Table

    Farmers markets have been around for years and we know that local food is a great, healthier choice. Studies show that grass-fed meat and organic produce have more nutrients than their conventionally grown counterparts. More restaurants are featuring local foods and ingredients and supporting area farmers. In 2015, more people than ever before will shop at farmers markets, food co-ops, and purchase meat and produce from a CSA.

    3. Have Some Fat

    Healthy fats, including those found in olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocado, have long been known to contribute to overall wellness. But new research suggests that butter and steak in moderation are just fine too. Studies have found that sugar, and not saturated fat, is the main contributor to heart disease, so use real butter and whole milk in moderation when cooking.

    food allergies4. New Testing for Food Allergies

    Over the past 10 years, the number of people suffering from food allergies has skyrocketed.  Help is now more readily available for those who have sensitivities or allergies, and with better testing comes relief once the culprits are identified and eliminated from the diet. In addition, restaurants and grocery stores are more allergy- friendly than ever before.

    5. Fermented Foods

    Fermented foods, such as kefir, kombucha, tempeh, miso, sauerkraut, yogurt, and kimchiare, are natural probiotics, or good bacteria that helps balance the gut. These healthy bacteria are good for digestion, help absorb nutrients, and are hot in 2015.

    6. Coconut and Date Sugar

    We already know that we are consuming too much sugar, so many are looking for sugar alternatives or healthier, less processed versions like coconut and date sugar. Keep in mind, though, that while you may get slightly more nutrients from coconut and date sugar, your body will still break them down as sugar, and sugar consumption should be limited. Aim for a maximum of 5-9 teaspoons a day no matter what kind of sugar you prefer.

    amareth7. New Grains

    Quinoa has long been identified as a supergrain, and now others like millet, amaranth, kamut, farro, spelt, and chia (actually a seed), are growing in popularity. Grains are a good source of fiber and B vitamins, and complement a meal nicely.

    8. Leafy Greens

    Kale is still in, but the other leafy greens are rising. Try Swiss chard, collard greens, turnip greens, and mustard greens for variety.  These greens are packed with nutrients like antioxidants, calcium, and Vitamins A, E, and C.

    9. Nutrition Labels and Facts

    Nutrition labels are becoming more user-friendly and easier to understand. More restaurants are providing nutrition information for their food, and consumers are better informed and can use the information to make healthier decisions about what they eat.

    10. Non-GMO Dietgmo

    Awareness of genetically modified foods (GMOs) is growing. More products are being labeled “GMO-Free” because savvy consumers are seeking out these products and buying organic foods to ensure that there are no GMOs.

    Hot Fitness Trends for 2015

    jono senk and hayley hollanderWondering what’s hot and what’s not in fitness this year?

    National Fitness Director Scott Hopson outlines the Top 4 Fitness Trends for 2015 to provide you with some ideas to jumpstart your routine if your fitness resolutions have begun to lag.

    1. Fusion Classes and Small Group Training

    “Gone are the days where people are searching for a solo and singular fitness experience,” says Scott. What’s hot are hybrids: Spinyasa (spin and Yoga Vinyasa), small group training, multi-station OMNIA workouts, and water-dry land classes.

    Why? “Because they’re fun!”, says Scott. Fusion classes and small group training allow you to try something new and exciting in a less intimidating, social environment, which increases your comfort level by providing a social space in which to work out.

    And once you’re in, you want to come back because of the connections you’ve made with others in your class or small group.

    “We’re finding that members also feel badly when they miss their group workouts, because they feel they’ve let down their friends in class who count on them to be there for moral support. Once you find your community, you don’t miss workouts often because of the friendships formed over fitness,” says Scott.

    2. Biofeedback

    Wearable technology that allows you to not only track your heart rate, but also your daily stress level and training zone provide you with the data you need for an effective workout.

    The younger generation is suffering from adult diseases (Diabetes, Heart Disease, High Cholesterol) and older adults are living longer with disease. These two facts make biofeedback data essential to maintaining or improving health. Our coaches are trained to work with members on effective biofeedback such as Polar, and MYZONE technology is currently available in two clubs, with more to come. The on-screen data provided by these tools allows you to see the exact effectiveness of your workouts with medical-grade accuracy.

    “Knowledge is power,” says Scott. “The data we provide via these tools makes you accountable for your health, which is key to making the lifestyle changes needed to improve overall fitness.”

    3. Mind.Body

    Yoga and Pilates classes will be hotter than ever this year. According to Scott, “People are more stressed than ever before, and they’re turning to Mind.Body classes for balance, connection, and centering.”

    new Pilates

    While certain extreme workouts at smaller studios and gyms may serve to break you down by encouraging overtraining and under-recovery, Mind.Body classes elevate your spirit through helping participants learn to slow down, breath more completely, and focus on total wellness. This is something people will focus on in 2015 more than ever before.

    youth fitness4. Youth Movement

    Parents are realizing that the earlier they introduce their kids to a fitness routine, the easier it will be for them to continue leading active lives as adults.

    “To adapt to the growing interest in youth fitness, Midtown has created a model based on child development,” says Scott. “Our Youth Fitness coaches and instructors focus on the entire child, including cognitive, emotional, and gross motor skills, to ensure that our programming perfectly fits kids in every age group.”

    We’re also working hard to transform each club’s Kidtown into an area of active, focused play so that when kids are visiting, they’re engaged in physical activity to grow both their bodies and their minds. Several clubs have kids fitness equipment from Exergame Fitness and Pavigym installed, with more clubs following suit in the future.

    We’re one month into 2015. If your commitment to your fitness resolutions isn’t as robust as it was 30 days ago, mix up your routine with a fusion, small group training, or Mind.Body class. Your body will thank you for it.

    New Year, New You: Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem’s Story

    shekhamNeed a little inspiration to get fit in 2015?

    Look no further than Midtown Athletic Club in Willowbrook, IL member Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem.

    Late last year, Heidi joined an online weight-loss challenge program that required her to log a 30-minute workout every day, for one month. She decided to use Twitter to hold herself accountable, figuring that if she announced her workout to her followers, then she had to get it done.  

    We sat down with Heidi to ask her some questions about her workout challenge:

    What was your challenge goal?

    I wanted to get fit, but I don’t believe in weighing myself on a regular basis. Weight loss should be slow and steady. I step on the scale once per month and instead, I focus on how I feel, my energy level, and how my clothes fit.

    What were the biggest challenges of your 30-day workout commitment? 

    With 2 young boys, ages 2 and 4, and a full-time career, I’m exhausted by the end of the day. It was hard to get the energy to get to the gym, but I did it!

     What was the key to your success?

    Being organized! I had to have everything prepared for myself and the boys the night before. I set out clothes, prepped food, had my music playlist ready and my iPod charged. All it takes is one little excuse to find a reason why it won’t work today and I wanted to avoid that all together.

    How did you keep yourself motivated to do a workout every day for 30 days straight?

    I kept telling myself, “It’s just 30 minutes. I quickly discovered that no matter how busy I was, with the proper planning, I could squeeze in a quick, 30-minute workout each day.

    And I did!

     Why Midtown?

    Midtown offers a working mom many conveniences, the biggest one being Kidtown.  I love having the ability to drop the kids off in a place where they are safe, happy, and well-taken care of while I work out, go to the spa, sauna, and steam room, or relax in the tennis lounge or café. The ability to grab a nutritious snack or meal for the kids in the M Café when I’m really short on time is great too.

    I also love the people at Midtown. Many of the associates and members took notice of how hard I was working during my challenge, and I really appreciated that. I also love to use engage on Midtown’s social media channels because I received a lot of support to keep it up there as well.

    Heidi summed up her 30-day workout challenge with this: “The goal to be healthy is great, and for me, it was about setting the goal and reaching it!”

    We’re so proud of you, Heidi.

    You can find Midtown Athletic Club in Willowbrook, IL on Facebook at facebook.com/midtownwillowbrook and on Twitter @midtown_will.

    Tweet Heidi at @heidi_mcsista.

    Create Healthy Holiday Traditions

    Kathleen Hermann talks about ways for families to engage in fun fitness activities during the holiday season.

    We all have holiday traditions, from Aunt Sue’s green bean casserole to fireside carols to the annual donning of the matching sweaters.

    However, a lot of our traditions around the holidays focus on heavy, fat-laden foods. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Traditions are important, and the holidays are a good time to indulge as long as we do not indulge to excess.

    Still, it is a good time to assess whether your family has any healthy holiday traditions, namely involving physical activity. If not, then why not consider starting one?

    Growing up, we watched my father every Thanksgiving morning amble through a Turkey Trot 5k. A former college basketball star measuring 6’8″ in height, he was by no means a runner and it was often humorous to watch him lurching down the final stretch. Nevertheless, he loved how running that race (which was, in fact, the only race he ever ran each year) made him feel on Thanksgiving Day.

    As soon as we were old enough, us kids joined him, engaging in a friendly competiton with eachother for place and time. There was something special about knowing no matter the weather — and we had our share of unseasonably warm days as well as days with a foot of snow — we knew where we would be Thanksgiving morning. After an endorphin high of running a race like a Turkey Trot in a huge crowd of like-minded runners, the rest of the day was gravy (pun intended).

    There are, in fact, many different ideas for holiday traditions involving fitness, with  new opportunities forming each year. It’s not important what you do as long as you do your best to mix the holiday, family and friends (or even pets) with fitness. Here are some ideas for healthy traditions you may not yet have tried:

    1. Run a Holiday Race

    Did you know that the first “Turkey Trot” was started in Buffalo during Thanksgiving of 1896? Back then it had only six runners, but today that same Buffalo race regularly has over 10,000 participants. Now there are Turkey Trots and Jingle Runs all over the country, of differing lengths and terrains. The feeling of having accomplished something will make the food taste that much better.


    2. Backyard Touch Football
    This is a fun, special tradition that many families have already incorporated into their holidays for generations. Instead of sitting on the couch in a food-induced coma, head out for your own friendly-family or neighborhood competition.


    Children especially will cherish watching adults take part in a fun family game with them.

    3. Take a Holiday Walk
    There’s no sweeter image to me on holidays than when I see entire generations of a family out walking down the road in a big pack. The sight of an elderly grandmother pushing a stroller, uncles and aunts engaging in jesting banter, and mixed-age children running ahead just seems to be one of the best ways to unite as a family. Even if it is only you and your dog celebrating this year, take a special walk -perhaps on a nature trail- and enjoy the time to reflect on the holiday and giving thanks.

    4. Engage in a Seasonal Activity
    The holidays are a great time to let your inner child run free. Whether there are young ones with you or not, there’s no reason you can’t go tobogganing, ice skating, or build a large snowman. If you live in a warmer climate, look for indoor ice rinks that offer open skating for the public. All of these activities will  have you sweating off enough calories for that pumpkin pie you ate.

    Holiday traditions don’t have to be focused only on sugar cookies and stuffing. Embrace a tradition involving physical activity and your holiday will combat stress, lift your mood, and make the time richer and brighter. More importantly, you may not end the holiday season five pounds heavier and feeling like a sloth. It is never too late to start a new tradition!

    Does your family have a healthy holiday tradition or story?

    A Match Made at Midtown
    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    When Derek Hendrickson met Sarah White at a friend’s Memorial Day barbeque in 2010, they quickly learned that among other common interests, they shared a passion for working out at Midtown.

    Soon after the barbeque, the pair began noticing eachother in group fitness classes, on the weight room floor, and at Midtown events. Derek and Sarah began dating in March of 2011.

    They often had dates at Midtown.

    Derek says, Sarah and I each picked classes that the other was already taking. Sarah joined Tony’s Saturday morning spinning class with me and I would follow her upstairs to take Christine’s Zumba class.”

    It was during these workout dates at the club that Derek and Sarah got to know eachother, and they fell in love. They were engaged on December 31, 2012 and married on August 16, 2014.

    “We knew that a great part of our story happened at the club and when it came time to pick a venue for our wedding pictures, we both selected Midtown as our first choice!” says Derek.

    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    Choosing their photographer was an easy decision as well. Ben Ferro, Membership Director and a longtime friend of the pair, is a seasoned professional photographer and owner of Ben Ferro Photography. Ben (who was also the photographer for Sarah’s brother’s 2007 wedding) jumped at the chance to take Derek and Sarah’s unique wedding photos in the club.

    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    The couple provided Ben with some general ideas on where in the club they wanted their wedding photos taken, and Ben expertly set up the shots both inside and outside of Midtown. Derek and Sarah’s bridal party included three Midtown members.

    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    “Spending time at Midtown helped us get to know each other better and grow closer. Midtown was such an integral part of our story that it seemed only natural to have it be a special part of our wedding day,” says Derek.

    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    Now that the pair is married, Derek and Sarah continue to work out at Midtown five days a week, both together and apart. Both love MXT and Group Power. Sarah enjoys No Limits, while Derek’s recently begun taking Tabata classes.

    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    “We’re always on the go and see Midtown as a place that helps us stay fit and balanced through the exercise classes, equipment, and healthy food options,” says Derek.

    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    Congratulations, Derek and Sarah. We wish you a lifetime of good health and happiness.

    Healthy Lunches and Snacks for Active Kids

    Struggling for ideas on what to pack in your kids’ school lunches that will give them the energy and brain power to last through a full day of classes and after-school sports? Nutritionist Sarah Guilbert is back to demystify the healthy lunch packing process with some great recipes to help your children have a productive year in school.

    You’re not alone if you’re having trouble coming up with creative, healthy ideas for your kids’ packed lunches and snacks. There are many misleading kid-friendly “health-food” products on the market that are actually anything but, and wading through the front-of-the-package marketing claims is sometimes difficult.

    By ditching the processed, prepared foods and making lunches and snacks yourself you can ensure that your child is eating healthfully. It is also a fun way to give your kids a little food education, as you teach them the preparation skills necessary to one day take over the job for you.

    The following recipes will help students power through the school day with enough energy to perform well academically as well as on the sports field, track, or swimming pool.

    For the Lunch Box

    Whole Grain Pita Pockets with Harvest Chicken Salad

    This recipe shows the versatality of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt.  Tip: substitute regular walnuts for the candied walnuts in this recipe to lower the amount of added sugar.

    Whole Wheat Bread, Natural Peanut Butter, and Banana Slices. Pack Milk in a Thermos.

    This is a potassium-rich variant on traditional peanut butter and jelly.

    Spaghetti Squash with Grilled Chicken and Low-Sodium Marinara Sauce

    Spaghetti squash is a healthy and fun substitute for refined pasta. You can easily pack this dish in a thermos or a container like this. Have your kids help prepare the squash so they can see the fascinating inside of this vegetable.

    Greek Yogurt, Banana, and Low-Fat Granola Parfait.

    Add your child’s favorite side dish to round it out. This meal is packed with potassium and protein.

    Healthy Grilled Cheese Paired with a Side Salad in an Edible Bowl

    Make a grilled cheese sandwich using whole grain bread with reduced fat cheese, tomato, and spinach.

    Fill a pepper with spring mix, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, and an olive oil-based salad dressing for a fun way to do a side-salad.

    Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers

    This recipe is a good source of fiber and plant protein for the adventurous eater.  Make this on a Sunday night, as it requires more preparation time than the other other recipes.

    Healthy Lunchbox Desserts

    Step away from the Twinkies and Chips Ahoy. A lunch box dessert doesn’t have to be filled with calories and chemicals. Try these instead:

    Homemade Pudding Made with Nonfat Milk

    Pears with Nutmeg

    This is a great way to introduce your kids to delicious, healthy desserts. Fruit sugar is sweeter than table sugar and comes with many other beneficial nutrients that help to fuel your loved one.

    Apple Slices with Cinnamon

    This idea came from a devoted Midtown member who uses this as a snack on her bike rides.

    Vanilla Greek Yogurt Mixed with Peanut Butter


    For the Snack Bag

    Trail Mix with Nuts, Raisins, and Homemade Popcorn.

    Find great recipes here.

    Carrots/Celery with Peanut Butter

    Ants on a log. Why? This snack has healthy fiber and two heart-healthy ingredients. Plus, they are fun to prepare and eat!

    Fruit and Veggie Skewers

    Have your child pick out his/her favorite fruits. Try to incorporate at least three different colors.  If making a veggie skewer, add a yogurt-based salad dressing or homemade hummus for dipping.

    Freshly Cut Vegetables with Homemade Hummus

    Find a great recipe for hummus here.

    Homemade Energy Bars

    There are many variants of these, such as those found here and here.

    Here’s a recipe I developed out of frustration after reading the suspicious ingredients on just about every store-bought energy bar I’ve picked up. Energy bars shouldn’t have 30 ingredients. Here’s my simple and healthy alternative with ingredients you know and recognize.


    ½ cup coconut flour
    2 cups whole oats
    1 cup natural unsweetened appleasauce
    2 mashed medium bananas
    1 cup peanut butter
    1 cup raisins
    5 dates
    ½ cup pumpkin seeds
    ¼ cup sunflower seeds
    1 T vanilla
    ½ tsp salt
    1 tsp cinnamon
    1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
    2.  Line a brownie pan with parchment paper.
    3.  Combine oats, coconut flour, raisins, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, salt, and cinnamon together in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
    4.  Chop dates, add in to dry ingredients.
    5.  In a separate bowl, combine mashed bananas, applesauce, and vanilla.
    6.  Add wet ingredients into dry ingredient bowl.
    7.  Add peanut butter and mix thoroughly.
    8.  Press into pan and cook for 30 minutes.
    9.  Cool to room temperature and cut into 24 bars
    Nutrition information per bar (1/24th of pan): 159 calories, 9g fat (2g saturated, 0g trans-fats), 5g protein, 3g fiber, 93mg sodium, and 210mg potassium.


    Pre-Sports Snacks

    Nutrition before a workout or an after-school activity involving exercise should be low in fat and fiber and provide a moderate amount of carbohydrates and protein.

    Low-Fat Yogurt

    String Cheese and an Apple

    Banana and 1 Tbsp Natural Peanut Butter

    Homemade Energy Bars

    Aim for higher carbohydrates and less fat than a typical trail-mix type bar.

    You can find even more healthy lunch and snack ideas by following our Healthy Kids Pinterest board here.

    What’s your child’s favorite healthy snack? Let us know in the comments section.

    3 Ways to Make Summer Meals Healthier

    M-Cafe Caprese Salad-2Summer is often a time to relax and rejuvenate, but it can also feel just as hectic as the rest of the year. Between trips to the pool, sports games and camps, celebrations, vacations, school programs, and regular work, our daily schedules are about as unpredictable as they can be.

    This unpredictability can present a challenge at meal time. It’s often easier to grab food on the road or rely on processed/packaged foods than it is to prepare healthy food at home. However, we can make healthy meals part of our summer experience without getting in the way of the fun.

    Here are three easy ways to get the most nutritional benefit out of your summer meals.

    1. Get Fresh

    In-season fruits and vegetables are your biggest nutrition allies during the summer months. Fresh produce is not only packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water, but most varieties also taste best at this time of year, which means that you don’t have to dress them up with a lot of extras!

    Look for ways to use fruits and vegetables in snacks/appetizers, side dishes, and desserts, and season foods with fresh spices to add flavor without adding calories.

    You can also give yourself an extra activity boost by growing and harvesting these foods from your own garden, or walk or bike to your local Farmers’ Market and pick out a variety of fresh produce each week.

    2. Take it Outside

    Take advantage of nice weather to prepare your food on the grill. Grilling can be one of the quickest ways to prepare meals (you can even grill ahead of time and save food for later in the week), and it’s also a very healthy cooking method when you use proper techniques.

    According to eatingwell.com, cooking meats at the high temperatures used when grilling, broiling, and frying creates compounds that are linked to some cancers.  That said, there is no evidence that grilling causes cancer, and there are steps you can take to prevent the formation of these chemicals.

    Make sure to keep your grill clean, trim excess fats from foods, and use marinades and rubs to act as a protective barrier against the high heat while adding some extra flavor.

    Additionally, cook meat and fish to the right temperature while avoiding excessive charring. Food safety guidelines indicate that poultry should be heated to an internal temperature of 165 degrees, ground red meat and pork to 160, and red meat steaks or chops and fish to 145.

    3. Drink up

    Traditional summer beverages including lemonade, smoothies, soda, beer, and other sugary alcoholic beverages can add a lot of extra calories and not much nutritional value to your meal (see our post on 5 Steps to a Healthy Margarita to learn how to make your favorite beverages healthier).

    First and foremost, the beverage accompanying your meal should help keep you hydrated during warm weather. Your best options limit extra sugar and avoid the diuretic effects of alcohol and excessive caffeine.

    Healthy examples of refreshing summer beverages include ice water, sparkling water, or unsweetened iced tea with lemon or lime. Low-fat milk, fruit spritzers (or watered down juices), and homemade, no-sugar added smoothies can also be great options.

    Summer meals can be healthy, delicious, and easy and fun to prepare. Not only will you feel the added satisfaction of growing and/or preparing fresh foods, but your body will also thank you for limiting your intake of processed items.

    Here’s one more bonus tip – take advantage of opportunities to slow down and create a more relaxed atmosphere during meal times. It might be tough in the midst of a busy schedule of activities, but taking your time will prevent overeating and help you enjoy the full flavor of the season.

    What are some of your favorite, healthy summer recipes?

    6 Tips for Safe Summer Running

    Bloggers and seasoned runners Millie Minton and Kathleen Bush have teamed up to offer tips on how to run outdoors safely during the hot summer months.

    Ahhhh, summer. The extended daylight hours beckon runners onto the open roads, but soaring heat and humidity can take their toll on your running mojo.

    Here are 6 tips to beat the heat while running this summer.

    1. Run Prepared

    Summer running might mean you’ll require fewer articles of clothing, but don’t skimp on gearing up. Apply non-drip sunscreen to protect your skin before you head out. Grab a pair of sport sunglasses with nose grips to help with sun glare and to give you  a better view of oncoming motorists.

    When going on long trail runs on runs in less populated areas, always make sure to tell someone your route and when to expect you back, or run with a cell phone. Stash some cash in case you become overheated and need to stop for a drink or to use for cab fare home.

    2. Run Early or Run Late

    Experienced runners like to say that the best time to run is when your shadow is longer than you are. In other words, avoid running between 10am and 4pm when the sun’s intensity is at its greatest. If you suffer from respiratory problems, remember that air quality is usually better in the morning than it is later in the day. Plus, early morning runs mean fewer cars and less traffic noise.

    If you must run when the sun is up, pick a shady course. Think tree-lined streets over winding country roads. And if you’re running at night, remember your reflective vest.

    3. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

    If you’re running in the heat for more than a couple miles, you will need  hydration mid-run. Invest in a hydration pack (found at any running shop), or drive your route in advance and strategically hide partially frozen water bottles along the way (don’t forget to drive back to collect them when you’re done!).

    You could also plan a one or two mile route around a focal point, such as your home or Midtown. Run  laps of this same route, stopping for a drink each time you pass. Having extra water to pour on your head and neck is a huge psychological bonus, so don’t be afraid to run through a sprinkler when passing!

    One of the worst things you can do to your body is dehydrate it. When you overheat, your recovery time will be much longer as your body will need time to heal.

    4. Dress for Success

    Your old cotton tshirt isn’t the best choice for running in the heat. Technical fibers will move moisture away from your skin, producing a cooling effect. Many of the newer fabrics also have the bonus of built-in UV protection. Don’t underestimate the importance of moisture-wicking socks, either. Keeping your feet cool and dry will prevent blisters.

    5. Remember Your Electrolytes

    On long runs in the heat, you need to remember your important friends: sodium and potassium. These and other electrolytes keep your digestive, nervous, cardiac, and muscular systems functioning properly. The more you sweat, the more electrolytes you’ll lose. If you’re running long, consider refueling with sports drinks such as Gatorade or Accelerade during the run, and post-run as well. Recent research, however, suggests that sports drinks, which are often high in sugar, might not be the best post-workout drink, so you might opt for milk, coconut water, or a piece of fruit to replenish electrolytes.

    6. Know the Warning Signs

    Don’t try to be a superhero. There is a clear line between proving mental toughness and putting your health in jeopardy, and unfortunately many runners allow themselves to cross it. You are not weak for rescheduling a run on a hot day or for stopping early; rather, you are smart.

    Don’t expect your pace to be the same as you manage on brisk, mild days. Watch for symptoms of heat disease: intense heat build up, headache, nausea, clammy skim, muscle cramps, and feeling faint. If any of these symptoms strike, stop immediately and head for a drink in the shade.

    Enjoy the summer weather and the myriad psychological and physical benefits of running outdoors. Stay safe, smart, and cool and you’ll reap the benefits of running all year long.

    From Runner to Tennis Player in 3 Weeks

    “What do you do for fun?”

    If you had asked me that question at any point during the past 10 years, I would have said running without giving it a second thought. Running is a convenient, healthy, goal-oriented activity. It’s also pretty popular these days. Like many of my Facebook friends, I enjoyed posting about my next race and took pride in tackling greater distances and finishing in faster times. My collection of race t-shirts was on pace to outgrow my closet.

    This spring, however, I started thinking that maybe I had been pounding the pavement for long enough. It’s not that I wanted to give up running completely. I just wondered what else might be out there for people like me – a fitness enthusiast looking for a new challenge.

    That’s when I decided to take “Tennis in No Time,” Midtown Athletic Club’s three-week beginner tennis program. All you have to do is show up, and your coach will give you a racquet and teach you to play tennis in six lessons. It turns out it really was that simple, but more importantly, it was a lot of fun.

    It didn’t take long to figure out that Tennis in No Time isn’t just a standard tennis class. With a small class size (just 5 players in my case), we each received a good amount of individual instruction from our coach, Jim, and we left each day feeling more confident in our skills and knowledge of the game.

    From grips, shots and footwork, to singles and doubles rules and scoring and strategy, we quickly learned what we needed to do to win points on the court.

    We used foam balls on a half court the first week, and eventually progressed to higher compression balls on a regulation-size court throughout the program.  This is another way Tennis in No Time (TNT) helped us build on-court skills because this innovative approach allowed us to slow down the game  without slowing the pace of the class. As someone looking for a new way to stay fit, I was psyched that standing around and waiting in line were not part of the lesson plan.

    Each class concluded with a wrap-up session in the Paddle Tennis Hut, where another coach would review the concepts we practiced that day. We also heard some great tips on how to practice. My favorite piece of advice came from coach Mike, who taught us how to use the ball machines in the club’s complimentary practice lanes. He reminded us to “always have an intention for your practice,” and to “always practice at your highest level of success,” which were principles that were applied consistently throughout the program.

    All that said, the real highlights of Tennis in No Time were the parties, where we were introduced to the social side of the sport. The first party was a Cardio Tennis theme, which included high-energy cardio & tennis drills accompanied by heart-pumping music from a DJ. With endorphins flying around the courts as fast as the tennis balls we were hitting, everyone was wearing a smile.

    The second party was a doubles mixer, featuring warm-up drills followed by fast-paced tennis with coach instruction (and raffle prizes!). Both parties concluded with food and drinks, and more time to hang out with our new tennis friends.

    So the question is, can a runner really become a tennis player in three weeks? In Tennis in No Time, the answer is yes, in less than three weeks. We were having fun playing tennis on the first day and every day throughout the program. And with the added benefit of tennis being a great workout (I’m even starting to develop my own set of “Michelle Obama arms”), the result is that I’m developing quite a crush on the sport…a crush that might just become a lifelong love affair.

    Want to know more about TNT? Head here for another Tennis in No Time testimonial.

    Ready to sign up? Click here for more information about TNT.

    Have you tried tennis? What do you like about it?

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